MOBILE, Ala. – The numbers are as enticing as the opportunity:
Five selections, all in the Top 65.
That's the Jaguars' scenario entering a critical offseason – and the 2021 NFL Draft for the Jaguars will be about more than holding the No. 1 overall selection for the first time in franchise history. It will be about how they use a slew of selections throughout the draft.
"You can get a lot of impact starters," Optimum Scouting president Eric Galko said this week between practices at the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl.
The Jaguars, because of trades made in recent seasons and offseasons, hold 11 total selections in the '21 draft: two in the first round, two in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the seventh.
That's a lot of draft equity, and a lot of opportunity for the Jaguars to either select 11 players – or to move around in the draft to add more selections or move up for coveted players. Such draft management is a strength of new General Manager Trent Baalke, according to Toronto Argonauts vice president of personnel and NFL Draft Bible contributor John Murphy.
"What Trent did as well as anybody in his time in San Francisco was organizing the draft board and knowing when to move around," Murphy said of Baalke, the 49ers' general manager from 2011-2016. "A lot of maneuvers they made were to drop back, and then to come back up."
"Everything was always done with a two-part plan to say, 'Wherever the meat and potatoes of the draft are, that's where we want to be.'"
This will mark the second consecutive draft the Jaguars have entered with double-digit selections. The Jaguars entered the 2020 NFL Draft with 12 selections, and then-General Manager David Caldwell opted to use all 12 selections and not make a trade – the idea being to take advantage of what was considered one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
If analysts don't consider the '21 draft quite as deep as '20, analysts say it's still deep enough to benefit the Jaguars.
"It's absolutely a good year (to have five selections in the first three rounds)," Matt Miller of NFL Draft Scout said. "Because not only do you have the ability to move around if you want, but when you have the extra picks plus the first overall, you're not reaching for anything. You're not scrambling.
"You're going to get your quarterback at one, then you can use the other four picks to supplement other positions."
And whatever the perceived depth of the '21 draft, Tony Pauline – NFL Draft analyst at Pro Football Network – said it's important to remember the age-old draft truism: No matter how deep or shallow a class, there are players available if you know where to look.
"You can get guys later on," Pauline said. "Look at [Jaguars running back and 2020 collegiate free agent] James Robinson. People get too stuck on first-round picks, second-day picks … if you do a good job, you'll get guys later on."
As expected, the potential impact of new Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer has been a major topic this week at the Senior Bowl. While some observers wonder about Meyer transitioning to the NFL after a career spent entirely in college, analysts believe Meyer's background could prove a significant strength in the draft. Jimmy Johnson's knowledge of college players was believed to be a major asset when he left the University of Miami to take over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s, building a three-time Super Bowl champion in Dallas based largely off strong draft classes. Analysts believe Meyer, who coached Ohio State from 2012-2018 and who spent the past two seasons as an analyst for FOX Sports, could bring similar knowledge. "He's going to have a really good idea of the next few draft classes," Murphy said. "You can kind of make that assertion that he should have the same knowledge of the next couple of years of college guys the way Jimmy Johnson did. I think you want to take full advantage of that."
Wide receiver is considered one of the stronger positions in the 2021 draft, continuing a trend that perhaps peaked last year – a draft considered perhaps the best receiver draft in league history. Galko of Optimum Scouting said while the position indeed has been strong in recent years, the increase in number of receivers selected also is a matter of a changing league creating demand for the position. "There are three receivers starting now instead of two, so you need to have more receivers playing a lot," Galko said. "What we're seeing now in this transition period. With slots and even fourth receivers being almost starters, you're seeing teams figure how to value those guys appropriately. How high do you take a slot receiver? Nickel corners are going in the early second round, so slot receivers are going in the late first round."