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Jaguars Draft Day 1 Recap: "We Feel Good About Where We're At…"

042524 Day 1 Recap

JACKSONVILLE – They stayed true to philosophy, and that's a solid Day 1 approach.

"You just listen to the board," Trent Baalke said.

The Jaguars did just that in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft Thursday – and liked what they heard. They selected a player they coveted, Louisiana State University wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. – and also acquired three additional selections, one in this draft and two next offseason.

That made for a good Day 1 feeling.

"A lot of time and energy went into it," Baalke said following Round 1 of his fourth draft as the Jaguars' general manager. "We feel good about where we're at."

The Jaguars selected Thomas No. 23 overall after trading their original selection – No. 17 overall – to the Minnesota Vikings.

"He was going to be the pick at 17," Baalke said of Thomas.

Thomas (6-feet-2, 209 pounds), who played three seasons at LSU and entered the draft as an early-entry junior, was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and a third-team All-America selection in 2023. He led FBS in 2023 with 17 touchdown receptions, scoring in 10 of 13 games. He caught 68 passes for 1,177 yards in 2023.

"There were a lot of positives to the pick," Baalke said, with Head Coach Doug Pederson calling Thomas a "skilled receiver" with an "element of speed."

"Once we get him in here, really get our hands on him, get him into the playbook in a couple of weeks, really see how we can use him, it can only be a great asset for us on offense to not only open up the field, but open up some other elements of the offense," Pederson said.

Baalke called Thomas an "explosive athlete."

Images from the 2024 NFL Draft Party on Thursday, April 25, 2024 at the Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, FL. Photo by Matt Pendleton Photography.

"He'll help open up the field a little bit," Baalke said. "He's certainly a younger receiver for [quarterback] Trevor [Lawrence] to build around, for the offense to build around. We're just looking forward to getting him in here and getting our hands on him and going to work."

Thomas not only is considered a big-time deep threat, many analysts considered him one of the draft's best receivers making contested catches. Pederson said Thomas has "great size."

"He's big, he's tall, has a really good route tree and can run all the routes," Pederson said. "He can take the top off [secondaries]."

The Jaguars traded No. 17 overall to the Vikings for the No. 23 and No. 167 (Round 5) in the 2024 NFL Draft and third- and fourth-round selections in the '25 draft

"I think around Pick 15, 16, we started getting some calls," Baalke said. "The board looked good. We were in good shape with the needs we had and the players we had targeted. Taking a look at the teams that were between 17 and 23, what their needs were, we just felt the board was solid. It was well worth picking up three extra picks and really getting one of the players that we coveted it in the draft."

Baalke said while the Jaguars explored trading up, perhaps for one of the players considered the draft's top receivers, that "wasn't an option."

"We had a good beat on where those guys were going to go and they pretty much went where we felt they were going to go," he said. "The price to move up into that territory would've been really steep. If one of them would've slipped a little further, maybe you'd do it, but we just didn't feel they were going to get into our range and they didn't get into our range."

Baalke said there also were "other players involved" for the Jaguars at No. 17.

"We just felt the way the board looked and where the needs were, with the teams in between us, we felt we had a chance," Baalke said. "There's risk, there's reward, when you make the move back. But we felt we were going to get a really good football player that we had high on our board with the move back. But fortunate that Brian was still there."

Added Baalke, "You let the board speak and follow your gut."

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