Sick of seeing Jawaan Taylor mocked to the Jacksonville Jaguars? Getting irritated by ESPN mocking safeties on Day 2? Fair enough.
Earlier this week, I spotlighted a handful of offensive players whom the Jaguars should consider if they make it to rookie free agency. In this edition, I focus on defense.
The Jaguars have found some success in harvesting the undrafted rookie pool, an endeavor largely piloted by Senior Vice President of Football Technology & Analytics Tony Khan. Identifying high-upside athletes who stand a good chance of competing for roster spots has been a strength over the last few years, especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.
Just last year, cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Tre Herndon ended up making the final roster and look to be bigger contributors heading into their sophomore campaigns, and former UDFA safety Jarrod Wilson was re-signed to a solid contract to replace Tashaun Gipson as the starting free safety in 2019.
So who should the Jaguars target?
Kenny Bigelow, West Virginia
If you are a hardcore college football fan who follows recruiting, Bigelow’s name may sound familiar.
Along with Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche, Kenny Bigelow was a coveted five-star recruit and played both defensive lineman and tight end positions in high school. Bigelow played his first five seasons at USC where he redshirted his freshman year in 2013 and then missed the 2014 and 2016 seasons with serious knee injuries that caused him to ponder retirement. Mostly a rotational nose tackle who saw limited playing time with the Trojans, Bigelow earned a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and grad transferred to West Virginia. In his 12 starts in 2018, Bigelow earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors and was runner up for Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
I mean, just look at his first snap against Tennessee this year:
9/1/18 — Tennessee's Jarrett Guarantano hit immediately by West Virginia's Kenny Bigelow pic.twitter.com/r8s51Y303F— College Football Clips (@CFB_Clips) September 26, 2018
When studying Bigelow, I was astounded by the first step quickness and lower body explosiveness he has for a guy with two major injuries on the same knee. While his medical history would make a team like the Jaguars hesitant to burn a draft pick on him, his upside as a rookie free agent is certainly worth the risk. Bigelow put up 31 reps on the bench at his pro day and also ran a 5.09 forty yard dash for a nose tackle.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Temple DT Michael Dogbe, who I got to check out at East-West Shrine Game, but it just doesn’t seem like Dogbe will go undrafted based on my understanding. Outside of Bigelow and Dogbe, Wyoming’s Youhanna Ghaifan, a talented three-technique who declared for the draft early, can be a bargain guy who may slip out of the seven rounds due to a suspension resulting from two misdemeanors stemming from an October altercation with a hotel employee. Ghaifan has draftable tape and is worth taking a flier on.
Jarrell Owens, Oklahoma State
The Jaguars certainly will be on the hunt for depth for both the strong side defensive end position behind Calais Campbell and weak side defensive end behind Yannick Ngakoue, so it’s likely they will be active in recruiting edge rushers in rookie free agency.
Oklahoma State’s Jarrell Owens is a prospect that could vie for that strong side position. A two-sport athlete at Palestine High School in Texas who played running back and defensive end in addition to basketball, Owen was clocked running a 4.70 forty (some scouts I talked to had him at 4.60) and jumping a 39” vert at his pro day – at 265 pounds. Owens is durable and has never missed a game in his Oklahoma State career and shows a good blend of speed, power, and flexibility as a pass rusher when studying his tape.
Other edge rushers that may be intriguing as a rookie free agents include Tennessee’s Kyle Phillips, North Carolina’s Malik Carney, Boston College’s Wyatt Ray and UCF’s Titus Davis. Phillips fits the strong side defensive end mold while Carney, Ray, and Davis could challenge for weak side edge rusher.
Ty Summers, TCU
Similar to my crush on UAB wide receiver Xavier Ubosi last week, Ty Summers is the guy I have hearts written all over my notebook on defense. It’s easy to fall in love with Summers the athlete after his impressive showing at the Combine (9.69 RAS), but you really start to get enamored with the person as well when you do research into his background.
