JACKSONVILLE – The rookies are at the 'Bank.
That became true Wednesday, when rookies and select first-year players reported to EverBank Field a week before the veteran reporting date for Jaguars 2017 Training Camp.
There's no media availability for another week or so, so the goings on are pretty much behind closed doors. The next week for these players will be about preparation, conditioning and meetings – i.e., getting as acclimated as possible to be as ready as possible once training camp begin July 27.
The Jaguars currently have 22 rookies on the roster – seven draft selections and 15 collegiate free agents. Two first-year players, offensive lineman Nila Kasitati and wide receiver Jamal Robinson, also reported on Wednesday. The seven-member draft class almost certainly will make the biggest impact among the group of returning players, and it's quite possible this class could make a significant impact indeed.
In fact, because of the presence of rookie running back Leonard Fournette, it would be surprising if there's not a big contribution from the '17 class this season. But the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft is just one reason to watch this year's rookie class – and he's just one of the rookies the franchise needs to be on the field quickly in order to reach its goals for the '17.
A look at the '17 draft class entering 2017 Training Camp:
Fournette, running back, Louisiana State (Round 1, No. 4 overall).Fournette may or may not be running with the starters when camp begins – and it remains to be seen when exactly he will move into the starting lineup. But the Jaguars drafted Fournette to contribute and be a major part of the offense immediately, and there's no reason to think that won't happen. He likely will share carries with hard-running, veteran Chris Ivory, but it won't likely be an even split. Backs are supposed to contribute more quickly than most positions, and Fournette needs to be a focal point of the offense quickly. Projected role: No. 1 running back.
Cam Robinson, offensive lineman, Alabama (Round 2, No. 34 overall).Robinson isn't as assured of a starting, front-line role as Fournette – but the thought here is it would be a surprise if he's not starting Week 1. Robinson, who played left tackle at Alabama, worked at left tackle during the on-field portion of the offseason and will compete with veteran Branden Albert at the spot during training camp. Albert, who missed much of the voluntary portion of the offseason, seems likely to start at left tackle. It's hard to imagine Robinson not being one of the Jaguars' best five offensive linemen, which could mean him starting at guard until eventually switching to left tackle – perhaps in a season or so. Projected role: Starting offensive lineman, possibly guard.
Dawuane Smoot, defensive end, Illinois (Round 3, No. 68 overall).This selection raised eyebrows among observers who thought the Jaguars would go offensive guard with the selection. But the Jaguars want to create a defensive line that can rush the passer in waves, and they believed Smoot could add immediately to the defensive line rotation. He got consistent pressure at Illinois while playing the vast majority of snaps; the Jaguars think his effectiveness can increase in a rotation. They liked what they saw from him during the on-field portion of the offseason program. Projected role: Reserve defensive end; active on game days.
Dede Westbrook, wide receiver, Oklahoma (Round 4, No. 110).This selection has the potential to make this draft special. The 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver, Westbrook slipped from a possible second-round selection because of off-field concerns. The Jaguars believe Westbrook has game-breaking potential and the ability to eventually be a starting outside receiver in the NFL. He also will compete for the punt-return job and has a good chance of winning it. He'll likely begin his NFL career on the outside in the offense, but his quickness also makes a role in the slot a possibility. If Westbrook can make enough plays to make defenses account for him as a rookie, he can significantly help this offense. He has that potential. Projected role: Reserve outside/slot receiver, possible punt returner.
Blair Brown, linebacker, Ohio. (Round 5, No. 148 overall).Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are entrenched as the Jaguars' starting linebackers, but Brown has the size, strength and athleticism to play as a backup immediately and contribute on special teams. Projected role: Reserve linebacker, special teams.
Jalen Myrick, cornerback, Minnesota (Round 7, No. 222 overall).Seventh-round selections aren't guaranteed roster spots, but Myrick has elite speed having run the fastest 40-yard dash by a Big 10 player in NFL Scouting Combine history. Look for him to work as the fourth or fifth corner early and look for his speed to earn him a special tams role. Projected role:Fourth corner, special teams.
Marquez Williams, fullback, Miami (Round 7, No. 240 overall).Williams has a real chance at a key role, with the Jaguars reintroducing the fullback into the offense after a two-year absence. He will compete in training camp with veteran Tommy Bohanon. This competition will begin when the pads go on, and which player makes the team seems wide open. Projected role: Fullback if he wins the job over Bohanon.