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2023 NFL Draft: Grading the Jaguars’ strategy and results on Day 1

Grading Jacksonville’s Thursday night trades and Anton Harrison pick

Oklahoma State v Oklahoma Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is a wrap. It was quite a night for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who traded down twice before selecting Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison.

The Giants struck a last-minute deal to swap first-rounders with Jacksonville. New York received the 24th overall pick and exchanged its 25th, 160th (fifth round), and 240th (sixth round) selections.

Soon after, the Jaguars sent pick no. 25 to the Bills for no.’s 27 and 130 (fourth round).

With the 27th overall pick, there were several big-name prospects still remaining on the board, including:

  • Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
  • Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy
  • Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
  • Alabama S Brian Branch
  • Florida G O’Cyrus Torrence
  • Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

Smith, Branch, and Torrence were widely suspected to be Jacksonville’s preferences. Trent Baalke told media last week, “hopefully we’ll have our pick of two or three guys that we have in mind right now—it’s down to that level—probably two to three guys that we’re really interested in.”

Baalke also said Cam Robinson would be ready for training camp “from a health standpoint.” Two days ago, John Shipley reported that Robinson faces an upcoming suspension (likely 4-6 games) for violating the league’s PED policy.

On the surface, it seems like the Jaguars passed on better overall prospects in favor of drafting offensive tackle insurance. Smith, Porter Jr., and Mayer were all expected to be drafted between picks 10-20 overall.

But I think Harrison was a good first round choice. As Alfie wrote, the Jaguars didn’t make a reactive or panic pick: the idea that Jacksonville forced an offensive tackle selection “a bit too on the nose and not necessarily understanding how the draft process works.”

Baalke said after the pick that Harrison was the highest-rated player on the team’s board. Shipley believes the Jaguars would’ve taken him at 24th overall. Baalke also said that they could’ve traded back a third time, but the tackle-needy Bengals are among teams who could’ve then snagged Harrison.

I’ll admit that Baalke may have lying through his teeth about Harrison being the best player available. He said last week:

We talked about [weighing out the value of a player with the team draft plan] this morning. We went through scenarios, and more of a later round type-scenario. We talked about that and when there is depth at one position and no real depth at another position. It is a position in need, you may push the need ahead of the value a little bit. It’s going to be within a respectable range, you’re not going to reach way below the value.

If the Jaguars did in fact push need in front of value, it wasn’t because of panic over the Cam Robinson situation. It was because, in Baalke’s own words, there was “depth at one position and no real depth at another position” on Thursday night.

Here’s a look at top-75 offensive tackle, cornerback, and edge prospects still available (expected draft position via Pro Football Network).

  • OT: Dawand Jones (40), Cody Mauch (50), Matthew Bergeron (59)
  • CB: Joey Porter Jr. (12), Cam Smith (35), Kelee Ringo (38), Julius Brents, (55), Clark Phillips III (65), D.J. Turner (67) Tyrique Stevenson (72)
  • EDGE: B.J. Ojulari (41), Keion White (45), Derick Hall (52), Isaiah Foskey (53), Tuli Tuipulotu (54), Adetomiwa Adebawore (63)

This year’s offensive tackle class is thin by all accounts. The Jaguars should look smart for taking Harrison when they did, not desperate. And not only did they get the first round prospect they originally wanted at no. 24, but they acquired extra capital to be able to move back up in the draft later.

Check out our full list of best available players on Day 2 of the draft

I don’t have any personal takes on Harrison, but he appears to be a good prospect. The DMV product just turned 21 years old and allowed only two holding penalties and two sacks in the past two seasons as Oklahoma’s starter. He’s a little more of a project than the top-tier tackle prospects, but Harrison is widely expected to become a longtime NFL pass protector.

Last night, Doug Pederson mentioned the importance of keeping Trevor Lawrence protected. That’s something no fan can disagree upon. Especially if you remember that the division-rival Colts lost its franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to early retirement after failing to protect him from hits.

All in all, Jacksonville prioritized the premium position with the least depth in the draft class, landed a clean prospect to help Lawrence, and added resources that could lead to a Day 2 trade-up. That’s good drafting.

Grade: A-