As the 2020 NFL Draft carried on, two things became plain to see. Talent and character are at a premium in the Jaguars' 2020 draft class.
The Jaguars' strategy of drafting talented, high-character guys came into view after their first two selections in the first round.
CJ Henderson and K'Lavon Chaisson are both hard-working, team-first players.
Henderson's head coach in college, Dan Mullen, raved about the former Gators' cornerback:
"He's just a perfectionist. One thing you'll see is he's one of the first ones in and definitely one of the last to leave, working on his skill, working on his technique, and working on ways to improve. He's a guy who has a competitive nature and wants to be the absolute best of the best.
He's going to constantly work on every bit of that technique."
Henderson later said people have a hard time understanding him because he's very reserved, but also said: "I work hard to earn your respect."
The Jaguars' second pick in the first round, K'Lavon Chaisson, can easily be described as a team-first player.
He told local media: "I don't really care about the praise or recognition from others. My job is to do my job, set the edge and get to the quarterback. Whatever it takes for the team to win. It's never really been about personal accolades. I kind of had a thing about being a better teammate more than being a better player. I figure that would take me a long way in today's game. My main goal is to be the best teammate I can be as soon as possible."
After the conclusion of the first round, Jaguars' head coach Doug Marrone spoke with the media about the importance off adding prospects with strong football character.
"Is it big (character)? Absolutely. Is it something we stress? Yes. But we were able to do that without sacrificing talent or potential. These guys are talented and have great potential to play in this league."
Marrone is right on both fronts. And the Jaguars' apparent emphasis on adding players with both talent and character comes as a result of the franchise being snake bit by recent first-round picks that have come with baggage. During Dave Caldwell's tenure, adding players with high football character has been a struggle for the Jaguars. From Dante Fowler's immaturity entering the league, to Jalen Ramsey's me-first attitude, to Leonard Fournette's antics on and off the field, the Jaguars have struggled to find long-term answers early in the first round of the draft.
As the draft continued, the Jaguars stayed the course, adding more talented prospects that fit into their high character mold. But the team didn't sacrifice talent in favor of character.
In the second round, the Jaguars added Laviska Shenault, an uber-athletic receiver/offensive weapon. Shenault is all about football and brings plenty of toughness to the Jaguars: "That's how I live my life, being tough, and I take it to the field. Anytime you see me, you'll see me being tough."
Shenault was the Jaguars' top-rated wideout after the 2018 season. But nagging injuries slowed him down a bit in 2019. Dave Caldwell believes Shenault is in the same tier as the top wideouts in the class.
In the third round, the Jaguars picked up Davon Hamilton. Hamilton is a force against the run and had a higher pressure percentage than top-ten pick Derrick Brown.
After being drafted by the Jaguars, DaVon Hamilton talked about his team-first approach: "I'm doing whatever the team needs for me to do. Honestly, I really could care less what I'm supposed to do as long as I add value to the team."
After two days of drafting, the Jaguars improved their team in a number of areas and did it without taking risks on players with troubled backgrounds. Henderson, Chaisson, and Shenault will start from day one. Henderson will man one of the outside cornerback slots. Chaisson will start at SAM linebacker in base and rush the passer in nickel. Shenault will play from the slot, in the backfield, and out wide. Davon Hamilton will also contribute early, but he'll face stiff competition for reps, thanks to recently signed defensive tackle Al Woods.
On day three of the draft, the Jaguars added EIGHT players to the mix.
Ben Bartch is a self-motivated former tight end that gained over 80 pounds in college just to be able to play offensive tackle at a high level. And he put on the weight the right way. He made his weight gain signature smoothie every morning and ate clean throughout the rest of the day. Due to his short arms, the Jaguars will initially test him out at guard.
The Jaguars then drafted Josiah Scott, a fiery nickel cornerback from Michigan State. Scott said his goal was to get to the NFL and added: "Now, it's time to stay in the league." During his final year at Michigan State, Scott won the Jim Adams Award, given to the team's unsung hero on defense. Scott was productive at MSU and ran a blazing 4.41 at the combine.
With their final fourth-round pick, the Jaguars selected Denzel Quarterman. He exudes football character. A local kid who played his high school ball at Oakleaf, Quarterman was a ridiculously productive inside linebacker at Miami. He was named First-Team All-ACC in both '18 and '19. Jaguars' Director of College Scouting, Mark Ellenz, described Quarterman: "He's all about football; alpha male, leader, highly productive." Quarterman has a chance to find the field as one of the Jaguars' two interior linebackers in base personnel.
In the fifth round, the Jaguars added athletic safety Daniel Thomas from Auburn, and massive receiver Collin Johnson from Texas.
Thomas ran 4.5 40, put up 24 bench press reps, and lept 37 inches. Thomas was a highly productive starting safety at Auburn.
Johnson comes from a football family — his father played in the NFL for ten years. At 6'6'' tall and 222 pounds, Johnson brings size, length, and strong hands to the Jaguars' receiver room.
The Jaguars then continued their annual tradition of drafting a QB in the sixth-round. Jake Luton, a team captain in college, was granted an extra year of eligibility at Oregon State after suffering a major spinal injury in 2018. He battled back and had a fantastic final year, throwing 28 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. His dedication to playing football paid off, and now he'll have a shot to compete for the backup quarterback job in Jacksonville.
With their second sixth-rounder, the Jaguars selected Tyler Davis. The unheralded tight end from Georgia Tech by way of UConn is another high character guy. He's the first tight end Georgia Tech has rostered in over a decade. Despite being a senior-transfer, he was named a team captain for the Yellow Jackets in 2019. Davis has excellent size and athleticism and scored six touchdowns for the Huskies in 2018.
With their final pick in the draft, the Jaguars picked up Chris Claybrooks, a speedy defensive back and return man from Memphis. He has the speed and quickness to earn the starting return gig for the Jaguars potentially.
The Jaguars never wavered with their 12 draft picks. They added players whose attitude fell in line with their new direction as an organization but didn't sacrifice talent to do so. Their picks on day three of the draft weren't always in line with where I would have gone, but there's no questioning the number of talented players the Jaguars added to their roster. Jacksonville should be commended for adding eight players (Henderson, Chaisson, Shenault, Hamilton, Bartch, Scott, Quarterman, Johnson) that should start in year one or two. Jaguars' head coach Doug Marrone is hoping that adding talented players whose focus is on improving the team will lead to a drama-free environment in Jacksonville. That would be a welcomed change.
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