The Jacksonville Jaguars will once again have the dubious honor of picking first at next month’s NFL draft. Unlike in recent seasons, this year’s rookie class doesn’t have those top two or maybe three players that transcend the event. For example, everyone knew Jacksonville was going with Trevor Lawrence months before the draft took place, so the pick announcement was a mere formality.
The thing is, Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke will have several options when it comes to the top selection. The team can go offense, defense, or perhaps trade out of that spot. There are several outcomes that can take place come April. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Jaguars shock the world and go with Kayvon Thibodeaux or Travon Walker
That’s right folks, Travon Walker with the first pick overall. Obviously, it might seem like a reach upon first glance, but some people believe it’s a legitimate option for Baalke. Former NFL running back and current NFL Media analyst Maurice Jones-Drew seems to think so. He recently had the Jaguars slated to pick up the former Georgia defensive lineman with the first pick.
Jones-Drew believes that Cam Robinson’s return will result in the tackle position dropping from the top of the team’s needs. As a result, the Jaguars will go with a “versatile defender, capable of playing anywhere on the D-line.” All things considered, Walker is highly unlikely. On the other hand, Thibodeaux has accumulated 35.5 tackles for a loss in the past three seasons at Oregon, along with 19 sacks during that run.
While some scouts and NFL personnel might have concerns surrounding his work ethic, Thibodeaux should still be in the conversation for the top pick if the Jaguars are indeed going with defense early.
Jacksonville drafts Evan Neal despite Cam Robinson getting franchise tagged
Once the Jaguars used their franchise tag on Cam Robinson, word got around that Evan Neal shouldn’t be considered the top pick simply because the need wasn’t as critical. However, when a talent such as Neal is available, you don’t pass up the opportunity. The priority for the Jaguars shouldn’t change in this scenario. Surrounding Lawrence with as much protection as possible should still be the prime concern.
Robinson was solid in pass protection and average in run blocking. Yes, it’s certainly a good thing that he’ll be back, but he’s hardly a franchise tackle. Pro Football Focus graded him at 76.6 in pass blocking, which is notable, though his 52.5 grade in run blocking leaves a lot to be desired. Neal’s remarkable combination of athleticism, speed, and imposing talent still makes him the closest thing to a consensus number one pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars could trade their pick to a quarterback hungry team
Even though this rookie class wasn’t receiving much praise for its quarterbacks, the last couple of months have seen this narrative take a turn. There are several NFL teams starving for a signal-caller, but the Jaguars aren’t one of them. Baalke could easily flip the top pick for even more draft capital, because if there’s one thing that the Jags’ general manager can do, it’s acquire loads of picks.
Take a team like the Seattle Seahawks or the Carolina Panthers, who both sit outside the top five. Both Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis have shot up draft boards given their NFL combine and pro day performances. So much so that both are being projected to go in the top 10.
If both of these organizations really believe either of these quarterbacks could be their starters one day, trading up makes sense. The Jacksonville Jaguars can acquire future picks while still picking in the top 10. It’s a win-win for Baalke.