To quickly sum up, the article essentially argues that Jacksonville just doesn’t have enough horsepower in its group of tight ends to make an impact right now. Julius Thomas (after a disappointing stint) left a bigger hole than fans realize.
Adam Stites of SB Nation NFL wrote:
“The addition of Julius Thomas didn’t live up to the five-year, $46 million contract he received from the Jaguars in 2015 that made him one of the biggest free agency additions of the offseason. After back-to-back seasons with 12 touchdowns in Denver, Thomas had just nine in two seasons in Jacksonville and was traded for cheap to the Miami Dolphins.
“Marcedes Lewis is about to turn 33, and the other options at the position are relatively unproven Ben Koyack and Neal Sterling. So the Jaguars look like a likely candidate to take a stab at one of the deepest and most talented tight end draft classes ever.”
While I agree that the tight end position is an area of concern for the Jaguars, and that Dave Caldwell and company should surely select one at some point during the draft, it is not the team’s biggest need.
Personally, I do think the team’s biggest need is in the offensive trenches, but not a position that generally runs routes on passing plays. I think Jacksonville needs an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line, and both guard positions need to be looked at. I am also wary of the tackle position to be honest. I am not sure if I buy an aged Braden Albert as an upgrade at left tackle.
However, this year’s offensive line class is one of the weakest I’ve seen in recent memory. Picking at No. 4 overall, the talent is just not there on the offensive line. There is no reason to reach for a guard or tackle at that spot. However, if Leonard Fournette is the pick, the Jags absolutely have to use the second day of the draft to bolster the trenches.
Adding another cornerback behind the dynamic duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye makes sense as well, as there isn’t a lot of depth behind those two. Adding one more dynamic pass rusher should also be a priority, and I think Jacksonville will have a chance to do so with either Stanford’s Solomon Thomas or Alabama’s Jonathan Allen.
The article also fails to mention the signing of Mychal Rivera, who had a nearly 60-catch campaign with the Oakland Raiders in 2014. While Rivera had a disappointing campaign in 2016, I think he has a chance to re-invent himself in Jacksonville — if a certain quarterback can accurately get him the ball. Rivera is not flashy, and he’ll never be a superstar, but he has a chance to be an every-game contributor for this team.
As Stites alludes to, Lewis is a shell of his former self, heading into his 12th season. He can no longer be trusted as a playmaker in the receiving game, but he does bring veteran leadership and a strong presence into the locker room. So adding a reliable tight end during the draft is wise, and will allow that player to learn from Lewis.
However, Jacksonville, I am begging you, please do not reach for O.J. Howard with the fourth overall pick. A player like the speedy Evan Engram from Ole Miss at the top of the second round makes so much more sense. Engram’s 4.42-second 40-yard dash was the fastest time among all tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s also possible, but not likely, that Miami’s David Njoku could also be there then.
If Jacksonville is able to get that disruptive menace on defense in the first round, whether that’s a pass rusher or defensive back, and either a tight end or guard in the second round, I think it would be a successful way to start the draft. But I do not think tight end is the first, or possibly even second, most pressing need on the team.
Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.