Jags happy to accept the gift horse
Going into the 2019 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars main priority was simple: help Nick Foles to do his job. Whether that was improving the offensive line or recruiting targets, Foles was going to need some help. The Jags could not have expected what was going to happen next.
Sat at number 7, the expectation in Jacksonville must have been that there would be a run on defensive talent from pick no.2 onwards. So it proved. Right up until the Giants decided to take QB Daniel Jones at no.6 (there is a whole other article that could be written about that one pick). At this point I can only imagine Tom Coughlin falling off his chair in the Jags war room. Then the realisation. They may have been prioritising an offensive lineman or a receiving target (I had been plugging TJ Hockenson pre-draft – he was taken by the Lions with the very next pick) but now the strategy had to change. It was now best player available, regardless of position. Devastating Edge Rusher Josh Allen (Kentucky) was still sat there waiting to be called. I can only imagine how quickly the card went in. Allen can do everything. He can cover receivers and tight ends. He can get to the passer. He will put Mariota, Luck and Watson firmly on their toes – I can see double-digit sacks in his first year (now there’s a bold claim).
The Jags office will have felt reasonably smug after day 1, and day 2 started just as well. At the top of the 2nd round Offensive Tackle Jawaan Taylor (Florida) was still available. Pre-draft, Taylor had often been ‘mocked’ to the Jags but in the first round at no.7. When the Jags took Josh Allen on day 1 they could only have dreamed that Taylor could fall to them in round 2. And he did. Concerns over his knees are the most likely reason he fell down the boards of other teams. The Jags did not think twice. They moved up three spots to take him at no.35. Taylor is a mauler, pure and simple. Physical, angry, mean, plain ol’ nasty. If i was Nick Foles I will be delighted as Taylor will take any attempt to get at his QB as a personal insult. This was a 1st round pick at 2nd round value. Two picks in, this could not have gone much better.
Fast forward to round 3 and the Jags kept the focus on offense and on providing Foles with a reliable target at Tight End, selecting Josh Oliver (San Diego State). Oliver’s best qualities are around receiving and he has great versatility to line up in a number of positions. His size (6’5 and 246 lbs) make him a match-up nightmare for defenses and he is very able in contesting for the ball. The Jags did pass up on other TE prospects (most notably Dawson Knox and Jace Sternberger) but they can be fairly certain that Foles to Oliver will be a consistent partnership in 2019.
Things were going so well for the Jags they decided to throw a curve ball with their additional 3rd round pick (no.98). They selected Linebacker Quincy Williams (Murray State). Who? He’s the brother of the no.3 pick Quinnen Williams. There is no doubt this one is a gamble. Looking at the other players available at this time there were numerous more well known options (too many to list them all). The Jags like him, they’ve picked him, we’ll see. There was a report that the Falcons wanted to trade up for Williams and that although he flew under the radar his performance on tape got the interest of other sides.
For the final day the Jags had to wait until round 5 for their next pick, taking Running Back Ryquell Armstead (Temple). This will provide good competition for snaps with Leonard Fournette, whose stock has fallen in Jacksonville of late with injury problems and generally getting on the wrong side of the Jags coaching staff. Armstead will help to keep him honest in his effort in 2019. Lots to like about Armstead and he fits the Jags mould for RBs. Words like tough, physical, power are used. He could well be a Fournette clone. This reinforces what you are going to get from the Jags offense, with a power running game allowing Foles to play-action his way down the field. Could be very effective.
The Jags next pick in round 6 was intriguing as they selected QB Gardner Minshew (Washington State). With the trade for Foles during free agency the QB position was less of a need for the Jags than it might have been (earlier in the offseason they were touted as looking at QBs for round 1). Minshew put up ridiculous numbers in his senior season (4500 yards and 36 TDs). Excellent pocket passer with good poise. Now has the opportunity to sit behind Foles and learn from him and the Jags get a good look at someone who might just be their future at QB fat some stage down the line.
For their final pick in round 7 the Jags took a defensive tackle – why not, everyone else had by this stage! They took Dontavius Russell (Auburn). This was a steal in the 7th. Russell is a 4 year starter at College level with bags of experience. Coaches describe his leadership qualities and work ethic. Plays every snap hard and shows good power and athleticism. The potential is definitely there and he could easily find his way on to the field sooner rather than later.
Sometimes, just sometimes, things fall into your lap. The Jags front office will have been pinching themselves after the first two rounds (Allen and Taylor). They followed up in the later rounds with some excellent picks (Oliver and Armstead), others which are developmental (Minshew and Russell) and one real wildcard (Williams). But hey, given the Jags luck at the moment maybe he works out too. With this draft class the Jags will improve their record in 2019 that much is certain.
(Image: USA Today, Josh Allen)