2024 NFL Draft: Trent Baalke previews Jaguars’ first-round approach

One week out from the 2024 NFL Draft, Trent Baalke appears to have a solid feeling for how the Jaguars will approach round one.

Granted, nothing is guaranteed on draft night, especially when your team is scheduled to select in the back half of the first round, like Jacksonville, at No. 17.

But Baalke, the Jaguars’ general manager, is keenly aware of Jacksonville’s positional needs entering the selection ceremony and has studied those groups of prospects from top to bottom with his personnel and coaching staff.

The sweet spot, however, remains to be determined: Identifying the appropriate prospect for a given need with an appropriate pick.

“We have some needs, obviously, that we need to address,” Baalke told reporters Thursday. “The board has got to fall the right way. You know, needs are paramount, but we’re going to stick with our formula and draft the best players available.”

Jacksonville’s biggest needs entering the draft are largely perceived to be cornerback and wide receiver.

Baalke was complimentary of both prospect groups on Thursday, suggesting the cornerback group could be ranked uniquely by all 32 teams and the depth of the receiver class extends from the heralded top three prospects — Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze — through the late rounds.

Baalke’s stated approach to player selections is to take the best one available, but there is wiggle room to be had with positional needs in mind. This could open the door for a trade, up or down, the draft order.

“We feel good about the group that’s there at different positions, you know, that we’re focused in on a little bit,” Baalke expressed. “But you don’t know what’s going to happen. You really aren’t gonna know what we’re gonna do until maybe the 12th or 13th pick. Then we’ll look at the opportunity to potentially move up. You know, if we get to 16 like we did last year and somebody calls and there’s a chance to move back one or two, you just don’t know.

“It’s [like] you’re playing it on game day.”

To Baalke’s previous point, the depth of Jacksonville’s top positions of need in the draft is extensive. The NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board includes eight cornerbacks and 12 wide receivers in its top 50 prospects.

The Jaguars should have little to no issue securing talented prospects at those spots, but don’t intend to reach for a player if the player and their positional value don’t align with the team’s board.

One benefit Baalke mentioned is the anticipated run on quarterbacks at the top of the draft. Such a trend would push the prospects Jacksonville covets down the board, potentially into the range the Jaguars would be willing to trade up into, if not to the No. 17 pick. At least four passers, possibly more, are expected to go in the top 10.

“It’s obviously more comforting to know there’s depth at a position where you have a need because it gives you multiple opportunities within different levels of the draft. Sometimes, you’re splitting hairs and sometimes the guy that you’ve got a little more value to doesn’t play up to or doesn’t play as well as the guy you’ve got right behind him,” Baalke said.

“There’s a little luck involved as well.”

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire