Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 NFL Draft Preview

Dalvin Cook (left), Leonard Fournette (right)

Will the Jags potentially reach a bit to select Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, or TE O.J Howard, or will they simply pick the best available defensive player on the board?

No team had a more successful free agency period than the Jaguars with most of their damage done on defense by adding three quality starters. Now G.M. David Caldwell has a big decision to make on day one of the draft. Does he potentially reach a bit with the top two obvious needs on offense (RB/TE) or does he pick the best available player on an already rebuilt defense?

Key additions

  • CB A.J. Bouye
  • DE Calais Campbell
  • DT Stefan Charles
  • ILB Audie Cole
  • OL Earl Watford
  • OLB Lerentee McCray
  • OT Branden Albert
  • SS Barry Church
  • TE Mychal Rivera

Key subtractions

  • CB Davon House
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • DL Jared Odrick
  • DT Tyson Alualu
  • DT Sen’Derrick Marks
  • DT Roy Miller
  • OT Kelvin Beachum
  • OT Luke Joeckel
  • S Jonathan Cyprien
  • TE Julius Thomas

Priority needs (Offense)

LT…The Branden Albert trade offers both parties a fresh start. The problem is Albert is an aging injury prone player who wants to renegotiate his contract before he becomes vulnerable next off-season with no remaining guaranteed money remaining on his final year. The Jags might have to cave in because they have no reasonable backup plan. What they do need is to find another tackle in the draft. Even if Albert stays around for another few years, his inability to stay healthy doesn’t bode well for the Jags unless they take action at some point next week.

RB…T.J. Yeldon was a second-round mistake in 2015 who performs more like a late-rounder and with Chris Ivory starting to show wear and tear due to his physical attributes they’re both rushers who can’t be counted on long-term.

TE…Caldwell traded Julius Thomas for Albert and his team is better for it. Thomas never lived up to the $46 million dollar contract he signed two seasons ago and he won’t be much better in Miami. With longtime Jag Mercedes Lewis turning 33 next month and coming off a season-ending calf injury that forced him to miss his final six games, this position must be address during the draft.

Priority needs (Defense)

DE…The main position the Jaguars need to think about improving is right here at defensive end. 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. is going to be counted on to make big strides in year-two following his ACL injury, but there are no guarantees. Free agent pick-up Calais Campbell was a major addition, but he’ll be 31 next season and needs help.

Final analysis

The big question will be whether Caldwell likes either of the top two rushers good enough to take one at 4 or if he plans on waiting for a bargain a bit later. If he decides to wait until the third or fourth round he could add Marlon Mack out of South Florida to keep his streak alive for taking home state players early. Of course if he takes Dalvin Cook with the first pick it would mark the fourth straight year he uses his top pick overall on a player from a Florida college. The other potential pick at 4 could be tight end O.J. Howard. Howard is one of the most talented players at the position to come out of the draft in years and once again the question for Caldwell will be whether he likes the player enough to take him first or wait until later to take someone else. If Caldwell doesn’t feel good about going with an offensive player that high, he can look up-front to Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas or Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen or he can even take a long look at Jamal Adams in the backfield instead. Again, the Jaguars don’t need to draft a defensive player with their first pick, but if you can get your hands on any of those three impact talents the Jacksonville defense could be a dominant force for years to come. One more thing, with quarterback Blake Bortles’ contract expiring after the season, Caldwell and Coach Doug Marrone might just want to add a prospect player at that spot just in case. If he does, I would go for Brad Kaaya in the middle rounds or Chad Kelly late.

Top first-round options

  • DE Solomon Thomas
  • DT Jonathan Allen
  • RB Dalvin Cook
  • RB Leonard Fournette
  • SS Jamal Adams
  • TE O.J. Howard
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