The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away and anticipation continues to mount.
The Jaguars own eight draft picks and have a handful of legit needs entering the selection process. Naturally, fans are curious about where the Jaguars will allocate their resources.
In this edition of the Jaguars Monday Mailbag, we answer fan questions regarding the fourth overall pick, potential fits for premium prospects and more.
Ryan Young asks: Do you think [the Jaguars] continue the trend of taking prospects from Florida schools? If so, who would be the guy you think ends up here?
Mike Kaye: I don't see why not. The state has once again produced an excellent class. From Florida State's Dalvin Cook and DeMarcus Walker to Florida's Caleb Brantley and Quincy Wilson to Miami's David Njoku and Corn Elder, the state's schools are stacked with notable prospects.
I think you could draft a Florida school prospect in every round and be happy with your return if you're the Jaguars.
Here's an example:
1) FSU RB Dalvin Cook, 2) FSU OT Roderick Johnson, 3) FAU DE Trey Hendrickson, 4) Miami CB Corn Elder, 5) FIU TE Jonnu Smith, 6) Florida DE Bryan Cox, 7a) FSU FB Freddie Stevenson, 7b) USF WR Rodney Adams
That would be a pretty strong haul, even by limiting yourself to state prospects.
I think Cook and Elder are probably the most likely targets for the Jaguars of the group. Cook is obviously a first round prospect and has visited the Jaguars. Elder met with the Jaguars at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Cook is a dynamic running back, who would enhance the ground game and serve as a receiver out of the backfield. Elder makes sense as an eventual successor to nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin, who is entering a contract year. Colvin may want an opportunity to play outside somewhere else, so having Elder on board would be a good way to hedge your bets for the future.
London Thortvedt asks: Do you think Jamal Adams would be a good pick fourth overall even though Barry Church is getting out of his prime?
MK: I think secondary depth (or lack thereof) has been an under-the-radar issue for the Jaguars over the past few years. Injuries happen and limiting yourself to just two solid starters at safety and not giving yourself a "rainy day fund" at the position can be dangerous.
Adams can play free safety and strong safety and is clearly a unique athlete. Yes, the Jaguars have spent quite a bit on Church and Tashaun Gipson, but the latter's contract allows the team to cut bait after this season. Gipson had his struggles during his first year in Jacksonville, so betting on him may not be a surefire slam dunk.
New VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin has preached competition throughout the roster. If he doesn't think the Jaguars are strong enough at safety, it makes plenty of sense to spend a pick on an upgrade at the position. I think Adams could be special in the long-term.
Ryan O'Bleness asks: Looking at cornerbacks, who would you like to see the Jaguars draft after the first round?
MK: As I mentioned earlier with the first two questions, secondary depth is an issue for the Jaguars this offseason. I think you need to hedge your bets at cornerback and safety. At cornerback, I think the class is strong on Day 2 and the early part of Day 3, based on projections.
I mentioned Elder as a fit earlier. I also think Minnesota's Jalen Myrick makes a lot of sense as a player who can play both inside and outside. West Virginia's Rasul Douglas impressed me quite a bit during Senior Bowl week. He has unique size (6-2, 209 lbs.) and athleticism.
In later rounds, Missouri's Aarion Penton and Oregon State's Treston Decoud stood out during the East-West Shrine Game practices. Michigan's Channing Stribling is another cornerback who intrigues me.
Caleb asks: For the current Jaguars roster who is the better addition to the team, O.J. Howard or Leonard Fournette? Who is the safer pick?
MK: I don't think either prospect is safer than the other. "Safe" is a term that is thrown around during the draft, but it typically means little because anything can happen. Injuries occur, bad decisions are made and the day-to-day grind can create new challenges and uncover hidden blemishes.
Howard and Fournette are probably the top two offensive players in this draft. I think you have to determine how much you value the tight end and running back positions.
If you consider that the majority of the league is using running back rotations, it's easy to see why you'd favor tight end over tailback. If you look at the productivity of Julius Thomas in the Jaguars' offense over the last two seasons, you have a fair argument in doubting the effectiveness of a top tight end.
I think Howard would be the better pick, because he will impact every phase of the offense. He is the best blocking tight end in the class, while also being a reliable receiver. Yes, his college production leaves some question marks, but he absolutely dominated his competition of future NFL players at the Senior Bowl. The running back class is deep, and theoretically, you could find a starting running back on Day 2.
I think Fournette is going to be a star in this league. That's not an uncommon opinion. While I think Howard may be the better pick for what I'd be looking for, you could easily convince me that Fournette is the ideal foundational piece for the Jaguars' offense. It's a matter of preference.
Randall Robinson asks: Is the Jaguars' interest in Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson legit? Or smokescreen to stir up QB demand early in Round 1?
MK: That is a good question and only the Jaguars truly know the answer.
I think Watson is a very talented prospect and could eventually be a stellar NFL quarterback, so having interest in him makes sense for the Jaguars. The future of the quarterback position is somewhat unclear, so looking into Watson is advantageous.
If it's a smokescreen, the Jaguars are playing this very well. The team hosted Watson and Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes on formal visits last week.
One quarterback visiting looks like due diligence. Two quarterbacks visiting looks like genuine interest in upgrading the position.
The Jaguars will have some potential trade leverage by creating a buzz around the Top 5 picks with the quarterback position. If San Francisco or Chicago decides to target a quarterback in the Top 3, the Jaguars' No. 4 overall pick becomes that much more valuable for a team looking to trade up for a passer.
Sure, the Titans have the No. 5 overall pick and are set with quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, the New York Jets are sitting at No. 6 and could - in theory - target a quarterback. In order for a team like Cleveland or Arizona to grab a quarterback, they may need to jump New York.
The Jaguars could benefit from a trade down. Jacksonville could also impact the Titans' ability to gain assets by making a move. If they drive a softer bargain than their AFC South rivals, the Jaguars could pick up additional picks and squash Tennessee's chances of making a blockbuster trade.
Using a smokescreen for Watson would make a ton of sense. If the Jaguars appear interested in selecting him, they can ask for a lot more in return.
Why settle for a minimal gain if you love Watson? That line of thinking will force a trade partner to add value to any offer.
Andrew Sechen asks: If the Jaguars draft Fournette or Cook, then what will the rotation look like with Yeldon and Ivory?
MK: If you're taking a running back at No. 4, you're not using much of a rotation. That player would be the workhorse.
You could sprinkle in Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon, but it'll be hard to use both regularly. Ivory would cost more to cut than keep, so Yeldon could be the "odd man out" if the Jaguars go after a running back early.
Ivory would likely benefit from the selection of Cook, as the veteran would offer a short-yardage ability that may be more impactful than his younger counterpart.
Sean Olinto asks: If the Jaguars take a defensive lineman early in first round, what position so you see them going after in second and third rounds?
MK: It depends on how the board plays out. The Jaguars have clear needs at guard, running back and tight end. The team could also use depth at safety, cornerback, linebacker, defensive tackle and offensive tackle. There is also the lingering quarterback uncertainty.
Running back and guard seem like the most necessary positions to attack on Day 2.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter and ask him your Jaguars questions at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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