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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars pick among the top 10 in the NFL Draft for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
They will make the first overall pick for the second year in a row and will have a top-five selection for the eighth time in the last 11 years.
Why have they had so many high draft picks? Because they have lost 10 or more games in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
Why have they lost so many matches? Because they have drafted badly, especially when it comes to the high picks.
It’s a vicious circle that does not end until the franchise begins to strike at its choices, develop them into core players, and sign them to a second or third deal, instead of trying to correct its draft errors through free agency.
“If you look at our list, there are very few players who are second-contract Jaguars, and that is something that needs to change if we want to change the culture and direction of the organization,” said general manager Trent Baalke. “It’s going to start there. It will start with drawing well, developing well and getting guys into their second contract.”
Baalke, who is in his second season as the team’s GM, has a pretty low bar to the top at this point. There are only four players on the current list playing on their second or third contract: left tackle Cam Robinson (second franchise tag), guard / tackle Will Richardson Jr., defensive end Dawuane Smoot and punter Logan Cooke.
Robinson is the most notable of the group, but none of them have come close to making a Pro Bowl. Richardson has only started five games.
Only 10 of the Jaguars’ 59 draft picks from 2012 to 2019 have signed another contract with the team. Only one (quarterback Blake Bortles) was taken in the first round (2014). The other players who signed the second deal: Wide receiver Marqise Lee (second round, 2014), center Brandon Linder (third round, 2014), linebacker Telvin Smith (fifth round, 2014), guard AJ Cann (third round, 2015), linebacker Myles Jack (second round, 2016), Smoot (third round, 2017), Cooke (seventh round, 2018), Richardson (fourth round, 2018) and Robinson (second round, 2017).
Defensive end Josh Allen was the team’s first round pick in 2019 and is eligible to sign an extension this offseason; the team has until May 2 to exercise their fifth year option on their contract.
Of the first 10 round elections from 2012-20:
It’s hard to win games when you get little or no production out of your premium draft picks – and it’s hard to catch up when you’re trying to correct these mistakes through free agency.
The Jaguars hope the drafting of quarterback Trevor Lawrence for the first time in 2021 was the first step in changing the direction of the franchise. And they hope that last year’s second first-rounder, Travis Etienne Jr., will make an impact in 2022 after missing his rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury. Baalke has another chance with this year’s first choice to add another basic piece, whether it’s defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, offensive tackles Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu or a surprising choice – such as defensive lineman Travon Walker.
It will take several more years before we know whether the Jaguars have reached the point where they do not rely on free will to keep filling the gaps they have created by not drawing well – as they did in spring when they spent $ 175.3 million in guaranteed money on free agents.
“The lists are always evolving in this league,” Baalke said. “You look at the league; the natural is 30-40% turnover almost on an annual basis. There are lots of shift schedules. Guys become free agents, they move on. Guys get hurt, they do not come back. There are many factors involved, but we had to meet some serious needs that the organization had. If you look at the previous drafts, there are just not that many players still left for various reasons, whether they chose to go on their own, they were substituted out or whatever.
“We are really happy with where we are. And what we are trying to build is stability within the ranks – keep as many guys, do not discard the roster as much as it has been gathered here. Few guys into their second contract as the Jaguars. That’s the important thing. Once we start getting into that rhythm, I think the building will really take care of itself. “