The Jaguars have the ninth pick, courtesy of a 6-10 season. Things have been turbulent with personnel. They signed Nick Foles to a big contract as quarterback, but he has been traded. Stalwarts such as Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, JD Bouye have been traded, Telvin Smith left the team, and Yannick Ngakouye’s status with the team is uncertain. Dante Fowler was shipped out the previous year, depleting their lineup from the AFC final. Right now, they are in rebuild mode while the owner expects results.
Jacksonville is in an enviable position with thirteen picks in the draft, including two first round picks – their own and the LA Rams for Ramsey. They also have three fourths, three fifths, and two sixths. The extra fourth round picks come from trading Foles to Chicago (compensatory pick) and Bouye to Denver, the extra fifths are from the Fowler and Campbell deals, and the sixth was a draft-day deal last year with Seattle. This gives them flexibility to trade up or down.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Quarterback: With Nick Foles being traded to the Bears, Gardner Minshew is the man after starting 13 games last year. He is supported by Joshua Dobbs, who was acquired from Pittsburgh when Foles was injured. Minshew exceeded expectations as a rookie sixth-round pick, but it isn’t known whether he will be good over the long haul. Because of that, I could see the Jaguars picking here at any point in the draft.
Wide Receiver: This one of Jacksonville’s stronger areas with DJ Chark coming into his own in his sophomore season, catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards. Dede Westbrook caught 66 and Chris Conley had 47. Marqise Lee missed much of the year after catching 56 and 63 the previous two years. The Jags have CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Charone Peake, Terry Godwin, and Michael Walker on the roster. Westbrook and Conley will play on expiring contracts, while there are reports Lee may not be in the future plans, and that is why I could see them picking here at any point in the draft.
Tight End: This has been a position of concern for several years. Tyler Eifert signed as a free agent from Cincinnati and if he stays healthy, it would be a positive. James O’Shaughnessy was the leading receiver among tight ends and he only played five games. Third-round pick Josh Oliver may contribute after missing much of the season. Charles Jones fills out the roster. Geoff Swaim has been released as a cap casualty and Ben Koyack is unsigned. Help will be sought here at some point in the draft.
Offensive Line: This is a unit that has disappointed, considering what they have invested. Their tackles, Cam Robinson on the left side and Jawaan Taylor on the right, are second-round picks – Taylor last year and Robinson in 2017. While Taylor had a good year, Robinson just returned from an ACL tear. Andrew Norwell was a major free agent signing at guard going into 2018, but he has not played up to the contract and had injury problems his first year. Brandon Linder is a very good center, with only three centers having a better grade per Pro Football Focus. AJ Cann is adequate at right guard. Among reserves, Tyler Shatley was re-signed and Will Richardson was a fourth-round pick in 2018. Tackle Cedric Ogbuehi left for Seattle in free agency. Currently unsigned are Rancocas Valley alum Ben Ijalana and Brandon Thomas. Robinson could become a free agent after the season and he could be moved to guard, but a tackle would be needed. This is a good unit on paper, but something is missing and I would not be surprised to see a lineman or two drafted.
Defensive Line: The top gun on the line is end Yannick Ngakoue, one of the game’s best. He has been franchised and made it known he wants to move on from Jacksonville. Josh Allen was their top pick, had 10.5 sacks from his end position, and is ready for more. Calais Campbell was traded to Baltimore and that will be a loss on and off the field. Dawuane Smoot contributed six sacks off the bench. At the tackles, Taven Bryan was the #1 pick two years ago and he has yet to live up to the billing – it will be an important year and he’s getting close to the put-up-or-shut-up status. Rodney Gunter was signed in free agency from Arizona and he can be solid for them, either starting or in a rotation. Abry Jones enters his eighth season with the Jags, started last year, and may start or be part of the rotation. Dontavius Russell was a seventh-round rookie and could have more of a role. Al Woods was signed in free agency, Carl Davis was re-signed, and Brian Price is also competing. Marcell Dareus was released as a cap casualty. If Ngakoue leaves, they will need a pass rusher and a tackle should also be picked.
Linebacker: Signing Joe Schobert from Cleveland as a free agent may help two positions: the middle where Schobert will play and the outside where Myles Jack can move to his natural position. Also on the outside, Leon Jacobs and third-round pick Quincy Williams started numerous times plus Cassius Marsh signed as a free agent, coming from Arizona. Another who saw action was Austin Calitro. Pushing for spots on the team are St. Joe’s (Montvale) alum Joe Giles-Harris and Dakota Allen. Several reserves are unsigned free agents, including Najee Goode, Preston Brown, and Donald Payne. What could help the Jaguars would be the return of Telvin Smith to the team. Smith was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and stepped away last year for personal reasons, but his return looks doubtful. A pick or two here could improve the unit.
Cornerback: Things have changed since last year with the trade of All-Star Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye to Denver. Holding down the corners should be Tre Herndon and DJ Hayden, with competition from free agents Rashaan Melvin (Detroit) and Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati). Also on the roster are Parry Nickerson, Brandon Watson, and Jayson Stanley. The loss of Ramsey and Bouye hurt this unit and the defense itself. Hayden also becomes a free agent next year. The Jaguars would do well to address this need and in the early rounds.
Running Back: Leonard Fournette gained 1,000 yards for the second time in his three-year career, but depth is needed and Fournette had 289 of the 389 rushing attempts – backup running backs only accounted for 44 carries. Millville alum Ryquell Armstead had 35 of those carries for 108 yards and had 14 receptions. Devine Ozigbo was an undrafted free agent who was picked up on waivers from New Orleans. Others on the roster are Jeremy McNichols and Taj McGowan. The Jags appear happy with Armstead, but they need help for Fournette because running backs take a pounding and the ones behind him are unproven. However, it is far from their biggest need and do not see them picking here early.
Safety: This area is in better shape than cornerback with Ronnie Harrison at strong safety and Jarrod Wilson at free safety. Harrison was a third-round pick two years ago and Wilson led the team in tackles. Backing them up are Doug Middleton, Andrew Wingard, and Josh Jones. They could improve things, but this is nowhere near their biggest need and I do not see an early pick, unless a safety is rated well above all the others.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.