ESPN’s Todd McShay thinks the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the most improved teams after the 2017 NFL Draft — listing them first in his post-draft reaction piece on the team’s who added the most to their roster.
While McShay argues other teams might have had better drafts (using the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys as an example) he wanted to talk about roster growth, not draft quality. Who made the biggest leap?
Here’s what he said about the Jaguars:
This is really about the Jaguars changing their identity on offense. The best way to protect a quarterback like Blake Bortles, who is last in the league with 63 turnovers since 2014, is to take the ball out of his hands. That means running the ball more, working the clock and relying on an ascending defense to win games. With RBs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon both having struggled with injuries, it made sense to target a workhorse back like Leonard Fournette in Round 1. He has a rare combination of size, speed and power, and was the best back in this draft for a team looking to become more ground-and-pound.
The Jaguars did well to draft OT Cam Robinson, who's a strong run-blocker, to help pave the way for Fournette on the ground. He's special once he gets a sliver of daylight. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but in a make-or-break season for Bortles, Tom Coughlin & Co. have given the quarterback his best supporting cast since his arrival in Jacksonville three years ago. Fifth-round linebacker Blair Brown doesn't need to be a star with Myles Jack and Telvin Smith also patrolling the second level, but his steady tackling ability will fit right in on a defense that ranked fourth overall in rushing yards allowed after first contact last season (1.42).
Personally, I don’t know if the Jaguars were one of the most improved teams during the draft. Leonard Fournette is a great player, but I don’t know how well he fits onto this team — specifically how well he fits behind what I consider to be a subpar run-blocking offensive line.
Cam Robinson is a great player too, but after the second round the team started taking backups and role players.
Dawuane Smoot is the heir apparent to Dante Fowler, Dede Westbrook is a slot receiver, Blair Brown is Telvin Smith insurance, Jalen Myrick is a utility player in the secondary, and Marquez Williams will compete with Tommy Bohanon for the starting fullback role — a position that even the most fullback-heavy teams use a minority of the time.
Did the Jaguars improve during the draft? Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t even say they were one of the most improved teams in their division, much less the entire league.