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NFL draft weekend turns into a series of possibilities after thinking the event is made up of certainties.

What if LSU quarterback Joe Burrow doesn’t go No. 1 overall?

What if the Miami Dolphins didn’t tank for Tua Tagovailoa?

What if the league places more emphasis on stopping the run to counter the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans’ offensive attacks?

Each decision creates a cascading effect. That’s why it’s never smart to become enamored with a specific prospect instead of taking into account the many variables.

The first thing to expect is the unexpected because the draft never goes as planned.

Front offices run through numerous possibilities in preparation for the draft. Let’s do the same by aligning some surprising names with specific organizations. The pairings are built on numerous qualifiers like playing a position which isn’t an obvious team need, or a different name than most expect, or a potential top-line veteran possibly moving on and needing to be replaced.

These pairings aren’t meant to serve as a mock draft or even the favorite for each particular team, but they should be considered possibilities if circumstances fall a certain way.

 

Atlanta Falcons: RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia
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Georgia’s D’Andre Swift is sure to be a local favorite for the Atlanta Falcons, but his potential draft selection is more complicated.

The running back position isn’t a significant concern in Atlanta, with Devonta Freeman and Brian Hill already on the roster. At the same time, the Falcons’ rushing offense went from fifth overall in 2016, when the team made a Super Bowl run, to 30th this season.

Freeman turns 28 years old in March, and his contract is far more manageable in its last three years. In fact, the team can save $3.5 million against the salary cap if it releases the veteran this year. The savings are significantly more in 2021 and 2022.

Landing the draft’s top back to complement an already-elite aerial attack will make the Falcons far more potent.

Arizona Cardinals: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
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Kliff Kingsbury’s offense didn’t look like what many expected in his first season as an NFL head coach. Yes, the Arizona Cardinals still employed four-receiver sets with more frequency than any other squad by a significant margin. Yet, they had one or even two tight ends on the field 59 percent of the time.

Maxx Williams turned into a fantastic offseason addition as an in-line option. Charles Clay finished sixth on the team with 237 receiving yards. But Clay is a free agent.

The Cardinals should have an opportunity to draft the class’ top tight end to replace Clay and provide the offense with even more flexibility in the first half of the second round.

Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins is both a big target (6’5″, 245 lbs) and a competent slot option. He did most of his work split out wide as part of the passing game. He can do the same in Arizona.

Baltimore Ravens: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
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Mark Ingram II was a vital component to a Baltimore Ravens offense that set a single-season NFL record with 3,296 rushing yards.

Ingram is the hammer. His physical, downhill running style keeps defenses honest. They can’t just key in on quarterback Lamar Jackson to slow him down because the interior running game can be just as effective.

So, why would the Ravens need to add another running back?

First, Ingram turned 30 in December. Second, Baltimore can continue to build upon a strength. Finally, Clemson’s Travis Etienne is too enticing not to strongly consider. The 5’10”, 210-pound back isn’t as big as Ingram, but he’s just as difficult to tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Etienne set a record by breaking a tackle on 46 percent of his carries during the 2019 season.

Buffalo Bills: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
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The Buffalo Bills already boast the NFL’s fourth-best passing defense and a first-team All-Pro cornerback in Tre’Davious White. However, their secondary isn’t quite complete.

The Bills should look at addressing their front seven since they can improve along their interior and add more of a pass rush. But they shouldn’t overlook the possibility of adding a bookend to White.

Kevin Johnson and Levi Wallace are solid second and third outside corners, although both are listed at 185 pounds or less and the former is a free agent. Alabama’s Trevon Diggs (6’2″, 207 pounds) would be a bigger, more physical option to complement the entire position group.

According to Pro Football Focus, Diggs allowed only 22 receptions all season and a 44.5 passer rating.

In the pass-first NFL, there’s no harm in having too many quality cornerbacks.

Carolina Panthers: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
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The Carolina Panthers will have a serious conversation about their quarterback situation at some point this offseason. New head coach and football czar Matt Rhule already has three options to consider.

Former MVP Cam Newton remains at the forefront, but a foot injury wiped out his 2019 campaign. The Panthers can save $19.1 million or more by releasing or trading the soon-to-be 31-year-old.

Kyle Allen and Will Grier are still on the roster, too. Allen played well in Newton’s stead but doesn’t necessarily fit the mold Rhule seems to like. The same can be said of Grier, a 2019 third-round pick.

Rhule’s collegiate teams often relied on mobile quarterbacks. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts certainly fits the bill. And Rhule saw firsthand how talented Hurts is when Baylor lost twice against Oklahoma this season.

Chicago Bears: QB Jordan Love, Utah State
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The Chicago Bears eventually must consider moving past Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback. They aren’t ready to give up on the 2017 second overall pick, but it wouldn’t hurt them to hedge their bet.

Chicago shouldn’t sink another first-round pick into the position, and it doesn’t even have one in 2020 thanks to the Khalil Mack trade. The front office also traded away its third- and fourth-round picks.

A second-round investment in a quality, young option to develop is a different conversation, especially since the Bears have two second-rounders in this year’s draft.

Utah State’s Jordan Love didn’t perform as well as expected in 2019. The early entrant posted a 20-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His natural skill set is obvious, though.

Love would give the Bears a safety net, while the front office could say he’s a developmental project to avoid immediately challenging Trubisky.

Cincinnati Bengals: DE Chase Young, Ohio State
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The Cincinnati Bengals are all but certain to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner displayed the best pocket presence, anticipation and overall ball placement of any prospect over the last decade.

However, Burrow isn’t the only elite prospect in this year’s class.

Up until about a month-and-a-half ago, Ohio State’s Chase Young remained in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. Young is in the same class as Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Nick Bosa.

At 6’5″ and 265 pounds with an explosive first step, frightening power and excellent flexibility, the FBS leader with 16.5 sacks is a tailor-made NFL defensive end. Cincinnati should at least consider the possibility of selecting him, although everyone knows which direction the franchise is leaning.

Cleveland Browns: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
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If the Cleveland Browns select anything other than an offensive lineman with the 10th overall pick, it will be a massive upset. They need to replace both starting offensive tackles, and right guard remains a sore spot.

But offensive line isn’t Cleveland’s only major concern.

The Browns may not have a starting-caliber safety on the roster going into the draft since Damarious Randall is a free agent and 31-year-old Morgan Burnett is a likely salary-cap casualty.

Defensive tackle is a less obvious need, but Cleveland struggles at the point of attack. Larry Ogunjobi, in particular, severely disappointed last season.

Cleveland should legitimately consider bypassing both offensive tackle and safety if Auburn’s Derrick Brown is on the board at No. 10. Brown can be inserted at 1-technique alongside Sheldon Richardson, Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon to complete a defensive front that was supposed to be the team’s strength last season.

Dallas Cowboys: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
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The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith, right tackle La’el Collins and running back Ezekiel Elliott to long-term contracts last year. Quarterback Dak Prescott is up next.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Amari Cooper remains in limbo.

Dallas has plenty of salary-cap space in 2020, according to Spotrac, but that doesn’t mean a deal will get done. Cooper is one of the top available free agents after being named to his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons.

As such, the Cowboys could enter the draft with wide receiver in the crosshairs. They could find a replacement at Cooper’s old school.

Henry Ruggs III is a blazing-fast option to pair with Michael Gallup. It wouldn’t be ideal, but the Cowboys placed themselves in this position by not signing Cooper to an extension yet.

Denver Broncos: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
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The Broncos may seem set at safety as long as they re-sign Justin Simmons this offseason. However, he isn’t the only long-term issue at the position.

Kareem Jackson turns 32 this year. In 2021, the Broncos can release him and save $10 million toward the salary cap.

Will Parks, who bounced between safety and cornerback, is a free agent.

Sometimes a position isn’t as secure as it seems.

Alabama’s Xavier McKinney is a do-it-all safety with the flexibility to play multiple roles if he isn’t immediately needed as a starter. McKinney can line up near the box, play deep third, cover the slot and defend the run.

He’s a smart choice for any team, even if they’re set at safety.

Detroit Lions: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
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Defensive line appears to be one of the few positions where the Detroit Lions are set. However, don’t be surprised if the organization still decides to address the unit sooner or later.

The front office jumped on the opportunity to sign Mike Daniels last offseason even with Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson and Trey Flowers, who bumps inside as an interior pass-rusher, already on the roster.

The reason is simple: The ability to consistently collapse the pocket is rare.

Daniels only signed a one-year deal, though. Robinson isn’t under contract anymore, either.

South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw may not be a top-three prospect, but he can get after opposing quarterbacks. He had the highest pass-rush grade among defensive tackles in each of the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus.

If the Lions were to trade down, Kinlaw is an ideal target to pair with Harrison along the interior.

Green Bay Packers: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
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As the Cleveland Browns’ head coach, Mike Pettine once pushed for Justin Gilbert to be a top-10 selection.

It didn’t go as planned. But the sentiment remains the same. Pettine prefers long and lanky press corners to fit his defensive scheme.

Green Bay already has one standout at the position in Jaire Alexander. The other side of the defense is far less settled.

The Packers spent a second-round pick on Kevin King in 2017. He started 14 games this season, but his overall inconsistency could have Green Bay looking for another cornerback sooner than it should with significant concerns at offensive tackle and wide receiver (beyond Davante Adams).

Florida’s CJ Henderson can be allergic to tackling at times, but no one can deny his coverage skills. The 6’1″, 202-pound defensive back has the skill set to excel in Pettine’s scheme and usurp King’s starting spot.

Houston Texans: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
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The Houston Texans don’t have a general manager, so their personnel department is driven by Bill O’Brien’s self-preservation. As a result, they don’t have first- or third-round picks this year, because they’ve already been traded to other franchises.

When the Texans are on the clock, wide receiver might be the last position they consider. However, that approach is short-sighted.

Kenny Stills is a free agent after after the 2020 season, and none of his remaining contract is guaranteed. Will Fuller V is entering the fifth year of his rookie contract and has missed 20 games over the past three seasons.

The Texans can’t reach a place where it’s DeAndre Hopkins and nobody else, especially with a deep incoming receiver class. LSU’s Jordan Jefferson, who tied for the nation lead with 111 receptions, can immediately step in and play the slot or work outside the numbers.

Indianapolis Colts: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
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The Indianapolis Colts own the NFL’s best offensive line. A few changes could occur this offseason, though.

Anthony Castonzo is the top available left tackle on the free-agent market. He also turns 32 later this year. Joe Haeg, who has started multiple games over the last four seasons but primarily serves as a backup now, is set to hit the market as well.

The Colts have a chance to land a top-end offensive line prospect with the 13th overall pick.

Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs started at both right and left tackle this past season, and he sometimes played both in the same game. He could be insurance if Castonzo does leave. Even if Castonzo doesn’t sign elsewhere, Wirfs can bump inside and challenge Mark Glowinski to start at right guard.

As long as Indianapolis plans to have Jacoby Brissett behind center, it will need to regroup and make sure the front five remains a strength.

Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
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The Jacksonville Jaguars already have a pair of young offensive tackles in Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor. However, they shouldn’t rely on the former moving forward because he’s been a severe disappointment.

Robinson has gotten called for numerous penalties while still surrendering far too much blindside pressure. He may be better served moving inside if the Jaguars decided to replace either Andrew Norwell or A.J. Cann, or they could just bench him.

Either way, Jacksonville needs an upgrade at left tackle. Luckily, there should be multiple quality protectors available at No. 9.

Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is a smooth operator. His long levers and movement skills offset every top collegiate edge-rusher he faced. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas allowed only 37 pressures in his three years as a starter in the nation’s toughest conference. The 6’5″, 320-pound lineman might actually be a better blocker at the point of attack.

Kansas City Chiefs: OG Netane Muti, Fresno State
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The Kansas City Chiefs are among the league’s most talented teams, but they aren’t without flaws.

Most of Kansas City’s weak spots are covered by the the play of surrounding positions. Running back and cornerback are obvious examples. Left guard is less so.

Andrew Wylie and Cameron Erving are below-average interior blockers, and Stefen Wisniewski is a free agent in March. The Chiefs require a far more sturdy and aggressive option.

Enter Fresno State’s Netane Muti.

The underclassman isn’t a household name compared to other prospects because he had only one healthy season for the Bulldogs. But when he’s on the field, watch out. The 307-pound guard loves to finish blocks and bury his opponents, which is the exact opposite of what the Chiefs currently have at the position.

Las Vegas Raiders: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
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The Jon Gruden-Derek Carr marriage has never quite felt right. Gruden is a hopeless romantic when it comes to quarterbacks, while Carr has played solid but not great.

The Raiders showed significant interest in Kyler Murray last year, but they weren’t in a position to draft the eventual No. 1 overall pick.

As a whole, the Raiders organization is trying to build a foundation as it prepares for its move to Las Vegas.

“I mean, ‘continuity’ is a word that we’d like to live by here, and it’s something we have struggled to do, obviously,” Gruden said, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “So, hopefully the young tight ends, the young backs, the offensive line, we’re starting to collect some pieces in the secondary and on the defensive edge of our defense.”

Notice the one position Gruden didn’t mention: quarterback.

The Raiders own the 12th and 19th overall picks. The New York Giants sit directly in front of the Miami Dolphins with the fourth overall pick and don’t need a quarterback. Gruden and Co. should trade both of their first-rounders to select Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and start fresh at the game’s most important position.

Los Angeles Chargers: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
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The Los Angeles Chargers are currently without a starting quarterback unless they re-sign Philip Rivers. Their offensive line is a mess. Running back Melvin Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and fullback Derek Watt are free agents.

The Chargers could go in nearly any direction with the No. 6 overall pick and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Unless they double down on a similar talent to Derwin James in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, that is.

How much fun would it be watching those two outstanding players on the same defense? The Chargers’ defensive coaching staff would be giddy devising different ways to use the pair of multipurpose weapons.

Like James, Simmons can play linebacker, strong safety, free safety and nickel corner. Simmons is a little bigger and will probably start his career at linebacker, but the versatility he would present alongside James has the potential to create the most flexible and unpredictable defensive unit in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams: DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama
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It’s difficult to project which direction the Rams will go in this offseason. They’re not exactly flush with salary-cap space compared to other teams, multiple key performers are set to enter free agency, and the front office traded away its next two first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey.

The offensive line is the most pressing unit to address since two starters—left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Austin Blythe—are free agents. But the defensive line could use a boost, too.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is a superstar of the highest order and is under contract through 2024. However, defensive end/defensive tackle Michael Brockers is a free agent. Meanwhile, fourth-round nose tackle Greg Gaines was solid but nothing special in his rookie campaign.

Why not draft a prospect who can help at both positions?

Alabama’s Raekwon Davis has the size (6’7″, 312 pounds) and experience in the Crimson Tide’s varied front to play across the line.

Miami Dolphins: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
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It wouldn’t be remotely surprising if the Miami Dolphins spent one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback. However, it would be somewhat stunning if they select anyone other than Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reported last year that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross “really, really likes” Tagovailoa. The organization supposedly built a plan to “tank for Tua.” Instead, Miami won five games and earned the fifth overall pick.

Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury in November, so he might be available to the Dolphins at No. 5. However, other franchises know Miami’s purported affinity for the left-handed gunslinger and could try to trade ahead of the Dolphins for the chance to select him.

Or, something even more surprising could happen: The Dolphins could bypass Tagovailoa in favor of another quarterback prospect, like Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Herbert has prototypical size (6’6″, 237 pounds) with outstanding athleticism and is a tremendous anticipatory thrower once he gets into a rhythm.

Minnesota Vikings: DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
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The Minnesota Vikings earned an impressive wild-card playoff victory against the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome mainly because of their devastating defensive front.

On the surface, no major changes or additions are necessary. The key is keeping the majority of the group intact while building upon an already strong unit. The Vikings did this for years with their secondary.

Danielle Hunter is only 25 years old and an all-world talent. The other spot isn’t as secure.

Everson Griffen is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and an excellent edge-defender. He’ll also turn 33 later this year, and the Vikings have very little guaranteed money invested in the final three years of his contract.

The organization could move on at any point and invest in another edge-rusher, like Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos. The 21-year-old prospect is still a work in progress, but he improved each year for the Nittany Lions. The Vikings aren’t afraid of projects, as Hunter’s maturation from his time at LSU with 4.5 collegiate sacks can attest.

New England Patriots: C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
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Quarterback will be at the forefront of everything the New England Patriots do this offseason, whether Tom Brady re-signs or not.

Even so, the Patriots must do a better job protecting whoever is under center next season. New England built its last Super Bowl victory on the game’s best offensive interior. The group is crumbling, though.

David Andrews missed the entire season after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. His status for the 2020 campaign has yet to be determined.

“I’m not ready to be done playing football,” Andrews said to during a community event at Amos House in Providence (h/t ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “So if there’s any chance that I can go play football, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

The potential selection of an interior offensive lineman isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Andrews’ pending status. Yes, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz is the top-rated player at his position. The possibility exists that he could move to guard if needed, especially if New England’s stalwart left guard, Joe Thuney, leaves in free agency.

New Orleans Saints: OT Austin Jackson, USC
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The New Orleans Saints don’t mess around with protecting quarterback Drew Brees.

Granted, no one is entirely sure if Brees will return for yet another season in the Big Easy, but he’s more likely to re-sign than not.

Also, Terron Armstead or Ryan Ramczyk aren’t going anywhere.

New Orleans placed an emphasis on its interior offensive line play long before it was cool, because the Saints had a 6’0″ quarterback playing from the pocket.

When someone like USC’s Austin Jackson is mentioned, keep in mind the team’s previous history. Andrus Peat was an offensive tackle when the Saints drafted him with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft. The coaching staff moved him to left guard.

The organization sees value in offensive linemen. The talented Trojans blocker could move inside and replace Peat since the veteran is a free agent.

New York Giants: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
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New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks. Last year’s selection of quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall draft pick made that quite clear.

Don’t be surprised if Gettleman throws another swerve at those watching, covering and actively participating in the draft by choosing someone sooner than expected.

