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2019 NFL Draft: Final Jaguars 7-round mock draft

Zach Goodall

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s the day that Jaguars fans have, unfortunately, been waiting for since around October when it was clear the team would not contend in 2018.

The 2019 NFL Draft is upon us. Here’s the haul I’m projecting the Jaguars to walk away with, put together based on their reported interest and visits with players, needs, and emphasis on high-character prospects after a bit of a locker room fall-out in 2018.

Let’s get to mocking!

1st round – 7th overall: Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama

6-4 1/2, 302, 33 5/8″arms, testing scores, Locked On Jaguars scouting report

There’s been reports dating back to March of Jacksonville’s interest in the three year starter for Alabama, but the rumor mill regarding that interest has been spinning faster than tires on I-95 throughout the past week after reports surfaced of his top 30 visit. The Jaguars should be looking for blue-chip, polished prospects to immediately contribute to this team, both on the field and off, and Jonah Williams fits that bill. Jacksonville got to see Williams live three times in 2018.

Wiliams is a powerful lineman with fantastic hand technique to overcome length concerns, has started 44 straight games at both left and right tackle and earned multiple All-SEC and All-American honors each season, plays with more athleticism than his tests would say, and is as dedicated a lineman as they come: He tracks opponents pass rush moves on Excel spreadsheets for Pete’s sake.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has a “key” connection to Williams as well, through Williams’ OL coach Brent Key during his time at Alabama. Marrone and Key have coached together previously and have maintained a relationship, and Key influenced the Jaguars’ selection of left tackle Cam Robinson in 2017.

Based on all of this, on top of conversations I’ve had with people I trust, I have a very strong feeling that Williams will be the pick at 7th overall, barring a trade-down or an elite defender falling into the team’s lap.

*TRADE*: 1st round – 29th overall: Noah Fant, tight end, Iowa

*Jacksonville sends their 38th overall pick (2nd round), 98th overall pick (3rd round, from LA Rams), and their 2020 5th round pick (from LA Rams) for the 29th overall pick.*

6-4 1/8, 249 lbs, 33 1/2″ arms, testing scores

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said on Monday that the team had the flexibility to move back up in the draft – potentially even the first round – with the 3rd round compensatory pick they obtained from the Los Angeles Rams in the Dante Fowler Jr. trade in 2018.

Caldwell didn’t need to reveal that much info when asked about the comp. pick. He could have avoided mentioning the idea of trading back up as a whole, much less back into the first. Considering this quote, I 100% think that Jacksonville would like to do just that, if the right guy falls late into the first. And Noah Fant could be that guy, as the NFL has proven in the past that it doesn’t value tight ends in the top half of the first round often despite analysts valuing them there (see: O.J Howard in 2017). Fant had a top 30 visit with Jacksonville.

So, the Jaguars send their early 2nd rounder, their late 3rd rounder from L.A., and their 2020 5th rounder from L.A. to Seattle, who only has five picks this year and no 2nd round selection, in order to hop in front of the tight end-needy Green Bay Packers at 30th overall and New England Patriots at 32nd overall. Pats Pulpit has tracked NFL Draft pick trades from 2011-2018 to understand how the NFL values picks, and the Jaguars/Seahawks trade above comes out to a 0.15 point value difference – it’s a totally balanced trade, where Seattle inherits an extra Day 2 pick in a draft where they so badly need it. The value of the 2020 5th round pick is based on L.A.’s 2019 5th round pick, 170th overall.

Fant is a freak of nature for the tight end position, finishing in the 95th percentile or better among NFL TEs in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine – at about 6-4, 250 lbs. He recorded 78 catches for 1083 yards and 19 touchdowns in three years at Iowa. Fant would be an excellent addition to an offense that will heavily utilize TEs with Nick Foles at QB, especially considering the team has no one at the position to hang their hat on.

3rd round – 69th overall: Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama

6-1, 195, 32 1/8 arms, testing scores

The Jaguars would probably prefer to go EDGE here, with a really solid group of edge rushers expected to be available that could fill the third down sub-pass rusher role that has been vacated since Dante Fowler Jr. was traded. But it’s impossible to pass on the value of lengthy free safety Deionte Thompson here, as he was once viewed as a potential first round pick before a couple of tough games to end the 2018 season.

