Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: 2019 NFL Draft

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (41) catches Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) for a sack during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (41) catches Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) for a sack during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer three quick thoughts on this past weekend’s 2019 NFL Draft …

Oehser …

1.Their time is now. Among the pertinent quotes of the Jaguars’ 2019 NFL Draft was this from Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin regarding not this year’s draft class, but last year’s: “Some of those young ones from a year ago … are going to have to mature and play like true pros and true veterans – make plays for us when games are on the line.” The three obvious “young ones from a year ago:” wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (2018 second round), safety Ronnie Harrison (third round) and defensive tackle Taven Bryan (first round). Harrison already is in the starting lineup – and if Clark and Bryan technically aren’t starters when the 2019 season opens, they will be heavily rotating at their positions. The Jaguars drafted the trio with the idea that they would be front-line players and significant contributors in Year 2. It’s said that you can’t judge a draft class until it has been in the NFL a few years. For the ’18 draft class, the judging starts soon.

2.Different perspectives. How observers and a team see a roster often differs dramatically – and nowhere is the current difference as key for the Jaguars as wide receiver. While many believed receiver a major pre-draft need, the Jaguars didn’t see it that way. “I don’t see what the issue with those guys are,” General Manager David Caldwell said shortly after the draft. The Jaguars opted against drafting the position because confidence is high in Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Chark, Keelan Cole and Chris Conley. The group is still relatively young, with Lee and Conley – the group’s veterans – entering their sixth seasons, but with key players such as Westbrook and Chark still on their rookie contracts. A few things must happen for the Jaguars to be right about the receivers, including: Lee to return to health after major knee surgery, Westbrook to continue the development he showed last season, Cole to play closer to his rookie form of 2017 than his 2018 form and Chark to show why the team drafted him in Round 2 in 2017. That’s a lot of unknown from an outsider’s perspective, and it’s an area where the insiders must be correct.

3.The key round. The thought here is how this draft eventually is judged could depend on what they did early in Round 3. While Round 1 edge defender Josh Allen and Round 2 right tackle Jawaan Taylor likely will play key roles immediately, that’s equally true for Round 3 tight end Josh Oliver – and Oliver’s role could be as important as the first two selections. Five Jaguars tight ends combined last season for 59 receptions, 430 yards and a touchdown receiving – and the Jaguars’ only offseason addition other than Oliver at the position was blocking-oriented Geoff Swaim as an unrestricted free agent from Dallas. Considering the importance new quarterback Nick Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo place on tight end, Oliver could play a key role. If he takes advantage of the opportunity his importance next season could rival his two teammates selected before him this past weekend.

Sexton…

1.Lucky AND good. My 75-year-old father long has said he would rather be lucky than good. During the know-it-all teenage years, I quipped that I would rather be both. Last Thursday and Friday the Jaguars hit that lofty plateau when Allen inexplicably fell to them at No. 7 – and when Caldwell correctly forecast the run on offensive tackles and moved up three spots for Jawaan Taylor at No. 35. It felt like 2016 when cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack arrived – or 1996 with linebacker Kevin Hardy and defensive end Tony Brackens. When you can add Day One starters with elite qualities with your first two draft picks, you’re playing with house money by the time you reach the third round. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t matter how well Oliver plays – or if linebacker Quincy Williams is playing linebacker or simply a special-teams contributor. But if Allen and Taylor are what they’re supposed to be, you’re already better in the short term. Long term you’re in excellent shape at two positions where it’s hard to find guys.

2.You think you know … but you don’t. We’re constantly reminded during the draft that the folks who do mock drafts or write player evaluations for fan consumption don’t know what teams know. Case in point: Williams. He was an unknown outside draft rooms – unheralded out of Murray State, uninvited to the NFL Scouting Combine and uninspiring to fans who expected a big name in the third round where starting caliber players are generally found. A day later, the word leaked out that a dozen teams were in on Williams and at least one team was working up in the fourth round in anticipation of getting the linebacker whose speed and hitting ability were evident when they watched the tape.

3.Forget the grades: Consider this the annual reminder that you can’t judge a draft for two or three years. If Williams, Oliver, Allen and Taylor are what the Jaguars believe, this is an “A” draft. But if Taylor struggles with weight and conditioning, Oliver never improves as a blocker and Williams is exclusively a special teams player, then it’s a C. Ramsey was a stud as a rookie, Jack played well in spurts and third-round Yannick Ngakoue looked like the star pass rusher he has become – and all three erupted in their second seasons to give the Jaguars their best-ever draft class. Let’s at least wait until 2020 before we try to assign a letter grade to 2019.

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