2017 NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars on the clock at No. 4
4/20/2017 1:20:00 PM
This is one in a series that covers each team, offering viewers information for homework, suggestions and then the opportunity to make a draft pick.
When the NFL Draft begins selections in Philadelphia April 27, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the No. 4 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team's needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com's experts.
Who would you pick and why?
Top five needs
--1. Defensive end: The team's top two players at strong-side end last season, Jared Odrick and Tyson Alualu, have both departed. Odrick was released and the Jaguars chose not to re-sign Alualu, who later signed with Pittsburgh. Likely to get the starting call for the 2017 opener is newly signed free agent Calais Campbell who the Jaguars beat out Denver for the former Arizona Cardinals veteran. But that's not to say Campbell will solve all the team needs at this spot. The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran only has a couple good years at most left in his tank. The Jaguars would like to have someone that can learn under Campbell, will provide adequate depth and will be ready to replace Campbell in time. If Alabama's Jonathan Allen is still available with the fourth overall pick, look for the Jaguars to jump on him despite Allen's woeful showing at the Combine and the growing concern over his surgically-repaired shoulders. If the latter is too much of a concern, the Jaguars might opt instead for Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas.
--2. Running back: If Allen and Thomas are both gone when the Jaguars make their pick, they very well may opt for LSU running back Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars have two talented running backs on the roster in Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. But neither player had a good year in 2016 as injuries limited their playing time with neither player able to reach the 500-yard rushing mark for the season. Both could bounce back with solid showings this year, but Fournette looks like he could be a standout in the league for the next decade. Dalvin Cook of Florida State is the next best option, but he may not be worthy of the fourth overall pick. He would be an ideal choice if the Jaguars traded down in the first round, received several other draft picks and were able to land Cook.
--3. Left guard: The Jaguars had five different starters at this position a year ago and never grew comfortable with any. All five players suffered some type of injury, some of which were season-enders, and by midway of the final game of the year against Indianapolis, they were using their sixth different player at that spot. Most of the six players used at that position last year will return in 2017, but none have shown the capability of becoming a solid, full-time starter there. It's a need that must be addressed. It was a mild surprise that the Jaguars did not address this need in free agency as there were several players available who would have provided an immediate upgrade. That being the case, look for the Jaguars to pick a lineman within the first two days of the draft.
--4. Tight end: The Jaguars' roster currently lists four tight ends including incumbent Marcedes Lewis. But the 10-year veteran has missed at least five games in each of three of the last four seasons and has not caught more than 25 passes in any of those years. The three backups behind Lewis have potential, but none have demonstrated the skill set to be ready to step in and replace Lewis or the departed Julius Thomas as a pass-catching tight end. Should the Jaguars trade down with their No. 4 overall pick, Alabama's O.J. Howard becomes a popular choice to be the team's first-round pick.
--5. Quarterback: If Jacksonville doesn't make a trade with the No. 4 overall pick and thus only has one pick in each of the first four rounds, taking a quarterback in the fifth round will probably not happen unless they like someone so much and he's fallen this far in the draft. They basically did that a year ago when they liked Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen enough that they selected him with a sixth-round pick. While Allen didn't appear in any games in his rookie season, the Jaguars feel he's still a project in the works. The Jaguars would like to have a quarterback in camp that could push Blake Bortles. Veteran backup Chad Henne is not that guy, nor does it appear that Allen is ready to do so. Bringing in someone young with talent may be the only way to go to push Bortles.
--Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: Thomas has outstanding athleticism with both power and quickness. At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, he could add another 10 pounds to make it even tougher for opposing linemen to block. He is relentless when it comes to run or pass and has the skillset to fight off blockers. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and could be a standout for the next decade. Some say the downside is that his size makes him a "tweener" where he might struggle to keep weight on to play inside and that at 6-foot-3 he doesn't have the length to hold his own on the outside. But the arrow appears to be decisively pointing up for Thomas and how his skills would fit in with the Jaguars' 4-3 scheme. Jonathan Allen might be the better overall player, but there are concerns about his past with injuries. Thomas thus gets the nod over Allen if the Jaguars have their choice of the two defensive standouts.
The pick will be ...
--Rob Rang: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. Splashy signings in free agency suggest the Jaguars are looking for an immediate difference-maker with this pick. The Cowboys went from last to first in the NFC during the regular season a year ago in large part because of the stellar play of 2016 No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott and the Jaguars could see a similar bounce with Fournette taking the pressure off young Blake Bortles and the passing game. Fournette was not as impressive in workouts as expected, but he is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson.
--Dane Brugler: Jamal Adams, SS, LSU. The Jaguars added Barry Church in free agency, but that shouldn't stop them from adding a player like Adams, who would give Jacksonville another potential Pro Bowler on defense.
--Pat Kirwan: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. If a runner is the want, this one has the talent to be one of the best in a decade.
(Kirwan, Jim Miller picks based on last Friday's mock on SiriusXM Radio. Listen to their next mock Friday, April 21, on SiriusXM NFL Radio channel 88).
--Frank Cooney, IMO: Depending on who is available, my preferences at this spot would be running back Leonard Fournette, LSU, or defensive end Solomon Thomas, Stanford -- in that order.
Your chance to go on the record
OK, it's your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.
Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 25th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.