Catch the 2020 NFL Draft on ABC25 Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25, 2020.
You’re [struggling with] working from home, searching for any and every form of sports #content that can be used as a means of procrastination.
My mom has been telling me for years I need to get back into writing + The NFL is proceeding as per usual despite a global pandemic = a match made in heaven.
Welcome, to Mia’s Mock Mondays.
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... and at long last, welcome to "The Iowa Draft."
Yes, I spent three years of my reporting career in Iowa.
Yes, the Jaguars have drafted just two players from Iowa schools in their 25 year history (Tavian Banks in 1998 and Brad Meester in 2000).
So, the odds of the Jags taking two Iowa players within their first three selections?
It's actually a lot higher than you would think.
Let's dive on in.
Round 1, Pick 9
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Doug Marrone said at the Combine he “likes” where the Jaguars’ offensive line is at. Both he and Dave Caldwell said they anticipate a “big jump” from the O-Line, much like the jump the Jags’ wide receiver room took from 2018 to 2019.
But that wide receiver room had the untapped potential of D.J. Chark and free agent signee Chris Conley.
This offensive line room has nothing but questions.
Will Cam Robinson truly bounce back from ACL surgery? Was it money well spent on free agent Andrew Norwell? Who is the Jaguars’ right guard?
As if a transcendent wide receiver class wasn’t enough, this year’s Draft features four, sure-fire offensive tackles. If the Jaguars want one, there will be at least two available by the time they get to their selection at No. 9.
If they were to have their pick of the four, Wirfs, with his versatility and freakish athletic prowess, makes the most sense.
Yes, he has played the bulk of his career at right tackle – and that’s the one position where the Jaguars are set with Jawaan Taylor. But Wirfs did step in at left tackle when Alaric Jackson went down with injury in the Hawkeyes’ 2019 season opener, starting three games at the blind-side. By many accounts, the only reason Wirfs became a right tackle in the first place was because Jackson had already been trained to play left. And, back in 2017, with injuries to the right side of the Hawks’ offensive line, there was no leaving Wirfs on the bench. He is the only true freshman to start on the offensive line for Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz has been at the helm since 1999, the longest tenure of any current, FBS coach.
There are still those who project Wirfs as a guard long-term, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you’re the Jaguars either. They could use an upgrade at just about every position on the line.
(Full disclosure: I have been covering Wirfs since he was a high school junior. This is the one Iowa player that, despite only living in the state for three years, I can full-heartedly speak to. He is the greatest, multi-sport athlete I have ever covered and a heckuva person)
And in case you still aren’t sold, here’s him hang-cleaning 450 lbs four times.
Round 1, Pick 20
Raekwon Davis, IDL, Alabama
Yes, I know. After a sub-par Combine, Davis has slipped to the second and even third round in most analysts’ eyes.
In this Mock Draft, Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw were already off the board. As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said earlier this week, after No. 15, every team’s Big Board looks wildly different and every team’s ranking by position looks different.
And we know Dave Caldwell loves the SEC. Five of his six, first-round selections have hailed from the Southeastern Conference.
I just do not see the Jaguars going into Day Two not having addressed interior defensive line. Doug Marrone emphasized building “a strong football team up the middle” far too much in his teleconference in March to not pull the trigger early. As much as Marrone may not have the final say, he’s got more of a say now than he ever has before. Trading Calais Campbell has only compounded the loss of Marcell Dareus to free agency. The number one hole Jacksonville must address is interior defensive line.
After a freakish, 8.5 sack, 10 tackle for loss sophomore campaign, Davis’ stats dipped his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa. He amassed a mere 2 total sacks over the next two seasons and 8.5 TFL.
But he is still the 6-foot-7, 312 lb monster the Jaguars desperately need up the middle.
Round 2, Pick 35
JAGUARS receive No. 35 overall pick
LIONS receive No. 42 overall pick, No. 118 overall pick
AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Dave Caldwell has traded up in the second round in three of the last four NFL Drafts – and tried to do so in 2018, too. He’s never had as much ammunition as he does with this year’s 12 selections (possibly more, when and if Yannick Ngakoue is dealt). The Jags do have a lot of holes, and, thus, need to use as many of their picks as they can. But if the right prospect falls, the Jaguars can afford to use some picks to trade up.
A.J. Epenesa is a guy you trade up for.
