All of the articles, all the reminders, all the recaps of how the Jacksonville Jaguars have fallen so hard from the grace that was their 2017 playoff run were all leading to this moment: Week 16 of the 2020 NFL season where the Jaguars locked up the No. 1 overall pick in a draft class that not only featured a strong quarterback group, but one that held the name of the most highly anticipated quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck: Trevor Lawrence.
As of this moment, we expect Lawrence to be a Jaguar, giving them a centerpiece for their roster moving forward. But Jacksonville needs a lot more than just Lawrence.
Going into the season, the Jaguars had the youngest roster in the NFL, and they sure performed like it. Their current 14-game losing streak is the longest their franchise has seen in a single season—it better be. It is a depth chart that truly earned the No. 1 overall pick, and it needs a lot of work.
Right now, the Jaguars have the best offseason capital of any team in the league to make some sweeping upgrades. With not many player contracts in-house needing to be re-signed, and with one of the lowest cap totals in the league, the Jaguars will have plenty of financial flexibility. The exact number will depend on what the league salary cap ends up dropping to after the COVID-19 affected season, but Spotrac has the Jaguars at around $80 million in cap space for 2021. Throw in the fact that they have 12 draft picks this coming draft, five of which may be in the top 75, and this roster should be a lot more talented a year from now.
That’s not to say it didn’t have any talent this season, though.
Wide receivers D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault are promising young passing weapons. Throw in the fact that Keelan Cole is a very solid No. 3 option, plus Collin Johnson giving you a big-bodied red zone target, and that’s a good baseline. In the backfield, running back James Robinson broke the record for most rushing yards for an undrafted free agent in his rookie season this year. Where the offense could use some upgrades, outside of the obvious quarterback spot, is on the offensive line and at tight end. The Jaguars have finished 26th or worse in scoring in each of the last three seasons. Lack of winning up front goes a long way to that stat. The big question mark could be at left tackle, as they have to decide whether or not to bring back Cam Robinson, who has been fine, but not quite franchise left tackle caliber.
On defense, boy, was it not pretty this season. With one week to go, the Jaguars defense ranks 29th in yards given up, 30th in touchdowns yielded, and has the worst DVOA pass defense in the NFL. They are also one of the worst pressure defenses in the league, have just 18 sacks (third worst), and are averaging the third-highest QBR average on the season. They need an impact safety, another good cornerback, along with some much better trench play.
Middle linebacker Myles Jack is the centerpiece of the defense. He is one of just two players on the team who makes more than $10 million per season. On the outside, the drafted cornerback C.J. Henderson in the first round last year, but he needs another good corner opposite him. On the line, they have pass rusher Josh Allen, who recorded 10.5 sacks as a rookie in 2019, but he missed most of this season with a knee injury. They also have rookie K’Lavon Chaisson, who they like, but need to see more from.
We’ll devote more time to some free agent targets for the Jaguars down the road, but for now, let’s look at some potential targets for a Jaguars three-round mock with their five top-75 picks.
Round 1, Pick 1: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Round 1, Pick 21: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Round 2, Pick 33: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Round 2, Pick 45: Christian Baremore, IDL, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 65: Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU
The Lawrence pick at the top is an obvious one, so there’s no need to really dig too deep there. At the back half of the first round, with their second selection on Day 1, I had them going Jaycee Horn, the physical, man coverage corner from South Carolina. He’s good. While I still wonder if he can be a CB1 in the NFL—as he does play super physical and that can yield to penalties/trouble with savvier receivers—as a CB2 next to Henderson, he should be perfect and still allow the Jaguars to play man coverage whenever they choose. The hope is to hold out for tight end Kyle Pitts with that pick, but that is becoming more and more unlikely.
In the second round, I had them grabbing a good all-around tight end in Pat Freiermuth from Penn State. The “Baby Gronk” nicknames and comparisons were too rich when he was an underclassman, but he is still a very reliable tight end option who can play in the slot, as a wingback, or inline as a traditional tight end. Then, with their second-round pick, I went for an interior defensive lineman with some pass-rush upside in Christian Baremore. Baremore has great flashes but hasn’t been dominant with them yet. That means he might be available somewhere in the second round.
Finally, in the third round, I had them picking the very athletic safety/nickel defender hybrid Kary Vincent Jr. Vincent Jr. loved to bait quarterbacks in college football due to the fact that he was so much more athletic than almost any offensive player he went against. He’ll need to learn to be stronger against blocks when playing in the slot and more sticky in coverage, playing much closer to receivers than he does now, but he certainly has the ability to do it as a former track star who nearly broke 10 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
When it comes to the 2021 offseason, it’s much more than just Lawrence for the Jaguars. There will be plenty of action as they try to make a contender out of the worst record in the league.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022