Jacksonville Jaguars First Round Targets In The 2023 NFL Draft

Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With needs that are more well-defined in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars could address one of them in round one. Or, go a bit off-book.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been pulled out of the much by Doug Peterson and Trevor Lawrence. From back-to-back number one picks to the playoffs, it was a quick turnaround with competence in the building. General manager Trent Baalke deserves some credit too by getting Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Brandon Scherff, and Arden Key in free agency.

Now, expectations have arrived after an AFC South title. They did lose Key, along with Jawaan Taylor to the Kansas City Chiefs. Engram got the franchise tag to stick around, and Calvin Ridley is set to join the fold. All of that could break even, but there are a few positions that the Jacksonville Jaguars need to address in the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s look at the first-round target for this Jaguars team on the verge of real contention.

The Perfect Fit For The Jacksonville Jaguars

Tyson Campbell has played very solid ball for two seasons at boundary corner. Darious Williams has tried to be the slot corner, but has always felt more comfortable on the outside. That leaves the slot corner position open for a seamless fit of Brian Branch in the first round.

Branch played safety in high school, but transitioned well to slot corner/STAR in the Alabama defense. Despite the testing numbers, Branch is a strong functional athlete. His ability to close from off-coverage and stick with receivers up the seam is impressive. He was effective as a blitzer and did well working downhill to defend the run. Branch is one of the best tacklers in the class and packs a punch as an enforcer type. When in zone coverage, Branch has great field vision,  awareness, and route recognition. He can read the quarterback’s eyes and make good plays on the football.

Let Branch play some slot and some safety and prosper. He could really be a glue for the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary.

Sensible: Defensive Line

Key (6’5″ and 240 pounds) was super effective rushing from the interior and multiple alignments in 2022, so why not go get a similar type of player in Will McDonald (6’3 5/8″, 238 pounds)? McDonald played a ton of 4i in the Iowa State 3-3-5 defense, and while he did a pretty strong job there, letting him rush off the edge too will yield dividends. Still, his explosiveness, change of direction skills, and expanded rush toolbox would be very beneficial for the Jacksonville Jaguars. McDonald has the length and leverage to hold up against the run as well. B.J. Ojulari’s twitch and quickness would fit here as well.

The Keion White first-round buzz is back, and with his size (6’4″, 285 pounds), he could be the guy to play more on the interior to free up Travon Walker to play further away from the center. White has unrelenting power, and will immediately be a great run defender.

There are a couple edge rushers who have received very early buzz that could fall to the 24th overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Lukas Van Ness is one of them. Van Ness tested extremely well at the combine, and is well-versed at converting explosion into devastating power at contact that push tackles into the teeth of the quarterback. After that, it’s a bunch of question marks as a pass rusher. He was also effective pressuring quarterbacks from the interior, something the Jaguars could do with him. The other is Myles Murphy, a strong run defender with a powerful long arm and an impressive first step.

If we’re talking about pass rushers on the interior for this team, we’d be remiss not to mention Calijah Kancey. Explosiveness, twitched-up agility, and rush moves to create pressure is Kancey’s game, and the Jaguars have a role for that. But, will Baalke, a guy who loves going big and fast, take a smaller guy? In an outlier class, maybe.

Sleeper: Offensive Line

Is it possible that, even with both Cam Robinson and Walker Little in tow, the Jacksonville Jaguars go with a tackle if he’s the best player on the board? I get that there’s some warranted confidence in Little, and playing someone at left guard who is making $22 million per season doesn’t make sense. However, if Darnell Wright is sitting there as a true right tackle, it will be difficult to pass that up for the long term with what he provides as a pass protector. Anton Harrison is another guy who could be available at the selection, but then a conundrum of three left tackles emerges. Can any play the other side?

There is a guard spot open. Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars will be the team to start the guard run with O’Cyrus Torrence. Torrence is a brick wall of a pass protector with good quicks and athleticism in the run game. His stance and positioning isn’t great, but that power and finishing skill set will be welcomed into a Sunday phone booth.

Fun: Another Tight End/Corner

Yes, the Engram franchise tag signing will happen, but will he play in Jacksonville longer than 2023? That remains to be seen. If not, then getting a tight end to play Engram’s role in the offense long-term makes sense.

The overwhelming favorite to do that in the 2023 NFL Draft would be Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid combines rare quicks with great instincts and feel to create space moments before the catch point. His catch point instincts and body control give him the ability to consistent haul in passes in heavy traffic. He finds a way to win after the catch as well.

Corner is another to watch, especially if the Jacksonville Jaguars do try to get Williams back into the slot. Three names would emerge as quick favorites, if any are the fourth/fifth corner off the board. If Deonte Banks falls here, his press technique, physicality throughout the stem and at the catch point, footwork, and speed. Joey Porter Jr. is another with impressive physicality and zone awareness to enter a versatile scheme. Cam Smith is another, with great ball skills and coverage chops. If we go off-book, Emmanuel Forbes, which would be small for Baalke, could enter that conversation as well.