Breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 29 overall: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
My take: Bryan was the highest-rated player among the four the Jaguars were considering at No. 29, and that’s why they took him over any offensive linemen or tight ends, which were bigger positions of need. This is a luxury pick for a defense that already was pretty darn good: tackle Malik Jackson and ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and Campbell was a first-team All-Pro. Plus, tackle Marcell Dareus is a former Pro Bowler. The issue, however, is that Campbell and Dareus are due a combined $21.3 million in salary in 2019 (none of which is guaranteed). Bryan is a cheaper replacement who can play both inside and outside and spend the 2018 season learning behind that group while getting reps.
Trade calls: Executive VP of football ops Tom Coughlin said the Jaguars fielded calls from teams in the second round trying to move up into the end of the first, but Coughlin said he wanted to wait to see who was available at 29 before making a decision. Bryan being available made the decision easy, Coughlin said. “We had some people surrounded with a group of eight to nine players that we would covet at that spot, and this was the highest-rated player when it came time for us to pick,” Coughlin said. “This is a good circumstance for us.” Baltimore ended up trading back into the first round with Philadelphia to take quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick.
Jaguars were out of his mind: Bryan’s disappointment turned into surprise and then elation. He had been hoping to go higher in the first round than 29th and wasn’t happy that his name wasn’t called by any of the teams he thought would draft him. As the end of the first round creeped closer and closer, he was pretty sure the one place he wasn’t going to end up was Jacksonville. Then he got the call from Coughlin. “I was honestly actually really surprised,” Bryan said. “I thought there was no way the Jags were going to pick us. You guys have already got a bunch of Pro Bowlers and a bunch of great players, so I was like, ‘Well, they’re definitely not picking me.’ And then you guys called me, and it was awesome.”
Round 2, No. 61 overall: DJ Chark, LSU, WR
My take: Chark is a big receiver (6-foot-3) who can really run (4.34 in the 40 at the NFL combine) and he stood out at the Senior Bowl once he got some consistent quarterback play. Chark didn’t have that during his three seasons at LSU, but he still managed to catch 66 passes for 1,351 yards and six touchdowns, which works out to 20.5 yards per catch. His 21.5-yard average in 2017 ranked sixth nationally. The Jaguars wanted a bigger receiver who can block but also with the speed to stretch the defense, which also helps in the run game.
How he fits: The Jaguars can pair Chark on the field with Donte Moncrief (6-2, 221 pounds) to give them a pair of receivers who have speed (Moncrief ran a 4.40 in the 40 at the combine) and are physical enough to help Leonard Fournette in the run game. The Jaguars added Moncrief in free agency and now have six receivers on the roster who are 6-foot or taller, including Jaelen Strong (6-2) and Keelan Cole (6-1). That’s not by chance. To be a good run team, the receivers have to block on the edge.
Prospect Profile: Ronnie Harrison
Todd McShay calls Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison "one of the most underrated players" in the draft due to his well-rounded game.
Round 3, No. 93 overall: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
My take: The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Harrison has the flexibility to play both safety spots, though general manager Dave Caldwell said Harrison has more traits of a strong safety than of a free safety. Harrison had 174 tackles and 3.5 sacks in three seasons at Alabama, where he played mainly strong safety in Nick Saban’s defense, but he was solid enough in coverage to have seven interceptions, including three last season. He battled a hamstring injury that kept him from running at the NFL combine and participating in any drills in Alabama’s pro day, but there are no concerns about him physically. Alabama defensive players are among the most prepared rookies because of their experience in Saban’s defense, and Caldwell said Harrison is no different.
How he fits: Like first-round pick DT Taven Bryan, Harrison is a player who’s going to get reps behind some entrenched starters and then likely take over as a starter in 2019 if the Jaguars decide to move on from either Barry Church or Tashaun Gipson. They will count a combined $15.3 million against the salary cap and have just $1.6 million in dead money in 2019, so the Jaguars can move on from one or both with little penalty. The Jaguars have to clear money for impending deals with CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, and DE Yannick Ngakoue.
