For the second year in a row, Jacksonville claimed the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
That’s always a bad news-good news kind of thing — a horrible season earns a team, supposedly, the most promising college player in the draft. Jacksonville was 3-14 in the AFC South last season.
It remains to be seen whether the Jaguars have made the most of the opportunity the NFL parity wizards have handed them.
Unfortunately, for Jacksonville fans, history paints a dim picture. The Jaguars have had a handful of successes in the draft but for every Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Fournette, there has been more than a few Blaine Gabberts and Blake Bortles in the first round. And even in the case of solid picks like Ramsey and Fournette, when those guys did help teams win Super Bowls, it happened to be with teams other than the Jaguars.
The jury is still out on last year’s No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence who endured an ego-bruising season with a terrible team.
Two No. 1s to Help Defense
This year’s top pick is DE Travon Walker of Georgia who has to be a difference-maker for a defense that gave up nearly 27 points a game in 2021.
Walker, who has great versatility, bounced around on the Georgia defense last season but he’ll have to be a pass rushing demon for Jacksonville. His stock shot up in the weeks before the draft and time will tell whether Jacksonville was taken in by the hype.
This year, the Jags had a second pick in the first round and took Utah inside linebacker Devin Lloyd at No. 27 overall. Lloyd can play outside linebacker as well as inside.
Not a Great Track Record at DE
Unfortunately, Jacksonville’s history of first-round defensive ends is tepid, at best. In 2020, they took K'Lavon Chaisson, who has two career sacks playing in 31 games, so far.
The others were Derrick Harvey (2008) and Renaldo Wynn (1997). Harvey set a team record for longest rookie holdout and had eight career sacks. While never a Pro Bowler, Wynn had a 13-year career with various teams and finished with 27 career sacks.
Not Great Track Record at LB, Either
Who the Jaguars Picked in the 2022 NFL Draft
- Round 1 (1st overall): Travon Walker (Georgia OLB)
- Round 1 (27th overall): Devin Lloyd (Utah LB)
- Round 3 (65th overall): Luke Fortner (Kentucky center)
- Round 3 (70th overall): Chad Muma (Wyoming LB)
- Round 5 (154th overall): Snoop Conner (Ole Miss RB)
- Round 6 (197th overall): Gregory Junior (Ouachita Baptist CB)
- Round 7 (222nd overall): Montaric Brown (Arkansas DB)
Balanced Draft Helps Build Roster
The Jaguars need so much help they could hardly be blamed for spreading their efforts across the board. In free agency, Jacksonville added skill positions players Christian Kirk and Zay Jones at wide receiver and Evan Engram at tight end. So, the draft was dedicated to broadly building the roster.
The Jaguars did not have a second-round pick. From the heart of the Jacksonville draft, third-rounder Luke Fortner, the center from Kentucky, may be the most important. Veteran center Brandon Linder retired in April. At this point, developing Lawrence is “Job One” for head coach Doug Pederson and having a center the QB can mature with over the next decade is crucial.
Conner is a fireplug running back at 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds. He won’t break long ones but guys who can get you the 3 yards you need on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line are valuable.
Super Bowl is a Long Way Off
The Jaguars are +13000 to win the Super Bowl, according to DraftKings odds. The earliest odds were +8000 and moved to +10000, so bettors certainly haven’t been encouraged by the Jaguars’ offseason as the NFL edges toward training camp.
Florida sports betting is not legal after a federal court shut it down late last year. Although the Jaguars’ odds aren’t great, two other teams in Florida, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, have much better odds. Neither team had a No. 1 pick this year.
The Bucs’ odds improved when quarterback Tom Brady decided to unretire. Tampa is the second choice to win the Super Bowl at +700.
The Dolphins’ odds also improved when they traded for Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. But they aren’t close to winning the Super Bowl at +3000.
Lawrence showed that as good as he may be, he can’t work miracles (12 TDs, 17 interceptions in 2021). Jacksonville will not become a playoff team as a result of this draft and offseason free agency signings but if the Jags can shore up the defense so the quarterback isn’t always playing from behind, they have a chance to show improvement and give their fans hope.