Fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars must be sweating a bit.
A rumor of a proposed trade between the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft can’t be good news. The Panthers, a team that relies on a bruising running game to help Cam Newton, wants a bell cow running back.
This notion of a trade could only mean one thing – coach Ron Rivera wants Leonard Fournette.
The running game from LSU is still regarded as the top running back in this draft class despite the Pro Day workout FSU’s Dalvin Cook put in on Tuesday. The news of a trade in the top five of this draft means teams are looking to mirror what the Dallas Cowboys did last year. Ezekiel Elliott was the pick at No. 4, and with the help of Dak Prescott, the ‘Boys made the playoffs.
A trade of this nature (should it happen) would affect the entire first round. Teams jockeying for position, rethinking their draft boards. More trades made to move up (or down) possible. The trade between New Orleans and New England – a swap of Brandin Cooks for the 32nd pick – is minor compared to this.
There are rumors in Jacksonville as well over who will be the team’s first pick in Tom Coughlin’s new regime. Fournette appears to be the front-runner. Nevertheless, stranger things have happened. Coughlin, who has final decisions as the team’s executive vice president, likes big uglies – linemen to help both the offense and defense. There isn’t an offensive lineman worthy of the fourth pick. Jonathan Allen, the defensive lineman from Alabama, might be gone to Chicago with the third pick in the draft.
If anything, with less than a month to go before the first night in Philadelphia, it’s a crapshoot and cluster of smokescreens.
An NFL representative I talked to at FSU’s Pro Day told me that if Allen and Fournette are one the board when the Jaguars make their pick, Coughlin and the team must decide “who”. Do you take the playmaker who joins a crowded backfield with TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory? Do you take Allen, who has medical issues (shoulder concern) that might shorten his career?
Whoever is the pick, and there is a fairly talented group of defensive linemen and running backs this year, Jacksonville will get one heck of a football player.
Here are five options the Jacksonville Jaguars will have with their first pick in the NFL Draft.
Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU – The overwhelming favorite. Jacksonville has had both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to move the football in franchise history. After that, it’s been slim pickings. Fournette gives them a big back, the kind Coughlin loves. Fournette’s presence takes pressure off Blake Bortles and the passing game.
Dalvin Cook, Running Back, FSU – Cook is a pretty good consolation prize if Fournette is off the board. By the same token, the Jaguars could opt for Cook over Fournette, which may force a trade at No. 5 (Tennessee) or at No. 6 (New York Jets). By the way, Cook showed great speed at his Pro Day and his ability to catch a ball out of the backfield.
Jonathan Allen, Defensive Lineman, Alabama – The pick of Allen means the Jaguars want to dominate at the point of attack. Coughlin made a habit of drafting defensive linemen in New York with the Giants. Allen is considered one of the two or three best linemen on the draft board. He can play inside, where the Jaguars are thin at defensive tackle.
Solomon Thomas, Defensive End, Stanford – I suspect Thomas will be the second player chosen after Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett. Thomas has been the fastest rising player on most draft boards. He is a sack artist which many teams covet. If he is drafted, you could see Dante Fowler play at outside linebacker in some packages. Thomas’ size is my only concern.
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson – This is the wildcard and the most unlikely pick in this draft. There was, however, some discussion earlier this week. On the other hand, if the Jacksonville Jaguars choose Watson it means Bortles time in Jacksonville is over after this season. Watson is a dual threat who can play the up-tempo style, Nate Hackett, the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator could run. It may be what fans want, but I don’t see it happening.
Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU – Some regard Adams as the safest pick in the Draft. Subsequently, Adams would give Jacksonville three new faces in the secondary and could spell the end of Tashaun Gipson in teal. Adams is a hard hitter and solid cover man. Lastly, the fit is right. However, the Jaguars have other needs.
Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama – Shocker pick here, but it could make sense. The Jacksonville Jaguars have to decide if they are going to pay Telvin Smith and what the team will do with Paul Posluszny. Both could be playing elsewhere in 2018. Myles Jack must see the field more. Foster is a solid pick for 2018 but the Jaguars cannot afford to take someone to play a part-time role in 2017.