Originally I intended to write this on Monday, as kind of a thought dump about my thoughts as the 2017 NFL Draft unfolded for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the team picked up Blake Bortles fifth-year option and some other things happened and it got pushed back. I wanted to come back to it today, because I don't think my thoughts really changed much eve after a few nights to sleep on the results.
My biggest takeaway was during the draft, Thursday through Saturday, I just kept saying to my friend I was watching it with, "Man, what a weird draft." Not just for the Jaguars in particular, but overall. The Chicago Bears traded up against themselves. A bunch of skill position players went in the Top 10 and virtually all of the offensive lineman fell out of the first round.
For the Jaguars in particular, they didn't really do anything that upset me or didn't make sense. People might think I'm mad about the Leonard Fournette, because it's no secret that I'm not a fan of picking a back in the Top 5 and that I thought they'd have to completely revamp their offense to accommodate him, but he's still a really good player. I'd accepted a long time ago he was the likely pick, because that had been the link forever and something we joked about on Keep Choppin' Wood all the way back to October of 2016. It is what it is, but ultimately they got what should be a good player. I understood their process and in that sense, the pick made perfect sense.
Getting to the second round, it appeared as if either Cam Robinson or Forrest Lamp would be there at pick No. 35 and I didn't think the Seattle Seahawks or Green Bay Packers would pick a lineman ahead of them. The team ultimately felt the need to trade up and make sure they get their guy, Robinson. The Jaguars had been all over Robinson pre-draft, because he's exactly what Tom Coughlin looks for in an offensive lineman. Lamp might have been in consideration if Robinson had been picked, but the team valued him over Lamp because he's viewed as a left tackle, and tackles are valued higher than guards. The team wasn't sure if Lamp could play anything but on the interior of the line, so they prioritized Robinson. Even then, the other name I had heard was on their radar was Temple offensive lineman Dion Dawkins, who like Robinson is viewed as an OT who could kick to guard if necessary. Makes perfect sense to me. It was the no brainer pick and he should be a Day 1 starter, just like Fournette.
Nothing weird so far.
Then it got weird.
As the third round was approaching, some of the quarterbacks were falling and I thought for sure the Jaguars would pull the trigger on one if they wanted a fall back plan and competition for Bortles. Why wouldn't they, right? I started texting my draft guy. If you wonder how I'm able to publish or tweet the pick before anyone else on the first two days, it's my draft guy. Anyway, radio silence. Nothing. I'm scrambling trying to pre-write some guys who make sense. I start with Dawkins who was still falling, but he got picked by the Buffalo Bills. Then I got word that cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and linebacker Zach Cunningham were on the Jaguars radar since they were falling down the board. Both got snapped up pretty quickly after I started up my pre-writes. Radio silence until nearly the Jaguars were on the clock, then suddenly I get a text, "Smoot."
What? Smoot? Who's that? Fred?
Obviously it ended up being Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot, who I will admit I had to Google to finish my quick write up on him because I had no idea who he was. As we joke on draft twitter, "Fake name." After quickly writing up the pick and then jumping back up and reading, I realized who he was. He was that pass rusher Illinois had in 2015 everyone talked up as a possible first round pick in 2017, but his production really dipped in 2016 and he was kind of off the radar. Looking back, he maybe shouldn't have been as Bob McGinn had him as one of the Top 10 defensive ends in the draft. It made more sense once the Jaguars also said they viewed Smoot as a backup to Calais Campbell and someone who can play both end spots, so like a poor man's Solomon Thomas. Got it, makes sense.
Weird, considering the talent on the board at positions like cornerback, but makes perfect sense.
The only pick that really made me question their logic was their next pick in the fourth round, wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Friday evening and leading up to Saturday and the draft re-starting, I was debating in my head if the team should even bother picking a quarterback given who was left and if they wanted to, it would have to be in the fourth round with their pick because guys like Nathan Peterman were still on the board. It comes up to the Jaguars pick and I get a text "Westbrook". I'm thinking, "Okay great, another name I have to Google and bullshit through the write up and then back-fill once I read up on the guy." I didn't realize he meant Dede Westbrook until the pick was announced on Twitter, because all I had heard pre-draft was he was undraftable because of his off field incidents, which a lot of teams viewed worse than Joe Mixon's. Not only was it a surprise based on that, but also wide receiver is probably the least needed thing on the Jaguars roster, regardless of your opinion of Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee. The team is more than good enough at that position.
Clearly, it was a pure BAP pick that they thought they were getting great value on and worth the gamble. I should note Westbrook hasn't been in trouble for a few seasons, but it's still something the team will have to deal with if anything at all happens. The biggest complaint I've seen about this pick, even days later, was that they could have addressed a lot of other needs. I don't disagree, but I do think people are talking up things not really there. Pittsburgh guard Dorian Johnson went four picks later, and while I would have totally understood that pick, I'm not sure he'd start for the Jaguars or even be much better than what they have at the position, and clearly the team felt that way too. I was more surprised the team didn't take a flyer on one of the tight ends on the board, George Kittle, Jake Butt, Jordan Leggett or Michael Roberts. I didn't think the Jaguars would go after a receiving tight end, but all four of those guys could be either a base in-line tight end or an h-back type hybrid out of the backfield. There were also some corners you could argue.
Really for me, that was the only pick I really didn't understand and still don't quite understand. Westbrook has a lot of speed, run after catch ability and was a playmaker for Oklahoma so much so that he was a Heisman finalist, but it seems like the Jaguars are moving to more ball control and less three receiver sets, so why add another?
After the Westbrook pick, the rest of the picks are kind of irrelevant. I'm a fan of the Blair Brown pick in the fifth round, because to be honest I thought he'd already been drafted. He's depth at all three linebacker spots, even if he has to learn strongside linebacker, and an instant impact on special teams. Great pick.
The back-end of the draft with Jalen Myrick and Marquez Williams don't really move the needle much. Myrick seems like a guy they felt was great value, because it's not often players who run that fast at the NFL Combine and have solid tape fall that far. Williams, I don't even care the logic because how can you not like a 280 pound fullback just mowing people over?! That's football.
The biggest gripe was the lack of offensive lineman picked, but like I explained pre-draft, that wasn't a surprise to me at all. I kind of knew that if they picked Fournette in the first round, the pick in the second round would be an offensive lineman, because logically it had to be. After that, it was a bunch of depth players and special teamers, which I think was what made it seem so weird, compared to past drafts the Jaguars have had the past few years. In the past, the Jaguars have essentially had to find starters in the first four-to-five rounds of the draft. Where the roster is right now, that's not the case. They need to find guys who will actually make the roster.
To me, that's why it was so jarring. It was so much different than the drafts of the past few years. Not in the sense that it had Coughlin fingerprints or Caldwell wasn't in control or anything, but that the roster was at the point where players they were picking as early as round three weren't even going to be necessary automatic starters. That's a good thing and where you want to be, but given how the team has been in the win column over the past six years, it was just a weird feeling. A lot of fans were upset about the draft, especially third round and on, but I remember thinking Sunday in a non-ironic way, "This is fine. I don't get what people are mad about."