Let's face it; even though the Jaguars aren't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in 2020, at 1-6, it's time to begin focusing on the future. As the Jaguars cope with their worst start to a season since 2014, it's clear that the time for change is now.
With that in mind, I decided to take a crack at my first mock draft of the season. Here I'll explore the first four rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft from the Jaguars' perspective. I'll attempt to put together the best possible group of rookies to help improve the Jags roster in the short and long term. This is not a predictive mock draft; it's merely what I would do if I were in charge of the Jaguars' draft.
Keep in mind all these draft slots are subject to change as the 2020 NFL season progresses.
#3 QB Justin Fields, Ohio State - The Jaguars are in desperate need of a franchise QB. The only player in franchise history who's come remotely close to earning that title is Mark Brunell. The last time he laced up his cleats and led the Jaguars' offense was nearly 20 years ago. Since then, it's been a revolving door at quarterback for the struggling franchise. Insert Justin Fields. With Trevor Lawrence off the board, the Jaguars land one of the more exciting QB prospects in recent memory. He's got the pedigree as the former #1 overall prospect coming out of high school, and has a cannon of an arm with excellent mobility. Fields has plenty of size at 6'3" and 228 pounds. All he did in his in 2019, his sophomore year and first season as a starter, was toss 41 TD passes to just 3 INTs and added another 10 TDs with his legs. He's continued his strong play into 2020 and looks the part of an improved QB. He'll need to continue to show his ability to anticipate, manipulate defenses with movements and vision, and prove that he can read and attack multiple defensive schemes on a more advanced level. If the Jaguars can't land Lawrence, they should be eager to bring in Fields.
#21 TE Kyle Pitts, Florida - I fully acknowledge that Pitts might not be available here. He has proven nearly impossible to cover at the tight end position. He possesses legit speed, athleticism, and an imposing 6'6", 240-pound frame. Pitts was considered one of the top tight ends in the country entering the 2020 season, but he's quickly separated himself from the pack. In four games, Pitts has hauled in 22 catches for 355 yards and seven touchdowns. With some talent at WR already in the building, adding a pass-catcher who can dominate over the middle of the field makes the Jaguars' offense much more well-rounded. Adding Fields and Pitts to an offense that features an exciting young runner in James Robinson, two ascending young receivers in DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault, and a decent offensive line was far too much for me to pass up. Pat Friermuth, the talented TE from Penn State, would be in play for me if Pitts were off the board.
#36 DT Darius Stills, WVU - Finally, some defense. The Jaguars boast the worst defense in franchise history, and they clearly whiffed on defensive tackle Taven Bryan in the first round of the 2018 draft. Darius Stills, the undersized defensive tackle from West Virginia, should be the type of player the Jaguars thought they were getting in Taven Bryan. Someone who can push the pocket and fill rushing lanes. As a Junior in 2019, Stills racked up 43 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks, two pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. Despite weighing in at just 285 pounds, Stills shows more than enough strength and power in his hands to dismantle interior offensive linemen. If he were taller than 6'1'', he'd have a chance to go much, much higher. Adding a player with the potential to create pressure up the middle and make QBs uncomfortable in the pocket was a no brainer.
#41 WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC - Another offensive skill player?! That's right; offense is the name of the game in the NFL these days, and even the best defenses can only account for so many pass catchers. I initially pegged wide receiver Terrence Marshall for this spot, but it appears more and more unlikely he'll be available in the forties as we move forward. St. Brown is an effortless mover than understands how to get in and out of his breaks. Playing mostly on the inside for USC, St. Brown feasted on Pac-12 defenses during his freshman and sophomore seasons in 2018-2019, racking up 137 catches for 1,792 yards and nine scores. St. Brown is the type of receiver that always makes himself available to his QB. He should help Justin Fields make a quick transition to the next level.
#67 S Andre Cisco, Syracuse - Cisco is the best ball hawk in the country. With that, you also see some over-aggressiveness in his game. He's certainly not the most consistent safety and isn't an elite tackler, but he's a game-changer. The nation's active leader in interceptions, Cisco will help the Jaguars' defense create favorable situations for their young, talented offense. He has room to develop as a tackler and in terms of overall consistency on the back end.
#100 DE Joe Tryon, Washington - Continuing to build for the future on the defensive side of the ball, Tryon has excellent size and strength on the edge. He's not a natural edge bender, but Tryon should be able to develop into a polished all-around defensive end. In 2019, as a sophomore, Tryon tallied 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 13 games. He's also shown the ability to drop into shallow zones. The Jaguars need more depth on the edge, and that's precisely what Tryon will provide.
#116 WR Kadarius Toney, Florida - Many of you probably know quite a bit about Kadarius Toney, the Gators' explosive offensive playmaker. Adding him to the mix on offense will make the Jaguars' nearly impossible to prepare for and defend. Toney has game-breaking speed, incredible quickness, and ankle-breaking moves. He's also got a strong lower body, which allows him to power through some would-be tacklers. He's evolved into a more complete player as a senior in 2020, catching 22 passes in four games for 297 yards and six touchdowns. Toney has also carried the ball eight times for 83 yards and a score. His ability to turn a short gain into a game-breaking play could be the piece that puts this Jaguars' offense over the top.
Many of you are probably concerned with the lack of cornerbacks added here. But with CJ Henderson and Sidney Jones playing good football on the outside and Tre Herndon and Josiah Scott competing for the nickel spot in 2021, the Jaguars are in better shape than you might think at cornerback. They could also use a portion of their league-leading salary cap space to add veteran talent to the back end in the spring.
My overall philosophy here is to add elite pieces to an offense that already has a solid baseline of talent. Getting Justin Fields as many toys as possible was the priority for me, and I think that's what I did with Pitts, St. Brown, and Toney. Adding a ball-hawking safety helps the Jaguars' defense generate favorable field position for Fields and the offense. Tryon will push K'Lavon Chaisson on one end and potentially replace Dawuane Smoot should he depart in free agency. A majority of the remaining picks would be used on the defensive side of the ball.
NOTE: This strategy also assumes the re-signing of Cam Robinson at left tackle.
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