NFL Draft primer: Jaguars need to upgrade defense to contend again in AFC South

2023 record: 9-8, missed playoffs

Draft picks per round

1st round: No. 17
2nd round: No. 48
3rd round: No. 96 (compensatory)
4th round: No. 114
4th round: No. 116 (from Saints)
5th round: No. 153
6th round: 212 (compensatory)
7th round: No. 236

(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

(Taylar Sievert/Yahoo Sports)

Top needs

Offensive line (interior)
Defensive line
Wide receiver

The Jaguars secured their pass rush in bringing back edge rusher Josh Allen on the franchise tag to pair with Travon Walker. They added Gabe Davis to their receiving corps in free agency, but need help at the position after the departure of Calvin Ridley to the division rival Tennessee Titans.

In addition to adding receiver help, the focus in the draft should be on bolstering the interior of both lines and improving a pass defense that ranked 26th in the NFL last season. Right guard Brandon Scherff is returning thanks to restructuring his deal to lower his salary-cap hit. But Jacksonville desperately needs to improve one of 2023’s worst run-blocking units.

There was no threat of a pass rush from Jaguars defenders outside of Allen and Walker, who combined for 27.5 of the team’s 40 sacks last season. Adding a defensive lineman who can apply pressure from the inside would be a big boost to Jacksonville. So would adding a No. 1 cornerback in a draft deep at the position.

Best first-round fits

Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas
Jackson Powers-Johnson, OL, Oregon
Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa
Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

Best Day 2 fits

Zach Frazier, C, Oregon
T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State
Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan
Mike Sainristil, CB, Michigan
Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia
Christian Haynes, G, UConn

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How they did last draft

The Jaguars received a C-minus from Yahoo Sports, though they appeared to have secured the right side of their line with first-round offensive tackle Anton Harrison, who started all 17 games as a rookie. Second-round tight Brenton Strange started four games and caught just four passes as a rookie.

Third-round running back Tank Bigsby was supposed to provide the 2 in a 1-2 punch with starter Travis Etienne Jr. Instead, he carried the ball 50 times for 132 yards as Etienne amounted to a true workhorse behind a poor offensive line. Fifth-round safety Antonio Johnson flashed some upside with two interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble in a part-time role while earning three starts. But there’s significant room for improvement here.

Dream fantasy draft pick

The Jaguars could use a receiver after losing Calvin Ridley to Tennessee, as Gabe Davis isn’t an adequate replacement. Brian Thomas Jr. could be an option at pick No. 17, but the return of coordinator Press Taylor is bad news for the offense (and fantasy managers). One other area of need is backup running back, as Travis Etienne predictably wore down under a heavy workload last season. Jacksonville drafted Tank Bigsby in 2023 to take some of those touches, but he failed miserably. There’s a role (and upside for more should Etienne suffer an injury) for a rookie back in Jacksonville’s offense this season. — Dalton Del Don

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