The clock struck twice in Duval on Thursday night as the team made a bold move to trade back up into the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to select Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd with the 27th overall pick, originally held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jacksonville parted ways with pick No. 33 (second round), No. 106 (fourth round) and No. 180 (sixth round) in order to make the move with the Bucs.
Though costly, the move netted Jacksonville one of the top-rated linebackers in the entire draft, a player the team pairs well with fellow first-round selection, Georgia DL/OLB Travon Walker, adding another versatile weapon on defense.
“He does a little bit of everything,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke told members of the media shortly following the selection.
Ultimately, Jacksonville felt the team needed to jump the New England Patriots (pick No. 29) in order to get their guy. Without revealing their board exactly, Baalke mentioned that time was of the essence with the first round dwindling down.
“Obviously, this was a draft where there was a certain number of guys that we had graded above the line and we were getting to the point where we needed to make a move,” Baalke said of the trade. It was right around when the Dallas Cowboys selected offensive lineman Tyler Smith with the 24th-overall pick when the team knew it had to make a move.
“This was something that didn’t just happen. We were considering this going into the draft. So we were fortunate enough that it worked out, and Tampa got what they wanted and we got what we wanted.”
Lloyd, 6-foot-3, 237 pounds was one of the most physically gifted linebackers in his class. A former safety, Lloyd quickly transitioned to LB at Utah after playing safety, receiver and punter in high school.
Playing 36 games in college, Lloyd accounted for 150 solo tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and five interceptions. He added three touchdowns, eight pass breakups and a fumble recovery over four years.
He was named a first-team All-American and the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. He was First-team All-Pac 12 in both 2020 and ‘21. It’s no wonder why Lloyd was the No. 1 LB on the team’s draft board.
“He can cover. He can rush the passer. He’s very good against the run inside the tackle box and outside,” Baalke added. “So just a lot of versatility, and he’s a culture setter. He’s a great young man. He fits into what we’re trying to build here, and we’re looking forward to having him here.”
The Jaguars made a concerted effort to upgrade its linebacker corp throughout the offseason and during Thursday’s draft. Both starting LBs from last season, Myles Jack and Damien Wilson, were either released (Jack) or allowed to walk in free agency (Wilson).
The team went out and signed former Atlanta Falcons LB Foye Oluokun in free agency, making him and Lloyd the team’s new duo at the position.
Head coach Doug Pederson was bullish, but cautious when speaking about adding Lloyd to the mix with Oluokun, noting that they still have to get the guys - both Walker and Lloyd - in to see exactly how they mesh with the defense. But, ultimately the team is obviously excited to have him.
“I think that it’s going to be a good relationship,” Pederson said about the young LB duo, “just again, making that linebacker room a little bit stronger, a little bit better, and really helping the overall football team with the guys like Devin and Travon. It’s still a work in progress, obviously, with these guys, but we’re excited to get them in here.”
Ultimately, given the physicality of the AFC South, including players such as Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Titans RB Derrick Henry, the team knew it would have to get more physical on defense. Now, the team feels it has done at least some of that by selecting both Walker and Lloyd.
“You’ve got to play physical football,” Baalke said. “You’ve got to win the line of scrimmage, you’ve got to win the front on both sides of the ball, and these two guys will help us do that.”