JACKSONVILLE – Any NFL Draft is a game of chance. For any team. In any year.
But while that is true, analysts discussing the Jaguars and the 2020 version of that game say this is also true: The Jaguars are in good position to maximize that chance next month.
Really, really good.
"They can have whatever they want," NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks told jaguars.com.
The Jaguars currently hold 12 selections in the seven-round 2020 NFL Draft. So many selections would make any draft an opportunity, but analysts believe this an unusually deep and talented class – particularly at a few positions that could benefit the Jaguars.
"Given their needs, it's absolutely a good year," CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson told jaguars.com. "It's a good draft if you want offensive line, or defensive-line help – or if you're trying to solidify the cornerback position. There are years where there aren't any cornerbacks (or other coveted positions), and you're stuck with all these picks and you don't know what to do with them.
"This is a great year to have a ton of picks in the first 100."
This is the first of a series of jaguars.com stories to run in the coming weeks previewing the '20 draft, a series featuring input from analysts such as Brooks, Wilson, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah. The stories will cast an eye on what the Jaguars might do come April 23-25.
The rest of the stories will focus on positions – quarterbacks, running backs, etc. – but this one focuses on the Jaguars' overall positioning in the draft, particularly early. And make no mistake:
That position hardly could be better.
The Jaguars, because of their 6-10 record last season, hold the No. 9 overall selection in Round 1. Because of a series of trades by General Manager David Caldwell, they hold 12 overall selections – two in Round 1 (No. 9 and 20), one in Round 2 (No. 42), one in Round 3 (No. 73), three in Round 4 (Nos. 116, 137 and 140) two in Round 5 (Nos. 157 and 165), two in Round 6 (Nos. 189 and 206) and one in Round 7 (No. 223).
The draft will come in the wake of roster significant changes around the recent start of the league year, including trading Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens for a fifth-round selection and Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round selection. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus also became a free agent, with the transactions giving the team a new look.
"The big part of it is going to be how does David want to rebuild the team?" Brooks said. "When they were at their best … defense and running game -- a little more conservative. Can they load up on defense? Can they get the pop?"
Conventional wisdom has the Jaguars focusing on defensive tackle, cornerback and perhaps wide receiver or offensive line early in the draft. Many mock drafts focus at those positions for the Jaguars in Rounds 1 and 2, with many respected analysts also mocking quarterbacks – particularly Jordan Love – to the Jaguars at No. 9 or 20.
Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, once considered a likely Top 5 selection, has been perhaps the most popular projection to the Jaguars at No. 9 in recent weeks. South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw – the consensus second-rated player at the position – also has been heavily projected there. Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons also has been mocked often at No. 9 along with multiple offensive linemen and – less frequently – a top receiver such as CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma.
With cornerback also considered a need, Jeff Okudah – the consensus top corner – has been mocked to the Jaguars multiple times in recent weeks. But many analysts don't believe Okudah will slip to No. 9, and are mocking corners such as C.J. Henderson of Florida or Kristian Fulton of Louisiana State to the Jaguars at No. 20.
"It's how do you want to play?" Brooks said. "Okudah could be there. Henderson could be there – if not at No. 9 at No. 20. They have some options when it comes to getting good players."
And what if the top players at both tackle and corner are there – Brown and Okudah?
"Normally, you want to go with the guy up front," Brooks said. "It impacts the game more. Derrick Brown is a dominant player. He plays hard. Being able to put him beside [defensive tackle] Taven Bryan, and put him at the centerpiece in terms of what you have on the outside, (edge defender) Josh Allen…"
That, like any pre-draft speculation, is just that – speculation. As such, it varies from analyst to analyst – and may be completely different from how the Jaguars are thinking. Less speculative: the notion that the Jaguars have chosen a good year to nearly double their number of allotted selections.
"This is a deep draft at a lot of spots – there's no doubt about that," Kiper said, with Jeremiah adding: ""The strength of this draft, I think there's a lot of depth."
That's particularly true at receiver, where the consensus is this is the best and deepest class ever. Jeremiah said the draft also is very good at cornerback, offensive line and running back though not as good at linebacker, tight and edge rusher.
An area to watch specific to the Jaguars could be off the field. The Jaguars have finished with double-digit losses each of the past two seasons, and both Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone have spoken since the end of last season of the importance of winning immediately. The departure of players such as Campbell and Bouye mean that the Jaguars will be a significantly younger team than in recent seasons, as will the influx of double-digit rookies.
As Brooks sees it, that likely will mean drafting mature players with short NFL learning curves.
"If I'm Dave and I'm Doug, the guys I bring in I want to be great guys in terms of not a lot of headaches," Brooks said. "I want blue-collar, kind of lunch-pail types. Derrick Brown fits that, Okudah fits that. I anticipate everybody they take there being no issues. They will check the boxes in terms of character, demeanor in and around the building, playing ability, work ethic. They will be more conservative than ever when it comes to risk/reward.
"They have to show significant progress. How do you do that with young players? How do you do it without Calais? The guys you draft have to be really mature and really ready to go."