Prospect Profile: Will Richardson
Look back at former NC State offensive tackle Will Richardson's strong blocking for the Wolfpack.
Round 4, No. 129 overall: Will Richardson, OT, NC State
My take: The Jaguars finally addressed the offensive line with the massive Richardson (6-6, 306 pounds), who projects as a right tackle and would therefore eventually take over as the starter there for Jermey Parnell, who turns 32 in July. Richardson started 30 games at NC State but had some off-field issues as well, which likely contributed to his drop to the fourth round. Richardson was suspended for the first two games of 2017 for a marijuana violation, was charged with DWI in 2015 and was suspended for a game, and also was suspended by the university for the 2016 spring semester.
Caldwell said they did a thorough investigation and are satisfied that Richardson’s issues are behind him.
“Ideally we don’t like any baggage,” Caldwell said. “… We also understand that some of these players have a past and hopefully they grow from their past and become fine upstanding citizens. And from the time that his discipline ended to this point in time in the draft and all the research and background checks and everything we’ve done on him have led us to believe that hopefully that’s behind him now. Time will tell and it’s up to him to make sure that he holds his end of the bargain up.”
Richardson said he will.
“I really feel like [his off-field issues] is getting me to a point in my life where it’s helped and it’s hurt me,” Richardson said. “At the same time I regret everything I’ve done. It’s way past me now but when it comes to like the draft and everything, I already knew I was going to face it before I even entered the draft. That was going to be the thing that set me back and I knew it and that’s the biggest reason for why I’ve changed my whole lifestyle around.”
How he fits: Richardson will compete with Parnell at right tackle, but Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell said Richardson also has the skill set to play guard, even though he didn’t play there at all at NC State. Right guard A.J. Cann has been up-and-down in his career, though he played well in the postseason, and Richardson could get a look there if Cann continues to be inconsistent. Caldwell also said Richardson also could find a role as the Jaguars’ swing tackle, which is a job currently manned by Josh Wells.
Prospect Profile: Leon Jacobs
Former Wisconsin LB Leon Jacobs showed speed and ball skills during his days with the Badgers.
Round 6, No. 203 overall: Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
My take: Caldwell said they planned on targeting a quarterback in the sixth round entering the draft, and they didn’t waver. Lee threw for a combined 6,744 yards and 46 touchdowns at Tulane and Nebraska. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility and was planning to return to Nebraska, but new coach Scott Frost doesn’t run a pro-style offense, so he decided to leave. Lee is a big kid (6-4, 218 pounds) with a big arm and is the first Nebraska quarterback drafted since Keithen McCant in the 12th round in 1992 by Cleveland. Eric Crouch was drafted in the third round by St. Louis in 2002 as a receiver.
How he fits: Lee is a developmental prospect who slides in behind Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler, whom the Jaguars acquired via trade in late March. Caldwell said the team is open to carrying three quarterbacks this season. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lee will be on the active roster. He could be on the practice squad.
Round 7, No. 230 overall: Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin
My take: Jacobs (6-foot-1, 246 pounds) played inside and outside linebacker at Wisconsin and was a workout stud at the combine: 26 reps on the bench, a 4.48 40-yard dash and a 34-inch vertical leap. He said all the moving around -- he also played fullback -- didn’t allow him to feel comfortable and once he finally settled outside, he felt like his production started to improve.
How he fits: The Jaguars need to find a third starting linebacker after Paul Posluszny’s retirement and Jacobs will be in the competition along with Blair Brown, the team’s fifth-round pick last year. He’s likely going to have to make the roster as a special-teams player.
Round 7, No. 247 overall: Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State
My take: Cooke handled kickoffs as well as punts for the Bulldogs and also has the ability to kick field goals. He averaged 41.7 yards per punt in his career, and 35 of his 150 punts were 50 yards or longer.
How he fits: Cooke will help take some of the workload off Brad Nortman throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp. Nortman ranked 25th in the NFL in per-punt average last season (44.1 yards) but was tied for 10th with 29 punts downed inside the 20.