There is always a good reason to look ahead to the future.
It will be a long road until April. The front office and coaching staff may look different when we get there, and maybe even the draft position.
As of now though, we can at least confirm that the Jaguars hold the 17th overall pick.
According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, a website collecting data on the most linked players to certain teams by various media outlets, the Jaguars choose to go along the defensive line in the first round.
Their pick? University of Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton.
Who is he?
Newton is a junior out of St. Petersburg, Florida. He played all three seasons for the Illini and flat-out dominated.
His last year was by far his best, as he was awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Newton is only the fourth ever Illini to earn the honor.
Of his other accolades, Newton was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, AP Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, and a Nagurski Trophy finalist as one of the top five defenders in college football. He was the only defensive tackle that made it on the Nagurski finalist list.
In his past two seasons, he was an All-American. In all three seasons in Champaign, he was an All-Big Ten placer.
Safe to say, the guy can play.
The stat sheet may not be as eye-popping as a defensive end, but it certainly backs up what people are saying about Newton.
He finished with 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, all while playing along the interior. In his final five games, he logged five tackles for loss and five sacks.
His build– 6’2”, 295 pounds– makes him a bit smaller than the guys currently on the Jags roster. For instance, Folorunso Fatukasi is two inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier. Roy-Robertson Harris is about three inches taller.
His specific size could actually be why many pundits think the Jags would be involved in his future.
Drafting someone like Newton actually could fit the mold of how the Jaguars want to be on defense. Travon Walker never had a specific role in mind when he was drafted, and his rare size made him a jewel in the eyes of the front office. Newton could be the same.
He, much like Walker, can play a little bit of anywhere on the line and beat any type of lineman. He wears No. 4.
Dude Jer’Zhan Newton is so ridiculous lolpic.twitter.com/meIRmnyV6o— Max Chadwick (@MaxChadwickCFB) November 4, 2023
He also has the push-and-pull attribute you would want from an interior guy. He has the rare ability to be able to stand with a guard, shed him, and still make a play.
#Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton (#4) might be one of my favorite players in the draft. He's got violent hands and is super explosive despite not having traditional DT length. I think the Chargers might be too high to pick him, but Minnesota would be FUN pic.twitter.com/BqxrGFkiZG— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) January 12, 2024
With how disappointing the interior play was from the Jags this season, drafting a guy to plug up the middle should be a welcome sight.
Just going off the metrics from the Mock Draft Database, Newton is the trendy pick for the Jags.
Other teams are starting to get involved in his evaluation, and he may not even be around at 17. If that is the case, other pundits have the team taking names like receiver Keon Coleman out of FSU or lineman J.C Latham from Alabama.
But if the Jags get Newton, they would be getting a guy in the mold of someone like Walker or Aaron Donald. After all, Donald is only 6’1” and 280 pounds.