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Jacksonville Jaguars select LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr. with the 23rd overall pick. Grade: A

Well, we can probably stop bashing Jaguars GM Trent Baalke for allowing his receiver group to atrophy with the departure of Calvin Ridley. Malik Nabers was obviously LSU’s WR1, but Thomas was no second banana. He brings a great (and much-needed) combination of field-stretching speed, route correctness, and the ability to get open just about anywhere. He’s not a contested-catch bruiser, but the Jaguars already have those guys. What they didn’t have was a receiver who makes post safeties nervous. Now, they do. Add in the value of trading back with the Vikings, and this is a very nice pick.

A four-star recruit out of Walker High School in Walker, Louisiana, Thomas was a football and basketball star at that level, and received offers from big-time programs in both sports. He chose football, and he chose LSU over Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M.

After two seasons of middling production, and with Jayden Daniels as his quarterback, Thomas caught 68 passes on 87 targets for 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2023. On passes of 20 or more air yards, Thomas caught 15 passes on 22 targets for 670 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas did most of his work on go, seam, dig, and hitch routes, often against defenses that were playing off to respect the Tigers’ deep passing game.

PLUSES

— He’s creeping death on go and seam routes; nice build-up speed, and then whammo — he’s gone.

— Extensive library of foot fakes both at the line of scrimmage and when in open space; he knows how to get open.

— Leans into and out of his routes to create openings, and the burner speed comes right back up.

— Leverages his routes to coverage; would work well in any option route offense.

— Great at slow-playing cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage before turning on the jets.

MINUSES

— Could be more sudden on quick cuts.

— Drops show up on tape and could be an issue at the next level.

— Will face a crapton more press coverage than he did in college.

— Not a contested-catch receiver per se; his game is about getting free from those situations.

— Can he feast on more than go/seam and hitch stuff? Remains to be seen.

I love Thomas as a complementary speed target. I’m not sure if he’s ready to be a true WR1 just yet, but as those designations are different for every NFL team, the right system could give him a boost.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire