JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around the Jaguars, with a look at how the Jaguars handled three offensive positions – including tight end – in the 2018 NFL Draft
SO MUCH FOR THE "CONSENSUS"
So much for the pre-draft theories …
Remember? A week ago? When the general "consensus" was that the Jaguars would draft a tight end early in the 2018 NFL Draft? And an offensive guard? Or a running back?
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
It turned out Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell was telling the truth when he said before the draft the team had filled needs in unrestricted free agency well enough to draft best available player. It also turned out the team clearly didn't agree with observers who considered the aforementioned positions needs.
The closest the team came to drafting one of the positions may have been tight end.
"Tight end was something we were interested in," Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said Saturday.
Coughlin said the team considered Miami tight end Christopher Herndon in Round 4, and called the New York Jets drafting him early in the round "a blow to where we were trying to line things up."
That situation happens often. Teams enter the draft unable to address every want; there are Plans A, B, C, D, etc. A few of the Jaguars' plans this past weekend included tight end. The one that played out did not.
"There were some good tight ends in this draft," Coughlin said. "There was some depth at tight end we were interested [in] and then all of a sudden they were pretty much gone."
The Jaguars' plan at tight end therefore becomes unrestricted free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a dose of third-year Ben Koyack, free-agent signee Niles Paul and fourth-year veteran James O'Shaughnessy.
As for guard, many believed the Jaguars would draft a right guard to compete or win the job over fourth-year veteran A.J. Cann. While Cann hasn't played at an elite level, the Jaguars' thought is he is a solid starter.
Running back was more similar to guard than tight end. While many pontificated before the draft that the team needed to select a backup to Leonard Fournette, the team likes not only T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant but reserve Tim Cook enough that they did not address the position either in the draft or undrafted free agency. And while many believed they would move to replace released veteran Chris Ivory, Ivory played sparingly in the second half of the season and was inactive in two playoff games – suggesting that his spot on the depth chart could go unfilled.
There was the normal amount of post-draft angst among some Jaguars fans, with some expressing irritation the team hadn't done enough to improve in the draft or this offseason. Remember: This draft – and this entire offseason – is how the offseason of a stable, contending team is supposed to look. The Jaguars this past weekend drafted seven players and signed 13 more, and it's very possible – even likely – none of those players won't be eye-catching superstars next season. They signed a slew of unrestricted free agents, with really "only" All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell perhaps qualifying as an eye-catching "splash" signing. That's to be expected. The Jaguars in recent seasons built one of the NFL's best rosters with big free-agent money and high-profile draft selections. You can't free-agent spend at that rate forever – and if you're successful you're not going to draft early. This was a year for maintaining and drafting starters to develop, and for improving the offensive line and special teams. It wasn't splashy, but it was expected – and it reflected where the franchise currently stands.
Third-year veteran linebacker Myles Jack is one of the Jaguars' more intriguing offseason storylines, and his position appears for next season appears to be set: middle linebacker. The Jaguars started last offseason with Jack in the middle and longtime middle linebacker Paul Posluszny on the strong side, but switched Jack to the strong side and Posluszny back to the middle during training camp. With Posluszny's retirement, the team had been leaning to moving Jack to the middle – and Caldwell said following the draft Saturday that Jack indeed would start there. Jack and Telvin Smith Sr. were the Jaguars' three-down linebackers last season, but Caldwell said Jack would play in the middle on all downs next season after playing strong-side in base situations and middle in nickel last season. "He's going to be our three-down 'Mike' (middle linebacker)," Caldwell said. "He's so versatile. If we got a 'Mike' that could play 'Mike,' Myles could stay where he's at. There's a lot to be said about that and how that plays out. Last year we went through that whole exercise. He did fine. As the year went on, he improved on a game-by-game basis and was really playing at a high level the last half of the year."