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NFL mock draft 2020: Pre-Combine Jaguars 7-round projection

Jaguars look to select the most versatile defensive player in the draft.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the NFL Combine set to begin in Indianapolis tomorrow February 25th, the Jaguars will have an opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal view of a host of talented NFL prospects in their preparations for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Jaguars are coming into the offseason with a ton of holes, and due to free agency being yet to take place, their eyes will be wide open in terms of the possibilities the NFL Draft will present to them. The team’s needs are clear, although plentiful.

Last time, we selected a big offensive lineman out of Georgia by the name of Andrew Thomas. However, with massive holes on the defensive side of the football, specifically, the Jaguars look to address one of those issues early on before returning back to the offensive side of the football in this Pre-Combine Jaguars-centric mock draft.

For the purposes of this mock draft, we used The Draft Network’s predictive mock draft simulator for realistic slotting.

Round one, pick 9: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Arguably the second-best defensive prospect in the draft is the Jaguars’ selection with their first-first round pick of the night. Simmons, 6’4, 230 pounds, is simply a unicorn possessing the ability to play virtually anywhere on defense. With Jacksonville, Simmons would be an ideal candidate to play weakside linebacker in their 43 defensive scheme, however having him roam at times should not be out of the question.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah spoke highly of Simmons and his versatility last week during a conference call with NFL media.

“He can do anything,” Jeremiah said. “We had the same debate about Derwin James when he was coming out where some teams had him as a Will linebacker, some had him at a strong safety.I’ve talked to a bunch of defensive coordinators in the offseason and posed this question to them about: Are we going to start heading towards a position-less game, where you see guys on offense like Deebo Samuel who are playing in the slot but can almost function as running backs.”

The NFL draft analyst reiterated his belief that team’s will eventually move on from the standard formula of slotting players in their position and instead will allow team’s to adjust on-the-fly in order to put players in the best position to succeed. Whether or not Simmons plays linebacker or safety with the Jaguars shouldn’t be the question asked on draft night, he can play anywhere and should be involved heavily on each-and-every play.

Round one, pick 20: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

With Ruggs III, 6’0”, 190 pounds, falling to Jacksonville’s second-first round selection, there was simply no other option. The speedy receiver out of Alabama would meet a perfect blend of need and best available player at this time in the draft. Expected to run in the 4.2s, Ruggs III could be the combine’s fastest athlete this week.

The Jaguars will need a receiver opposite of Pro Bowl receiver DJ Chark Jr. heading into 2020, and having Ruggs III on the outside will take a lot of the heat off the former second-round selection. While speed is what Ruggs III is known for, he possess the ideal route-running ability one would want in a receiver prospect. Able to catch the ball from anywhere on the gridiron, he will fit nicely in Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s scheme similar to how the former Washington head coach used now-Eagles (again) receiver Desean Jackson.

Round two, pick 42: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State

In the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jaguars take another look along the defensive side of the football by selecting Arnette out of Ohio State. Arnette, 6’0”, 195 pounds, isn’t the biggest corner in the draft but he may be the most underrated. Playing opposite of elite defensive back, Jeffery Okudah, Arnette was overshadowed on the Buckeyes.

For the Jaguars, the need at cornerback could potentially be dire depending on their decision regarding cornerback A.J. Bouye. If the team moves on from the veteran cornerback there will be another gaping hole opposite of second-year cornerback Tre Herndon in the secondary.

Arnette is an intriguing prospect who played mostly press-man at Ohio State and excelled in it. A quick-twitch corner, he possesses the skill set to cover both the slot and outside receiver position along with incredible ball skills. While Arnette is not the prototypical Jaguars cornerback as the team does not implement press-man as often as a certain former Jaguars superstar cornerback would want, Jacksonville should be able to adjust based on Arnette’s ability to play within that scheme.

According to Pro Football Focus, Arnette allowed only 25 out of 56 targets (44.6%) to be completed against him, along with one touchdown. The Ohio State product had five interceptions during his career.

Round three, pick 73: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

Déjà vu hits Duval with the selection of a tight end in the third round as Cole Kmet comes off the board. While the Jaguars selected tight end Josh Oliver in the third round a little less than a year ago, the production out of him and the rest of the tight end group left something to be desired.

Kmet is thought of as the number one tight end standing at 6’4”, 235 pounds, although Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant may have something to say about that. Kmet has a nice blend of size and speed at the position to become an all-purpose tight end. Although he is not nearly as polished in his run-blocking ability as he is in pass-catching, Kmet has the frame and desire to get the job done.

The former Fighting Irish tight end hauled in 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns last year.

Round four, pick 106: Leki Fotu, DT, Utah

With their fourth round selection, Jacksonville gets a mountain of a man in Utah’s Leki Fotu. Standing at 6’5”, 337 pounds, Fotu is an ideal replacement for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, if he is not to return to the team in 2020.

In speaking with Fotu at the Senior Bowl a month ago, Fotu told us that he had yet to meet with the Jaguars, however it was something he’d likely do later on in the week. The former Utes product did not participate in the Senior Bowl due to medical purposes, however that is not thought to be an issue.

Using his background in rugby, Fotu uses it to his advantage when attacking the opposing linemen in his pass rush sets. Fotu projects as a three-technique/one-technique defensive tackle who can get up field in a hurry. In four years at Utah, Fotu accumulated 82 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, and four sacks in 30 games played over four seasons.

Round five, pick 147: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty

Gandy-Golden, 6’4”, 220 pounds, put on a show at the Senior Bowl last month. After accumulating 150 receptions for 2,433 yards, and 20 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Liberty, Gandy-Golden appears to be heading into the draft with his stock quickly rising. In round five, the Jaguars get another receiver who can become a big red-zone target for quarterback Gardner Minshew II.

Round six, pick 169: Francis Bernard, LB, Utah

According to JaguarReport’s John Shipley, Bernard met with the Jaguars multiple times during the Senior Bowl last month. A heavy emphasis on the team’s linebacker group is expected during the draft and selecting a Bernard will help in that area for depth purposes.

The Utah product projects as a weakside linebacker in the team’s defensive scheme, and could be an intriguing player to come in on sub packages if the Jaguars want to get creative with Simmons. Bernard, 6’1”, 230 pounds, accumulated 164 tackles (92 solo), 13 tackles for loss, two sacks, and five interceptions during his career at Utah and Brigham Young over three seasons.

Round six, pick 186: Trevis Gipson, EDGE, Tulsa

The former Tulsa product, Gipson is a bit undersized along the defensive front, however at 6’4, 259 pounds he absolutely has the frame to add some weight. Gipson projects as developmental project for the Jaguars and in the sixth round, there isn’t much of a concern for him to produce during his rookie season.

Consider the team’s standing with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue along with other concerns regarding the depth at the position, eventually Jacksonville needs to select an edge rusher.

Gipson accumulated 114 tackles (53 solo), 25.5 tackles-for loss, and 13 sacks (eight in in 2019) in 39 games at Tulsa. Gipson competed in this year’s Senior Bowl, showing off his versatility to play inside along with outside in a 43 defensive front.

Round seven, pick 200: Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Memphis

With their final selection, the Jaguars get one of the more interesting offensive players in the draft. Gibson essentially played wide receiver at Memphis, however he projects as a running back in the NFL. With his quick-twitch ability, the former Memphis product would be an intriguing offensive weapon for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

At Memphis, Gibson accumulated 44 receptions for 834 yards and eight receiving touchdowns, along with 33 rushes for 369 yards, and four touchdowns in the run game. 9