It’s a position the Jacksonville Jaguars are unfamiliar with. Picking in the bottom of the NFL Draft. After years of stockpiling top players near the top of the selection process, team general manager Dave Caldwell and executive vice-president Tom Coughlin are faced with a new challenge – finding the best player available.
Despite the 10-6 regular season record, the trip to the AFC Championship game and one of the best turn-around stories in the NFL this past season, this is a team with a few holes to be filled. Depth is also something Jacksonville must address on the offensive line, potentially at wide receiver and at linebacker. The need for a tight end could also factor into the team’s decision with the 29th overall selection.
Oh, and there is a possibility of taking a quarterback if one should drop to them in the first two rounds. The one thing Jacksonville hasn’t had the fortune of dealing with in recent years is finding the “best player available” to fill voids and move forward.
The Jaguars do not own a fifth-round selection come April in Dallas.
There should be enough top players on the board when the Jaguars are on the clock to have an impact on a team that could be even better in 2018 but whose record may not show that improvement.
The Jaguars have benefitted the past few NFL Drafts to add Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, Brandon Linder, Dante Fowler, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson Yannick Ngakoue and Blake Bortles.
Here are a few first round options for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mark Andrews, Tight End, Oklahoma – I have him ranked as the best tight end in this draft. It is up for debate with Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State. Andrews has nice size at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He gives Blake Bortles another weapon. The tight end was seldom used this season, with veteran Marcedes Lewis getting the lion share of catches.
Mychal Rivera was on IR this past season after signing as a free agent the past offseason. James O’Shaughnessy should get a chance to start next season, but he was only a fringe player in 2017. Ben Koyack, who caught the winning touchdown in the playoff game against Buffalo, could be the odd man out.
Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP – I like Hernandez more than some. He is going to be one of those players who shoots up draft boards. Hernandez was impressive at the Senior Bowl and is a later first-round pick on many current lists. As I have written before, the measurables are there – 6’2” and 340 pounds. He would certainly help an improved offensive line.
He would also help with run blocking, since Leonard Fournette is more of straight-ahead type runner. The interior line is a concern. It was solid, but not dominant. AJ Cann played better than last season. Patrick Omameh was a good starter when he wasn’t injured. He could be out of a job since he is a free agent.
The reserves Tyler Shatley, Chris Wells and Josh Wells filled in for injuries but did not wow anyone.
Connor Williams, Tackle, Texas – CBS Sports senior NFL writer Pete Prisco has Williams in this slot. Personally, I do not see it. The Jaguars have decent tackles in Cam Robinson and Jermey Parnell. Parnell is the mean bully on the line this team needs at right tackle. Robinson showed great promise as a rookie on the left side.
He did have some injury concerns and did look overmatched every so often. Williams provides depth for sure and allows the team options in keeping or releasing Parnell in the future. Tom Coughlin made a career in New York or picking huge offensive and defensive lineman. This falls in line with that theory.
Rashaan Evans, Linebacker, Alabama – If there is a weakness on this team it might be in the middle of defense because of depth concerns. Smith and Jack were solid all season. Paul Posluszny is a free agent and is unlikely to return. Evans is a tough, aggressive linebacker who makes this unit that much better.
If the Jaguars do re-sign Posluszny, he could fight the veteran for the starting spot inside. Drafting Evans could give Jacksonville the fastest linebacking unit in the NFL. At. 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, he is a two-time national champion with the Crimson Tide.
Christian Kirk, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M – Speed to burn. Kirk could become the slot receiver in this offense. He could also become a valued punt returner. The Jaguars will probably not re-sign Marqise Lee, which opens the door for needed depth. Allen Robinson should be signed to a long-term deal or given the franchise tag. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook flashed signs of stardom at times.
Kirk’s addition makes this one of the fastest young receiving groups on the NFL.