The NFL Draft is a tricky thing — if you don’t hit on your first round picks there’s very little that can save you as a general manager. But if you’re recouping value by finding productive players in the later rounds, you might be able to survive a rocky early-round history.
Such is the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dave Caldwell, who will be entering their sixth NFL Draft together. While Caldwell hasn’t hit on most of his picks in the first and second rounds, it’s his Day 3 picks that have helped him survive this long.
If we went round by round, what would Caldwell’s best picks be in his five-season history with the team?
Round 1: Jalen Ramsey
No offense to Leonard Fournette, but Ramsey is an All-Pro and a leader on this defense. If the Jaguars don’t make every effort to re-sign him for as long as he’s playing at a high level, I’ll drive off a cliff. He’s one half of the best cornerback tandem in the NFL and if he continues playing like he did last season (and gets a ring) he’s on track to have a Hall of Fame caliber career.
Round 2: Cam Robinson
The only reason I have Robinson here over Myles Jack is because the left tackle position is more important than linebacker. They have both played like first-round talents and they both have performed above where they were selected. Tremendous value for both. He allowed 3.5 sacks last year, but he’s a mauler. He plays angry and he should get a second contract.
Round 3: Yannick Ngakoue
I hate that I had to do this to Brandon Linder, who was instrumental last year in helping the Jaguars to a league-best run game during the regular season and not allowing a sack in 13 games last year. But pass rushers are more valuable than centers, and Yannick has outperformed every expectation in his career — collecting 20.0 sacks, forcing 10 fumbles, intercepting a pass, and scoring a touchdown while not missing a game over his two-year career.
Round 4: Aaron Colvin
Caldwell found a starting-caliber cornerback in the fourth round who ended up playing some of the best slot cornerback in the league the last couple of seasons. Let’s hope Dede Westbrook edges him out soon.
Round 5: Telvin Smith
I mean, duh. Second-team All-Pro, Pro Bowler, he hasn’t played in less than 81% of defensive snaps for the team since his rookie season in 2014. He’s not just the best fifth-round pick by Caldwell, he’s probably the best pick when you compare expected vs. actual value.
Round 6: Luke Bowanko
This says more about the other sixth-round picks Caldwell has made, but he played in all 16 games of his rookie season. He found a starter, even if just for a year, in the sixth round.
Round 7: Ben Koyack
He’s played in all but two games in his two-year career and he’s found a niche as an H-back in this offense. He’s a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything — and he was picked 229th out of 256 total selections.