Offensive tackle is a mess for Big Blue. Right tackle Mike Remmers is a free agent, while left tackle Nate Solder hasn’t played well enough to warrant his exorbitant contract.

The consensus top three offensive tackle prospects—Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs—are very much in play. Don’t overlook Louisville’s Mekhi Becton. Well, it’s pretty much impossible to since he’s 6’7″ and 369 pounds. Becton’s size and movement skills will likely force a team, like the Giants, to select the mammoth blocker somewhere in the first half of the opening frame.

New York Jets: S Grant Delpit, LSU
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Imagine the fallout if the New York Jets actually traded All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and then drafted a player from the same college to fill his spot with the 11th overall pick.

New York City media is already salivating at the possibility.

It’s not too far-fetched, either.

Adams wasn’t happy with the fact that Jets general manager Joe Douglas listened to trade offers for the defensive back’s services. The two parties seem to be on the same page now, but the previous incident will always be there in the back of everyone’s minds.

The beauty of selecting LSU’s Grant Delpit in this year’s first round is he shouldn’t be classified strictly as a free or strong safety. He can be a nickel linebacker, used in various big nickel looks and more than holds his own in coverage.

With or without Adams, Delpit is a good addition.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jake Fromm
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Carson Wentz played like the league’s MVP during the Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff push. Another season also ended with an injury.

No one is saying Wentz should be replaced. But the Eagles must consider options beyond their franchise signal-caller since he’s bound to miss time based on his injury history.

Right now, the Eagles don’t have a quality backup on the roster. Both Nate Sudfeld and Josh McCown, who had to fill in for Wentz in the wild-card round, are free agents. The team signed Kyle Lauletta to a futures contract, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.

Georgia’s Jake Fromm won’t demand a first-round pick and could be an ideal long-term backup. Fromm won’t blow anyone away with his physical tools. However, he started as a true freshman and three straight years in the SEC for multiple reasons. Coaches will fall in love with his work ethic, attitude and leadership traits.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State
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But the Pittsburgh Steelers just traded up to draft Devin Bush with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft and still have Mark Barron and Vince Williams under contract.

Both of those facts are inarguable. Yet, the Steelers are all about long-term planning. More often than not, the franchise looks at an area and plans a logical succession, especially at critical positions within their scheme. Linebacker definitely falls into that category.

Bush showed exactly why he was worth what Pittsburgh traded to acquire his services. He’s now a foundational building block. Barron and Williams aren’t. Barron is a free agent after the 2020 campaign, while Williams is a projected cap casualty next offseason.

The fact that Pittsburgh doesn’t have a first-round pick thanks to the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade further suggests a long-term approach. Ohio State’s Malik Harrison is an aggressive sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can pair with Bush to become a dynamic duo for years to come.

San Francisco 49ers: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
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Another first-round defensive lineman? Exactly.

The San Francisco 49ers have five first-round defensive linemen on their roster. Four of those were drafted by the organization through the last five drafts. Dee Ford came along this offseason in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Robert Saleh’s defensive front is stacked.

But it won’t always be that way since Arik Armstead and rotational interior pass-rusher Sheldon Day are impending free agents. Also, 2017 third overall pick Solomon Thomas hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Obviously, San Francisco could use help elsewhere instead of investing yet another first-round pick in a defensive lineman. However, the team can continue to beef up its front to fortify the unit for years to come.

Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore finally realized his immense potential this season. His first-step quickness helps create pressure along the interior with the versatility to play either 1- or 3-technique.

Seattle Seahawks: DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
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The Seattle Seahawks invested heavily in their defensive front, specifically defensive end, this past season.

The organization traded for Jadeveon Clowney, signed Ziggy Ansah and drafted L.J. Collier. On paper, the position looks loaded. But is isn’t.

Clowney has yet to sign a contract extension. Ansah didn’t provide much of an impact. And Collier, who entered the season with a high-ankle sprain, is a better interior than edge-rusher.

Rasheem Greene actually led the team with four sacks.

The Seahawks shouldn’t stop throwing talent at the problem, even though serious concerns can also be found along the offensive line.

Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara is an interesting fit in Seattle, because he can play the Leo role as a standup end capable of adding athleticism and quickness off the edge. He, Collier and a re-signed Clowney have the potential to create a formidable trio.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jacob Eason, Washington
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

The mind-boggling feat places the Buccaneers franchise in a conundrum since Winston is a free agent. Does it consider moving on to another quarterback?

“Another quarterback? Oh, yeah. [If] we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one too,” head coach Bruce Arians said, per ESPN’s Jenna Laine.

Well, the door has been flung wide-open to the possibility of moving on from Winston, and the team should probably take it.

Washington’s Jacob Eason is a tailor-made quarterback for Arians’ system. The 6’6″, 227-pound pocket passer with a rocket arm and willingness to stare down pressure can move into a starting role after being a mid-first-round selection.

Tennessee Titans: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
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The Tennessee Titans struck gold in the second round last season when A.J. Brown fell to them.

Brown not only provided a significant weapon within the offense, but his rapid development has him on track to be a true No. 1 target in an offense that also features Corey Davis, a 2017 top-five draft pick, and slot receiver Adam Humphries.

Since the offense itself is so heavily slanted toward running back Derrick Henry with an already solid core of weapons, another addition to the wide receiver corps seems unlikely. It shouldn’t be.

First, the Titans must decide whether to re-sign quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If the organization does, another vertical threat, like TCU’s Jalen Reagor, will only make the offense more explosive. Tannehill led the NFL in yards per attempt during the regular season, and his skill set lends itself well to the deep passing game. Reagor, meanwhile, is one of the fastest men in college football and a dynamic target.

Washington Redskins: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
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Some might think Jerry Jeudy to the Washington Redskins is a logical choice with little to no surprise factor. Those people are dead wrong.

Yes, Jeudy would be a wonderful addition as another weapon to pair with Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr.

However, Jeudy’s impact can’t supersede what Ohio State’s Chase Young brings. Young is a legitimate game-wrecker. Opposing offenses must account for him at all times. He’s the clear choice with the second overall pick after the Cincinnati Bengals select LSU’s Joe Burrow.

