The 2017 NFL Draft is just three days away, meaning fans and analysts are eagerly anticipating the moves that their team will make on Thursday. The consensus pick amongst the media and Jacksonville Jaguars fans for the fourth overall pick is LSU running back Leonard Fournette. However, Dave Caldwell must be wary of the fact that the current state of the Jaguars roster would not translate to instant success for a superstar running back and could even hamper the team’s changes of long term success.
Looking at the rosters of promising teams in the NFL it shows that it often pays to invest early draft picks in the offensive line. And the Jags may want to follow this blueprint moving forward. It’s why bringing in Forrest Lamp in the first round is the best move for the team.
Forrest Lamp to the Jacksonville Jaguars Makes Sense
The one team’s policy that the Jaguars should be looking to replicate is division rival Tennessee Titans. The Titans have built a roster which is close to competing in no more than three years. In those three years, Tennessee have used two top 15 picks for tackles Taylor Lewan (11th Overall, 2014) and Jack Conklin (Eighth Overall, 2016) and are now reaping the benefits. Both have appeared in a Pro Bowl since entering the league, and they look as though they can linchpin a successful offensive line for the next ten years.
Last season, the Jaguars’ biggest issue was a failure to score points. Doug Marrone has inherited a top six defense but without an offense that’s capable of putting up 25+ points per game the team will struggle to improve on their dismal 13-3 record in 2016.
With two well-paid running backs already on the roster and a deep enough running back class this year, there is no rush to pick up one of the projected first or second round talents. Players such as Marlon Mack (USF) and Kareem Hunt (Toledo) are interesting prospects who should be available in the third or fourth round and still produce in their rookie season. If the Jaguars want to establish a solid run game in 2017, drafting a running back in the middle rounds to initiate competition and taking offensive line help early is the perfect way to do it. Kenneth Dixon of the Baltimore Ravens is a good example of a mid round back excelling in the NFL running behind a top ten pick at offensive tackle (Ronnie Stanley).
Need vs Value
Traditional perception suggests that taking an offensive guard in the top five is ridiculous as it is not a position which is valuable enough for such a paycheck. However, the Jaguars are trying to finalize a roster which can contend for playoff spots as soon as possible. Therefore, it makes sense to fill the biggest needs on what is – outside of the skill positions, quite a bleak offensive unit.
With Brandon Albert tying up the left tackle position, it would be nonsensical for Caldwell to target a traditional franchise left tackle this year. With both guard spots and the right tackle position all up for the taking, Lamp would be a perfect fit to slot in at guard and then kick out to one of the tackle spots once he matures in the NFL – much like Laremy Tunsil is doing with the Miami Dolphins. Miami is another example of a team with a middle round pick at running back succeeding behind early picks on the offensive line.
It is also worth remembering that following the first three picks (which are likely going to be the top three defenders of this year’s draft class) the Jaguars will be reaching to take a defensive players. After Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas, there are no edge rushers worthy of being selected in the top five.
Is it worth reaching to take a more traditional top five position, and leaving the offense uninspiring for another year? The Jaguars fanbase is growing increasingly tired of poor decision-making in the front office damaging success on the field. Missing out on the chance to propel your offense to another level would be as lamentable as deciding against pursuing the impressive guards who were on offer in free agency.
No Trade Necessary
The Jaguars are likely shopping the fourth overall pick to quarterback needy teams that want to get in the top five, and rightly so. If the Jaguars are able to trade back to the ten-fifteen range and still pick up a premier talent then everyone will praise Caldwell for a smart approach to draft day.
However, the issue is that once you’ve traded back there is no guarantee that the people on your board will still be available ten selections later. While there is a range of offensive linemen who are projected to be off the board by the end of Thursday night, none of them are close to being as complete a prospect as Lamp is.
For that reason, it seems silly to risk trading back into the middle of the first, or to pay too much attention to the value of a pick when there is a bonafide star sat waiting for them when the Jaguars are finally on the clock.