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The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback is (obviously) the most urgent — this is a team that has gone the better part of two decades without a franchise quarterback, although David Garrard did fill the role well during the mid-2000’s. But since he’s retired it has been a revolving door of underwhelming play and embarrassing draft busts.
But we’re talking underrated and quarterback is seen as a need by... well... pretty much everyone. Trevor Lawrence has been the No. 1 overall pick for months and nothing about the Jaguars finishing with the top pick in the NFL Draft has changed that.
No, friends, we’re talking about tight end, a veritable wasteland of disappointing play that has somehow been less productive than quarterback — and their play over the past decade has shown no signs of improving.
Since Marcedes Lewis’ double-digit touchdown season in 2010, the Jaguars have been stuck in reverse while other teams have stuck literal unicorns at the tight end position and prospered.
Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, George Kittle... these players represent a league-wide trend to take advantage of old school defensive coordinators who haven’t figured out how to stop a player taller than a slot cornerback and faster than a linebacker.
While the rest of the NFL has seen rising success from the tight end position, the best season for a Jaguars tight end over the last 10 years didn’t come from high-priced Julius Thomas or Tyler Eifert. Nope. The most productive tight end over that period was Marcedes Lewis in 2012 with 52 catches, 540 yards, and four touchdowns.
And last year’s tight end group was just more of the same — Tyler Eifert was ineffective and the rest of the tight ends are never really healthy or part of the offensive game plan or both. Josh Oliver, Tyler Davis, and Ben Ellefson have combined for four starts and 16 games played.
This position group has to get upgraded if Trevor Lawrence is going to see success anytime soon. It’s the tight end position that provides the safety valve that young quarterbacks need to create any sort of rhythm during drives and it’s the tight end position that creates the greatest mismatches in the secondary.
So... where does the team go?
Trent Baalke will likely have a lot to say about it. After all, he scouted Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis when the San Francisco 49ers drafted them in 2006. Maybe they sign a veteran free agent like Jonnu Smith and pick a guy like Iowa’s Charlie Kolar on Day 2 or Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
I don’t know.
But I do know one thing for certain: If the Jaguars don’t upgrade the tight end position it’s going to be a long rookie season for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
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