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2023 NFL Draft: Jaguars winners and losers

Who was most impacted by Jacksonville’s draft class?

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome the aftermath of the 2023 NFL Draft. Results are final, UDFAs have been signed, highlights are posted, and grades are in.

Now, here’s a look at Jacksonville Jaguars-related winners and losers following the draft.

Winner: Trevor Lawrence

The team spent each of its three top-100 picks on offensive players, so obviously its quarterback is a winner here. Jacksonville drafted offensive tackle Anton Harrison 27th overall, tight end Brenton Strange 61st overall, and running back Tank Bigsby 88th overall.

The Jaguars now have its right tackle (Harrison), left tackle (Walker Little), and quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) of the future, all under 25 years old.

Strange and Bigsby are unlikely to see the majority of offensive snaps anytime soon -- but they should still be able to carve out important roles as a situational receiving threat and early-down grinder, respectively.

Jacksonville also got great value by drafting wide receiver Parker Washington in the sixth round, found some offensive line depth with Cooper Hodges in the seventh, and used its final pick of the draft on fullback Derek Parish.

The Jaguars ultimately came away with a first-round pass protector and three potential playmakers. Lawrence’s path to a third-year breakout and long Jaguars career just got a little easier.

Loser: Mike Caldwell

Jacksonville’s current offensive depth chart looks like a Pro Bowl roster compared to 2020.

As exciting as the offense looks on paper, though, Jacksonville’s defensive depth is concerning. Cornerback and edge rusher were arguably the two positions that needed the most improvement this offseason. If anything, they’ve gotten worse.

The Jaguars did add some nice pieces on Day 3 after reaching on Ventrell Miller, who will mostly play special teams. Safeties Antonio Johnson and Erick Hallett II were solid values while nickel corner Christian Braswell is another necessary flyer for the secondary. Tyler Lacy and Raymond Vohasek fill holes on the defensive line, and Yasir Abdullah is the perfect kind of late-round pass rusher to take a chance on.

Maybe one of those rookies will emerge as a contributor, but all in all, defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell hasn’t gotten much help as he prepares for his second season calling plays. Jaguars brass has said it all offseason, but the team is clearly relying on young guys to continue to step up and help take the defense to another level in 2023.

Winner: “The Board”

The handsome hosts of the Jaguar Report Podcast agreed that regardless of your personal opinion on each drafted player, Jacksonville’s process during the draft made sense.

There was a steep drop-off in talent in the offensive tackle, tight end, and running back draft classes right where the Jaguars picked each position. General manager Trent Baalke may have reached a tad on Miller and Lacy, but Day 3 eventually ended with a handful of smart picks that filled out the roster well.

Baalke was just letting the board breathe.

Loser: Cam Robinson

I’ll let Bill Barnwell of ESPN do the heavy-lifting on this one. He listed Robinson as an NFL veteran whose stock is pointing down after the draft:

One established tackle who didn’t have a great weekend was the guy who protected Trevor Lawrence’s blindside most of last season in Jacksonville. Robinson went down with a knee injury in December, and while he was expected to return for Week 1, the former franchise-tagged player was slapped with a six-game PED suspension last week. The suspension will cost him a minimum of $5.3 million and likely voids the guarantees on his $16 million base salary in 2023, meaning the Jags could move on from him altogether without owing any more of his three-year, $54 million extension.

General manager Trent Baalke and the Jags signaled their displeasure by using a first-round pick on tackle Anton Harrison. Walker Little had been expected to take over for the departed Jawaan Taylor, but after the suspension, Little’s now projected to move to the left side and fill in for Robinson during his absence. Harrison is projected to become the full-time right tackle, so if Little holds his own in camp, Robinson might be out of a job altogether.

After becoming the league’s 14th-highest paid left tackle a year ago, there’s a decent chance Robinson has already played his last game as a Jaguar.

Winner: the rest of the AFC South’s owners

Loser: the rest of the AFC South’s general managers, maybe

From an article by Judy Battista posted on the league’s website:

The most impactful trend of the 2023 NFL Draft was not the early run on quarterbacks, the mid-first-round run on receivers or the scramble for offensive linemen.

It was the race to stop Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence represents what everybody else in the AFC South needed badly in this draft: a franchise quarterback who could seize control of the NFL’s most wide-open division, which has been won by every one of the four member teams at least once in the last nine seasons. By the time the 2022 season ended, though, the Jaguars — who won the division title, beat the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card playoff game and have an ascending Lawrence under center — seemed poised to lord over the AFC South the way Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts once did for more than a decade.

The Texans, Colts, and Titans all left the 2023 draft with a potential franchise quarterback -- but each decision seemed to be driven by the team’s CEOs.

Houston is now out of the 2024 Caleb Williams sweepstakes after trading up to select C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson back-to-back. Jim Irsay’s impatience finally overcame Chris Ballard’s fear of commitment when the Colts took Anthony Richardson. Tennessee wanted Will Levis enough to trade up for him, but not enough to get into the first round and secure a fifth-year option.

Each team might’ve rushed itself into drafting a quarterback a year too early, but we’ll have to wait a year to see about that. For now, AFC South owners can sell that the future of the division is in the hands of Lawrence, Stroud, Richardson, and Levis.

Loser: Travis Etienne and his fantasy truthers

The Jaguars draft pick who is most likely to make an immediate impact is Auburn bruiser Tank Bigsby, who should earn a rotational role by the season opener.

Travis Etienne is still a lead back, but the Jaguars are forming a committee backfield to carry its run game. Bigsby will absorb some of Etienne’s early down usage and could eventually emerge as the primary power back. That means precious goal-line carries might be out of Etienne’s future, at least on a consistent basis, and he already isn’t much of a factor in the pass game.

Establish the Run recently moved Etienne down its dynasty fantasy rankings from RB2 to RB6.

Unaffected: Evan Engram

The Brenton Strange pick shouldn’t have any impact on Jacksonville’s plans to sign tight end Evan Engram to a contract extension.

If/when Engram inks a new deal, the Jaguars will likely have more short-term cap space to add veteran free agents.