JACKSONVILLE – This was a big surprise in the best way imaginable.
That was the consensus around the Jaguars Thursday night after using the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft on Josh Allen, an edge player from the University of Kentucky.
The Jaguars couldn’t have been more surprised Allen was available.
They couldn’t have been happier, either.
“As it was coming down, there were a number of picks in front of us where we thought he would go,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said shortly after selecting Allen. “When he fell to us, he was a superior football player – and too good a player to possibly pass up.”
Allen (6-feet-5, 260 pounds), the 2018 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was a consensus Top 5 selection in most mock drafts leading to Thursday.
“In most of the hypothetical scenarios we put together, he was gone,” Coughlin said.
But Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said there was a feeling in the last week or so that Allen might be available at No. 7.
“About a week ago, I started doing some due diligence and talking to people around the league, and this was the guy who kept coming up like, ‘Hey, he might be there because of what some teams need and what some teams are going to go with,” Caldwell said.
While the top three selections – Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 1, Ohio State edge player Nick Bosa to the San Francisco 49ers and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams – were widely projected before the draft, the Oakland Raiders surprised many by selecting Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall.
When the New York Giants selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ selection of highly-regarded linebacker Devin White of Louisiana State, it left the surprising scenario of Allen available for the Jaguars at No. 7.
“We thought he was the guy that if two quarterbacks went we could be staring at,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell also said while much pre-draft speculation focused on a possible trade the Jaguars got no legitimate trade offers for the selection.
“We got one call before from way down in the first round that wasn’t worth our time,” Caldwell said. “It would have had to have been something significant and we weren’t moving into the 20s for what they were offering.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars have selected Kentucky DE Josh Allen in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Caldwell said one reason the team didn’t believe Allen would be available was the belief was three teams ahead of them – the Raiders, Jets and Giants – all would take pass rushers. The Raiders and 49ers indeed focused on that area, but the Jets’ selection of Williams and the Giants’ selection of Jones left Allen on the board.
Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, a player widely projected to the Jaguars before the draft, was selected by the Detroit Lions No. 8 overall. Caldwell called Hockenson “a very good player.”
“We had Josh rated a level higher than him (Hockenson) as a player,” Caldwell said. “We said from the get-go we would take best available player.”
Coughlin called Hockenson “very close to up where we were.”
“But Allen was the higher thought-of player,” Coughlin said, adding that the Jaguars also considered offensive line at No. 7.
“We were very much involved in offensive linemen, the tight end and the outstanding defensive player if he fell to us,” Coughlin said. “That’s kind of the way it went.”
Caldwell said the Jaguars also liked Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills No. 9 overall.
“He was a consideration; we like Ed,” Caldwell said. “But if we were going to go defense it was going to be more on the edge.”
Caldwell said he envisions Allen initially playing edge rusher in passing situations opposite fourth-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2017 season. Caldwell said he would play a role similar to former defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who had eight sacks in 2017 before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams midway through this past season.
Allen was among the Jaguars’ 30 pre-draft visits in March, a time when – as was the case during most of the pre-draft process – it seemed unlikely he would be available when the Jaguars selected No. 7.
“We had a real fine visit with him,” Coughlin said, adding with a smile. “We kidded him about where he was going to go. He said, ‘Well, maybe you’ll have to trade up.’ So, I just reminded him of that one.”