JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Wade from Westside
Looking at these picks, I do not see this group of players making the Jags better as a whole. Second, the other likely Super Bowl contenders did appear to make moves to make them better. I think this draft does not set the team up for the success we were hoping for. I know the stance that we will see the lackluster class from last year step up, but I got to think the odds of that happening are not great.
This has been a common refrain from many readers regarding the Jaguars' 2023 NFL Draft. This was not a splashy draft for this team. It instead was a draft in which the Jaguars stuck to the board and selected players they believed filled needs – particularly on offense, particularly early. They believe offensive tackle Anton Harrison (Round 1) fills a key long- and short-term need for one of the team's most important position groups. They believe Round 2 tight end Brenton Strange gives them needed versatility and a complement to Evan Engram. They believe Round 3 running back Tank Bigsby gives them needed power and depth in a position group that lacked both last season. They spent Day 3 addressing defense in a big way – and addressing depth and special teams. This does not excite people. But it should make the Jaguars a deeper, more solid team for the long-term. The biggest surprise of the draft is that they didn't address cornerback early. This was a position most observers, myself included, believed represented a pre-draft need – particularly at nickel. The Jaguars didn't believe the value of corners when they were selecting merited selecting the position over other players. As for last year's draft class, it absolutely must step up. I don't know the chances of it happening. I do know there's no reason it can't still happen. Year Two is the time when it often happens. Their time is now.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL
The Cam Robinson situation really hurt our draft. We had to get a tackle in Round 1, even though there were cornerbacks and tight ends rated more highly. Then in Round 2, we had to reach for a tight end (rated as a third- or fourth-round choice by many), then in the third we take a position that is not a need. All the trades back in what is called a weak draft seems the opposite of what we should have done. ...Meh draft! Bob
I've had a few readers email me with this sentiment. While I understand the logic, my sense is that's not what happened. While left tackle Cam Robinson indeed is expected to start the 2023 season under suspension for performance enhancing drugs, the Jaguars selecting Harrison in Round 1 was about strengthening the offensive line for the short- and long-term – and not just finding a starter for the early weeks of 2023. The Jaguars didn't consider Strange in Round 2 a reach – and they selected Bigsby in Round 3 because they wanted a deeper, more powerful backfield than they had last season. I understand people saying this is a "meh" draft. When you build the offensive line and address "unsexy" areas of the team early in the draft, people don't get dazzled. That's OK. You don't always build strong, deep and sustainable NFL rosters with dazzles. Sometimes you do it with "meh."
Darren from Fort Worth, TX
The Jaguars couldn't find a trade partner to trade up on Day Two because, like everyone has said, it's a weak draft class and apparently the other teams understand that more than the Jaguars.
Or maybe teams had players they wanted in Round 3?
Steve from Wallingford, CT
John, it seems like every question you answered with some form of draft position vs value vs need. I'm confused though, having the 24th pick, needing a corner, and cornerback Deonte Banks being selected with the 24th pick. It seems like that was the definition of draft position vs value vs need. What am I missing?
There's a reason to mention value versus need versus draft position in essentially every post-draft question. It's because value versus need versus draft position is almost always the answer when the question is, "Why did a team select Player X over Player Y?" Yes, corner was a need for the Jaguars entering the draft. My impression is the Jaguars liked Banks. Why did they select Harrison? They considered tackle a significant need for the short- and long-term and believed that Harrison's value was higher at the time of the selection.
Brandon from Omaha, NE
Hey O, Are you surprised that the Jags traded back in the second round and passed on O'Cyrus Torrence? Even with Harrison being the first pick I don't see anything wrong with getting a guard many thought could go in the first round. With that said Brenton Strange will be a great fit. The Jags nailed the second round either way.
No. I was surprised initially that the Jaguars didn't take a cornerback with that selection. Once I learned more about Strange, I was less surprised. He seems like a logical selection there.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ
O-man, we have no idea if Baalke made the best selections thus far, but hasn't he earned the right for us to trust in his approach given we've certainly gotten better under his watch?
Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke has been under scrutiny with some criticism for this draft. This hardly uncommon for fans to not like drafts – partly because fans see the draft through the lens of months of pre-draft media coverage and partly because fans often see the what must be a long-term draft decision from a short-term perspective. Baalke has been a general manager in the NFL a long time. I'm sure he's quite accustomed to fans not "trusting his approach" during the draft. Fans fan. It's what they do.
John from the The Land of Indian river
Ozone, wow day two of the draft what a head scratcher? A tight end the Jaguars never meet with or talked to? How do we know if he fits the culture?
Strange didn't have a pre-draft visit with the Jaguars. But while much is made of these "visits" – as well as official meetings at combines and Pro Days – the truth is these are often overplayed and misunderstood. Jaguars scouts indeed met with Strange, and there are a multitude of ways to investigate character. In the case of Strange, former Jaguars assistant coach Tyler Bowen recruited and coached Strange at Penn State. The Jaguars talked to people around Strange. As Baalke said Friday, sometimes you don't want to leave a "paper trail" if you like a player. Insider tip: Don't always assume teams meeting with players means teams drafting players or vice versa. One often doesn't lead to the other.
John from Cape May Court House
Draft offense? Check. Draft young players on offense? Check. Well done, Trent. I am pleased. That is all. As you were.
One fer Baalke …
Steve from Sunroom couch
Dear John, Sorry but Baalke is not a good GM and that is being nice.
… and one not fer Baalke.
Tim from Jacksonville
If Strange and Bigsby were at the top of their boards in those respective rounds then they need new people setting those boards.
Your boldness and confidence are impressive. And you may be right. Or not. We'll know in a few years, but we certainly don't know now.
Ed from Jax by Lionel Playworld
John, I know you have to have a perspective on this. The draft is filled with activity from start to finish. Even when you are not picking, you have to pay attention to what is happening. It can make for a grueling day. If this is all true and the draft is run mostly by middle aged men, when do they go to the bathroom?
More often than you can possibly imagine.
John from Jacksonville
When making trades such as the Jaguars did is there some sort of "gentlemen's agreement" to not take the player we're targeting? Do they even share that information when negotiating the trade?
You make gentlemen's agreements at your own risk. If general managers know each other well, they might share information in some cases. Or not.
Al from Alachua, Florida
Trent Baalke mentioned the opportunity to trade down a third time at the end of Round 1. Would they still have had a selection in the first round?
Baalke didn't get specific on this when discussing this Thursday. My impression is that the Jaguars considered making the trade. I doubt they would have considered it had it been more than a few selections after No. 27.
Boomgrounder from Moundsville, WV
John, if Baalke says, "trust the board" one more time I swear I'll sew my head to the luxury vinyl flooring. He's like Basketball Jones'n with that board. I bet he sleeps with it under his pillow.
One would hope so.
Bob from Sumter, SC
Grading draft picks the day players are selected is like grading a marriage the day of the wedding. Obviously (there's that word again) it takes some time to, like, you know, see how it works out.