Thompson recorded three interceptions and seven defended passes at Alabama, as well as three forced fumbles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 29 career games. Thompson frequently played opposite of now-Jaguars strong safety Ronnie Harrison in 2017 at Alabama, so re-creating that duo would be a huge plus for chemistry purposes.  As mentioned under the Jonah Williams pick, Jacksonville live-scouted Alabama three times in 2018.

As Daniel Popper of The Athletic has noted, GM Dave Caldwell has mentioned that newly-resigned free safety Jarrod Wilson was brought back so he “could come in and compete as that starting free safety”… but other than pure special-teamer Cody Davis, Wilson currently has no one to compete with at FS. Therefore, Popper believes the Jaguars will target a free safety on Day 2. If the board falls like this and Thompson (or another safety higher on their board) becomes a value pick, then I totally agree.

4th round – 109th overall: Justin Hollins, EDGE, Oregon

6-5 1/4, 248, 33 3/8″ arms, testing scores

Justin Hollins is viewed as a tier below the EDGE group I alluded to above, but could provide some spark as a pure 3rd down EDGE rusher opposite of Yannick Ngakoue given his mix of length, explosion, bend ability, and speed (see test scores).

Hollins is a bit of a tweener, with his tall, lankier playing frame (he played at 242 in 2018). He played a mix of defensive end and outside linebacker at Oregon, where he recorded 14 sacks, 36 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, two interceptions and eight defended passes in 45 career games, starting 37. Hollins earned the East-West Shrine Game MVP this year, as well as both Associated Press and Pro Football Focus PAC-12 1st team All-Conference honors. He was also a team captain in 2018.

With defensive assistant and former NFL defensive coordinator Dom Capers in house after being hired earlier in the year, the Jaguars are expected to add some versatile looks to their defense. Capers notoriously ran a 3-4 defense in his time as a coordinator, so Hollins’ versatility to play both 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB as a pass rusher and someone who can occasionally drop back into coverage makes him an intriguing fourth round pick.

6th round – 178th overall: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State

6-0 7/8, 225, 10 1/8″ hands, testing scores

Gardner Minshew was an awfully late bloomer as a college quarterback, starting at Northwest Mississippi State Community College for a year before transferring to East Carolina University, where he split snaps for two years at QB. He spent his final season of eligibility as a grad transfer in Washington State’s Air Raid offense, where his career reached new heights: A 70.7% completion percentage, 4779 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.

Minshew took the reigns of an offense left by Luke Falk, a three year starter who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and lifted the program following the suicide of the QB who was originally expected to replace Falk, Tyler Hilinski. Washington State went 11-2 and finished 10th in the AP Poll.

I don’t believe Minshew is a polished quarterback whatsoever, and he came from a system that inflated his numbers a good bit. However, his story of improvement throughout his career and the adversity that he lifted a somber football program out of with his high-character will undoubtedly push him up the Jaguars draft board, should they look for another project backup quarterback in this draft.

7th round – 236th overall: Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State

5-8, 198, testing scores

The final pick of a whirlwind 2019 NFL Draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars gets used on another top-30 visit prospect, which means 50% of their picks in this scenario had already visited the facilities.

Thompson is a slippery back who packs some power despite his size, and is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield with 23 receptions for 351 yards and two receiving touchdowns to pair with his 1044 rushing yards on 153 carries (6.8 yards per carry!) and 14 touchdowns in one season at Utah State. Thompson previously played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a junior college.

While his profile may not blow you away, he fits the Corey Grant mold at running back with better potential as an in-between-the-tackles runner, and posted fantastic production in his first and only year at the D-1 level. Thompson would likely compete for the third running back job with Benny Cunningham as a true change-of-pace RB with receiving game upside.

Zach Goodall covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Locked On Jaguars podcast and website. Follow him on Twitter @zach_goodall.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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