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2024 NFL draft: Three predictions for the Jaguars

It’s finally here: The 2024 NFL draft is set to begin at 8 p.m. Thursday evening, with the Jaguars looking to build upon an active offseason relative to talent acquisition by making good use of their eight selections in the selection ceremony.

Jaguars Wire shares three predictions for Jacksonville’s approach to the 2024 NFL draft below.

The Jaguars will trade in the first round. Up or down?

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Raymond Vohasek (59) fist bumps general manager Trent Baalke Monday, Aug. 14, 2023 at Miller Electric Center at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. Today was the 14th training camp session.

Sitting squarely in the middle of the first round, Jacksonville will be fortunate if one of the top two cornerbacks or top three wide receivers — the team’s two biggest positions of need — slides all the way to pick No. 17. At least one could fall that far, but isn’t exactly likely.

In the event the Jaguars are infatuated with one of these five players — wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze, and cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Quinyon Mitchell — and one or several are available in the early-teen range, I predict Jacksonville will move up to secure their guy.

It would mark the first time Trent Baalke, entering his fourth draft as the Jaguars’ general manager, has traded up in the first round with the club.

But if they aren’t, or if Jacksonville is unwilling to meet the trade demands to make such a move, I believe the Jaguars will field calls for their selection and ultimately move back in the first-round order. They’d add picks to their arsenal as a result, to potentially utilize in a second or third-round move-up.

Remember, the Jaguars are without their original third-round selection (No. 79) due to their trade with Atlanta for wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who signed with Tennessee after spending the 2023 season in Jacksonville. They own a compensatory pick near the end of the round, No. 96.

Jacksonville won’t prioritize offensive line help

Nov 12, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line huddle around quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) before a play during the first quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive line help hasn’t been an uncommon prediction for Jacksonville leading up to the draft. However, it would surprise me to see Jacksonville pick an offensive lineman before day three, as the team has its five starters and three depth pieces in place for the 2024 season.

Jaguars Wire covered this topic previously: The signing of center Mitch Morse before free agency, the re-signing of left guard Ezra Cleveland, the restructuring of right guard Brandon Scherff’s contract and the decision to keep left tackle Cam Robinson despite the cap savings his release would have generated indicate Jacksonville’s plans to largely run the offensive line of 2023 back in 2024.

Of course, paired with right tackle and 2023 first-round pick Anton Harrison.

Morse’s acquisition moved 2023 starting center Luke Fortner into the spot’s backup position, pairing him with guard Tyler Shatley and hybrid tackle/guard Walker Little among Jacksonville’s experienced depth.

Unless Jacksonville intends to upgrade one of the players on the starting five that it has devoted significant resources to, the path toward playing time for a rookie offensive lineman is extremely narrow. Perhaps such a player could offer valuable depth in year one, but even there, they would face competition.

It’s difficult to envision an offensive line prospect contributing to Jacksonville winning games in 2024. That’s why I don’t believe the Jaguars will pick one until day three, in the developmental range, barring a player being too good to pass up with an earlier pick.

The Jaguars will draft a kicker

Nov 4, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide place kicker Will Reichard (16) kicks an extra point during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars haven’t drafted a kicker in exactly 20 years, to date. Their last kicker pick was Josh Scobee in the fifth round on April 25, 2004.

In my unpopular opinion, that will change this weekend.

The Jaguars have had three different starting kickers in as many seasons, since Josh Lambo was released early in the 2021 campaign, and brought in a potential fourth, Joey Slye, to compete with one of the job’s previous holders, Riley Patterson (2022), this offseason.

Slye has been with four teams in five seasons. He’s finished two of those campaigns sub-80% on field goal attempts, most recently in 2023, and has missed at least three extra-point tries every year since turning pro.

Patterson struggled with distance with the Jaguars in 2022, posting a long kick of 53 yards and missing three attempts from 40-to-49 yards. He missed three extra points with Detroit in 2023.

Jacksonville needs a long-term, or at least not short-term, answer at kicker and doesn’t appear to have one currently on the roster. Although taking a kicker in the draft is usually not well-received by fans and analysts, the Jaguars’ best approach to fixing the position might be selecting one.

Alabama’s Will Reichard, Stanford’s Joshua Larty, Arkansas’ Cam Little and Missouri’s Harrison Mevis each have garnered attention throughout the draft process and could hear their names called this weekend. One will be selected by Jacksonville.

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire