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Every week during the 2020 NFL season, we’re going to — just being honest here — overreact to what we’ve seen on the field the previous few Sundays and start projecting NFL draft prospects to teams that might need help at certain spots.
Think of it as a mini one-team mock draft, with early (Rounds 1-2), middle (Rounds 3-4) and late (Round 5 and later) prospects at each team’s respective position of concern.
This week’s NFL draft makeover is the Jacksonville Jaguars. How will they spend their offseason riches?
With the New York Jets’ victory over the possibly playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams, the fortunes of the woebegone Jacksonville Jaguars dramatically changed.
The Jaguars, not the Jets, are now in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. (And the fact that the Jets beat the Rams is an added cherry on top for the Jaguars in this holiday season because they own Los Angeles’ first-round pick by virtue of the Jalen Ramsey trade.)
That means even more this year. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the crown jewel of the draft crop. He’s not a perfect prospect — no man is — but he has more widespread appreciation and fewer obvious holes than any who has come along in recent years.
So let’s assume for the purposes of this exercise that Lawrence will end up in Jacksonville. Who might join him?
The Jaguars quietly have one of the best offseason setups of any team in recent memory. Whoever lands the vacant general manager job will walk into an enviable situation, with a team that’s flush with salary-cap space (in an offseason in which many other teams will be cap-stricken), armed with a war chest of draft picks and already working with a young swath of interesting talent.
That setup should make the Jaguars’ head coaching situation very attractive. Like big-name-coach attractive. This is a team with upward mobility, folks. The Jags will deserve your attention, even if they seldom have in the recent past.
In addition to currently owning the golden ticket first pick, Jacksonville has multiple selections in Rounds 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. That’s six selections currently in the top 97 overall.
The Jags drafted a 12-man class in 2020, and they also unearthed two undrafted gems: running back James Robinson and defensive tackle Doug Costin. The early draft pick standouts have been wideouts Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson, and first-rounders C.J. Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson, third-rounder DaVon Hamilton and fourth-rounder Ben Bartch. All have flashed some intriguing ability, even if their rookie seasons have been uneven.
Projecting specific needs for the Jaguars is tough for a few reasons: They figure to fill more than one of them through free agency, and they could go in multiple directions in developing around Lawrence.
All this means the Jaguars have a setup that’s as exciting as we’ve seen for a team in some time, assuming they make the right calls over the next four or five months. That’s no guarantee, of course, but imagining the possibilities of what they could build is dizzying.
Florida TE-WR Kyle Pitts
Looking at the Jags’ second first-rounder, which currently checks in at No. 25 overall, it would be nearly impossible for the team to assume Pitts would be anywhere close to within range, even if the Rams’ pick ends up a few slots higher.
Even without that, the beauty of the Jaguars having so many picks is that they easily can package some and move up. Plus, having made 12 picks a year ago, along with their UDFA finds, are they ready to back that up with 10 more rookies added to the roster?
Trading their second first-rounder, along with their first second-rounder (No. 34 overall right now) and a late pick, could be enough to land somewhere in the teens. It Pitts slips out of the top 10 and is available, the Jaguars must think about doing what it takes to get him.
They could wait and draft, say, Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth or Miami’s Brevin Jordan on Day 2. There’s some sense in that. But Pitts is a potentially game-changing player. He might not even be a tight end, really. Athletically, Pitts might end up profiling closer to a big, freakishly athletic receiver in the mold of Calvin Johnson or Vincent Jackson.
We’ve also compared Pitts to Darren Waller, who might line up more often in the slot or out wide for the Las Vegas Raiders, but his impact isn’t really measured in his blocking prowess. Pitts will enter the NFL with similar expectations.
A Lawrence-to-Pitts connection might end up as dangerous and thrilling — in far different ways, but still — as Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce, Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams or Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf.
And when you throw in D.J. Chark, Shenault and Johnson (and possibly Keelan Cole or Chris Conley, both free agents-to-be) to the receiving mix, Lawrence could be throwing to one of the more exciting young pass-catching groups in the NFL.
Miami (Ohio) OT Tommy Doyle
The 6-7, 320-pound Doyle initially opted out of the 2020 season when the MAC halted athletics but returned — albeit for only a three-game season — once the conference restarted football activities.
The limited season didn’t offer much we didn’t already know about the fifth-year senior, who played a mere 151 snaps this year. He was injured in the second half against Buffalo, which partially robbed us of some good tape against the MAC’s best pass rusher, Malcolm Koonce.
Doyle has been a rock-solid left tackle in a conference that has surprising success producing talent at the position over the past decade plus — T.J. Lang, Eric Fisher, Brandon Brooks, Brian Winters, Taylor Moton, Max Scharping, Chukwuma Okorafor and more.
Doyle’s strong performance against Buffalo Bills 2020 second-rounder A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) earned a lot of approval in the scouting world. Doyle entered the season earning some Round 3 and 4 grades and should project into a similar range in April, despite being on the older side (he turns 25 a week after the draft). He moves well for a man of his mass, effective at protecting the edge against speed rushers with his length and still able to get on his horse on outside-zone runs.
With Cam Robinson set for free agency, the Jaguars need OT depth. Doyle played almost exclusively left tackle in college but easily could project to either side.
Georgia DB Mark Webb
At this stage of the draft, the Jaguars should carpet bomb their remaining needs — and the secondary reasonably deserves at least two, if not three picks to help buttress that unit.
Sidney Jones and D.J. Hayden are cornerbacks on expiring deals, and Jones figures to be the more likely of the two to return. The Jaguars have had eight corners with at least 63 snaps played this season, and even amid several injuries there it’s clear they’re looking for more solutions at that spot.
C.J. Henderson and Jones would be natural candidates to man the outside spots. If Hayden is gone, who handles slot duty? Tre Herndon, Josiah Scott, Chris Claybrooks and others have taken snaps inside, but Jacksonville could use another option.
We’re low-key fans of Webb, who has taken a backseat to the Bulldogs’ other stars in the secondary. Webb has emerged as a team leader and strong performer in UGA’s “star” position, a hybrid linebacker-DB who often handles slot duty and also must be stout against the run.
The 6-1, 200-pound Webb seems built for that role in the NFL, despite starting out at wide receiver. In a few years, he has quietly performed well and held off various challengers for playing time in one of the most talented secondaries in the country.
He’s also regarded as one of the leaders of Kirby Smart’s team. Although Webb had a few slip-ups in coverage against Florida this year, he’s a smart, technique-sound player.
Along with solid special-teams prowess, Webb appears to check off a lot of boxes and would make a very respectable early Day 3 pick.
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