There is still playoff football going on in the NFL, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are in full offseason mode, currently searching for a new offensive coordinator and evaluating talent for the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft at the East-West Shrine Game.
Speaking of the draft, the Jaguars seem to, for better or for worse, have a love affair of players from the Southeastern Conference (SEC). This makes sense, given that the SEC is widely considered the best conference in college football year-in and year-out by pundits and analysts, and often produces quality pros.
Perhaps the franchise’s geographic location in the heart of SEC country has something to do with it, too. Of course, NFL teams have abundant resources to travel all over the country and scouts are assigned specific regions. Jacksonville’s scouting department is no different in this regard, but there certainly seems to be a correlation here. Scouts for the Jaguars are always in close proximity.
Whatever the reason may be, there is no denying the fact that the Jaguars target players from the SEC early and often. In the 2019 draft alone, Jacksonville selected three players from the conference, including with its first two selections: defensive end Josh Allen out of Kentucky (first round), offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor out of Florida (second round) and defensive tackle Dontavius Russell out of Auburn (seventh round). Allen and Taylor will be starters for the foreseeable future, while Russell still needs some time to develop.
In the 2018 draft, each of Jacksonville’s first three selections were players coming from Southeastern Conference schools. In the first round, the Jags selected defensive lineman Taven Bryan (Florida). The second round brought wide receiver D.J. Chark to Duval (LSU), and then Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison was taken in the third round. The team also drafted Mississippi State punter Logan Cooke in the seventh round.
Seven out of the last 14 players the team has drafted came from the SEC, which is exactly 50 percent. In fact, the Jaguars have drafted an SEC player with its first round pick in each of the past three drafts, and four of the previous five. Since Dave Caldwell took over as general manager in 2013, the team has selected a total of 17 players from this conference.
Here is the full list:
- Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky, 2019
- Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida, 2019
- Dontavius Russell, DT, 2019
- Taven Bryan, DT/DE, Florida 2018
- D.J. Chark, WR, LSU, 2018
- Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama, 2018
- Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State, 2018
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, 2017
- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama, 2017
- Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas, 2016
- Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida, 2015
- T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama, 2015
- A.J. Cann, OG, South Carolina, 2015
- Chris Smith, LB/DE, Arkansas, 2014
- Luke Joeckel , OT/OG, Texas A&M, 2013
- Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina, 2013
- Josh Evans, FS. Florida, 2013
This is easily the most out of any single NCAA conference. These players are not always home run hits by the front office, though. Players like Taven Bryan are already fighting the “bust” label and seven of those players listed above are already off the roster. But the data here is compelling nonetheless.
Perhaps this trend gives us an idea into what Caldwell and company are looking for in 2020. In my opinion, it is way too early for things like mock drafts to have any sort of accuracy, as a lot will change between now and late April. But it seems like a safe bet that the Jaguars will target players from the SEC, and will likely do so early on in the draft.
Here are a few Southeastern Conference players available (in no particular order) this year that the Jaguars could target in the first two rounds (three total picks), amongst others:
- Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
- Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
- Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
- Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
- Grant Delpit, S, LSU
- Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
- Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
- Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
- Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama
- Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
- K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
- Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
- Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
- D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
- Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
- Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama
- CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
- Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
*Note: Not all of these above players have declared for the 2020 Draft yet.
Of course, a lot of teams will be coveting these players, but given this regime’s history, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jacksonville wind up with one or two of the above names with two first-round picks plus a second-rounder. There is a lot of SEC talent at a variety of positions of need for the Jags, although it does look like the team will need to venture out to find much-needed linebacker help.
To answer my own question, I do believe we will continue to see the Jaguars rely heavily on the SEC in the 2020 Draft. While I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, I would say it’s highly probable.
Again, we are far away from the draft itself, so everything is pure speculation at this point, but who would you like to see the Jaguars draft in April (SEC or otherwise?) Let us know in the comments.