The Jaguars are stuck in the middle of the first round with several needs on the defensive side of the ball. But the good thing is that have several options to address those areas.
Their pass defense was one of the worst in the league a year ago. According to Football Outsiders DVOA-based rankings, they were dead last in overall defensive efficiency with the 30th ranked pass defense. Their biggest flaws are in the secondary, but if they can improve their pass rush that can help as well. But they also have some needs on the offensive side of the ball that they could use help on. With all that said, I think the Jaguars tab Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt as their top pick this year. Continue to read on for the explanation of why.
In such a deep defensive line class it would make sense for the Jaguars to add a pass rusher up front to help out there defense. While J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan are probably the best ends on the board, they are better fits in a 3-4 than a 4-3, although both are good enough to play there. But they may prefer a speed rusher off the corner. Someone like Ryan Kerrigan or Justin Houston make a lot of sense. But the 16th overall pick seems a bit high for both prospects. They do have some young ends on their roster that might be worth further development, but none of them are quite as good as that pair. If Aldon Smith falls to this point in the draft, he would be a good pick.
But they probably have more pressing needs in the secondary. They have a bad pair of starting safeties and their corners are weak. Rashean Mathis is in a contract year, and last year’s stud rookie Derek Cox was inconsistent. So that means they may look to draft a corner here. Brandon Harris (Miami), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), and Aaron Williams (Texas) are the best players on the board. Smith is the higher rated by most experts, but there are character issues with him. So that means probably Harris would be the next best option. There is no pure safety that is worth this high a pick, but there is some talk that Smith or Williams could be moved to that position, which would make them better options.
On offense, the Jaguars might draft a quarterback. If Cam Newton were to fall this far, it would be very hard to pass on him, but it’s doubtful he falls out of the Top 12. More than likely the Jaguars will look for quarterback help late in the draft since they don’t have a pressing need to replace David Garrard, who is coming off a pretty decent season.
The Jaguars showed a year ago that they don’t necessarily care about other rankings when they used the tenth overall pick on Tyson Alualu, widely considered a huge reach in the draft. So the fact that many mocks have players like Smith, Kerrigan, Harris, or Williams going later in the draft isn’t really a deterrent against them targeting those guys with this pick.
In the end, while secondary is arguably the weaker position, I suspect the Jaguars to make a move with their defensive end. While not the most tradition fit, Watt is arguably the best prospect on the board, so I think they will settle on him over the other prospects.