A five-star recruit in high school, he spurred the likes of Alabama and Clemson for the Hawkeyes, where his father played in the 1990s. Epenesa did not become a full-time starter until his junior year, and, as was highly publicized, was utterly okay with that. Over the last two years, Epenesa racked up 22 sacks, 30.5 TFL, and eight forced fumbles (sound familiar, Yannick Ngakoue fans?). He very well could fall to the second round after a “mediocre” Combine (5.04 in the 40-yard dash, 17 rep’s on bench). Don’t be fooled: the tape don’t lie.
The Jaguars have Ngakoue’s replacement – and one whose “run-stopping ability” is unquestioned.
Round 3, Pick 73
Troy Pride Jr, CB, Notre Dame
The Jaguars probably could’ve gone defensive back at No. 20 and sought to address interior defensive line on Day Two. Instead, they pass on the likes of Kristian Fulton and Jeff Gladney and take Senior Bowl alum Pride Jr. in the third-round. For any first-time readers out there: there’s two big trends to draw from Jaguars’ GM Dave Caldwell’s tenure.
- The Jaguars have drafted more players from the SEC than any other conference
- The Jaguars have drafted at least one player they scouted during the Senior Bowl in each of Caldwell’s previous drafts
He did not play in the SEC, but Pride met with the Jaguars during the 2020 Senior Bowl. So we’re onto something here.
Pride will not be stuffing the stat sheet – he had four interceptions in four years in South Bend – but he has played multiple coverages and is a high IQ corner. He’s speedy and has played in big games before. This is a position that, as confident as they are in their scouting department in the Undrafted Free Agent waters, the Jaguars cannot leave Day Two without addressing. Tre Herndon performed admirably once Jalen Ramsey was traded. “Replacing Jalen Ramsey” with another, first-round corner isn’t a necessity. But following the A.J. Bouye trade, drafting at least one cornerback early-on is a necessity.
Round 4, Pick 116
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
A top-five tight end on multiple analysts’ boards, there’s a good chance there’s a run on tight ends on Day Two, and the Jaguars have to strike a bit earlier. Whether it’s Friday or Saturday, Bryant would be a solid selection for a team still searching for a receiving tight end two years after Marcedes Lewis’ departure.
While undersized, Bryant is a strong route runner and could give the Jaguars the threat out of the slot and over the middle they’ve been searching for. Where he lines up at the line of scrimmage could be a positive or a negative, depending how you look at it. Bryant is not going to be able to block or squeak past a strong EDGE rusher. The Jaguars will need a blocking tight end to compliment Bryant. But he can be a chess piece, blocking on the perimeter and breaking free in the receiving game.
With Tyler Eifert in the fold, Bryant would give the Jaguars a different look at the position from Eifert and 2019 third-rounder Josh Oliver. It would be up to Jay Gruden to maximize Bryant’s potential, but, as James O’Shaughnessy learned last year prior to his ACL tear, Gardner Minshew loves a good safety valve over the middle. That’s where I see Bryant fitting in.
Round 4, Pick 140
Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
It will be tempting to take a wide receiver early. This is arguably one of the deepest receiver classes of all-time.
But lest we forget:
The Jaguars “felt good” about their wide receiver room last year. They didn’t draft a receiver last year.
And that was before D.J. Chark’s sensational, sophomore campaign.
Unless Jeudy-Lamb-Ruggs is there for the taking in the first-round, I could see the Jaguars waiting until Day Three to go receiver simply because there are too many other holes to fill. Johnson is by no means a bad consolation prize – especially when you consider Dede Westbrook’s rookie contract is up after this season.
Johnson finished his collegiate career with back-to-back, 1,000 yard seasons at Minnesota, scoring 25 touchdowns his final two seasons. At 6’2’’, 205 lb, he projects as a slot receiver – but don’t let those measurables fool you. “Go up and get it” catches are his forte, and he can be a vertical threat. Bear in mind, too, that Johnson did not start playing receiver full-time until he got to college. He could use some more coaching, and, with Chark’s continued emergence, wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell could most certainly use a new project.
Round 5, Pick 165
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
I called this “The Iowa Draft” for a reason, folks!!
