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Don’t expect the Jaguars to select an offensive lineman in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Ohio State vs Clemson Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars would like to see the team upgrade the offensive line in the first round of the NFL Draft. Of course, the Jaguars will be selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick, but is an offensive lineman in play with the team’s second first-round pick at No. 25 overall? While it is certainly possible, I wouldn’t count on it.

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has praised the current group of offensive linemen on the roster multiple times throughout the offseason, and doubled down on those comments at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference. Meyer confirmed that the staff feels good about last year’s starting five-man group of left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Meyer is also impressed with Tyler Shatley, who has been a valuable member of the team over the years as the first lineman of the bench, and offers a lot of versatility in the interior of the offensive line.

Here is what Meyer had to say about the current group of offensive linemen and the organization’s plan at the position during the 2021 NFL Draft:

“I think that’s an obvious statement — competition brings out the best in everyone and the way I look at our offensive line is they’re very talented people,” Meyer said. “We made a decision to go with the starting five that we had, which you’re also going to get a guy named Tyler Shatley. We’ve got some other young players that I know (offensive line) Coach (George) Warhop thinks very highly of.

“And like I mentioned with the defensive line, the next question you’re going to ask, ‘How’s your team? How’s your offensive line?’ And I feel like our offensive line could play much better and I believe we have the coach and I believe we have some excellent talent that we will play much better. And they’re still — our two tackles were young players, which are still coming to their own. We have some veterans inside that I feel good about. But to answer your question, we will try to help bring some competition to the offensive line with the draft; we’re planning on doing that.”

Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like Meyer, his staff and general manager Trent Baalke are comfortable with the team’s starters and depth pieces on the offensive line. Meyer trusts offensive line coach George Warhop to continue to develop the players already on Jacksonville’s roster, and while Robinson and Taylor had their struggles at the tackles position, the interior linemen were actually quite solid and consistent.

The offensive line needs to get better as a whole in pass protection — especially with Lawrence (highly likely) arriving in the very near future — but the pieces are in place to have success. In terms of run blocking, Jacksonville was actually quite good in that area, averaging 4.5 yards per carry (12th in the NFL). According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars ranked 11th in Adjusted Line Yards (which assigns a value to the impact the offensive line had on a given play based on the number of yards gained, and then is adjusted based on down, distance, situation and opponent). The team also ranked seventh in Power Success rate (percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown, including goal-line runs on any down). The team did rank just 25th in Adjusted Sack Rate, though, so again, the unit needs to improve there.

Perhaps this is just coach-speak from Meyer, or he is trying to motivate the current guys on the roster, but it is consistent with what Meyer has been saying about the offensive line all offseason long. Also, the fact that the Jaguars didn’t sign any offensive lineman in free agency (outside of re-signing Shatley) is telling that the staff feels good good the position. Here is what Meyer said about the offensive line back in February (via Jaguar Report):

“Our offensive line is pretty good. You know, it’s not a blow up offensive line. You know, we got some other areas we got to fix. So I have a vision of what it looks like. Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer and (Darrell) Bevell, we’ve had those conversations, but it’s going to be built around what we have, and there’s some good pieces there, but we’re gonna make it even better.”

The Jaguars have many holes to fill. With four picks in the first two rounds, Meyer also said at Wednesday’s press conference that he wants those first four picks to add immediate “value” and make an “impact” right away. With so many areas of need to improve on the team — defensive line, secondary, tight end, etc. — it really wouldn’t make a lot of sense to spend early draft capital on a position group the staff feels strongly about. Now, Meyer did mention that he wants to bring “competition” into the offensive line room, so surely the Jaguars will likely select at least one offensive lineman throughout the draft, but that may not come until the third round or later.

Again, anything can happen in the NFL Draft. If for some reason one of the top-rated offensive lineman — Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker (who is a guard, but could end up playing tackle in the NFL) or Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw — then maybe the Jaguars would select an offensive lineman early, especially at the offensive tackle spot. However, each of those players is projected to be selected prior to pick No. 25. Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins is another option who may still be on the board, but I just don’t see it happening based on Meyer’s perspective of the level of need along the offensive line.

While there is no denying the Jaguars could stand to upgrade the unit as a whole, Jacksonville certainly isn’t taking an offensive lineman at No. 1 overall, and I don’t expect Jacksonville to do so at No. 25 overall or No. 33 overall (first selection in the second round) either. I also highly doubt the Jaguars will be trading up for an offensive lineman in the first round to go after Sewell, Slater, Vera-Tucker or Darrisaw. It’s possible at No. 45 overall in the second round, but again I wouldn’t anticipate the team selecting an offensive lineman until the third round or later.

With all of that said, wacky things happen in the draft each year, and it all depends on how the draft board falls — if the value is there, then the Jaguars could certainly pull the trigger on an offensive lineman. Otherwise, expect Meyer, Baalke and company to address more pressing needs first.

The NFL Draft begins next week on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m., and continues through Saturday, May 1.