Duval experienced yet another mundane offensive year in 2016, even though coming into the year hopes were high and faith in the offense was abundant. A lot of things went wrong, so it wouldn’t be fair to point the finger at only one branch of the offense. However, I think we’re all aware and in agreement that there’s one gaping hole that trumps all the rest. Everyone say it with me:
Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line Must Be Addressed in 2017 NFL Draft
Pro Football Focus ranked Jacksonville’s Offensive Line as the 19th best in the NFL in 2016. Not only is that obviously below average, it’s a shame considering how much was invested in players that underperformed such as Luke Joeckel, Kelvin Beachum, and Jeremy Parnell. The Jaguars MUST aim to improve this if they want any sort of success. Last year, the only member of the Jags’ line that really proved he deserved to come back was center Brandon Linder. Beachum is now with the New York Jets, and Parnell had a very down year compared to his first with Jacksonville, allowing 7.5 sacks last year. We’ve seen where a below average offensive line can get the team: seasons of five wins or less every year since 2010. Branden Albert was acquired from the Dolphins to shore up that tackle spot, but that’s not even the biggest area of concern with this line.
Options Moving Forward
Unfortunately, offensive line options in free agency have heavily thinned to mainly just depth options, and this year’s draft doesn’t boast near as many top tier linemen as it has in year’s past. Quite frankly, it’s one of the worst drafts for offensive lineman in recent history. The first offensive lineman prospect to come off the board will most likely be after the top ten, and will probably still be a reach wherever he’s picked. There’s just not much.
Therefore, the Jags must be adamant in drafting the top prospects before their opportunity passes, unless they plan on being active in the trade market. I personally am a fan of Dan Feeney, offensive guard out of Indiana. Yes, Forrest Lamp is the best guard in this draft, but the Jags are unlikely to trade down for, him, nor will he fall to them in the second round.
Feeney was a four-year starter at Indiana. Do the names Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman sound familiar? Well they should. They’re both extremely talented running backs in the NFL who coasted at Indiana thanks in part to Feeney’s blocking. Going into his senior year, Feeney had allowed only one sack in 39 starts on the line per CBS Sports Rob Rang. He was an insanely durable and consistent player up until his senior year, missing four games due to a concussion he sustained in week two against Ball State. Feeney is said to have an outstanding personality and an amazing work ethic by his Indiana coaching staff, and has some of the quickest feet for a guard in this entire draft.
Another intriguing prospect is Taylor Moton out of Western Michigan. Moton is being projected by most as a third round selection, but he has the tools to turn into a consistent starter for an NFL team. Moton not only helped turn around Western Michigan’s entire program, (1-11 in 2013, 13-1 in 2016) but he also played in every single game of his college career. After moving from right tackle to right guard his junior year, he received third-team All-MAC honors. The following year he returned to his usual spot at right tackle, and pulled down first-team all-conference accolades and a lot of All-American recognition. Moton is a huge prospect at 6’5”, 319 pounds, and possesses the raw talent to become a starter in the NFL. Most of his issues are with mechanics and technique, so getting quality NFL coaching will help boost this guy to the next level.
The defense looks top shelf. With a handful of signings that include Barry Church, A.J. Bouye, and Calais Campbell, Jacksonville looks to have a top ten defense [on paper] for this upcoming season, which means defense should be somewhat placed on the back burner until the latter days of the draft.
With Blake Bortles being in what we all assume to be a make or break year, the last thing he needs to be worrying about is a makeshift offensive line. Fixing this unit would lead to improvements everywhere in the offense, which is fortunate, because everywhere in this offense seems to need improvement, the offensive line most of all. Everything starts with a foundation. Great blocking wins football games, and Duval could use some wins.