Michael DiRocco breaks down the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 4 overall: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
My take: The Jaguars have averaged the fewest yards per game and rushed for the second-fewest touchdowns in the NFL the past five seasons, so fixing that was a huge priority. The 6-foot, 228-pound Fournette -- the third running back Jacksonville has taken in the first round, after James Stewart (1995) and Fred Taylor (1998) -- was incredibly productive at LSU: He ran for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry in three seasons. That included a monster season as a sophomore: 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns. Jaguars executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin loved Fournette’s knack for finding the end zone and, after the pick, said emphatically that was a huge draw. The Jaguars have rushed for just 13 touchdowns the past two seasons, and quarterback Blake Bortles has five of them. Fournette is a physical pounder, which will certainly address another weakness: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars’ 1.4 yards after contact per rush average ranked 28th in the NFL last season.
The top four: General manager Dave Caldwell revealed that the top four players on the Jaguars’ draft board were defensive end Myles Garrett, DE Solomon Thomas, Fournette and safety Jamal Adams. Caldwell said he didn’t get a single phone call about trading the fourth overall pick, and the team sent Fournette’s name into the NFL within three minutes. That meant a quarterback wasn’t in play at No. 4, despite Bortles’ struggles in 2016. Coughlin said the team did consider a signal-caller earlier in the draft evaluation process but obviously didn’t have one rated high enough to take. However, that doesn’t mean the Jaguars won’t address the position in the second round.
Pricey backs: Fournette’s selection means the Jaguars will have a pretty good hunk of their salary cap tied up in the position. The team signed Chris Ivory to a five-year, $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed in 2016, and 2015 second-round draft pick T.J. Yeldon is playing on a four-year, $5.9 million contract with $3.7 million guaranteed. Fournette’s deal is expected to be in the $27 million range, fully guaranteed. That means the Jaguars will be giving out approximately $41 million in guaranteed money to the three players.
Round 2, No. 34: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
My take: After failing to re-sign Luke Joeckel, the Jaguars were in search of a franchise left tackle and believe they have found one in Robinson. He’s a 6-foot-6, 310-pounder who moves very well and has room to get even bigger. The thing the Jaguars really liked is that Robinson started as a freshman at Alabama and had success against some of the conference’s best pass-rushers. Robinson’s ability to stay healthy has been impressive too. He started every game in three seasons (43 games), and that durability is something the Jaguars need because Joeckel missed 25 games in four seasons. The Jaguars missed on Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, and they’re chasing that mistake with Robinson, but numerous analysts believe Robinson could be the long-term answer.
How he fits: The Jaguars are keeping Robinson at left tackle instead of moving him inside to guard, though he certainly would be an upgrade for the Jaguars at left guard. He will compete with Branden Albert, who has not attended the Jaguars’ voluntary offseason conditioning program nor returned calls from head coach Doug Marrone, for the starting job. One thing the Jaguars really like about Robinson? His nastiness, which fits into the team’s quest to become tougher. Executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin has made some pointed comments about the team’s lack of toughness in 2016, and Robinson and first-round pick Fournette should help in that area.
Round 3, No. 68: Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
My take: Caldwell said this was a value pick, and the Jaguars chose Smoot instead of continuing to address the offensive line or adding a tight end because they couldn’t pass him up. Pass rush is a significant need for the Jaguars. Defensive end Calais Campbell is the only proven rusher on the roster (56.5 sacks in nine seasons), and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is on the verge of being considered a bust. The third overall pick in 2015 had just four sacks last season after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL and was surpassed on the depth chart by rookie Yannick Ngakoue, whose eight sacks set the single-season franchise rookie record. Whose record did he break? Tony Brackens', who is the best pass-rusher in team history. The Jaguars could have gone offensive line with this pick too because the team still doesn’t have the left guard position settled. Dan Feeney was still on the board at the time of the pick and would have been a solid pick.
How he fits: Smoot weighs 264 pounds and has the ability to play inside and outside, but Caldwell said Smoot will back up Campbell at the strong side defensive end. Smoot also can get work as an inside rusher on passing downs. The Jaguars now have filled out their eight-man defensive line rotation: Ngakoue, DT Malik Jackson, DT Abry Jones and Campbell will be the starters backed up by Fowler, DT Sheldon Day, DT Michael Bennett and Smoot. Smoot’s sack production dropped off in 2016 (he had five after having eight as a junior), but he did have 10 additional quarterback hits, forced a pair of fumbles and had 15 tackles for loss.
Round 4, No. 110: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
My take: The Jaguars took a gamble on a player with character issues. Westbrook was twice arrested for domestic violence. In the first case, the district attorney’s office declined to pursue charges. In the second case, the charges were dismissed because the state could not locate Westbrook’s accuser. The Jaguars have a long history of troubled wide receivers. Ace Sanders, Matt Jones, R. Jay Soward, Reggie Williams, Jimmy Smith and Justin Blackmon have dealt with drug or alcohol issues.
How he fits: Westbrook should get every chance to be the Jaguars’ punt returner. Rashad Greene had a solid season as a rookie (16.7 yards per return) but struggled with injuries in 2016 and averaged just 6.3 yards on 21 returns in eight games. Westbrook returned only five punts at Oklahoma last season, but he took one back for a touchdown. He has very good speed -- Caldwell said Westbrook ran a 4.4-second 40 -- and he averaged 18 yards per catch in two seasons at OU. He can help stretch the field vertically to take some pressure off Marqise Lee.
Round 5, No. 148: Blair Brown, LB, Ohio
My take: The Jaguars are hoping to repeat the Telvin Smith pick of 2014, when they took the former Florida State standout in the fifth round. Smith developed into one of the Jaguars' best defensive players. Blair Brown also plays weakside linebacker and made a lot of plays for the Bobcats. His best trait, according to various draft analysts, is his instincts, which helps him make up for a lack of ideal size. The Jaguars are now at the point in the draft where they're selecting players based on secondary attributes to fill specific roles.
How he fits: Brown played middle and weakside linebacker at Ohio, but he'll start out weakside as Smith's backup. He ran well at the combine (4.6 in the 40-yard dash), and the Jaguars envision him being a key player on special teams.
Round 7, No. 222: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
My take: Myrick ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, so he’s a burner, but he obviously has some significant deficiencies if he wasn’t taken until the seventh round. He's of no risk for the Jaguars in the seventh round, and the team said they had a higher grade on him and were very happy when he was available.
How he fits: This is another special-teams pick because with that speed, he’s going to get a look as a punt and kick returner. But the Jaguars are going to take a look at him as a nickel corner as well.
Round 7, No. 240: Marquez Williams, FB, Miami
My take: The Jaguars didn’t have a fullback on the roster a month ago, and now they have two after drafting Williams with their final pick. The team signed Tommy Bohanon in mid-April, which gave Jacksonville a fullback for the first time since the 2014 season. The Jaguars had been using defensive end Tyson Alualu and tight end Ben Koyack in that role on occasion but decided to bring the position back after Marrone was hired to replace Gus Bradley.
How he fits: The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Williams immediately becomes Fournette's best friend. Fournette is expected to carry the ball 18-25 times per game, and Williams will be in front of him for a good portion of those carries. The Jaguars also plan to use Williams on special teams.