The Jacksonville Jaguars routinely win the NFL off-season. However, off-season success does not directly translate to success in football games – something Jags fans know all too well. This years Draft will be the Jaguars 10th in a row picking inside the top-10. Top-10 selections should give teams college football’s premiere talent who develop into important future starters and potential Pro-Bowlers. General Manager David Caldwell took over in 2013 and tried to overturn a roster that had five busts with top-10 picks in the previous five drafts. Caldwell’s draft record starts in 2013 and you can see that so far he has done a reasonable job in identifying talent.
It is interesting to note that the Jaguars have gone Defense-heavy the last two drafts and with that side of the ball now looking strong, thanks to another big free agency push, the Jags could look to bolster their offense. However, this is an extremely strong defensive class and most of this years’ top prospects play on the defensive side of the ball. With few credible options on offense at number 4, the Jags could go defense. One more play maker could easily make this a top-5 unit in the League. Below are five prospects that the Jacksonville Jaguars might look at with the 4th overall pick.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette is the most talented RB to come out since Adrian Peterson. The hype surrounding him following the 2015 season was greater than that of Ezekiel Elliot or Todd Gurley. The only problem? Today’s NFL has moved on since AP was drafted in 2007.
Fournette is a rugged, physical punisher – a real bruiser of a RB. He enjoys nothing more than lining up in the I formation, 8 yards deep and with the ball in his stomach running full speed into opposing Linebackers. The best way to be relevant and make the playoffs is to win in the division. Jacksonville has compiled a top Defensive unit (on paper) which should be able to shut down the speed Houston possesses, Indianapolis’ passing attack and hopefully contain the exotic smash-mouth offense run by Tennessee.
The Jaguars brought in plenty of defensive talent in free agency but largely ignored the Offensive side of the ball outside of LT Branden Albert and OG Earl Watford. Blake Bortles regressed last year and the front office need to lighten Bortles’ load. The presence of Fournette in the backfield forces teams to load the box and leave a single-high safety with receivers out on an island. A dominant run game should also open up play-action and deep shots down the field to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
Allen was the most dominant defensive player in College football this past season. In Jacksonville’s 4-3, I envision him more as an interior pass-rusher going to work against guards and centers in the middle. Allen is an extremely talented DT, however, the Jaguars are already stacked at the position with Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell and Abry Jones all having contracts that run through till 2020 and beyond.
Allen could be a force inside next to Jackson if the Jaguars wanted to slide Calais Campbell to outside DE on obvious run plays where he would set the edge better than either Dante Fowler Jr. or Yannick Ngakoue. Allen has tremendous quickness and agility for an interior linemen of his size and could be a match up nightmare for slower guards and centers in pass protection. He also possesses great strength and is tremendous holding the point of attack in run defense. Allen would further bolster an already deep Jaguars defensive line.
Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
While Paul Posluszny has played well for Jacksonville the past five years, Reuben Foster is the best inside linebacker prospect to come out since Luke Kuechly in 2012. While middle linebackers are not normally taken this high (exceptions: Rolando McClain went 8th overall in 2010; and Kueckly went 9th in 2012), Foster deserves attention as a complete middle linebacker will All-Pro traits and the potential to succeed at every phase in the modern NFL.
I have Foster as my 2nd/3rd (keep flipping) player on my big board and believe he is a complete linebacker prospect. In my first mock draft I had him going to San Francisco at No.2 (click here) yet following an incident at the combine he slid to New Orleans at No.11 (click here). Foster is an alpha and would be an emotional leader and physical tone setter for this Jaguars defense.
He excels against the run and is athletic enough to be a sideline-to-sideline defender and able to hang with TEs or RBs out the backfield in coverage. NFL defenses spend the majority of their time in nickel or dime packages – Foster’s ability to stay on the field in coverage means he can play all three downs. Foster would instantly elevate this entire unit and could allow last years 2nd round pick, Myles Jack, the freedom to use his athleticism and flow in space. The combine incident does not worry me and the Jags could get a potential All-Pro with this pick.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
In the modern NFL where teams spend most of their time nickel and diming to counter single-set and empty back field looks, teams can never have enough quality CBs. Jalen Ramsey was a hit at number 5 last year and the Jags just bagged sticky-cover corner A.J. Bouye from the rival Texans this offseason. Marshon Lattimore would give Jacksonville, three 6 foot corners who excel in both man and zone coverage. The Jaguars could be aggressive and jam the receivers at the line with Lattimore and Ramsey while Bouye could cover smaller, quicker receivers like Philip Dorsett and Will Fuller within the division.
Marshon Lattimore has ideal size at 6’0″, 193lbs. He is uber-athletic and ran a 4.36 at the combine and jumped a 38.5″ vertical. This athleticism shows up on tape this past season. Lattimore is a able to stick stride-for-stride with receivers down field and displayed great ball skills, racking up four interceptions last year. With this pick Jacksonville would have three potential No.1 corners!
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
I am struggling to imagine this pick. If Adams falls here and Myles Garrett’s off the board then he’s the best player available. However, Jacksonville handed long-term contracts to FS Tashaun Gipson and SS Barry Church over the past two off seasons. Safety is not a clear need, however, a player like Adams might too talented to pass up.
Adams is a natural born-leader and with him and Jalen Ramsey in the past two drafts – the Jags would have secured two Alphas and arguably College Football’s two best DBs of the past two seasons. Adams is instinctive, physical and should be a presence both on and off the field for Jacksonville. He’s excellent in coverage and could be an immediate contributor.
Adams thrives in and around the line of scrimmage and could put this young Jags Defense over the top as a field general in the secondary. Great championship defenses normally have strong hard-hitting safeties who receivers fear when travelling over the middle. In recent years its been Patrick Chung, TJ Ward, Kam Chancellor but if you go back to great championship defenses of the past it was your Ed Reed (but more Ray Lewis in zone coverage as a LB), John Lynch, Rodney Harrison, Steve Atwater and the often overlooked Donnie Shell on those ’70s Steelers teams. Adams could be a play maker and tone-setter for this defense.
BONUS: Trade down – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
With a lot resources being invested on the defensive side of the ball the past two years, the might look to trade to acquire future picks while this classes premiere offensive talent would still be available. If Solomon Thomas, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker or Marshon Lattimore are still available – then the Jets, Chargers, Panthers and Bengals might look to leapfrog each other.
Jacksonville would only slide to No.6-No.9 and would thus still be able to pick Mike Williams – the ultra-competitive and talented WR out of Clemson. The Jaguars would not only gain an explosive play makers for Bortles to work with, but they’d also get a potential 2nd, 3rd or 4th rounder in next years Draft – depending on how far they move down. Williams has prototypical height, weight, speed and size and has all the makings of a dominant No.1 WR in the NFL. This addition would improve the Jaguars’ offense and give them a high future draft pick.