JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' offseason isn't over yet.
That means there's still roster-shaping to be done before the 2017 regular season. Still, we're a third of the way through April, so most of that shaping is going to be done through the NFL Draft.
Free agency? That's not technically done, but most heavy lifting was done immediately after the March 9 start of the new league year.
Yet, most of that lifting was done on defense with the signings of defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye. That leaves significant questions unanswered on offense as the April 27-29 2017 NFL Draft approaches:
Is the 2017 starting running back on the roster? Is tight end a possibility in the draft?
Is quarterback a possibility?
Will the offensive line depth chart look the same in Week 1 of 2017 as it does now?
All are potentially major '17 draft storylines, and all are part of this pre-draft position-by-position look at the Jaguars' offense:
Projected starter:Blake Bortles.
Projected reserves/others: Chad Henne, Brandon Allen.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars re-signed Henne before free agency.
About the position:No Jaguars position is under more scrutiny this offseason. Bortles struggled in his third season as a starter in 2016, but it appears likely he will be the starter next season. If so, it's a critical year for the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. If he performs at a high level, he could be the long-term answer. If not, it's conceivable this could be his last season with the team.
Handicapping the draft:This is among the toughest Jaguars positions to project entering the draft. All signs point to Bortles being the starter next season, but the team reportedly had Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson for a pre-draft visit. Could the team surprise all observers and go quarterback with the No. 4 overall selection? Could the Jaguars like a developmental quarterback early in Round 2? Will they wait and see how Bortles plays this season before investing a premium selection on the spot? All are legitimate possibilities and the tea leaves remain blurry.
Running back (4)
Projected starters:Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon.
Projected reserves/others:Corey Grant, Bronson Hill.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars opted to not re-sign four-year veteran and 2013 fifth-round draft selection Denard Robinson, and also did not re-sign Joe Banyard and Daryl Richardson.
About the position:This is a position of major offseason intrigue. The Jaguars must improve a running game that hasn't been effective in key situations in recent seasons. Ivory, a 1,000-yard rusher with the New York Jets in 2015, and Yeldon – a 2015 second-round draft selection – combined for 904 yards rushing last season. Both were effective at times, but both also struggled – at least in part because of an offensive line that has struggled to run block in recent seasons.
Handicapping the draft:Few names are mentioned more in Jaguars pre-draft talk more than Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette, and it would shock no one if he is selected No. 4. Drafting Fournette likely means committing to a run-oriented, physical offense with the hope of taking pressure off Bortles. Will the Jaguars go that route or address the position later in what is considered a deep running-back draft? The answer will help define their '17 draft.
Wide receivers (9)
Projected starters:Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns.
Projected reserves/others:Rashad Greene Sr., Arrelious Benn, Bryan Walters, Jamal Robinson, Tony Washington, Shane Wynn.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars re-signed Walters and Benn.
About the position:This area is considered a team strength, with Robinson, Lee and Hurns all entering their fourth seasons and all having shown potential to be front-line receivers. Look for those three to form the core of the receiving group next season.
Handicapping the draft:This doesn't appear to be a likely area to address in the draft, but Robinson and Lee are both entering the final year of their contracts. The team could theoretically draft a receiver somewhere to develop if they opt not to re-sign one of the two.
Tight ends (7)
Projected starters:Marcedes Lewis, Michel Rivera.
Projected reserves/others:Neal Sterling, Ben Koyack, Alex Ellis, Gannon Sinclair, E.J. Bibbs.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars traded Julius Thomas to the Miami Dolphins and signed Rivera as an unrestricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders.
About the position:While Thomas caught nine touchdown passes in two seasons with the Jaguars, he never became the reliable, elite pass-receiving option the team hoped. Rivera's signing gives the team a reliable blocking and receiving option to package with Lewis, the Jaguars' most-tenured player. Sterling and Koyack have shown flashes in two seasons.
Handicapping the draft:The Jaguars could address this position in many ways later this month. Some analysts have projected Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to the Jaguars in Round 1, but that would be a surprise. It seems more likely the Jaguars would address the position early in 2 or later in an effort to get more production from the position in the passing offense.
Offensive line (14)
Projected starters:Tackle Branden Albert, guard Patrick Omameh, center Brandon Linder, guard A.J. Cann, tackle Jermey Parnell.
Projected reserves/others:Center Luke Bowanko, tackle Josh Wells, guard Chris Reed, guard Tyler Shatley, guard Nila Kasitati, Greg Van Roten, tackle Colin Kelly, tackle Jeremiah Poutasi, tackle Arturo Uzdavinis.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars acquired Albert in a trade with Miami, allowing tackle/guard Luke Joeckel to sign as unrestricted free agent with Seattle Seahawks and left tackle Kelvin Beachum to sign as UFA with New York Jets. They also re-signed Omameh and extended a tenders to retain Shatley and Wells.
About the position:The line improved as a pass-blocking unit in 2016 and struggled to run block, particularly in the first half of the season. The Jaguars believe they made a move to improve the line, particularly in the area of run-blocking, by trading for Albert. The Jaguars like Cann's potential, and Parnell – who signed as an unrestricted free agent before the 2015 season – reportedly played better late in the season after struggling with an ankle injury early in the season.
Handicapping the draft:This feels like an area that could be addressed in the draft, with guard the most likely early target area. The team could look to draft a guard capable of starting as a rookie sometime in the draft' first two days. This is considered a weak draft at tackle, particularly early in Round 1.