The Jaguars are coming off a 1-15 campaign, and while they've made a bevy of signings this offseason and are set to land Trevor Lawrence and a boatload of draft picks, there are still apparent holes on the roster.
Urban Meyer's coaching staff might be able to squeeze some more consistent production out of their players than the past regime did, but even with better coaching, there are some positions that leave a bit to be desired in the talent department. Today, I'm going to break down the top needs for the Jaguars heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. And I'm in no way suggesting the Jaguars should reach for players at these spots early in the draft. Instead, Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke should let the board come to them, selecting the players they value most in each round with an eye towards positional value as well.
What's the top need in Duval?
This one is fairly straightforward. If James O'Shaughnessy is your top receiving tight end, you need help. Now, let's not get it twisted. The Jaguars could certainly run a functional offense with O'Shaughnessy as the top pass-catching tight end and free-agent signing Chris Manhertz as the primary blocker at the position. Both players can serve a role, and a game-breaking tight end isn't required to run a functional offense in the NFL. But when you talk about separating yourself from other teams, having a top-five(ish) receiving tight end can be a significant factor. I'm not sure there's a player like that in the upcoming draft outside of Kyle Pitts. Pat Freiermuth projects to be an above-average starter at the position, but his lack of elite athleticism could be somewhat limiting. Don't get me wrong — he's certainly a good athlete for the position and could have a career trajectory similar to Travis Kelce if he reaches his full potential. If the Jags don't trade up for Pitts, Freiermuth will likely be a target of the Jaguars — who currently employ his former tight ends coach, Tyler Bowen — in the second round.
The Jaguars currently have a number of safeties with some sort of experience on the roster. Rayshawn Jenkins, Jarrod Wilson, and Josh Jones have plenty of experience, while Daniel Thomas, Rudy Ford, and Andrew Wingard have all seen some action on the back end in their young careers. Rayshawn Jenkins, coming over the Los Angeles, projects to be a quality starter with the versatility to play in the slot, deep middle, split zone, and box. Right now, the other starter would be Jarrod Wilson, who has started in Jacksonville for the last two years and developed into a team leader. Jenkins is more of a playmaker, while Wilson is more of a steady-eddie type. Thomas showed flashes of starting potential during his rookie year. So, I guess I don't view the safety position as BAD all in all, but it lacks oomph. In an ideal world, Jenkins would be your second best safety, with Wilson being the third safety. Instead, they're the top and second-best safety, respectively. Landing a dynamic coverage safety could quickly turn the Jaguars' safety room from "meh" into a difference-making position. Draft prospects Trevon Moehrig, Richie Grant, Jevon Holland, Jamar Johnson, or James Wiggins could be that missing piece on the back end for the Jaguars' defense.
The only legitimate edge-rushing threats on the Jaguars' roster are Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, and Dawuane Smoot. Smoot is a career role player. Allen is an ascending young star coming off an injury-plagued season. Chaisson is a still-developing young rusher heading into year two. If Allen goes from good to great and Chaisson goes from average to good, the Jaguars will be set. But it's a big ask to expect both of those developments to occur early on in the season. Urban Meyer wants to have one of the top defensive fronts in football — he's talked about it every time he's spoken with the media over the last couple of months. In order to have a top-ten defensive front, another quality edge rusher is probably required. The good news for the Jaguars is that there are a ton of edge rushers in this class with starting potential. They should be able to pick their flavor anytime on the first two days of the draft.
The Jaguars' starting offensive tackles are probably locked in for 2021. On the left side, Cam Robinson is set to play under the franchise tag, and on the right side, Jawaan Taylor is entering his third season as a pro. Robinson is only under contract for 2021, and Taylor showed very little development in 2020. All this to say, the Jaguars would be wise to land a potential starting left tackle at some point in the draft. The class is loaded at the position, so they could potentially even wait until day three to strike. But I wouldn't put it past them to land one early.
From my perch, these are the only positions of weakness on the Jaguars' roster. But there are some other areas I'd like to address. One more stud receiver, especially one who has can dominate from the slot, would be great. Another young running back to complement James Robinson is also on my radar.
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