With the Super Bowl now behind us, all eyes in the NFL now go towards the Combine and the Draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars still hold the 17th overall pick, with no major shakeups to the order yet. No one seems to be quite certain who the team might take, but it is no secret that this upcoming draft is incredibly important for a litany of reasons.
Here are the latest projections for the Jags in the draft.
Starting with the worldwide leader, ESPN’s Matt Miller sees the Jags going defense in Round 1. Miller mocks the Jags taking Missouri corner Eric Rakestraw Jr., contingent on the team re-signing Calvin Ridley.
Jacksonville could go in so many directions, but I’m operating under the belief the team will re-sign wide receiver Calvin Ridley, so let’s look at the secondary. Rakestraw is a feisty, tough competitor at the line of scrimmage. While not a hulking defender at 175 pounds, he will rough up wide receivers and ball carriers with his physical style. Jaguars veteran cornerbacks Darious Williams and Tyson Campbell are entering their final years under contract.
Opting to solidify up front, CBS’ Chris Trapasso mocks the Jags to take Alabama offensive tackle JC Latham. Trapasso has Latham as the third-best tackle prospect.
Latham would be a prudent selection for a Jaguars team that needs to get the most out of Trevor Lawrence.
Going back to the defensive side, The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner likes Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy at the 17 spot. Murphy has been a recurring player on mocks for the team.
Jacksonville needs trench help on both sides of the ball, and Murphy was a huge problem for just about every team Texas faced last season. The 6-1, 308-pounder plays with outstanding explosion off the snap and has the grip strength/power to toss guards and centers. He’d make Jacksonville’s other young defensive pieces better.
Another mainstay on Jags’ mocks is Alabama corner Kool-Aid McKinstry. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Easterling sees the Jags rolling with McKinstry as the third corner off the board.
Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry zone eyes from press alignment. pic.twitter.com/0lMAsA8TWp— Eric Crocker (@Crocky209) February 7, 2024
Cynthia Frelund with NFL.com goes defense and keeps things somewhat local. Frelund thinks the Jags take FSU EDGE Jared Verse.
Verse is the power rusher prototype. He wins straight-ahead leverage matchups against O-linemen at a top 25 percentile rate. Utility in the run game is massive here, as the combination with Josh Allen and Co. creates a lot of value (this assessment supposes Allen, an impending free agent, will be returning).
Pro Football Network
James Fragoza from PFN goes a much different route than most, and has Washington receiver Rome Odunze coming to Jacksonville at 17.
There are many “F it, Rome Odunze is down there somewhere” plays on the Washington WR’s film, but he routinely came down with them. He lets passes into his frame more than you’d like, but he has the height/weight/speed combination to be an X receiver, which the Jags need outside of Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley.
Pro Football Focus
Powers-Johnson is coming off a dominant few days of Senior Bowl practices. He’s been the Ducks’ full-time starting center for just one season, but in Mobile, he showed he can be dominant at both center and guard. That flexibility means he’ll be starting somewhere in Jacksonville Week 1 if they draft him.
The scouting department at Bleacher Report likes the Jags to take a corner, but instead of McKinstry, they go with Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell. Mitchell too had a strong Senior Bowl and has been mocked to the Jags numerous times.
No individual prospect did more to help his stock at this year’s Senior Bowl than Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell. Granted, the two-time first-team All-MAC selection has been a rising star for nearly two years now.
“Mitchell has continued to improve his draft stock, from the beginning of the season through Senior Bowl week,” Giddings said. “He has good length with versatility and top-notch movement skills.
“While at the Senior Bowl, Mitchell showed the consistency and competitiveness to place himself among the top cornerback prospects. With the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary fighting injury and inconsistency, he could upgrade the unit and possibly provide some stability.”
The Jaguars have already made significant investments in their secondary, with cornerbacks Tyson Campbell being a 2021 second-round selection and Darious Williams joining the squad after signing a three-year, $30 million free-agent contract prior to the ‘22 campaign. Yet Jacksonville finished among the bottom seven in pass defense this past season.
Mitchell’s ascension depended on how he fared in an all-star setting against top competition while being asked to lock targets down in man coverage. He thrived when asked to do so, which shows a complete skill set with his ability to drive on the football in zone coverage after 44 defended passes over the past two seasons.
The Draft Network
Keith Sanchez at The Draft Network has another FSU prospect on his mock, but this time it’s receiver Keon Coleman coming to Duval County.
Right when we thought Trevor Lawrence was going to launch into being an all-pro player, there was a step back. Some blame his offensive line, some blame his receivers. With this pick, the Jaguars decide to improve the WR room with a player who should be one of the best athletes in this entire draft.