For the premise of this thought process we are going to operate under the assumption that the Jacksonville Jaguars are signing Nick Foles in free agency to a five-year contract. We’re assuming that for the foreseeable future the Jaguars plan at quarterback is Nick Foles and they’re not going to spend any draft capital in 2019 on the quarterback position.
With that being said, how will the Foles signing impact the Jaguars plans in the 2019 NFL Draft?
You have to commit to Foles
The first point is going to be that if you’re going to sign Foles, you will need to give him the best chance to be successful on the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars offense as it stands right now is a big step down from what Foles was working with on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are better than the Jaguars are virtually every position across the board, especially skill positions. This has led a lot to think the Jaguars should spend the No. 7 overall pick on a wide receiver, but to be frank, there are not any Top 15 type wide receivers in this draft. That includes work out warrior D.K. Metcalf.
The Jaguars can do the next best thing however and pick up a potential elite level tight end. I’ll honest and admit that spending the No. 7 overall pick on a tight end is awful value, but if quarterback is out of the equation and the Jaguars need to spend draft capital to help Foles, the best course of action is going to be a high end tight end or an offensive lineman, and we all know how I feel about drafting guards and right tackles in the Top 10.
A rookie tight end for the Jaguars is going to be the best possible scenario to get a big impact from a rookie on the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars recently declined the option on Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the rest of their tight end room are just a bunch of guys. Snapping up someone like T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant with the seventh overall pick would give the Jaguars not only an instant starter, but a tight end who can play in a multitude of formations. While Hockenson is the better blocker and Fant is the better receiver, both come from a college team that runs a lot of pro-sets and NFL concepts. Both have a ton of snaps playing in-line, split wide and even as a type of H-back out of the backfield. They should slide right in with little hiccup.
John DeFilippo makes use of tight ends
Jaguars new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has had a lot of production from the tight end position everywhere he’s had a hand in calling plays. His one season with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 saw Gary Barnidge haul in 79 receptions for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He never came anywhere close to that any other season. Zach Ertz had already broken out by the time DeFilippo was hired as the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, but with DeFilippo taking on designing plays for the redzone, Ertz did see his touchdown production increase. In his two years with DeFilippo Ertz caught 12 redzone touchdowns. When DeFilippo moved to the Minnesota Vikings he already had a ready-made tight end in Kyle Rudolph and he continued his production, including three touchdowns in the redzone.
I think the Jaguars can get by with the receivers they have on the roster and they’re going to want to give 2018 second-round pick DJ Chark as many snaps as he can prove himself, so a rookie receiver isn’t likely to get a ton of playing time. The tight end position however, is a nightmare and adding one of the Iowa tight ends gives you an instant starter and a high chance for an instant impact.
Rounds 2 and 3 are also likely to be offensive players
To continue giving Foles the best chance, the Jaguars need to come back in rounds two and three and pick up an offensive lineman and at least one running back. You can argue that you can find a tight end in these rounds as well, but the drop off from Hockenson, Fant and Alabama’s Irv Smith is pretty big and it’s possible all three will be gone by your second round pick. On the flip side, rounds two and three in this draft should be prime spots to pick up an offensive lineman who can start on the right side at guard or tackle and the third round is where you can pluck from the glut of mid-round running backs.
We saw last season the Jaguars get hammered by going light at the running back position and flailing to solve it mid-season. I’d expect the team to pick at least one in the mid-rounds this draft as not only an insurance policy, but real depth.
There’s an argument to pick an offensive lineman in the first round and get a tight end in these rounds, but as I mentioned if I’m looking for a big impact early I’m going with my starting tight end over a right guard/tackle. I know all about Lane Johnson and Quinton Nelson, but I just can’t bring myself to argue for taking a right sided offensive lineman in the Top 10 of a draft.
I have a hard time seeing a quarterback
I know some of you are probably screaming “PICK A QUARTERBACK TOO!” if someone like Dwayne Haskins falls to the seventh overall pick, or someone like Will Grier or Tyree Jackson in the third round, but I just have a hard time seeing it. I’m fully prepared to sign Foles in free agency and watch the Jaguars make a selection, passing on Haskins if he’s on the board, with the seventh overall pick.
As I said, if you’re signing Nick Foles in free agency as a “win now” type of move, you have got to equip him with the pieces to actually win now. Drafting a backup quarterback with the seventh overall pick or even a developmental one in the first four rounds isn’t how you do that. You can get actual contributors in those rounds who will contribute more than that quarterback will, which is hopefully none at all.
Picking a quarterback after the fourth round as well is more often than not throwing a pick away, so look for your special teamers and developmental lineman/skill position players there.
Defensive player is tempting
This draft is loaded with defensive lineman and there will be a glut of them available at No. 7 overall and it will be tempting to draft one. Adding another pass rusher is always helpful for an offense because it helps them get the ball back faster. I could totally see if certain lineman fall to the seventh overall pick the Jaguars snapping them up, but I still believe the best course of action is to try to give Foles weapons to work with more so than adding more to the defense.
Trading down is hard
While there are some who will scream to pick a quarterback too, there’s going to be just as many going on and on about trading down. The chances that happen however are extremely thin. To put it simply, historically David Caldwell has avoided potential trade downs and outright declined some to get his guy. Their trend is to fall in love with a player and pick them with their pick in lieu of trading down.
To pair with that, it’s highly unlikely there will be a player teams will be willing to trade up to No. 7 overall for. The two teams picking right after the Jaguars aren’t going to pick a quarterback, so even if Haskins or Kyler Murray fall to No. 7 overall, there is no pressure for a team to trade up for them. They can wait a pick or two and give up less capital to do so. Outside of quarterback, the depth of the defensive line class likely means teams won’t be moving up for any of those players, either.
Long story short; If you’re signing Nick Foles in free agency, you’re going to have to spend draft capital to help him out. Pick one of the impact tight ends early to be your starter, then fill out the offensive line and running back position.