A franchise entertaining a rebuild once again, a quick glimpse into the window of the past has often provided the greatest outlook for both the present and future. For Jacksonville and the months that remain until they find themselves on the clock with the first overall selection in the 2022 Draft, all options should be on the table. As a roster carrying the weight of 29 losses over the last two seasons, things can’t be much worse. While the calendar that followed the 2020 season presented a spotlight of hope surrounding the organization as the additions of Urban Meyer and selection of Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall last April looked, from a birds-eye view, to potentially become a dynamic head coach-quarterback tandem, all failed, leaving oft-criticized owner Shahid Khan and power-hungry general manager Trent Baalke once again having to scrape its franchise off from the floor with another key offseason in wait. However, let’s try to stay positive and work through the best scenario for the Jaguars as April quickly approaches. The top of this year’s talent pool presents a complete flip of the script in comparison to the 2021 class, a group headlined by a multitude of pro-ready gun-slingers. It’s a mirror of the 2013 class, where pop in the trenches has welcomed an overflow of talent on both sides of the ball, and quarterbacks have come second-fiddle as ‘face of the franchise’ talent under center, for now, looks few and far between. Really, it fits the pro-mold. Building a roster from the inside out breeds success. Does that imply the Jaguars were incorrect to select Lawrence first overall last spring? Absolutely not. But you can’t change your pants and not change your underwear when it comes to establishing a foundation as an organization, and that starts with the beef up front. With Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux staring him in the face, Baalke has his choice of the litter. Would either of the two edge threats pair nicely within a front seven of Josh Allen, Myles Jack, and K’Lavon Chaisson? Of course. Would it be the sexy pick? Yes. But if Baalke, a GM with ownership and a fan base desperate for success breathing down his neck, it’s time to get rid of irrational decision-making, putting the franchise, and his soon-to-be second-year signal-caller, first. Projected to have 11 total selections in his back pocket, including multiple third-rounders, and four picks before the end of day two, the clear avenue for Baalke to further increase the talent within his roster is to trade back and acquire further assets. While it scares the masses any time you mention trading back within the first-round—let alone moving out of the No. 1 spot—with teams behind Jacksonville in Detroit and Houston both in desperate need of a premier edge talent, a slide back to third, or even further, to eventually squeeze in front of the tackle hungry New York Giants at fifth overall could see Baalke reap the rewards of an extra day-two selection and a nice helping of day-three picks to further boost his odds of hitting on depth pieces later in the selection process. As it stands today, with Thibodeaux and Hutchinson, in some combination, expected to be the first two players off the board, there isn’t a talent in the class Baalke should entertain more than Alabama offensive stalwart Evan Neal. No ifs ands or buts about it, an investment in Neal is an investment in Lawrence, and if Baalke eyes a future pushing the buttons in Jacksonville himself moving forward, solidifying his young signal-caller’s blindside with a prospect touting arguably the highest floor of any talent in the class is a step in the right direction for a franchise that has consistently had to retrace its footsteps since an AFC title loss in 2016. The Jaguars drafting Neal AND picking up extra assets for moving down a few pegs in the pecking order could be a scenario that presents enticing odds of a high-hit rate, even for an organization that has consistently proven to shoot itself in the foot time and time again. With holes aplenty for an organization with an additional $70M in cap space heading into the offseason, the phone lines should remain hot for Jacksonville as teams finalize draft plans in the coming months; their immediate future depends on it.
- Dec 01, 2022
- Nov 30, 2022