JACKSONVILLE – Thoughts from senior writer John Oehser in the wake of the 2018 NFL Draft…
1.We must wait a while – maybe even longer. Despite our need to have answers RIGHT NOW in the Twitter era of 24/7 instant analysis, it remains an NFL truth that you don’t get a real feel for most players until they have been through their first season and offseason. That likely will be even truer of this Jaguars’ draft class; while players such as Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, Louisiana State wide receiver DJ Chark, Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison and North Carolina State offensive tackle Will Richardson have starting-level traits – and while plenty of analysts think they will be big-time players – all four almost certainly all will be reserves until their second NFL seasons. We may see signs and hints about the future of those players next season, but we likely won’t know much until 2019 or beyond. That’s always true, but it’s particularly true for that foursome.
2.The guess here is that a bunch of rookies will make the roster. It has become vogue to pontificate that it will be difficult for a rookie to make this roster, but while making an NFL team isn’t easy, the thought here is more rookies will be on this team than many analysts believe. Teams that want sustained success prefer to keep rookies on the roster, and keeping young players helps with your salary cap. And in the case of the Jaguars, it’s hard to imagine at least the top four selections not making the final 53 – and with the release of veteran Brad Nortman, it’s pretty obvious seventh-round selection Logan Cooke will be the Jaguars’ punter in 2018. It also was apparent that the Jaguars took undrafted rookie free agency seriously. While those projecting which UDFAs have the best chance to make a roster do so at their own peril, at least two of the players the Jaguars signed immediately after the draft – wide receiver Allan Lazard of Iowa State and cornerback Quenton Meeks of Stanford – were projected by many to be fourth- or fifth-round selections. The team also likes Miami cornerback Dee Delaney, Jacksonville State linebacker Darius Jackson, Miami offensive tackle Kc McDermott and North Carolina State guard Tony Adams. A Jaguars roster with seven-to-eight rookies in 2018 wouldn’t be surprising. In fact, it would be surprising if the roster didn’t feature at least that many.
3.Despite the aforementioned truth that you can’t accurately judge a draft class – or even a single selection – immediately after the draft, that doesn’t stop analysts from doing just that. Most draftniks gave the Jaguars somewhere in the range of A- to B- grade for the ’18 draft, with the consensus being that Bryan in Round 1, Chark in Round 2 and Harrison in Round 3 were value selections. The Jaguars certainly believed Chark and fourth-round selection Richardson had value. They had a first-round grade on Chark and tried to trade up throughout the second round; they also liked Richardson earlier than Round 4, but liked the value of Harrison in Round 3 enough to take him there. The highest praise from outside the organization may have come from NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who called the Jaguars’ draft a “home run. Jacksonville might be the most talented roster coming into this draft, and you add Taven Bryan, DJ Chark and Ronnie Harrison … all big-time players from the [Southeastern Conference]. That roster is scary good.” Added NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock, “They (the Jaguars) are one of the most exciting teams in football.”