To The River City

By: Jeff Doke news services

Much like the end of the 2023 season, the lead up to the 2024 NFL Draft is not what Jaguar fans were expecting even as recently as six months ago.

Prior to the late season collapse that saw Jacksonville lose five out of their last six games and miss the playoffs thanks to a final week loss to their hated rivals from the Volunteer State, your average Jags fan thought the team was trending in the right direction.

Now, not so much. While the team is still considered upper tier, they’re not as close to “legitimate contender” status as we were hoping leading into the 2023 season. Once again, this year’s draft will prove to be vital, and that’s a situation Jacksonville fans are tired of being in.

At first glance, one would think the Offensive Line would be a top priority. Thirty-five sacks of your generational-talent quarterback would lend credence to that assumption.

Notre Dame’s Joe Alt is the top-rated prospect this year, but he’ll likely be long gone by the time the Jags finally get on the clock at #17.

Same thing for Penn State’s Olu Fashanu. UGA’s Sedrick Van Pran would likely be available, but he’s a Center, and Luke Fortner is looking pretty solid coming into his third year in the league. O-Line help, though desperate, may unfortunately be a second- or third-round target.

Crazy enough as it seems, Wide Receiver is another top concern for Baalke & company.

Calvin Ridley wasn’t as quick to recover from his suspension as some had hoped, and there’s still a chance he doesn’t get re-signed.

Personally, I think that would be a mistake. Thanks to his recent legal issues, Zay Jones might get cut, and Christian Kirk is on the last year of the deal that no one thought he could live up to but somehow did.

If they do go the receiver route, look for the Jags to call Bulldog-turned-Longhorn Adonai Mitchell’s name, possibly Brian Thomas Jr. out of LSU. If he’s available in 2nd or 3rd round, I absolutely would not complain if they brought Ladd McConkey to the banks of the St. Johns.

Cornerback is another area of need, and there’s a pair of Alabama products that wouldn’t be out of the question with the 17th overall pick.

Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold are both first-round worthy considerations, and to be honest, either of them falling to 17th would be hard to turn down.

If they go a different direction in the first, hope against hope that Clemson’s Nate Wiggins or Iowa’s Cooper DeJean are still out there in the second round. Admittedly this is a homer pick, but I’d love to see them bring Auburn’s Jaylin Simpson back this side of the Chattahoochee.

The one area that shouldn’t be a concern – but yet somehow is – would be the Edge/LB.

Josh Allen was tied for second in pressure rate, second in sacks and third in quarterback hits in 2023, and yet there’s still the chance he gets hit with the franchise tag.

Seriously, Mr. Khan, just pay the man. He’s earned it. Same for Travon Walker, who saw his sack total jump from 3.5 his rookie year to 10 in his sophomore effort.

If we’re going to look to the future, Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper would be solid, as would the twin towers of the Bama defensive backfield, Dallas Turner & Chris Braswell.

In short, the Jaguars’ needs are more plentiful than we hoped at this point.

While the marquee players are pretty much in place, the needs in the trenches are still noticeable. General Manager Trent Baalke sees this and has commented as such in recent pressers.

Hopefully with the new assistant coaching staff in place and their eyes on the future, this year’s draft haul will be one that is seen as the difference maker, not one that sets the franchise back as so many in the last 20 years have done.