Jeudy is an advanced route-runner, even at 20 years old. His potential addition would give Washington a complete wide receiver corps, hence why he’s a legitimate option.

But Young is far too talented at a premium position to consider any other prospect as long as the Bengals don’t lose their collective minds.

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Former Dorman and Clemson wide-receiver Charone Peake signed a reserve/future contract earlier this week with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 27-year-old, a 2016 seventh-round pick by the Jets, was among the last round of cuts this preseason and spent the year out of football after three seasons with New York. He had worked out for Jacksonville early last month.

A reserve/future contract means a player can be added to a team’s offseason roster once they expand from 53 to 90 members on March 18. Players who sign such a contract are eligible to participate in all offseason workouts as official roster members.

Peake caught 22 passes for 214 yards in 31 professional career games, but only three for 28 yards combined the past two seasons with his main contributions coming on special teams. He has one career NFL touchdown on a fumble return. He caught 99 passes for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns in 49 career college games with 50 receptions for 716 yards and five touchdowns his senior 2015 season.

Peake will join former Dorman and Clemson teammate Brandon Thomas and former Clemson teammate Tyler Shatley, both offensive linemen, with Jacksonville. Peake’s return to the NFL once again gives Dorman four alumni in the league with Thomas and wide receivers Adam Humphries (Tennessee), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Philadelphia).

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Patriots DE Chase Winovich

The rookie third-round pick had one tackle in the win over the Bills.

He has 19 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson

The former undrafted free agent had one of his best games of the season, finishing with eight tackles and an interception in a 24-12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

He has 68 tackles and two interceptions this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Devin Bush

The 2019 No. 10 overall pick had five tackles, including one for a loss, in a 16-10 loss to the New York Jets.

Bush has 97 tackles, four fumble recoveries two interceptions and one sack this season for the 8-7 Steelers.

Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark

The 2015 second-round pick recorded his seventh sack of the season in Sunday night’s 26-3 win over the Chicago Bears.

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham

The No. 13 overall pick in 2010 had two tackles in a 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Graham has 47 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks this season for 8-7 Philadelphia.

Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis

The 2017 third-round pick had five tackles in the loss to the Eagles.

He has 44 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions this season.

Seattle Seahawks safety Lano Hill

Hill, the brother of current Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill, tied his season-high with five tackles in a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

He has 17 tackles this season.

Seahawks DT Bryan Mone

The undrafted defensive tackle played for the first time since Week 3, recording his fourth tackle of the season in a loss to the Cardinals.

Baltimore Ravens DT Chris Wormley

The 2017 third-round pick had four tackles in a 31-15 win over the Cleveland Browns

He has 29 tackles and 1 1/5 sacks this season for the AFC regular season champion Ravens.

Green Bay Packers LB Rashan Gary

The 2019 No. 12 overall pick had one tackle in a 23-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings, helping the Packers clinch the NFC North.

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Every January, herds of NFL coaches, scouts, front office executives and more flock to Mobile, Alabama for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Here, they are able to witness first-hand how the top senior NFL Draft Prospects take to NFL coaching and perform in individual drills.

This year’s Senior Bowl, which will be played on Jan. 25, will once again provide teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars a key opportunity to scout their potential picks come April.

JaguarMaven will be present at Mobile this year to provide the most comprehensive content possible for Jaguars coverage, but until then we will preview each position group leading up to the week of practice.

Jacksonville could look to draft a wide receiver early in the 2020 NFL Draft thanks to some depth issues at the position on the team’s current roster. Luckily for the Jaguars, there is a deep group of pass-catchers at this year’s Senior Bowl who the Jaguars will be able to get an up-close look at.

Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk

The 6-feet-1, 206 pound Brandon Aiyuk exploded onto the scene at Arizona State in 2019, recording 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 receptions and establishing himself as a dangerous playmaker at any part of the field. Aiyuk was also an impressive return man, making him a likely valuable commodity come April considering how dangerous he is with a football in his hands. For a Jaguars team hungry for offensive weapons, Aiyuk is a player worth watching.

Texas A&M WR Quartney Davis

Quartney Davis had a solid year for the Aggies in 2019, demonstrating impressive ability after the catch and the type of playmaking skills which should entice any NFL offensive mind. Davis (6-feet-2, 202 pounds) caught 54 passes for 616 yards and four touchdowns, though he cooled off after a hot start. Davis has the build and traits (good route running, natural runner in open space) the Jaguars covet in a wide receiver, so it makes sense to pay close attention to his week of practice.

Ohio State WR K.J. Hill

A smaller wide receiver, K.J. Hill is reminiscent of a less productive version of Dede Westbrook coming out of the University of Oklahoma. Hill was never one of the nation’s top wide receivers statistically like Westbrook was, but he won in similar ways. Hill (6-feet, 195 pounds) is shifty after the catch and feasts on defenses as an underneath target. Catching 201 for 2,332 yards, and 20 touchdowns during his time as a Buckeye, Hill has the quickness and pedigree to impress teams like the Jaguars in Mobile.

Texas WR Collin Johnson

A physical, big-bodied wide receiver, Colin Johnson (6-feet-6, 220 pounds) would automatically be the Jaguars’ largest presence in the receiver room. He excels in areas that other Jaguars don’t, such as boxing out defensive backs for the ball when it is in the air, showing dominance at the catch point, and the physicality to mix it up with cornerbacks in the red-zone. Johnson only played in seven games in 2019 and caught only 38 passes for 559 yards and three touchdowns, so Mobile is a chance for him to show evaluators that his name never should have fallen off anyone’s radars.

USC WR Michael Pittman Jr.

Michael Pittman was one of the best wide receivers in college football in 2019, as the 6-feet-4, 220 pound wideout caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns, putting his name on the map when it came to the NFL Draft process. Pittman has strong hands, can climb the ladder for the ball, and uses his large catch radius to his advantage. He fits as the type of wide receiver the Jaguars are desperately needing to add to their offense.

