Latest CBS Sports mock draft shows a bit of a surprise for the Jaguars

·2 min read

For the last few weeks, the debate has been which of the two top edge rushers should be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. On the one hand, there’s former No. 1 overall recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was very effective in college at Oregon but didn’t always have the production and battled injuries as a junior. On the other, there’s Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, a senior who had a breakout campaign in 2021.

But both have their concerns. Thibodeaux’s is the aforementioned lack of production and health concerns, while Hutchinson’s recent game against Georgia has brought up questions for some. It’s as a result of this that CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson has the Jaguars taking neither with the No. 1 pick in his latest mock, instead going with Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal.

We’ll be honest, this is a complete, unmitigated overreaction to the semifinal game; Aidan Hutchinson looked human and because the Jaguars can’t find a win they’re stuck here, with the top overall pick. And instead of taking the best player — and Hutchinson remains the best player for us — we have them instead filling a huge need along the offensive line. Look, if teams can reach for quarterbacks, they can reach of other positions of need, too, especially if it means protecting the franchise QB who looked skittish for much of his rookie campaign. And to reiterate: We wouldn’t take Neal first overall but since we do a mock draft every week, we’re mixing it in this version.

It’s an interesting idea, and it’s certainly one the Jaguars should at least consider. If there are concerns about Hutchinson and Thibodeaux, the team could get what is pretty close to a sure thing at tackle in Neal, who would give the Jags a lot more freedom in deciding how it wants to approach the offensive line in free agency this offseason.

However, one concern with Neal is that he may be a better fit at right tackle for the Jags, who have the option to make 2021 second-round pick Walker Little their starting left tackle in 2022. Jacksonville could use an upgrade at right tackle as Jawaan Taylor hasn’t played well this season, but it could be hard to justify taking a right tackle at pick No. 1 based on value.

It’s not a given that the Jaguars will be the one making this decision, either. They have locked up a top-two pick, and a loss on Sunday to Indianapolis would clinch the first pick. But with a win and a Detroit loss to Green Bay, this would be the Lions’ dilemma, instead.

The Jags have the opportunity to add a franchise-changing player with this pick, and they must do their due diligence and make the right decision.