Everyone else has given their two cents about who the Jacksonville Jaguars should take in the NFL Draft that takes place in a week's time.
After reading some of the evaluations of players and position of need for the AFC South franchise, the Jaguars should spend much of their time the weekend of April 28 continuing to build on the defensive side of the ball. There are other needs, like the offensive line, and potentially another running back to add to the mix, but those picks are more for depth than anything else.
Unlike some media members, I believe the offensive line will continue to get better under Doug Marrone, the team’s offensive line coach. It is also my opinion that Brandon Linder will move to center from his guard spot, and that Kelvin Beachum, a player the team signed in free agency, could open the season at left guard with AJ Cann on the right side.
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Jacksonville has the makings of being one of the better offensive units in the league again this season. The defense got a huge lift when general manager David Caldwell was able to secure the services of Malik Jackson on the defensive line, and Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson in the secondary. There is still a need at linebacker, which could be addressed in the Draft.
Last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler will finally see action after tearing up his knee in rookie minicamp and was lost for the season. The Jaguars will essentially have the luxury of two first round picks, which should help with the pass rush and in coverage.
The Jaguars also have the luxury of Blake Bortles at quarterback and both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on the outside to throw to with tight end Julius Thomas to roam the middle of the field. If TJ Yeldon, the team’s second-round draft pick last season, stays healthy, he and free agent signee Chris Ivory could be one of the better running back combinations in the NFL.
In other words, this team could be scary on offense. Now, if the defense under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Wash can catch up, there is no reason not to believe the Jaguars won’t be in the playoff hunt come December.
For now, the focus is on the Draft. With eight picks overall, here is who I think this team should take in each round.
Round 1, 5th pick overall – Myles Jack, Linebacker, UCLA
I would be thrilled if both Jack and Bosa were available with the fifth pick, giving the Jaguars options. While Bosa is tempting, given the Jaguars woeful pass rush, linebacker is the team’s biggest need right now.
Jack has been compared to a faster version of Ray Lewis. If Jack turns out to be half the player Lewis was on the field, then Jacksonville got an All-Pro player for the next decade. Jack might be the best athlete in the entire draft.
Round 2, 38th pick overall – Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida
Bullard made himself a lot of money when he stayed in Gainesville for his senior season. While many project him as a defensive end, Bullard has said himself he thinks he would be best served as a defensive tackle. He has also said he would love to be reunited with Fowler here in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars would be wise to pick Bullard and use him in different packages and formations, which would free up Fowler. Jared Odrick and Malik Jackson.
While there is an outside shot Bullard is grabbed at the end of the first round, I think he will still be available when the Jaguars select early in the second round.
Round 3, 69th pick overall – Christian Westerman, OL, Arizona State
At some point, the Jaguars will take an offensive lineman. The interior part of the line is still a question (so is left tackle). Westerman can play both guard and center and will provide depth. At 6’3” and 298 pounds, he is a solid, big road grader this team could use – either at center or for depth.
At Arizona State, he was known for his work in the weight room and is strong at the point of attack. There is still room for him to grow and will not be counted on to start immediately. Jacksonville would do well to take him as a backup with the idea of him starting at some point in the next couple of seasons.
Round 4, 104th pick overall – Xavien Howard, Cornerback, Baylor
Even with the signing of Amukamara and Gipson, there are still plenty of questions to be answered in the secondary. While the play on the back line was better last season, it still has lots of work to do.
Howard is a nice prospect at 6’1” and 205 pounds. He was a star for the Baylor Bears – a team that did not play great defense.
A two-year starter, Howard started 13 games as a sophomore and was an honorable mention all-conference performer with 51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a team-high four interceptions.
Right now, the Jaguars have lots of numbers in the secondary. It will be a challenge to keep everyone happy.
Round 5, 147th pick overall – Jordon Jenkins, OLB, Georgia
At 6’3” and 259 pounds, I see Jenkins as an edge rusher as well as playing on the outside in pass coverage. He closed out his Georgia career with a strong senior season, finishing with 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks among his 59 total tackles in 2015. He also forced a pair of fumbles and was second on the team with 12 quarterback hits.
Jenkins versatility will be something that will help him make an NFL squad and fight for playing time early in his career. He reminds me a bit of Paul Spicer but is not as thick and a bit faster.
Round 6, 182nd pick overall – James Cowser, DE, Southern Utah
Whoever drafts Cowser, it will be heralded as one of the best “Sleeper” picks this year. A hard worker who could be a solid outside rusher. A bit small at 6’3” and 243 pounds, but he can put on weight.
Much like Ryan Davis has been a situational player for the Jaguars, I see the same opportunity here with Cowser. He was the Big Sky’s conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 while breaking several records previously set by longtime NFL standout Jared Allen, including career sacks (43) and tackles for loss (80).
Round 6, 202nd pick overall – Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy
The Jaguars tried this experiment before with Denard Robinson – a quarterback making the transition to running back. Reynolds is too talented not to make the transition. A scat back type at 5’9” and 200 pounds, he is mature and has had one of the best college careers of any player of any given era.
He would surely be a fan favorite in a town that is known for its Naval base.
No quarterback in FBS history has more career rushing yards than Reynolds, who tallied 4,559 over the last four seasons. He also set the Division-I record for total touchdowns (88) and finished fifth in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting.
Round 7, 227th pick overall – Henry Krieger Coble, TE, Iowa
The Jaguars don’t necessarily need another tight end, but they did lose Clay Harbor in free agency.
Krieger-Coble started 11 games as a senior in 2015 and set career-bests, finishing second on the team with 35 receptions for 405 yards and one touchdown. He accepted his invitation to the 2016 Senior Bowl. But his claim to winning a roster spot in Jacksonville will be on special teams. He was a solid special teams player for the Hawkeyes when he first came on campus.
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