PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) celebrates a hit on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, 2024 | AP Photo/Ashley Landis

SPORTS | More work left for Jaguars after free agency haul

Published on March 24, 2024 at 4:22 pm
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Now that the first phase of NFL free agency is in the books, how did the Jaguars change their needs in the draft?

From one perspective, the team eliminated the need to draft a specific position in the first round. From another point of view, they still have the same needs as they began free agency with, save one area, the offensive line, that they likely won’t address early in the draft.

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General Manager Trent Baalke signed eight veterans from other teams in free agency, adding a cornerback, a safety, a defensive lineman, an outside linebacker, a center, a wide receiver, a kick returner and a kicker.

The two biggest upgrades appear to be at center and defensive tackle. Former Buffalo Bill Mitch Morse will certainly step in as the starter on the offensive line, supplanting two-year starter Luke Fortner. Former San Francisco 49er Arik Armstead, if healthy, figures to be an upgrade over the departed Foley Fatukasi.

Despite these free-agent moves, the Jaguars have some clear targets in the draft.

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I would be shocked if the first three rounds don’t include wide receiver, cornerback, and defensive tackle in some combination.

The good news: Each of those positions have good draft prospects to choose from.

In the first round, the Jaguars select at No. 17. If they favor a cornerback, they would love to see Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell fall. He is projected to be a top-15 pick but could slide to the Jaguars’ spot. Other first-round cornerbacks include Alabama’s Terrion Arnold, whom some have rated as the top corner in the draft, Clemson’s speedster Nate Wiggins, and Iowa’s Cooper DeJean, who some project as a safety.

Wide receiver depth is very good this year. Unless one of the top wideouts falls to the Jaguars at 17, they can be confident that they can find a good pass catcher in the second or third round. However, there are some intriguing options among the players who could be available at 17. The top receivers, Marvin Harrison Jr. from Ohio State, LSU’s Malik Nabers, and Washington’s Rome Odunze will all likely go in the top 10. Then it will be interesting to see who falls where. Georgia Bulldog-turned-Texas Longhorn Adonai Mitchell is considered a top-20 pick. His combination of size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and speed (4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash) are matched by his hands (no drops last season). He could be the pick. Speedy Brian Thomas Jr. led the nation with 17 touchdown receptions at LSU. He is a tall (6-foot-3) speedster.

If the Jaguars don’t take a receiver in the first round, they have more options. If you like speed, Mitchell’s Texas teammate Xavier Worthy ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the combine’s history (4.21 seconds). If he is still available in the second round, the Jaguars might have to take him.

Florida State’s big wideout Keon Coleman led the ACC in touchdowns and would be a great target in the red zone for Trevor Lawrence.

And some think the steal of the draft could be Florida’s Ricky Pearsall, who projects as a late second or early third-round pick. If he slides to the third and the Jaguars still haven’t taken a pass catcher, Pearsall would be a great fit for the Jaguars.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

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