3 takeaways from Jaguars pre-draft press conference with HC Doug Pederson, GM Trent Baalke

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Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Doug Pederson met with the media for the franchise’s pre-draft press conference on Friday. As expected, they didn’t reveal who they were going to take with the No. 1 overall pick next week.

However, there were some takeaways, like Baalke making it clear it wasn’t Aidan Hutchinson or bust on the Jaguars’ board.

“Again, we worry about our board and how we have players valued,” he said. “I really don’t pay much attention to what other people are thinking or saying because you don’t know. You don’t know what’s fact. You don’t know what’s fiction at this point. This is a unique period where I think there’s a lot of guys that are valued very similar …”

The popular pick for the Jaguars would be Hutchinson. Baalke would draw deep angst from some within the fan base again if he elected to pick Walker instead.

Here are a few of our takeaways from Friday’s press conference:

The Jaguars seemed organized and prepared again

Mar 1, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was evident how coordinated the Jaguars, Baalke, and Pederson were in free agency. They clearly had a game plan and executed it to a T.

It seems like that is the case once again. Baalke said they are stepping away from the draft board for the weekend and will come back to it on Monday. That said, it seems like they are a meeting or two away from deciding on who will be the No. 1 selection.

The organization we’ve seen from the Jaguars this offseason has been a breath of fresh air compared to the dysfunction seen in previous years.

Jacksonville has done its homework on this year's wide receiver and running back class

Mar 2, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pederson and Baalke were asked specifically about certain position groups in the draft. Two of those were the running back and receiver positions.

Pederson spoke on the receivers class and said it was good, but lacked depth. That could mean the Jags may have to take a receiver within the first two days if they want a significant contributor there.

Baalke was the one to speak about the running backs class. He told the media the mid-rounds was the sweet spot for the position. That’s perfect for the Jags, who probably don’t need to take a running back high after drafting Travis Etienne in Round 1 last season.

“At the running back position, I don’t think at the top end there’s that one guy or two guys that are first round type considerations,” Baalke said. “I think both those backs, talking about the Michigan State [RB Kenneth Walker III], Iowa State [RB Breece Hall], both those guys are good football players. There’s some quality depth in the middle of the draft we feel. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a deep draft at the running back position, but I do think there’s going to be some quality backs that come out of especially the middle rounds of this draft.”

The Jags have met with running backs Hassan Haskins (from Michigan) and Tyrion Davis-Price (from Louisiana State). Those are prospects they likely wouldn’t have to spend anything more than a fifth-round pick on.

Baalke and Pederson value drafting talent over needs

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – JULY 29: General Manager Trent Baalke of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on during Training Camp at TIAA Bank Field on July 29, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Jacksonville surprised a lot of people last season with their draft picks like taking Etienne with its second first-round pick, signaling that the front office valued their grades and overall talent over needs. They reiterated that on Friday.

“We had that discussion today with the coach, and yesterday,” Baalke said. “This league’s about having the best players and sometimes you have a need, and you want to force a need and you get a lesser player. When you’re in that circumstance, my thought process has always been [to] take the best player available. You’re hoping that need and best player available come together, but when they don’t, you take the best player. You never go wrong making one room stronger, so that’s how we’ve always approached it.

“We’ve had that discussion with the coaching staff, and I think I’ll let [Head Coach] Doug [Pederson] speak to that as well from a coaching perspective.”

After winning just three games last season, this isn’t a bad approach for the Jags. In fact, in a division like the AFC South, it may help the Jags close the talent gap between them and their main rivals like the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, who are good teams but not necessarily elite.

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