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2023 NFL Draft: Jaguars Midseason Mock

Who could Jacksonville target in the first three rounds next April?

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Let me fill you in on a little secret -- it’s always draft season.

With the Jacksonville Jaguars coming off its Week 11 bye, we look to some collegiate prospects the team could target on the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Jaguars are currently on pace to select fifth overall, per Tankathon.

1.05 (fifth overall) - Clemson DT Bryan Bresee

I have two general arguments for why Bryan Bresee will be a Jaguar in six months.

First: defensive line is Jacksonville’s biggest short- and long-term need. Dawuane Smoot, Arden Key and Adam Gotsis are all on the final year of their respective contracts, and Jacksonville would save nearly $8 million next season by releasing Roy Robertson-Harris. Foley Fatukasi is the only Jaguars defensive lineman under contract through 2023.

Second: general manager Trent Baalke is a big “best player available” guy and loves to chase value (e.g., Travon Walker, Walker Little, Jay Tufele, Chad Muma). It also feels like his early-round strategy is “draft high-ceiling athletes and figure it out later” (e.g., Tyson Campbell, Walker, Devin Lloyd).

The second point may come from a small sample size, but Baalke has drafted four top-20 defensive lineman in eight seasons as an NFL general manager.

Bresee boasts the kind of athleticism you’d want from a top-10 draft pick, and may be a draft night value based on the position he plays and past injury history.

From Josh Edwards of CBS Sports:

Bresee was the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit coming out of high school. For an interior defender, he has great athleticism and good quickness. He uses his long arms to stack blockers while keeping his eyes in the backfield. The Maryland native carries his weight really well for his size. He can do a better job of exploding out of his stance and packing more pop in his punches. After suffering a torn ACL in 2021, Bresee is one to watch as a prospect who could achieve draft stardom.

For the record, Will Anderson or Jalen Carter would be easy selections, but I’m assuming those elite defensive prospects will be out of Jacksonville’s reach.

Quinten Johnson and Jordan Addison have my attention, but Jaguars brass is likely content with its receiver room after trading for Calvin Ridley. Zay Jones would be an appropriate albeit expensive WR4.

Similarly, left tackle is unlikely to be the first round choice following Cam Robinson’s contract extension; Jacksonville can prioritize floor over ceiling at cornerback with Tyson Campbell playing like a Pro Bowler; and they already have two former first-rounders starting at outside linebacker/edge in Josh Allen and Travon Walker.

2.4 (36th overall) - Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez

Even if it isn’t their first pick, cornerback does figure to be a high priority for the Jaguars.

Secondary receivers have torched Jacksonville this season:

Christian Gonzalez honestly may not make it out of the first round based on his performance this season. If he does, though, his profile is exactly what the Jaguars were looking for in Tyson Campbell at the top of the second.

From Brentley Weissman of The Draft Network:

Gonzalez has outstanding size and length and is a very good athlete overall... He flashes good eyes and instincts in zone coverage and makes it hard to find throwing windows as he naturally covers so much ground with his length. He is a tough and competitive corner who will not shy away from anyone... Gonzalez has everything you want in an outside corner. He is long, fluid, and physical and understands how to stay in phase against almost any route. Where he struggles is locating the football when the ball is in the air. There were multiple times where he had perfect coverage but simply couldn’t locate the football and allowed the receiver to make a play on the ball.

3.3 (67th overall) - South Dakota State TE Tucker Kraft

Defensive line is Jacksonville’s biggest need entering the 2023 NFL offseason, but tight end is a close second.

Evan Engram, Dan Arnold, and Chris Manhertz are all currently playing on the final year of their contracts; that leaves 2020 fifth-rounder Luke Farrell as the only Jaguars tight end under contract past this season.

It’s fair to assume Jacksonville will want to bring re-sign Engram, who ranks third on the team in receiving. But that isn’t a given, and Engram is almost more of a big slot receiver anyway, and we know Doug Pederson has had past success coaching the position (e.g., Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert).

Kraft, who declared for the draft this week, attended the same university as Goedert, who was drafted by Pederson in Philadelphia.

From Dane Brugler of The Athletic:

Growing up in a small town in South Dakota, Kraft was an All-State running back in football and a forward in basketball, but he was hidden from FBS programs and accepted an offer to play for FCS-level South Dakota State. Kraft moved to tight end, redshirted in 2019 and missed part of the 2020 season because of injuries. He became a full-time starter as a sophomore and had his breakout season last year with 65 catches for 780 receiving yards and six touchdowns — enough to earn him All-America honors.