Summers played as a dual-threat quarterback on offense and safety on defense at Reagan High School in Texas. Described a “weight room animal” and reportedly running the 40 yard dash in the 4.5 range as a freshman, Summers spent the summer of his senior year with his high school defensive coordinator to learn about linebacker reads upon learning he would be switching to inside linebacker at TCU. Summers would later finish with the second-most tackles in the Gary Patterson era. A team-first guy, Summers was asked to move to defensive end in 2018 and never complained despite it affecting his stock. Summers is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection and is active in the community off the field, finishing as a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.
Not sure what I'm missing with Ty Summers. He looks like a pretty legit LB prospect to me (many have him in 5-6 round). Aggressive and athletic (tested in 89th percentile). Takes on the pulling tackle in the hole. Goes right through him and makes the tackle. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/YTYybJZnFs— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 11, 2019
You’re not missing anything, Evan. He’s good.
It’s rare that you find a prospect who has played in all three levels on defense. Summers’ experience as a high school safety and quarterback makes him a tremendous processor in coverage as a potential WILL linebacker and his ability to blitz and rush the passer as a defensive end also makes him a great fit as a SAM linebacker for the Jaguars in addition to contributing on special teams.
Hopefully a team doesn’t snatch Summers and his athletic profile on day three of the draft. Other fringe linebackers I like for depth for the Jaguars include Northern Illinois’ Sutton Smith (likely to be drafted), North Carolina’s Cole Holcomb, UTSA’s Josiah Tauaefa, and Oklahoma’s Curtis Bolton.
Duke Shelley, Kansas State
He’s 5’9”, weighs less than 180 pounds, and doesn’t have elite timed speed. What’s not to like, right?
Shelley may not check all the physical and athletic boxes that you’d like from high-upside rookie free agents, but he plays the position like a lion and showed some of the best competitive toughness that I’ve seen in scouting for this draft class. The first true freshman to start at cornerback for Bill Snyder since 2006, Shelley has 31 career pass deflection in 38 career games as a boundary corner for the Wildcats and has returned 2 of his 8 career interceptions for touchdowns.
Duke Shelley's studly interception against Baylor pic.twitter.com/yygE4cR2va— The Kansas State Fan (@Thekstatefan) October 10, 2018
More importantly, he’s dripping with swagger. Look at the ball flip at the end as he stares at the Baylor bench.
In zone, Shelley is deliberate in his decision-making to pick up his assignments and even demonstrates some nuance and baiting ability to delay his breaks. Shelley is urgent in undercutting outs and flat routes and shows great enthusiasm and courage in run support despite being undersized. Shelley projects to be a scheme transcendent nickel cornerback due to his football intelligence, ball skills, playmaking ability, and short area quickness. With D.J. Hayden’s contract structured to be a likely release candidate after 2019, Shelley would provide ideal competition with Tre Herndon to take over at nickel for the Jaguars in 2020.
If the Jaguars are looking for longer boundary corners to get in the mix with Meeks, a few prospects I like are Virginia’s Tim Harris, Texas’ Davante Davis, and Kentucky’s Chris Westry.
Vaughnte Dorsey, Texas Tech
There’s a log jam of late round safeties in this draft and a much more prominent name like Miami’s Sheldrick Redwine or Temple’s Delvon Randall may be available once the dust settles, but I’ll go a little more under the radar with Texas Tech strong safety Vaughnte Dorsey.
A JUCO transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, the former high school dual-threat quarterback is a stocky striker in run support who also excels in as a mental processor in zone coverage with plus ball skills. To illustrate his ability to contribute as a balanced safety in both coverage and run support, Dorsey finished second in the Big 12 in interceptions (4) in 2018 and also had 11 tackles in one game in a great showing against Oklahoma.
Watching Oklahoma vs Texas Tech and this safety for Tech (#15), Vaughnte Dorsey, is just everywhere this game. pic.twitter.com/GrJxutI4vG— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) January 9, 2019
Dorsey also adds a wrinkle as a blitzer and does a good job of timing the snap with great closing speed and pursuit angles to run down even the best athletes at quarterback (Kyler Murray). Dorsey is an ideal scheme fit as an interchangeable safety in the Jaguars 4-3 system and could challenge C.J. Reavis for a final roster spot.
Other fringe safeties I’m high on include Troy’s Cedarius Rookard and West Virginia’s Toyous Avery.
Which defensive UDFAs are you high on? Let us know in the comments below!