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Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden emerged as one of the team’s best defenders in an otherwise dissapointing 2019 season, and it appears as if he has garnered some national recognition for his performance.

Hayden, who signed a three-year contract with Jacksonville in 2018, has been a dependable presence at the nickel cornerback position, making an impact in coverage, against the run, and as a blitzer. He is highly respected in the locker room and by the coaching staff for his toughness and competitiveness and is likely the best free agent the Jaguars have signed in the past two seasons.

Thanks to his high-level of play in 2019, Hayden caught the eyes of Pro Football Focus, who tabbed him as the 10th best cornerback in the NFL in 2019. Considering the Jaguars’ poor defense and 6-10 record, Hayden getting this kind of recognition is notable.

“The Jaguars run a lot of single-high man-to-man coverage and Cover-3 zone, and Hayden flourished within this scheme by allowing the fewest passing yards (210) of any qualifying cornerback,” PFF said. Like McCourty, Hayden is also one of four players at his position who has not allowed a touchdown pass all season. This form of success has bred confidence and new life into Hayden, who was once seen as a first-round bust in Oakland but is now coming off the highest-graded season of his seven-year career.”

“Hayden tied with Richard Sherman by allowing the third-lowest yards per reception average among cornerbacks (8.4) to go along with the NFL’s 20th-best passer rating when targeted (74.2), proving that sometimes it’s not about when you go in the draft, but rather, where you go.”

Hayden earning such praise isn’t particularly surprising considering the fact that he was perhaps the Jaguars’ best defender in 2019. For a defense that consistently gave up big plays, he seemed to never be on the wrong end of them. Instead, he came through in the clutch more than a few times.

In 2019, Hayden recorded six pass deflections, one forced fumble, two sacks, five quarterback hits, and a career-high five tackles for loss. He wore a number of hats in Todd Wash’s defense and thrived while doing so.

“He is a very tough individual, physically and mentally. That is some of the things that we talk about you have to be to play this game. I think he is underrated,” Wash said during his final press conference of the 2019 season.

“I think we said this a couple weeks ago, what he allows us to do in the run game … He can cover slots man to man. I would definitely say he is underrated for how important he is for our scheme.”

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defense
By Garry Smits
@gsmitter
Posted Dec 27, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Jaguars defensive back D.J. Hayden has filled multiple roles this season in defending the pass and the run.

Playing word association can yield interesting results.

For example, mention “D.J. Hayden,” in the Jaguars’ locker room and ask for a one-word response about the team’s seventh-year nickel back.

“Smooth,” said wide receiver Chris Conley.

“Fun,” said safety Cody Davis.

But invariably, there’s general agreement with one five-letter, one-syllable word that every player in the NFL strives to claim.

“Tough,” safety Andrew Wingard said of Hayden. “He will always give his all … one of the best players I’ve ever been around.”

RELATED: Read more Jaguars coverage

While ends Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue might be neck-and-neck as the Jaguars MVP on defense, Hayden comes close — and there’s no question he’s the most underrated, especially since he’s battled injuries all season, yet missed only one game.

“The unsung hero of this team,” Wingard said.

But Hayden never seems quite satisfied — which is probably why he’s so valued. No matter how many plays he makes, he always seems to think he left one or two on the field.

“I’ve had a decent season,” said the native of Houston and former Houston Cougar. “Not too bad, not too great. I still have to do a lot better. Some plays, I could have done better. I just look forward to playing football in whatever they ask me to do, and I’ll go out and do it.”

The Jaguars will close the season on Sunday at home against the Indianapolis Colts (4:25 p.m., CBS) and Hayden, as usual, will be a big part of trying to shut down a Colts running attack that torched the Jaguars for 264 yards in a 33-13 victory in Indianapolis on Nov. 17.

Hayden has been asked by the Jags to not only be the nickel back, but play cornerback straight-up and duck down into the box in a sort of a hybrid linebacker role.

Hayden’s contributions to the team have been even more pronounced with the slew of injuries that hit the linebacking corp. The caveat is that Hayden, at 190 pounds, is listed as the second-lightest defensive player after cornerback Tre Herndon. But Hayden is asked to take on offensive linemen, shed the blocks and get after running backs.

“He’s asked to play different personnel groups, go down in the box, whatever’s asked of him,” Davis said. “He gives his heart.”

Hayden has 37 tackles, but his other contributions fill the season stat sheet: two sacks, five tackles for losses, five quarterback hurries, five passes defensed, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Hayden’s toughness and willing to mix it up physically with much bigger players belies any size disadvantage.

“We play a lot more split-safety than we have in the previous three years, and when we get into the split-safety stuff, he has to be able to play in the box,” Wash said. “He has a gap accountability in the box and has done a really good job of adjusting his role, compared to what it was a year ago.”

And Hayden has rarely been pain-free this season. At various times, he has been on the injury report for knee, foot, neck and shoulder injuries. The only game he missed was against Houston, in London.

“He is a very tough individual, physically and mentally,” Wash said.

Conley said Hayden’s willingness to play through pain has earned him team-wide admiration.

“He prepares, then goes out there and plays with everything he’s got,” Conley said. “He plays hard, plays fast and doesn’t blink.”

Davis put it succinctly.

“He gives his heart,” he said.

Hayden said he still has a lot of football left in him.

“Maybe five more years … We’ll see,” he said. “Right now, all I want to do is help my team win.”

Maybe next year. But if the Jaguars want Hayden back, he’ll show up, ready to work.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars could look a lot different in 2020. The team has a number of holes, a cap to maneuver, and players set to test the open market.

Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan announced earlier this week head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell would remain in their roles next season despite a 6-10 record in 2019. Khan said he wanted to see how the duo could build Jacksonville since, for the first time since 2016, Tom Coughlin is not calling the shots.

One of the key areas Caldwell and Marrone will have to work thoroughly through as they try to turn the Jaguars around is free agency. Aside from adding to their roster through negotiating with players on the open market, Jacksonville will also have to sort through its own impending free agents.

So, which current Jaguars have expiring contracts the Jaguars will have to make decisions on sooner than later?

