How Did Free Agency Affect Jaguars' Draft Plans?

Photo: Photos courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been the center of attention for one corner of the football world for a few months now. It started when the New York Jets won their first game of the season in Week 15, putting them in a tie with the Jaguars for the No. 1 overall pick. Then, the following week, with a second win in a row, the Jets yielded the top pick to Jacksonville outright.

Ever since then, we’ve been seeing that Jaguars logo at the top of all mock drafts and drafting conversations.

Since the regular season wrapped up—and well before then, if we’re being honest—the Trevor Lawrence-Jacksonville Jaguar jersey swaps have been flooding the timelines. But there was also excitement from Jacksonville in the form of their coaching staff, as it was announced that they would be hiring legendary college coach Urban Meyer to head up their organization.

The intrigue around Meyer as an NFL head coach has been a topic of conversation since his days of winning National Championships at both Florida and Ohio State. But it has been over a decade now since those Florida titles and it has been about half that since his last title with Ohio State. Yet he believed the time was right, here and now, to finally make the jump and try things at the pro level—having Lawrence in hand certainly helped that decision.

This past week we got a look at what a free agent strategy looked like from general manager Trent Baalke, Meyer, and his staff. With plenty of spending money on hand, the Jaguars made a lot of moves during the tampering period and after the opening of the new league year.

Here’s a look at their additions for free agency week (via NFL.com).

  • RB Carlos Hyde
  • WR Jamal Agnew
  • WR Phillip Dorsett
  • WR Marvin Jones
  • TE Chris Manhertz
  • DE Tyson Alualu
  • DE Jihad Ward
  • DT Malcom Brown (trade)
  • DT Roy Robertson-Harris
  • CB Shaquill Griffin
  • S Rudy Ford
  • S Rayshawn Jenkins

Those go along with re-signing cornerback Sidney Jones, guard Tyler Shatley, and defensive Dawuane Smoot, plus franchise-tagging offensive tackle Cam Robsinson. 

So what is an updated look at the Jaguars’ biggest team needs and positions they could target with their two first-round picks, as well as their top pick in the second round? Here’s our best look.

Quarterback

This one is obvious, and so is the pick. When asked about Lawrence in a press conference post-free agency, this is what Meyer had to say about the highly coveted Clemson Tiger.

"There's a lot of boxes he checks," Meyer said. "The No. 1 that I've always looked for in a quarterback and we've been fortunate... You look at the career that I had in college, and the one thing we've always had is a great quarterback. They might look different. They might play different. But that position, you can't function without them. No. 1, his competitive spirit. He's a competitor. He's 34-2 as a starter. He's an extreme competitor. All the homework we've done on him when I talk to him on these Zoom calls. I don't have to do much more Zoom because I know so much about Trevor. But he's been great conversations. That's No. 1. He's a tough guy. I witnessed that live when I watched him play against Ohio State in the playoffs, not this past year, a year ago. His intelligence, his football intellect, his leadership, and then his ability to adapt in the spread offense. He can do it all. He's 5-for-5 in those areas."

You can lock this pick in.

Tight End

After listening to how much Meyer emphasized tight end philosophy this past week, it appears that is next on the list for positions they want to improve.

"That was a high priority. We have two different styles of tight ends, one is a ‘Y,’ which is—on the line, basically an extension of your offensive line, a very good blocker, but also very functional in the pass game," Meyer said.  "The next one is the ‘F’ and that’s the primary pass catcher, but also a functional blocker. We have not addressed that.”

As for the tight ends they currently have on the roster, the newly signed Manhertz seemed to be a big priority for them as a blocking tight end. Meyer had a lot of praise for Manhertz and was excited to get him. As for the receiving tight end, James O'Shaughnessy looks like their top option right now. In 15 games last season, he caught 28 passes for 262 yards. Those numbers are fine, but from the way Meyer was talking this past week, they’ll be looking to upgrade that in the draft.

Targets there could be Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth at the back end of the first round or top of the second round, or if they want to wait longer than that, they could target Miami’s Brevin Jordan.

Wide Receiver

The Jaguars added a veteran pass-catcher in Jones to roll with D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault. That, on paper, is a well-rounded group. But from the way Meyer spoke at his post-free agency presser, the need for speed is still there for the receiver room.

“Offensively, I think we have some really good receivers. We’re not done with that room, however,” Meyer said. “If you’ve covered our teams over the years, I just, the need for speed, the big-play opportunity was not with the Jaguars last year. And we’re searching for the big-play hit at the receiver position.”

Wide receivers like LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, and Purdue’s Rondale Moore could be options at the end of round one or early in round two.

Safety

I know the Jaguars signed Jenkins and Ford, but I still think a game-changing free safety could be in the cards for the Jaguars. Meyer watched how much a true centerfielder could change the game when he had Malik Hooker at Ohio State, and I don’t think he believes he has the NFL version of that right now.

One player who could lure them into a top safety pick is TCU’s Trevon Moehrig. He’s the best of the bunch this season and can play from multiple safety spots. Look for him to be a sleeper pick if available at the back end of the first round or the top of the second round.