3 players no one’s talking about as potential No. 1 overall picks for Jacksonville Jaguars

2022 NFL draft

Say what you will about Jacksonville’s free agency splurge, one thing is clear: The Jaguars likely won’t take a receiver in the first- or second-round of the upcoming draft.

The Jaguars inked former Arizona receiver Christian Kirk to a four-year, $72 million contract and former Las Vegas receiver Zay Jones to a three-year, $24-million contract. And, for good measure, Jacksonville also signed former New York Giant tight end Evan Engram to a one-year, $9 million contract.

Even though the team lost D.J. Chark in free agency – he signed with Detroit – the team still boasts a fairly impressive, veteran wide receiver group with Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Laquon Treadwell and now Kirk and Jones.

But a receiver was never really in the conversation for the first pick in the draft.

What about offensive tackle? Maybe not. After placing the franchise tag on Cam Robinson, Jacksonville is now less likely to take North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal with the first pick. Don’t forget, the team also has Walker Little waiting in the wings. Little was the team’s second-round pick in 2021.

That means pass rusher is the way to go with the No. 1 overall pick, right?

Not necessarily.

Although Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan is now generally seen as the presumed pick for Jacksonville, taking him would create a log-jam at the position for the Jaguars. Remember K’Lavon Chaisson? Sure, he’s been a disappointment since being drafted with the No. 20 overall pick in 2020. Thus far, Chaisson has 2 career sacks and 6 TFLs while starting only 11 out of 31 games.

Jacksonville’s other starting outside linebacker, Josh Allen, already has 20.5 sacks despite missing most of the 2020 season with injuries. Allen was the seventh-overall pick in 2019.

Therefore, drafting Hutchinson or even Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux would make either Allen or, most likely, Chaisson a backup just a few years removed from drafting those respective players in the first round. Here’s one more nugget regarding Chaisson: NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein gave Hutchinson an overall grade of 6.83. Chaisson’s 2020 grade? 6.5, which isn’t much lower.

So, If it’s not receiver, offensive tackle or pass rusher, then which direction could the Jaguars take?

Here are three players rarely mentioned as possibilities for Jacksonville with the first-overall pick.

S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior is the highest-rated prospect in the latest Jake Rigdon-Fanspeak big board. He’s also Zierlein’s top prospect with a grade of 6.88.

No one is doubting Hamilton’s talent. The problem is his position. No safety has ever been taken with the first-overall pick.

But he would walk in as either the best- or second-best defensive player for Jacksonville. Strong safety Rayshawn Jenkins, a 2017 fourth-round pick, and free safety Andrew Wingard, who went undrafted in 2019, are replaceable, especially after the Jaguars drafted Andre Cisco last year in the third round.

Here’s what ESPN’s Todd McShay said about Hamilton in his most-recent mock draft: “No, the 4.59-second 40-yard dash doesn’t bother me. Hamilton plays fast on tape, and you don’t come across 6-foot-4, 220-pound safeties with his range, explosion (38-inch vertical jump) and ball skills (three interceptions and four passes defended in seven 2021 games) very often.”

Incidentally, McShay had Hutchinson going No. 1 overall to Jacksonville and Hamilton going No. 2 to Detroit.

CB Derek Stingley, LSU

“Cornerback prototype.”

“One of the best athletes in the draft class.”

“Uniquely gifted cornerback with rare blend of size, speed and explosiveness.”

Those are among the praises heaped upon Stingley by Zierlein, the NFL.com draft analyst, but two red flags are preventing the 6-foot, 190-pound junior from being in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick: Durability and consistency.

Stingley has played just 10 games since his breakout freshman season at LSU, and when he did get on the field, Stingley’s play was at times uninspiring last season. As Zierlein said, the tape on Stingley “was more good than great in 2020 and 2021.”

A look at Jacksonville’s secondary, though, suggests cornerback is a sneaky need. The Jaguars drafted Tyson Campbell out of Georgia with the first pick of the second round last year. The early returns are impressive: 73 tackles, 10 passes defended and 2 interceptions while starting 14 out of 15 games. Jacksonville’s other corner, Shaquill Griffin, signed a three-year, $44.5 million contract last March. He’s also coming off an impressive season with a line of 49-7-0, and his Pro Football Focus grade of 72 was better than Campbell’s grade of 62.7.

The problem? Jacksonville doesn’t have another cornerback on its roster that played more than 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps – which is rare considering the number of pass-first teams in the league. Nevin Lawson, who will be 31 next season, came the closest by playing in 325 defensive snaps, good for 29.3 percent.

Adding a player like Stingley, though, would likely make Griffin the team’s “third” cornerback with a move inside to slot cornerback a possibility. Griffin (874) and Campbell (864) finished third and fifth, respectively on the team for defensive snaps.

One more important note to consider: Doug Pederson’s Eagles teams always used a minimum of three cornerbacks. The same goes for defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell’s Tampa Bay teams.

DL Jordan Davis, Georgia

Forget about his 4.78 40-yard time at the Combine, which is believed to be the fastest ever for a player his size. Ignore his massive 6-foot-6, 341-pound frame.

Taking Davis No. 1 overall would still be crazy, right?

After all, there’s a reason why most draft analysts peg Davis as a mid to late first-round pick. Start with his size; while his work ethic has been praised, keeping his weight down has been challenging, with Davis tipping the scales as high as 380 pounds.

He also won’t give you much in terms of a pass rush. That helps explain his relatively modest snap count at Georgia. Can he play at least 25 snaps per game? That comes out to only 425 snaps, which would have ranked Davis 14th among Jaguars’ defenders.

Instead, what you’re looking at is the definition of a run-stuffing, two-down player – not the type of player who goes No. 1 overall.

Add all that up, and it’s possible that Davis doesn’t even get drafted in the first round.

But, instead of focusing on what Davis can’t do, Jacksonville should consider what he can do.

For starters: Davis is an elite run defender with overwhelming size and strength.

From Zierlein on Davis: “Beefy, mountainous nose tackle with the size, power and will to clog the drain and alter the offense’s desire to run between the tackles. Davis has anchor and quick-shed talent to eviscerate single blocks and successfully occupy double teams …”

In other words, Davis might only be on the field for 20 to 25 snaps per game. But opponents will have a much more difficult time running the ball when he’s in there – and that’s important given the Jaguars’ run-heavy schedule in 2022. They’ll play the two league leaders in rushing yards the past three seasons four times next season. Plus, Jacksonville faces last season’s top rushing team, Philadelphia, on the road.

But stopping the likes of Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor suddenly becomes a little easier with Davis anchoring the line. Likewise, a strong push up the middle should make things easier for Allen and Chaisson on the outside.

In other words, those 25 snaps wind up having a huge impact on the game – despite what the statistics might say.

The ideal scenario? Davis falls out of the first round, giving Jacksonville another bite at the apple. But there’s also a good chance Davis doesn’t last past pick No. 20 overall. That’s why Jacksonville could wind up with the last laugh if the Jaguars made Davis the first pick.

As Zierlein said, Davis has the “potential to alter an opponent’s game plan.”

 

Will Jacksonville surprise everyone with their first pick? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest mock draft for the Jaguars.

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