Unrestricted free agents

TE Seth DeValve

Fourth-year tight end Seth DeValve joined Jacksonville after the Jaguars claimed him following 53-man roster cutdowns. Early on DeValve was the No. 3 tight end behind James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim, mostly serving as a fullback or H-back in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s scheme.

When a rash of injuries hit the Jaguars’ tight end group, DeValve began to see more action. He played in 59% of the team’s offensive snaps in Weeks 7 and 8 and caught a season-high four passes for 41 yards in Week 9.

DeValve eventually suffered through his own injury, an oblique issue that saw him miss four games. He would finish the season with 12 catches for 140 yards and no touchdowns. Bringing him back would be inexpensive, and it is likely Jacksonville would consider it amongst the rest of their options to improve the tight end position.

TE Ben Koyack

Ben Koyack has been on and off of the Jaguars’ roster for each of the last four years, and 2019 was more of the same. He was signed as a free agent in Week 6 after O’Shaughnessy suffered an ACL injury and ended up playing 259 snaps, nearly 25% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps.

Koyack only recorded one catch for nine yards on three targets in 11 games in 2019. He primarily served as a blocking tight end and was about average in that regard.

It is unlikely Koyack is a Jaguar again unless the team once again goes through a bad string of injuries

OT Ben Ijalana

The ninth-year offensive tackle signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville in August but was placed on injured reserve with elbow injury a few weeks later.

TE Nick O’Leary

A former member of the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, veteran tight end Nick O’Leary signed with Jacksonville after rookie tight end Josh Oliver was placed on injured reserve with a back injury after Week 11.

In only six games with the Jaguars, O’Leary actually had decent production for a guy picking up the offense on the fly. He caught 13 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown, better numbers than both DeValve and Koyack. It would make sense if Jacksonville kept O’Leary around for depth in 2020.

OT Cedric Ogbuehi

A former first-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015, Cedric Ogbuehi was signed to a one-year deal by the Jaguars last offseason. He ended up serving as the team’s top swing tackle after being sidelined with injuries in the first two games of the season.

Ogbuehi went on to play 14 games for the Jaguars 2019, but he never started a game and only played more than 14 snaps twice.

Jacksonville will be remaking its offensive line in 2020, and it remains to be seen if Ogbuehi is part of that.

C Tyler Shatley

Tyler Shatley has been one of Jacksonville’s key reserve offensive linemen since entering the NFL in 2014. He played more than 300 snaps and started at least four games in each of the previous three seasons, including a career-high seven starts in 2018, but was not needed as much in 2019. Starting enter Brandon Linder finally stayed healthy for the full course of a season, and Shatley played only four snaps while on a one-year contract.

Jacksonville seems to be high on Shatley as a backup center, and while he barely played in 2019, he was active for every game. Expect him to be brought back on another cheap deal.

Restricted free agents

WR Keelan Cole

Keelan Cole didn’t post great numbers in 2019, but he still had a solid season all things considered.

Cole posted career-low numbers in catches (24) and receiving yards (361) but posted a career-best catch rate (24 catches on only 32 targets led to 68.6% catch rate) and tied a career-high in receiving touchdowns (3).

Cole did all of this while playing only 370 snaps (34%), which is more than 300 less snaps than he averaged in his first two seasons in Jacksonville. For whatever reason, he just did not see the field as much as he had in 2017 and 2018.

Cole had a solid 2019 season and it would make sense to bring him back in 2020 and maybe even expand his role, but it remains to be seen how high the Jaguars are on Cole.

Exclusive rights free agent

WR Terry Godwin

A seventh-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, Terry Godwin was waived and added to the Jaguars’ practice squad after Week 1. Godwin was not active in any games in 2019.

OL Brandon Thomas

Sixth-year offensive lineman Brandon Thomas wasn’t active in any games for Jacksonville in 2019, serving as a healthy scratch in most games before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury on Dec. 11.

RB Devante Mays

Third-year running back Devante Mays was signed to the Jaguars at the end of July but was placed on injured reserve a month later, never laying a snap for the Jaguars.

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The Jaguars are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Without a significant emphasis on veteran players on the construction of the team’s roster, many of the team’s longtime veterans have been lost, replaced with budding talent. While being a young team oftentimes leads to thoughts of promise and optimism, the Jaguars haven’t been successful, and were not successful in 2019 after attaining a 6-10 record.

In general, the team does have some promising young players including at key positions such as quarterback, defensive end, wide receiver and along the offensive line. Three areas which are vital to a teams success.

Currently, the Jaguars have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, ranked seventh (25.51 years old) in terms of overall average roster age which includes every player currently signed by the team, and tied for third youngest (25.7 years old) when taking into account all players who contributed in 2019.
Average NFL Team ages Demetrius Harvey

Over time, the Jaguars have attempted to build a team led by very few veterans, but instead an insurgence of young, talented players via the draft and free agency.

On opening day against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, the Jaguars used 11 first or second year players at some points during the game, including seven which started or played a significant number (more than 20) of snaps, including guard/tackle Will Richardson, tackle Jawaan Taylor, quarterback Gardner Minshew II, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. safety Ronnie Harrison, defensive end Josh Allen, and linebacker Quincy Williams.

By week 17, the Jaguars deployed 13 first or second year players against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jaguars have undergone multiple rebuilds of the roster, however they have consistently stayed just below age 26 in terms of their average age during the season. When the team went to the playoffs just two seasons ago, the Jaguars’ average age was actually equal to their average age now — 25.7.

One pitfall from fielding such a young football team can come in the discipline area. While many attribute it to coaching, typically an inexperienced player or one that isn’t as talented will commit fouls. In 2019, the Jaguars’ were second in the NFL with 132 penalties, and rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor led the team with 15.

The optimism which stems from having such a young roster comes with high expectations, however they have fell short of expectations, and have for several seasons — constantly reshaping the roster in an effort to regain relevance. Even players that were expected to carry the team early in their careers have been run off the roster or not lived up to expectations, further exasperating the team’s issues throughout the years.

Aside from the Minnesota Vikings, teams which competed in the playoffs this season held an average age of at least 26 years old. Developing talent with experienced veterans along with a mixture of young, ascending players is an ideal formula for sustainable success over a long period of time. The Jaguars simply do not have the veterans in place to supplement their young pieces.

