JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned during the 2020 NFL Draft ….
1.Minshew is the man. It seemed obvious Gardner Minshew II would start at quarterback for the Jaguars next season. But neither Head Coach Doug Marrone nor General Manager David Caldwell had discussed it much publicly. There also was pre-draft speculation the Jaguars might draft a quarterback No. 9 overall – or move up in the Top 10 for one. Neither happened, so Marrone said post-draft:" Right now, if we rolled that ball out there, he (Minshew) would be the first guy behind the center. Yes, absolutely."
2.Caldwell has patience. To the surprise of many, this became a primary draft storyline – that instead of using a few of the team's 12 selections to move up in early rounds, Caldwell executed not one trade. "We didn't acquire picks to get less players, we acquired picks to get more players," Caldwell said. "There were so many players that we liked that at the end of it, we were like, 'I wish I had a couple more picks in the seventh round.'''
3.This was a logistical success. Caldwell began his post-draft videoconference thanking the IT and logistical staff: "Our coaching staff, our IT staff, Mike Webb, Mike Perkins, Jason Dean, Mike Potts … those guys did a hell of a job," he said, and in addition to thanking owners Shad and Tony Khan he thanked: "Our medical staff. Our trainers. Player development staff. Security staff. I think collectively everybody did a hell of a job." This wasn't obligatory post-draft stuff. This was the first virtual NFL Draft, and the mechanics were clean. That mattered. "It's pretty amazing," Marrone said. "It's something that I know I'll look back on and say, 'Wow, how'd they pull that off?'"
4.The defensive front seven was an offseason priority. The Jaguars drafted edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson (Round 1), nose tackle DaVon Hamilton (Round 3), linebacker Shaq Quarterman (Round 4) after adding linebacker Joe Schobert, defensive end/linebacker Cassius Marsh and defensive lineman Rodney Gunter in free agency. That's a major offseason overhaul for a unit that ranked 28th against the run last season. "We really want to set up the front seven for success," Caldwell said.
5.Marrone likes this team. Not that he didn't like the last two Jaguars teams, but it's clear Marrone likes the makeup of the '20 Jaguars. Yes, they will be young. And yes, they must find leadership from newcomers and young players. Still, Marrone said: "I'm excited about it, I really am. These guys want to go to work. They want to play. And then all the stuff that's going on on the outside shouldn't affect them at all."
6.Caldwell and Marrone were serious about liking the offensive line. Caldwell and Marrone spoke all offseason about liking their starting offensive line: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Free agency passed without major additions. So did the draft. They meant what they said.
7.The Jaguars have no plans to trade Yannick Ngakoue. Caldwell made that clear after the first night of the draft, saying the team had received no offers for the veteran defensive end – which Caldwell said meant Ngakoue will either play for the Jaguars under the NFL's franchise tag or not play at all. "His options are very limited at this point in time," Caldwell said. "We'll welcome him back with open arms when he's ready to come back, and we look forward to it. Yann is a tremendous player, a tremendous person. I hope he sees the light that Jacksonville is a good spot and could at the end of the day be his only option." Caldwell also said the Jaguars had "put our best foot forward" in terms of a contract offer to Ngakoue "not once, but twice."
8.Fournette seems likely to be the starting running back in 2020. There were pre-draft reports the team wanted to trade fourth-year veteran running back Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars didn't select the position in the draft, and the two-time 1,000-yard rusher remains on the roster.
9.Shaq Quarterman has some serious intangibles. The linebacker from Oakleaf High School near Jacksonville may be the most confident of a confident draft class. Witness his post-selection talk with Marrone. "He said, 'Coach, I'm just telling you now when my cleats are on the grass, I will do whatever you want me to do. I'm going to play,''' Marrone said. This kid has the confidence you need to be special. Now, he must be as good on the field as off.
10.Character mattered. This defined the Jaguars' draft class to the point that some observers wondered if they sacrificed talent for character. Absolutely not, Marrone said: "I'm really not comfortable trying to defend that question. I said it before. These guys are talented. These guys can play. They also happen to be a bunch of great guys. We should be celebrating that.
11.Caldwell values pass rush. While many believed Caldwell would draft a defensive tackle early, he focused instead on edge rusher. While the team already has Josh Allen there – and very probably Ngakoue – he made it clear selecting edge K'Lavon Chaisson from Louisiana State in Round 1 was a critical part of the '20 draft plan. "When we drafted K'Lavon, I made a comment to a friend of mine and I'm like, 'I sleep much better at night knowing that we have some pass-rush studs,''' Caldwell said.
12. Medical mattered. Caldwell speculated before the draft that the lack of ability to execute physical examinations likely would prove to be the major aftereffects of COVID-19 on this draft. He confirmed as much after the draft: "We just lowered some guys that weren't at the combine just because of the risk of not having the medical on them."
13.The defense could have 3-4 looks in 2020. The versatility of players such as Chaisson and second-year veteran Allen lean this way, as well as the presence of Ngakoue. The Jaguars have run primarily a 4-3 defense in recent seasons under defensive coordinator Todd Wash, but the scheme is at its core a hybrid that makes it possible to have 3-4 looks. "I think for sure on base downs, you will see more of our Sam linebacker on the ball," Marrone said.
14.The Jaguars aren't actively seeking a veteran backup. The selection of Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton in Round 6 gave the Jaguars' three quarterbacks – Minshew, veteran Josh Dobbs and Luton. "It was something we felt like we needed to address either through the draft or through bringing a veteran in or possibly both," Caldwell said. "We'll look at all our situations not at just quarterback, but at every position. Like we said earlier, we'll just see where we can upgrade. If it makes sense, we'd do it, but we don't feel like we need to do it [add a veteran] at this time."