TBH, once you get past Jake Fromm-Jacob Eason-Jalen Hurts (after Burrow-Herbert-Tua-Love), this quarterback class is anyone’s guess. They’ve all got flaws. Stanley’s two biggest: lack of mobility and consistency. He’s a big armed quarterback (and at 6’4’’, 243 lb, a big QB in general) who has three-years of starting experience in a pro-style offense. He was at his best his final season, when the Hawkeyes reaped the benefits of (finally!) recruiting wide receivers. He’s a “lead-by-example,” down-to-business type of guy who didn’t join social media until his junior year at Iowa; he was a “silent commit” throughout his recruitment to Iowa.
Foil to Gardner Minshew? Most certainly. But you’ve gotta draft a quarterback, even if you’re also planning on signing a veteran after the Draft – and the options only get leaner from here.
Hey, Stanley might be the only quarterback who loves tight ends more than Minshew. He had the luxury of two, future first-round selections for half his career in T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. And he was the back-up on a George Kittle-led team his freshman season. His first career completion was to Kittle.
They’ve got that in common!
Round 5, Pick 170
J.R. Reed, S, Georgia
A Jim Thorpe Award finalist with the pedigree to prove it (son of former NFL receiver Jake Reed and nephew of defensive back Dale Carter). He also checks off Dave Caldwell’s SEC box, which is always good.
Reed is not the most athletic safety, but he’s tough-nosed and a high IQ football player. He’d bring depth and big-game experience to a Jaguars’ secondary that has relied on UDFA’s as reserves. Reed is a strong tackler who is not afraid to stick his nose into the box on run defense. Of course, tackling and run defense are two areas the Jaguars have committed to improving.
Reed has also proven strong on special teams, an area the Jaguars are always looking to grow.
Round 6, Pick 189
Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU
Much like wide receiver, I could see this need being addressed earlier.
…but I could also see the Jaguars waiting until Day Three. Especially if the pick is (possibly?) Leonard Fournette’s eventual replacement, as opposed to a change-of-pace back.
The Jaguars reportedly had a pre-Draft, virtual visit with the 6’3’’, 232 lb Olonilua last week. He did have 24 catches his senior year at TCU, so it’s not like he ~can’t~ work into the receiving game. But this pick is more about building depth. Fournette saw 80-percent of the Jaguars’ running back snaps in 2019 – and that was coming off of an injury-plagued, sophomore season. Sure, the Jaguars can continue to squeeze every ounce they can out of the former first-round selection, but they also saw in 2018 what life is like when injuries hold Fournette out.
Ryquell Armstead averaged only 16 plays per game on offense his rookie season. And after him… the cupboard’s pretty bare. That’s where Olonilua comes in.
Round 6, Pick 206
Tyre Phillips, IOL, Mississippi State
Once a big-time, JUCO prospect, Phillips red-shirted his first season in Starkville and was a reserve his second. That’s a big reason why most folks haven’t heard of him. He’s played left tackle most of his career but projects at guard in the next level – which, considering his success against SEC pass rushers, should be a seamless transition. Phillips combines abnormal length with a 6’5’’, 331 lb, frame and a strong anchor point. He’s got 15 lbs-plus on all three of the Jaguars, current starting guards, and only Andrew Norwell is taller.
Phillips is strongest in power-driven offenses, fitting into power, gap scheme and inside zone as a run blocker. I think the Jaguars are still focused on being a “strong run team,” right? But maybe not.
From everything I’ve seen and read, he’d be a steal in the sixth round.
He also played in the Senior Bowl.... *cough* hi Dave Caldwell *cough*
Round 7, Pick 223
Ray Lima, DT, Iowa State
Contrary to popular belief, there are two, Power Five programs in the state of Iowa (and don’t forget FCS Northern Iowa, Brad Meester-stans!)
If you’re still unsure about Raekwon Davis being a true, interior defensive lineman, I present to you a true nose tackle with the Jaguars’ final pick in this Mock Draft. Last I checked, the Jaguars do not have a true nose tackle on their current roster.
To be clear, Lima is a raw prospect and his pass rush skills need work. But he played in a 4-3 system in college, one that was consistently among the top-three in the Big 12 Conference (you can laugh, I know I walked myself right into that one). He’s a three-year starter, 305 lbs, and can stop the run.
The Jaguars need as many big bodies as they can get.
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Well, that was fun! And a lot more work than I thought! Let's do this again next Monday at lunch time, shall we?
And don't forget: you can watch all three rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft LIVE on ABC25 April 23-25, 2020.
Hit me up on Twitter at @MiaOBrienTV or email@example.com with your thoughts for next week's Monday Mock.