The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to put together strong NFL Draft classes, but it hasn’t translated.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team many aren’t expecting much from as the 2020 NFL season draws close. They face an uphill battle in the division this year, with four games against the Titans and Texans, who both made the playoffs in 2019. The Colts vastly improved their roster in the offseason and could be a major contender if things break right. Jacksonville, however, is already the favorite to hold the number one pick in the 2021 draft.
It’s odd that the Jaguars are always projected to pick in the top 10 after the success they’ve had in the NFL Draft for over half a decade now. Their 2014 draft was a masterpiece, as they selected Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Brandon Linder, and Telvin Smith. In 2015, Jacksonville snagged Dante Fowler, T.J. Yeldon, and A.J. Cann, all who contributed to team success. The 2016 draft landed the Jaguars star power in Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue.
Maybe 2017 wasn’t a great draft, but it gave Jacksonville two starters in Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson. The 2018 group is still developing, but D.J. Chark has become the number one wideout in the offense. Then, in 2019, the Jags got two high impact starters as rookies at the top in Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor. They also selected Gardner Minshew, who heads into 2020 as the starting quarterback.
Now, we circle back to how 2020 went back in April. Jacksonville had two first-round picks and selected two high-caliber athletes and players in C.J. Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson. On day two, the Jags selected Laviska Shenault and Davon Hamilton and got a high ceiling developmental tackle in Ben Bartch.
All this success in the NFL Draft hasn’t yielded much for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have one playoff appearance to show for it, and that appearance found them minutes from the Super Bowl. Blake Bortles, another 2014 selection, was their quarterback that year, and they were led by an elite defense. After all that talent mentioned above, the success should be greater.
So why hasn’t it? Well, it boils down to three main points, all of which have contributed to the lack of success.
The first, and by far most important, falls on management at the top. General manager David Caldwell and his scouting staff can’t take the blame, as they’ve evaluated and drafted with the best of the league for over half a decade now, bringing in a number of elite talents on defense.
The issue resides with ownership and the lack of paying stars a worthy second contract. It’s honestly quite ridiculous that high caliber players haven’t received a second contract with Jacksonville, and end up being traded.
The Jaguars didn’t elect to pay Robinson, who is becoming one of the best receivers in football. Ramsey wanted to be paid like the top corner in the league, which he was at the time. Even now, Ngakoue wants a big contract, but it’s likely he ends up being traded.
Keeping your stars for a second contract is important, and the Jaguars have failed in that regard. Sure, they can use the excuse that they continue to draft well, but ultimately, veteran talent and leadership is important.
Second on the list is coaching. Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars have had a very good defense for a stretch of time, and it might be a similar situation in 2020. As for the offense, it was tough to make Bortles look good, which was impressive, and Caldwell is ensuring that Minshew will have talent around him for 2020. This comes down to leadership from Doug Marrone. Instilling a culture that wants players to stick around is important, and that clearly isn’t happening.
The final point references the quarterback position. While Bortles and Minshew have had their moments, neither are a true game-changer at quarterback. This might be a premature take on Minshew, and he will have 2020 to prove it, but getting someone like Trevor Lawrence could change the franchise.
If the organization can figure these things out while Caldwell and his team continue to excel as draft scouts, the Jacksonville Jaguars can be a team to be reckoned with. Time will tell regarding Ngakoue and the draft come next April.