What are the Jaguars' top three needs as the first wave of free agency has ended, and we inch closer and closer to the 2020 NFL Draft? A fascinating question to be sure.
My answers may not please you, entirely.
I understand the fact that this front office has always wanted a stout defense that can get after the QB and defend the perimeter. I don't believe their traditional team-building philosophy is as sustainable as building around a skilled quarterback. Which is what I propose the Jaguars should do this April.
The Jaguars need to give Gardner Minshew every chance to succeed in his second year as a pro. If he doesn't develop or trend in the direction the Jaguars were hoping, they can address the quarterback position further following the 2020 season. But in 2020 — if there is a 2020 NFL season — the Jaguars should do their best to put Gardner Minshew in the most advantageous possible position to win ball games.
Hiring Jay Gruden as offensive coordinator and bringing in Tyler Eifert were undoubtedly steps in the right direction, as was patching some holes on the defensive side of the ball.
So, what's the biggest priority in the draft for me? Landing a legit starting receiver on the outside. Giving Gardner Minshew a bonafide star to line up opposite DJ Chark could open the field up for the Jaguars' rushing attack and their other receivers. Having Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole as the third, fourth, and fifth receivers would create a highly competitive room. Not to mention the fact that Marqise Lee is still on the team. None of the aforementioned players, outside of DJ Chark, has proven that they can be plus starters at receiver. Get Gardner as many reliable pass-catchers as possible.
After wide receiver, cornerback and defensive tackle are the next needs on my list. Landing a cornerback that can contend with Rashaan Melvin, a player better suited as a primary backup, for the starting job on the outside from day one will be vital. The Jaguars' defensive system requires solid cornerback play. Landing a cornerback in the first two rounds should be an absolute MUST. Pairing one of the top cornerbacks in this class with Tre Herndon on the outside and DJ Hayden in the nickel would give the Jaguars a decent chance at having a competitive cornerback group in 2020.
Finally, the Jaguars need a run-stuffing 1-tech. The thing about this position is there are plenty of big men around the league and entering this draft that are stout against the run. So, unless you're getting a game wrecker, you don't need to address the position super early. I'd be fine with Javon Kinlaw or Derrick Brown in the first, but I'd also be happy with Davon Hamilton in the third round or Raekwon Davis in the fourth. The latter two players will be stout against the run at the next level. Hamilton has proven to be a solid interior penetrator already, and Davis has traits that suggest he could develop into one. With Al Woods and Abry Jones on the roster, the Jaguars have players who should be able to stuff the run in 2020, but neither big man appears likley to be in Jacksonville for an extended period of time. Finding a long term fixture at nose tackle should be a priority for a team that has been porous against the run in recent years.
Beyond addressing cornerback and defensive tackle, I would encourage the Jaguars to add a pass rusher and free safety. Other than that, It'd be wise for them to address the offensive line, find Leonard Fournette's replacement, and add more skill to the offense overall. Building around Minshew is the most essential thing the Jaguars can do this offseason. Putting more talented pieces around their mustachioed young quarterback and making sure their defense doesn't leak like a sieve, is the only way for the Jaguars to proceed.
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