The Jacksonville Jaguars have a very strong roster, but their class of rookies from the 2018 NFL Draft stand a very good chance at making the active roster this year. Just about every player (save one) is either a contributor for this year or a jar on the shelf for next year’s exodus of players at certain positions.
Who has the best chance to make this active roster for Week 1? Are there any players for whom it would be surprising to see them last through the preseason?
Round 1, Pick 29: DL Taven Bryan, Florida
If Bryan doesn’t make the roster it’s because he’s injured. He’s an athletic freak at the position, but still has a lot of room to grow to be a polished football player. He does a nice job disrupting in the backfield and getting through gaps to make big plays.
Bryan might also fit in the Calais Campbell role for the Jaguars playing big end and defensive tackle as a pass rusher. He’s viewed as a high upside type of player because of his athleticism, so if the Jaguars can develop him like they have some other defensive lineman they might have a gem.
Round 2, Pick 61: WR DJ Chark, LSU
Like Bryan, Chark is a value pick more than a need pick. The team has Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief, but who of these players will still be here in the next year or two?
He’s a tall wide receiver with speed who can get down the field and he was a deep threat at LSU and that’s something the Jaguars desperately need from their receiver group. Chark also offers ability as a punt returner, another area the Jaguars could use another player at.
If Chark isn’t on this roster it’s because of something outrageous.
Round 3, Pick 93: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Harrison might not see more than special teams duty and some work out of specific extra defensive back situations. That’s because Harrison is the guy to replace one of Barry Church or Tashaun Gipson as soon as next season — most likely Church, but Jaguars coaches say he can play both positions.
The Jaguars needed help at the safety position, but moreso in the form of depth. It looks like the value to add a potential future starter was too much to pass up.
Round 4, Pick 129: OL Will Richardson, NC State
After the NFL Draft, anonymous scouts were saying Will Richardson was a second round talent based on play, but that off-the-field stuff knocked him down as far as he slid. Based on some high-profile games that general manager Dave Caldwell mentioned, it’s easy to see.
Richardson offers the team flexibility in how it handles the Jermey Parnell question next offseason — the team can cut Parnell with no dead cap before the 2019 season. Richardson is a natural right tackle, so this makes sense, but what if he shows he can get it done at guard? If he can unseat A.J. Cann and Parnell plays well again just keep him for another year or two on his current contract.
In short, Richardson’s ceiling is becoming the starter at right tackle. His floor seems to be that of a swing tackle and some depth. Not bad at all in the fourth round.
Round 6, Pick 203: QB Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Tanner Lee played at both Tulane and Nebraska, starting 31 games and earning 46 touchdowns against 37 interceptions. He has the third-most passing yards in Nebraska history and combined for 6,744 yards at Tulane and Nebraska.
But despite the stats, he’s just not that good. Fans gave him a less than stellar grade on here shortly after the pick and I just don’t think he has what it takes to supplant Cody Kessler as the No. 2 guy. That’s what he’d have to do because this team isn’t putting three quarterbacks on the active roster.
Round 7, Pick 230: LB Leon Jacobs, Wisconsin
Leon Jacobs is a perfect seventh round pick — he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s athletic, and he’s a raw talent. The Jaguars defense has one gaping hole and that’s SAM linebacker. With the Jacobs pick, they now have someone to challenge Blair Brown, who is another fast, strong, athletic player.
If Jacobs is going to make this roster, it will be first and foremost as a special teams player, at least for this year. After that, who knows? But it all depends on that.
Round 7, Pick 247: P Logan Cooke, Mississippi State
After the draft, it was consensus that Brad Nortman was on the hot seat and that Logan Cooke was going to challenge him in training camp.
And then on Monday, the team cut Nortman and made Cooke the only punter on the roster.
I don’t think the Jaguars will keep Cooke as the only punter on this roster through mini-camp and training camp — tiring out Cooke’s leg with meaningless practice punts is bad practice — but he’s got the inside track to the starting spot.