While the team has struggled, not all is lost as the team has shown to have a young, rising group of young players which should be counted on for the future as they continue to rebuild their roster following an AFC Championship game exit in 2017. Several young players such as Leonard Fournette, Chark Jr., Minshew II, Yannick Ngakoue, Allen, Harrison, Myles Jack, and Taylor — none over the age of 24 —, makeup a core of ascending and potentially very talented players for the team to work with in the future.

Moving forward, look for the Jaguars to continue developing their green talent, while acquiring talented veterans to fix their depth, and experience issues. Until then, expect the same mistakes to be almost on the brink of insanity without a reasonable expectation of growth.

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While the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t in the postseason this month there will be plenty of meaningful football to watch for the team’s fans as they will have the Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl to look forward to for all of the draft addicts. The offseason also means mock drafts will be surfacing left and right on the web, especially from our comrades at USA TODAY.

Thursday, Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports posted his first mock draft of the year and it was one full of interesting selections. The Jags themselves were able to land two standout players from the best collegiate conference in football, the Southeastern Conference, starting with a successor to Marcell Dareus in Auburn’s Derrick Brown.

9. Jaguars — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn: No one in college football dominated games on the interior in 2019 quite like Brown, who became a fixture in opposing backfields. With Marcell Dareus a seeming long shot to stick around due to his $22.5 million cap hit, Brown would give Jacksonville a promising player to pair inside with 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan.

Most Jags fans would agree that Brown falling to the team at the No. 9 pick would be a dream scenario as the Jags struggled mightily to stop the run without Dareus. The powerful Auburn defensive tackle could speed up the process for the Jags’ defense to become elite again like the 2017 unit fans grew to love and maybe he and Bryan could grow into one of the league’s dominant young duos.

Additionally, Brown fits in the sense that the Jags love SEC talent as their last three first-round picks (Bryan, Leonard Fournette, and Josh Allen) were from the conference. It’s a given that they would also be intrigued by his dominance against other elite players in the conference as he was able to rack up 55 total tackles and four sacks while anchoring Auburn’s defensive line.

With their second first-round pick (from the Los Angeles Rams), the Jags were slotted Louisiana State cornerback Kristian Fulton. He’s a player we’ve talked about often here on Jaguars Wire and our own Daniel Griffis did an article on him highlighting his skill set. In a nutshell, his technical skills (footwork and hip fluidity specifically) would make him the perfect candidate to either replace veteran corner A.J. Bouye, who could be a cap casualty (would save the Jags $11.4 million if released), or Tre Herndon, who replaced Jalen Ramsey and played well down the stretch.

20. Jaguars (from Rams) — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU: It’s hard for a first-round cornerback to be overlooked in his own secondary, but Fulton might not have received his due this year after playing alongside the Thorpe Award winner Delpit and the freshman star Stingley. At some point in the draft, Jacksonville needs to find a replacement for Jalen Ramsey.

When considering Yannick Ngakoue is due for a new deal, the best option may be to release Bouye and convert the saved money into a multi-year deal for Ngakoue. That also would give the Jags two young corners to develop together as Herndon and Fulton have great upside.

Custom Ronnie Harrison Jersey Large

The Jaguars are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Without a significant emphasis on veteran players on the construction of the team’s roster, many of the team’s longtime veterans have been lost, replaced with budding talent. While being a young team oftentimes leads to thoughts of promise and optimism, the Jaguars haven’t been successful, and were not successful in 2019 after attaining a 6-10 record.

In general, the team does have some promising young players including at key positions such as quarterback, defensive end, wide receiver and along the offensive line. Three areas which are vital to a teams success.

Currently, the Jaguars have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, ranked seventh (25.51 years old) in terms of overall average roster age which includes every player currently signed by the team, and tied for third youngest (25.7 years old) when taking into account all players who contributed in 2019.
Average NFL Team ages Demetrius Harvey

Over time, the Jaguars have attempted to build a team led by very few veterans, but instead an insurgence of young, talented players via the draft and free agency.

On opening day against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, the Jaguars used 11 first or second year players at some points during the game, including seven which started or played a significant number (more than 20) of snaps, including guard/tackle Will Richardson, tackle Jawaan Taylor, quarterback Gardner Minshew II, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. safety Ronnie Harrison, defensive end Josh Allen, and linebacker Quincy Williams.

By week 17, the Jaguars deployed 13 first or second year players against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jaguars have undergone multiple rebuilds of the roster, however they have consistently stayed just below age 26 in terms of their average age during the season. When the team went to the playoffs just two seasons ago, the Jaguars’ average age was actually equal to their average age now — 25.7.

One pitfall from fielding such a young football team can come in the discipline area. While many attribute it to coaching, typically an inexperienced player or one that isn’t as talented will commit fouls. In 2019, the Jaguars’ were second in the NFL with 132 penalties, and rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor led the team with 15.

The optimism which stems from having such a young roster comes with high expectations, however they have fell short of expectations, and have for several seasons — constantly reshaping the roster in an effort to regain relevance. Even players that were expected to carry the team early in their careers have been run off the roster or not lived up to expectations, further exasperating the team’s issues throughout the years.

Aside from the Minnesota Vikings, teams which competed in the playoffs this season held an average age of at least 26 years old. Developing talent with experienced veterans along with a mixture of young, ascending players is an ideal formula for sustainable success over a long period of time. The Jaguars simply do not have the veterans in place to supplement their young pieces.

While the team has struggled, not all is lost as the team has shown to have a young, rising group of young players which should be counted on for the future as they continue to rebuild their roster following an AFC Championship game exit in 2017. Several young players such as Leonard Fournette, Chark Jr., Minshew II, Yannick Ngakoue, Allen, Harrison, Myles Jack, and Taylor — none over the age of 24 —, makeup a core of ascending and potentially very talented players for the team to work with in the future.

Moving forward, look for the Jaguars to continue developing their green talent, while acquiring talented veterans to fix their depth, and experience issues. Until then, expect the same mistakes to be almost on the brink of insanity without a reasonable expectation of growth.