You should not be surprised if the Jaguars target upgrades on the offensive line early in next week's NFL Draft.
General Manager Dave Caldwell more than just hinted at the possibility during an "Inside the Red Zone" program with season ticket holders last week.
“Every year there’s an offensive lineman that you feel like has some traits,” Caldwell said.
“We just went through the offensive line with our coaching staff and [offensive line coach Pat Flaherty] and Coach Marrone and Coach Coughlin and there are definitely guys - not only at the top of the draft - but throughout the draft. I’ve said this in our meetings before, there are 32 teams, I’d venture to guess every team has a need along the offensive line. There’s probably not one with five starters that are really happy right now.”
Caldwell was correct when he acknowledged that every offensive line in the league has a clear weakness.
This isn't just a one-time epidemic in the NFL world; it's an annual discrepancy.
When an offensive line starts to gel, players typically sign elsewhere for more money due to the strong work they've put forth with ideal partners.
It's why teams should always target one or more versatile offensive linemen in free agency and the draft every year. Players that can play four positions are more valuable than those who have mastered just one, especially when it comes to the depth of the line.
The Jaguars did their part with finding a versatile offensive lineman - on a small scale - with veteran Earl Watford.
The former Arizona Cardinals guard/tackle played all around the offensive line in the desert. He was mostly used as a right guard and right tackle. His experience makes him an ideal backup for Jermey Parnell and A.J. Cann on paper.
However, the left guard position is still up in the air. The Jaguars have some versatile depth pieces like Watford, Chris Reed, Tyler Shatley and Patrick Omameh to compete for the job.
While those players all offer some sort of appeal, drafting a cornerstone on the line makes more sense in the long-term.
I've always been a strong believer in drafting college left tackles to play other positions. It allows a team to fill another hole on the line in the short-term and eventually replace an aging veteran in the long-term.
Left tackle Branden Albert is in the twilight of his career and Parnell is coming off an injury-riddled season. Both veterans will not be in Jacksonville by the time this year's rookies end their initial NFL contracts.
Still, their presence allows the Jaguars to avoid putting a rookie at a pivotal tackle spot. That's something to take advantage of long-term. Allowing the player to grow and receive reps as a guard before forcing them into a more important position can be extremely beneficial.
For example, Albert's former teammate Laremy Tunsil was initially stationed at guard during his rookie season with the Dolphins. After producing at guard for a season, Tunsil was ready to take over at left tackle and made Albert expendable.
Putting Albert in a similar situation in Jacksonville would not be an issue, as that is to be expected at this stage in his career.
Drafting an offensive tackle like Vanderbilt's Will Holden or Florida State's Roderick Johnson on Day 2 (second/third round) would be ideal. Both players are big enough to play on the interior offensive line, but have plenty of college experience at tackle.
If the Jaguars decided to be patient with the offensive line, Pittsburgh's Adam Bisnowaty and Virginia Tech's Jonathan McLaughlin should be available in the later rounds.
Drafting for versatility is not only smart, it's essential for preserving the longevity of the Jaguars' offensive line. If the Jaguars can find a capable long-term starter, who can play in multiple spots, they will have an under-appreciated advantage for future campaigns.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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