Missed Mark?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I was underwhelmed by the Jaguars’ draft in Rounds 2-7, but I love what they did in Round 1 by trading back and adding a high-ceiling receiver.

After the Jaguars lost Calvin Ridley, they reexamined their options and were able to land Thomas, who has size and speed. His route running needs work, but that is due mostly to inexperience, not lack of ability .

Thomas may fit Jax’s offense better than Ridley did. As a rookie Thomas might not be as productive as Ridley, (2023 season:76 receptions, 1,016 yards), but Thomas gives the Jaguars a true big-body X receiver who can stretch the field. Ridley was miscast last season for a Jags team that needed a player like Thomas.

He struggled to get off press coverage on the outside and win consistently on fade routes — two skills that Thomas mastered at LSU.

The Jags needed a lot of defensive line help, but it was surprising that they took LSU’s Mason Smith with the No. 48 pick. The 6-5, 305-pound Smith is a former five-star recruit, but he was sidelined by injury for a big chunk of his career in Baton Rouge.

Making matters tougher, he had six defensive line coaches in his three years and four in the past year. Smith has intriguing potential, evoking some visions of Leonard Williams, right now Smith’s future looks cloudy with high risk.

It’s worth noting new Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is a protege of former LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, who recruited Smith to Baton Rouge.

Former Tigers defensive coordinator Matt House is also now on the Jacksonville staff too. One of the concerns about Smith is he plays with high pad level; he needs to get low and become more physical.

“He is a boom-or-bust,” an NFL D-line coach told me earlier this month. “In his defense, there is still a lot of football in him. He’s played 976 snaps in three years. 17 starts. He’s got everything you want.”

Javon Foster was a worthwhile swing to take, even if an offensive tackle isn’t a glaring need for Jacksonville. Foster needs to continue honing his footwork and technique, but he moves well with the length and play strength to match up in the NFL. He looks to be a valuable swing tackle and, down the line, maybe more.


Draft Picks:

Brian Thomas Jr.  WR.  LSU

Mason Smith.  DT. LSU

Jarrion Jones, CB. FSU

Javon Foster, OT, Missouri

Jordan Jefferson, DT. LSU

Deantre Prince, CB, Ole Miss

Keilan Robinson, RB, Texas

Cam Little K, Arkansas

Myles Cole, Edge, Texas Tech


The Jags will round out their rosters with undrafted free agents. The puzzles largely have been put together. The experimentation will begin when minicamps and offseason practices begin. And some questions will remain unanswered until training camp, the preseason, and opening weekend kickoff.

But for now, my evaluation is the Jags fell short in their quest to position themselves as championship contenders.