Jacksonville spent this off-season solidifying their identity as an old school, run-first offense leaning on a veteran defense. They lost their most talented receiver to the Bears in free agency in Allen Robinson and also cut one of their most productive receivers in recent years in Allen Hurns. They did however still spend big this off-season signing Andrew Norwell from Carolina, who Pro Football Focus ranked the third best guard in the NFL last year, making him the highest paid guard in football.
Even with this signing, Jacksonville's offensive line could still use some improvement if they are serious about solidifying their run game. After all they play in a division in which they'll see J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowny and Jurrell Casey twice a year. While he was much better at avoiding the sack in 2017, the Jaguars could still use more help keeping newly extended Blake Bortles upright to help him become even more comfortable in the pocket in 2018. They also lost their best blocking tight end after cutting long-time Jaguar and fan favorite Mercedes Lewis last month. Quarterback is still a position to keep and eye on along with tight end and linebacker, as they also lost veteran Paul Posluszny to retirement last month.
With that being said let's get to the draft.
Round One: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
Jaguars fans would love to see a quarterback like Lamar Jackson or maybe an electric reciever to replace A-Rob, but they'll use this pick to upgrade the interior of their line to give last year's top pick Leonard Fournette as much room to run as possible in 2018. He ran for over 1,000 yards in 13 games last year, imagine what he can do with Norwell and a big athletic guard like Hernandez in front of him. You'd also think Bortles would smile at this pick as it would give him even more protection coming off a year when the Jaguars pass protection improved due to the play of Brandon Linder and rookie Cam Robinson. The Jaguars had the top running attack in the NFL last year, now with a revamped interior line they can take their run game to the next level in 2018 and beyond.
Round Two: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
The Jaguars stay local once again by taking the former Bolles alumn Hayden Hurst. Hurst a little older than most prospects, he'll turn 25 in August, due to spending two years in with the Pittsburgh Pirates system before walking on at South Carolina in 2015. Hurst is a big target for Bortles in the red zone and a a good route runner, especially on vertical routes and in the seams. He won't replace Mercedes Lewis as a leader, but he'll fit well next to newly signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins as a safety net for Bortles and a big body to help block in the run game. Other options can include Oklahoma's Mark Andrews, who's another big body and athletic enough to be a threat in the pass game. While the Jaguars lost two of their most consistent receivers in Robinson and Hurns, they did resign Marquise Lee and bring in veteran Donte Moncrief. They also have promising young receivers in Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook.
Round Three: LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
It will be impossible for any rookie to replace the leadership of Paul Posluszny, but the Jaguars do need depth next to Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. It's also another example of the Jaguars picking talent from local schools as Griffin was a part of the undefeated Knights team this past season. Griffin, a fan favorite of the NFL combine, put on a show in Indianapolis despite his disability having one hand. The former American Athletic Conference player of the year was also first team all-conference in 2017 with a team-high seven sacks. He is a fast linebacker, running a 4.38 at the NFL Combine and while he is a little undersized at linebacker he would fit right in next to Smith and Jack in a Jaguars defense predicated on speed at the linebacker position. Griffin has the speed to keep up in pass coverage covering tight ends or running backs. This allows Myles Jack to move to the middle as Griffin would line up opposite Smith at outside linebacker.