Quarterback, running back and maybe – maybe – cornerback.
That’s it for Jacksonville – the team could use upgrades at literally every other position during the offseason and 2022 NFL draft.
At this rate, Jacksonville will pick somewhere between first overall and fifth – and that’s OK, as this draft is top-heavy while lacking a consensus No. 1 QB, a position the Jaguars don’t need.
However, there is a bit of a buyer-beware component to the top picks as four of the top five players in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board have missed time with injuries.
Here’s a look at those top five players:
The question you’ll hear leading up to the draft regarding Thibodeaux is whether he’s as good as, or better than, former Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young or former Texas A&M edge Myles Garrett.
But the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Thibodeaux has missed time this season and hasn’t put up the type of numbers you’d typically expect out of a No. 1 overall prospect.
Thibodeaux missed most of the season-opener against Fresno State after suffering an ankle injury during the first half. The true junior went on to miss the next two games, then returned against Arizona on a limited snap count and didn’t record a statistic. Thibodeaux was then called for a targeting foul the following week against Stanford, causing him to miss the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game.
All told, Thibodeaux has played in eight of the team’s 11 games, recording 41 tackles, 10 TFLs and 6 sacks. During his Covid-shortened sophomore season, he had a line of 42-9.5-3.0 in seven games.
In fact, Thibodeaux has yet to duplicate his freshman season at Oregon, when he had a line of 35-14-9.
Still, few doubt Thibodeaux’s talent.
From Yahoo Sports Eric Edholm in a preseason preview of draft prospects: “Thibodeaux checks pretty much every physical category you could want. He possesses great length, good mass and weight distribution and superb athletic traits — all of which put him in the upper echelon when compared to NFL players.”
They don’t get any better than Kayvon Thibodeaux pic.twitter.com/iYqytWEgwc
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 23, 2021
The 6-fooot-1, 195-pound junior burst onto the scene during LSU’s championship season in 2019.
Since then? Things have fallen apart for LSU – and Stingley has taken his lumps, too.
The main issue has been his availability. Stingley missed three games last season, two of them due to a leg injury. Then he played in only three games this season before undergoing a medical procedure on his left foot, forcing him to sit indefinitely.
So, essentially, Stingley garnered his “top-of-his-class” status based off of one season, his freshman year, when he had 38 tackles, 6 INTs and 15 PDs. Last year, Stingley had 27 tackles, no INTs and 5 PDs. He didn’t record an INT or a PD in his three games this season, racking up just 8 tackles.
But his talent and athleticism is hard to ignore. Stingley has allegedly been clocked running a 4.3 40 and a recorded a 42-inch vertical.
From The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, who ranks Stingley as his No. 3 overall prospect: “It has been a tough season for Stingley, who gave up a touchdown in the season opener at UCLA and then played solid in the next two games before he was lost for the season due to injury. But the Baton Rouge native has more than enough snaps from his first two years at LSU for scouts to understand his skills. And as long as the medicals are clean, Stingley will be in the mix to be a top-five pick.”
This one belonged to Derek Stingley. pic.twitter.com/fD0yOtfIho
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 26, 2019
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound true junior is one of, if not the best, safety prospects in recent memory.
Hamilton had 41 tackles, 4 INTs and 6 PDs as a freshman, then followed that up with a line of 63-1-6 as a sophomore.
So expectations were deservedly high for Hamilton going into the season – and he hasn’t disappointed when on the field.
But therein lies the problem this year. Hamilton has missed four games this season and hasn’t played since beating USC on Oct. 23, when he injured his knee. Notre Dame didn’t disclose a lot of information about the extent of the injury, other than coach Brian Kelly saying Hamilton’s injury is the type that typically takes six weeks to heal.
And that could explain his down numbers this season, as Hamilton has accumulated 34 tackles, 3 INTs and 4 PDs in seven games.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper rates Hamilton as the second-best prospect in the draft and called him “one of the most versatile defenders in the country” during his latest prospect rankings. From Kiper: “Hamilton has the size to move up to the line of scrimmage and help in the running game and the speed and range to cover pass-catchers out of the slot. He’s exactly what NFL teams want in their first-round safeties.”
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 23, 2021
Hutchinson has made a lot of top OT prospects look like Day 3 prospects this season.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Hutchinson has looked almost unstoppable at times while playing in all 11 games for Michigan this season, racking up 47 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and 9 sacks. But this wasn’t supposed to be the year Hutchinson shined for the Wolverines. That was last season, when he started the year as a potential first-round prospect.
Then, three games into last season, Hutchinson suffered a fracture in his right ankle against Indiana, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.
But that injury appears well behind him – and if anything, Hutchinson’s stock has only risen, as he’s now a top-10 pick in most evaluators’ big boards. From ESPN’s Todd McShay, who ranked Hutchinson as his No. 5 overall prospect in his latest rankings: “He plays a powerful game and is truly relentless in pursuit. Hutchinson also has fast eyes and locates the ball really well.”
Highest-graded defender in college football:
〽️ Aidan Hutchinson – 93.1 pic.twitter.com/bIvhKAi89O
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 22, 2021
The one player in this list who hasn’t missed time due to injury is the massive, 6-foot-7, 340-pound Alabama left tackle.
Of course, his size will be closely monitored – but Neal has already shown signs of maturity, as he lost 15 pounds in the offseason, telling Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News that he’s “a lot more light” on his toes now.
The move appeared to have worked out, as Neal has only given up 3 sacks in more than 1,100 career pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranks him as its No. 5 overall prospect. From PFF: “Neal is a special physical specimen, as he plays with incredible power for a true junior. He’s not the most technically sound prospect, but some of that can be attributed to playing three different positions in three years.”
Evan Neal is not human
6’ 7” 360 lbs and the #1 OT this season…
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) July 12, 2021