It’s that time of the year again, and the Jaguars have begun the latter portion of the NFL Draft process. By this point, the draft board is essentially set, and now all that’s left is last-minute checks on potential selections, particularly for the team’s first and second-round selections.
Today, two players visited the TIAA Bank Field, including Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and North Carolina State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu, two players that are vying to be selected first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Hutchinson was set to work out for the team, but that later was canceled after his teammate, David Ojabo, ruptured his Achilles during the Wolverine’s Pro Day.
According to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, both players are in Jacksonville for top-30 visits.
Teams are allowed to bring in only 30 prospects for private workouts or visits, hence the name. These are the first reported visits to take place, but Florida Gators defensive lineman Zachary Carter was also set to visit the franchise last week.
Hutchinson, one of the top pass-rushers in this year’s draft class, finished his career with the Wolverines after compiling 17.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss. That includes 16.5 TFLs and 14 sacks this past season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hutchinson finished with the highest defensive grade in 2021, including the second-best pass-rush grade at 93.4.
During the NFL Scouting Combine at the end of February, Hutchinson was asked about the potential of going No. 1 overall, mentioning that he’s ready to start a new chapter.
“What would it mean to me? It would mean a lot,” he said. “You know, a lot of hard work has gone into this. You know, it’s been a very long journey, but I’m ready to start a new chapter.”
The Jaguar shave not shied away from selecting edge rushers in the first round, selecting two in back-to-back drafts with 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen and 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson. Still, the team has a need for the position due to Chaisson’s slow development over the past couple of years.
Ekownu, the former Wolfpack offensive lineman graded positively over his three years, according to PFF. He was graded out as the seventh-best offensive tackle in college football last year and was graded as the fifth-best run blocker with a grade of 92.1. In pass protection, Ekownu gave up just three sacks and 13 total pressures.
While the Jaguars have franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson, the team could still select a tackle with their first-overall pick due to uncertainty over Robinson’s longevity with the team and question marks at the right tackle position.
Recently, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson made it known that tagging Robinson doesn’t necessarily alter their draft plans; they’re independent of each other.
“It has nothing to do with the draft and we want those guys to be you know, we want that offensive line to be solidified,” Pederson said.
“We want guys up there that have been around. Cam was is a big part of that and is going to be a big part of that. So we were excited to obviously retain him. But as it pertains to the draft, you know, that’s kind of its own separate deal right now.”
The Jaguars also invested heavily in its offensive line during free agency by signing All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff to a three-year $49.5M contract with $30M guaranteed.