The Nick Foles era of Jaguars football is upon us. While that may not inspire you, let’s not forget the Jaguars are just one year removed from a 10-6 record and playing for the AFC Championship with Blake Bortles as its signal caller. A lot of the same ingredients that made up the 2017 Jags are still in place. Gearing up for a return to winning football, Foles has proven himself able to quarterback a team through a deep playoff run. You may recall, or perhaps you’ve been told, that Foles is a former Super Bowl MVP.
One aspect about Foles and the Eagles that is very different from what the Jaguars have and have had in place is a stable of reliable tight ends. In Philly, Foles enjoyed targeting the likes of Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Trey Burton in recent years. Jacksonville has featured nothing close to that. It's going to be important for Jacksonville to recreate the same components that made Foles successful in the past, particularly at the tight end position. Signing Geoff Swaim and re-signing James O’Shaughnessy ain’t gonna cut it.
The good news is that this year’s crop of tight ends features a dynamic mix of prospects that Jacksonville can pick from and make sure Foles has his security blanket. Let’s examine tight end fits that make sense for the Jaguars.
Pick No. 7: TJ Hockenson, Iowa
I do think positional value is important to consider, especially in the top 10. But I think it matters differently for every team. For a roster like the Jags that lacks any true dire needs and an x-factor could make a big difference, go get your guy. Most importantly, if you take a tight end in the top 10 then they better become a star. I like Hockenson’s chances of becoming that.
I love that Hock gives you all the components of a modern tight end that can lineup anywhere in the formation and attack all levels of the field as a receiver, but also provides that classic in-line blocking ability. Want to give Foles his Ertz? Take Hockenson at No. 7.
Pick No. 38: Irv Smith, Alabama
I love Smith’s versatility and how he emerged as a playmaker for the Tide last season. You can put anything on his plate and Smith can execute. As a blocker, he can exchange power in the trenches, lead block from the backfield or hit key blocks flexed out on the perimeter.
Racking up 710 receiving yards while averaging 16.1 yards per reception in 2018, Smith has big-play potential in the receiving game. He’s effective after the catch but also has that seam-bursting capability. If Jacksonville wants to address a different position in round one, Smith is one heck of a consolation prize.
Pick No. 69: Kahale Warring, San Diego State
Warring got a late start in football, playing numerous sports in high school and just one season of football. He walked on at San Diego State in 2015 and was a scholarship athlete by 2017. Known for his work ethic and natural athletic ability, I like Warring’s upside to develop into a steal.
Warring is a highly competitive and aggressive blocker with surprisingly sound technique and outstanding functional strength for a fairly new player at the position. He can lineup anywhere in the formation and be trusted to execute as a blocker.
He still is evolving as a route-runner but he has all the traits in terms of burst and fluidity to develop. He’s already pretty deceptive setting up his breaks and he’s smooth. There is some variance with his hands but it’s not a major gripe considering the high level flashes of ball skills and natural athleticism when competing for the football. His basketball background shows up at the catch point when establishing his frame and attacking the ball.
I think a team is going to be very happy snagging Warring in the top 75.