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NFL Draft: Handicapping No. 29


JACKSONVILLE – Welcome to an impossible task.

We're talking about handicapping the Jaguars' first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft – and while it may not be* impossible*, it's a lot tougher than projecting their recent first-round selections.

They're scheduled to select No. 29 overall Thursday. If they do, it will tie 2000 for the latest selection in franchise history and it's their first time selecting outside the Top 10 since 2007.

Selecting that much later than normal means much more can happen in front of the Jaguars than was possible entering past drafts. That's one reason for the difficulty of a prediction.

Another is the possibility of a trade. Trading down seems possible, and Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin didn't rule out trading up when discussing scenarios last Friday at the '18 pre-draft luncheon.

Neither Coughlin nor General Manager Dave Caldwell ruled out much that day, which brings us to the final element making forecasting this selection so difficult.

If the Jaguars draft for perceived "need," then offense makes sense. Tight end, offensive line, wide receiver … a rookie conceivably could make immediate impact at any of the positions.

But Coughlin and Caldwell during the pre-draft luncheon both emphasized the very real possibility the team could select best available player. If that happens, defense is a possibility. Several front-line defensive players could be tricky salary-cap situations following this season, so selecting a defensive lineman or safety late in Round 1 could make sense if the right player is available.

The best guess here remains that the Jaguars will select offensive line in Round 1 and tight end in Round 2. But that's based on short-term need. And that's a guess. And when you're guessing at an impossible task … well, good luck with that.

With that in mind, here's a best effort to handicap what the Jaguars will do at No. 29 overall:

*Offensive guard, 5-1.The Jaguars want to be a dominant, run-first offense. They were run-first in 2017, but weren't as dominant as they wanted, particularly late in the season. They added All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell in free agency, but does one addition upgrade your offensive line enough to be dominant? If Coughlin and Caldwell answer "no," then a player such as guard Will Hernandez of Texas-El Paso makes sense if available.

*Offensive tackle, 7-1.This is a shade below guard as a possibility because incumbent right tackle Jermey Parnell played well for the most part last season. But Parnell will be 32 in July and a tackle such as Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame or Connor Williams of Texas makes sense. Orlando Brown of Oklahoma also could make sense here if a rough offseason/combine doesn't scare the Jaguars away.

*Tight end, 8-1.It's very close what position has been mocked more to the Jaguars: offensive line or tight end. And while it's hard to imagine the Jaguars not selecting a tight end somewhere in the draft, it's trickier figuring when they will do it. Hayden Hurst of South Carolina, Mike Gesicki of Penn State and Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State all are possibilities at the end of Round 1, but it's also possible at least one of those players could be there at the end of the second round. If all are available at the end of Round 1, could that prompt the Jaguars to go another position and hope for a tight end at the end of the second? That's one of the more intriguing Jaguars draft questions.

*Defense, 12-1.Most mock drafts this spring have the Jaguars going offense. What analysts may be overlooking is that the Jaguars filled most major needs in free agency, and that the salary cap could force them to part ways with a key defensive player or two following the 2018 season. That makes defense a possibility Thursday. Pass rush, defensive tackle, safety … if a highly rated player at any of those positions is available at No. 29, all make sense.

*Trade, 20-1.Most teams are interested in dealing on draft day; far fewer teams actually get offers that make them seriously consider trading. The guess here is the Jaguars will be more interested in trading back than trading up. The guess here also is that they will end up staying at No. 29.

*Wide receiver, 25-1.Many mocks project the Jaguars selecting a wide receiver at No. 29, with players such as Courtland Sutton of Southern Methodist, D.J. Moore of Maryland and Christian Kirk of Texas A&M projected there much of the spring. But the Jaguars' pre-draft visit list was peppered with mid-round receivers and this is a run-based team that doesn't necessarily believe you need a dominant, go-to receiver to win in the NFL.

*Linebacker, 40-1.The Jaguars lost middle linebacker Paul Posluszny to retirement, but Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are the Jaguars' every-down linebackers and that seems unlikely to change. Drafting a linebacker in Round 1 would mean spending major draft equity on a player likely will play 30-to-35 percent of the defensive snaps. That seems unlikely.

Quarterback, 1,000-1.Never say never, but …* **

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