JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars surprised many people with their first-round 2018 draft selection.
Included among those people: The selection himself.
“I was honestly actually really surprised,” Taven Bryan said.
Bryan (6-feet-4, 291 pounds), a defensive lineman from the University of Florida, spoke late Thursday evening – moments after the Jaguars selected him No. 29 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He became the team’s latest-drafted first-round selection since the team selected wide receiver R. Jay Soward No. 29 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
“This is a good circumstance for us,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said, describing Bryan as an “three-technique penetrator” at defensive tackle and an “outstanding athlete.”
Bryan, who is from Casper, Wyoming, played three seasons at Florida and declared for the NFL Draft following a junior season in which he registered four sacks and six tackles for loss. He finished three seasons at Florida with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
Coughlin said Bryan has “outstanding quickness” and “outstanding ability to come off the ball.”
“He has position flexibility in that he can play inside and play outside,” Coughlin said. “We added another pass-rush, penetrating defensive lineman. He’ll fit in very well with our room.”
That defensive line room was one reason the selection was a surprise to some.
“I thought there was no way the Jags were going to pick us,” Bryan said. “You guys already have a bunch of Pro Bowlers and a bunch of great players. I was, ‘Well, they are definitely not picking me.’ Then you guys called me and it was awesome.”
A week after both Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell spoke at the Jaguars’ 2018 pre-draft luncheon about the team selecting best available player, both Coughlin and Caldwell on Friday said the team did just that.
“He was the highest guy on the board, and that’s who we picked,” Caldwell said.
Coughlin called Bryan a “value selection,” saying that the Jaguars entered Thursday with about eight or nine players they “coveted at No. 29.”
“This was the highest-rated player when it came time for us to pick,” Coughlin said, adding that Bryan’s ability stood out when studying him during the pre-draft process.
“He’s somebody you can’t help but watch,” Coughlin said. “Just put the tape on and sooner or later he’s going to pop out at you.”
The Jaguars’ defensive line already is perhaps the team’s strongest position, with defensive end/tackle Calais Campbell, rush defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and defensive tackle Malik Jackson all making the Pro Bowl last season. Defensive end Dante Fowler registered 10 sacks, and nose tackle Marcell Dareus played near a Pro Bowl level late last season.
Bryan’s three-technique style perhaps compares most similarly to Campbell and Jackson and he said Thursday he is most comfortable there.
“I will play end and nose and play whatever the team needs,” he said.
Both Caldwell and Coughlin on Thursday talked about the addition of Bryan adding to an already quality group.
“He can play all [defensive line] positions for us,” Caldwell said. “You saw how Philadelphia played defense in the Super Bowl and throughout the year, and how we did last year. We want to keep a rotation going and we want to keep our guys fresh.”
Caldwell estimated that Bryan could play 20-to-30 snaps a game as a rookie.
“I think at that position the more depth you have the better you’ll be,” Caldwell said, adding, “That was the strength of our team. We want to keep it the strength of our team.”