THE NFL DRAFT IS TWO WEEKS AWAY!
I'm not crying; you are. Months and months of preparation for draftniks across the country, and it all comes down to a three-day stretch from April 23-25.
Now that the draft is just beyond the horizon, I'll focus my efforts on predicting precisely what the Jaguars will do in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Here is my two-weeks out, predictive Jaguars 7-round mock draft.
#14 - CJ Henderson, CB Florida (trade back)
Under the leadership of Dave Caldwell, the Jaguars have never traded up or down in the first round of the draft. But with an astounding 12 draft picks in 2020 and the uncertainty around this draft due to COVID-19, the Jaguars may alter their strategy this year. I have the Jags trading down, acquiring another third-round pick, and selecting their highest-rated cornerback. At nine, Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw were on the board. While the Jaguars do need long term answers on the interior of their defensive line, the positional value of a nose tackle — even an elite one — doesn't necessarily warrant a top ten pick. During Caldwell's regime, the Jaguars have technically never selected a defensive tackle in the first round; in 2017, with the 29th overall pick, Taven Bryan was drafted to play big end, but he didn't work out at that spot. Outside of Bryan, Caldwell has never selected a defensive tackle higher than the fourth-round. Adding Kinlaw or Brown would be a significant tendency breaker that I'm not ready to predict. So the Jaguars get perhaps the most talented cornerback in the draft, address their most pressing need, and add more draft capital.
#20 - Justin Jefferson, WR LSU
Justin Jefferson has been ultra-productive over the last two seasons and showed just how explosive he is at the NFL Combine in March. With excellent hands, route-running ability, size, competitiveness, and athleticism, Jefferson is a safe pick with high upside. Wide receiver isn't the Jaguars' biggest need on paper, but helping Gardner Minshew should be a top priority as he enters his first year as the Jaguars' starting quarterback. Pairing Jefferson with DJ Chark gives Minshew two dynamite receiving options. Add in Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, and Marqise Lee (?), and you have a top-end receiving corp for the foreseeable future.
#33 - Yetur Gross-Matos, DE Penn State
Dave Caldwell loves trading up to get his guy at the beginning of day two, and he does that again here. Generally speaking, the Jaguars need instant impact guys in this draft. But with so many picks, the team can afford to add a prospect who might not be ready to contribute on day one. Gross-Matos may fall into that category, but he should be strong against the run from the get-go. His pass-rush plan needs work, but with his length, hand strength, and short-area athleticism, he can make some splash plays in year one. Rodney Gunter can take Gross-Matos under his wing and teach him how to be a pro. Gross-Matos has Aldon Smith type potential, and will be solid against the run even if that potential is never fully realized. AJ Epenesa would also make a ton of sense here. He has a much higher floor but doesn't have the All-Pro ceiling that Gross-Matos possesses. Either player would be a fine choice to be a long-term replacement for Calais Campbell.
#63 - Davon Hamilton, DT Ohio State
As I mentioned before, the Jaguars need a long-term answer at defensive tackle. Al Woods is 33, and Abry Jones isn't full-time starter material. Enter Davon Hamilton. Perhaps the most underrated defensive lineman in this draft, Hamilton is a 6'4'', 320-pound wrecking ball. He's stout against the run and creates plenty of push on the interior. He also gives full effort on every play and routinely chases down ball carriers towards the sideline or down the field. Hamilton doesn't have to start from day one, but he'll compete for reps early and should take over the starting nose tackle job by 2021.
#73 - Ashtyn Davis, S California
Since the departure of Tashaun Gipson, the Jaguars have lacked a true coverage safety. Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson are both best when flowing downhill. Ashtyn Davis can compete with Jarrod Wilson for the starting free safety job the day he gets to Jacksonville. Davis is excellent in deep zones but isn't the best in run support. The Jaguars could deploy a safety-by-committee approach in 2020, with Wilson playing on obvious run downs and Davis coming in to play the pass.
#76 - Antonio Gibson, WR/RB Memphis
With the pick acquired in the trade down from nine, the Jags add the do-it-all offensive weapon from Memphis. He'll be a perfect chess piece for Jay Gruden. Gibson looks like a running back at 6'0'' and 228-pounds, but he played more slot receiver than anything at Memphis. He has incredibile explosion, as evidenced by his 4.39 forty yard dash. The Jaguars can line him up in the slot or the backfield. Opposing defenses will have the be aware of Gibson's whereabouts at all times. He'd also lock up the Jaguars' return job in a heartbeat.
#165 - Yasir Durant, OL Missouri
Durant played left tackle at Mizzou, and it's not hard to see why. At 6'6'' and 331 pounds, Durant is a massive man. He didn't test well at the combine, but he could have the versatility to play tackle or guard at the next level. He may never develop into a quality starter, but the Jaguars need versatile depth along their offensive line, and Durant is just the guy to provide it.
#189 - Tyrie Cleveland, WR Florida
Teams covet speed in the NFL today, and that's exactly what Tyrie Cleveland possesses. A deep ball expert, Cleveland could help the Jaguars' offense become more explosive from day one.
The issue for me here is that the Jaguars don't invest enough in their offensive line. For years the Jaguars have been more confident in their offensive line than people looking in from the outside. I don't think the Jaguars will do much to address that group in the draft this year, a flaw that could hurt them in the short and long term.
Follow Jordan de Lugo on Twitter for all the latest Jaguars news and analysis.
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