American Football

2023 NFL Draft Draft: Grading the Jaguars’ moves from Day 2


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Penn State at Rutgers
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Grading Jacksonville’s Friday selections Brenton Strange and Tank Bigsby

The Jacksonville Jaguars had a stunning Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

After trading back in the first round and selecting Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison, the Jaguars had the opportunity to trade back up in the draft and address its defense. Instead, Jacksonville traded back again and came away with Penn State TE Brenton Strange and Auburn RB Tank Bigsby.

Strange was picked 61st overall following a deal with Chicago to move back five spots and add a fourth-rounder. It was a genuinely shocking pick, as the former Nittany Lion was projected to land in the fifth round by both expert and public mock draft consensus.

Strange did tell media last night that he was expecting to be drafted in the second or third round, so the league was clearly higher on him than analysts and fans.

Even with that admission, though, selecting a tight end early was weird. Evan Engram is still working out a contract extension and the roster has plenty of more-pressing needs.

In the best-case scenario where Engram and Strange are both Jaguars for a long time, there’s still an argument to be made that Jacksonville should’ve prioritized a premium position at an area of need rather than perhaps forcing a pick.

Four tight ends were selected in the second round prior to Strange — Harrison wasn’t a reactive or panic pick by the Jaguars, but Strange might’ve been.

Jacksonville did draft Bigsby around where he was expected to go, so there’s not much of a question about whether the team reached on him. However, the same resource allocation question applies. In the best-case scenario where Bigsby and Travis Etienne are both Jaguars for a long time, is that really better than the risk of swinging on a Day 2 cornerback or edge rusher and opting for a Day 3 running back?

I don’t have much of a problem with the players chosen (especially having not watched either closely), and the “reach” complaints are probably a bit overblown (especially in such a weak draft class overall).

But Jacksonville’s process is troubling. Why trade back to 61 and draft Strange when you could’ve stayed at 56 and drafted Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker? Why draft a tight end top-75 at all when you are supposedly trying to come to terms with Engram? Why not draft one of Tyrique Stevenson, DJ Turner or Garrett Williams at cornerback in an AFC filled with superstar quarterbacks? WHY DOES TRENT BAALKE SOUND SO CONFIDENT IN TRE HERNDON?!

As Mia noted, the Jaguars figure to add to its secondary on Saturday afternoon. Jacksonville did try to trade back up into the third round and Shipley guessed it was for Utah CB Clark Phillips III.

Baalke also said the following on Friday night:

Well, the board fell the way it fell. When you’re picking where we’re picking, there’s a lot of good players that are going to go off the board. You try to make some trades at times to do some things. It takes two to tango.

Sometimes you can make a move, sometimes you can’t. At the end of the day we stayed true to the board. Feel really good about the value we got. We got two really good football players at key positions that add a lot of depth and versatility to what we want to do offensively. Let’s get into day three and see what that has in store for us.

In his defense, it sounds like Baalke and the team did try to trade up at some point on Day 2 but couldn’t strike a deal. Then Strange and Bigsby were just the best players remaining on their board.

Jacksonville was probably in a tougher spot than its fans are willing to admit. And as long as Trevor Lawrence is quarterback, no one can be too upset about spending top-100 picks on offense.

The fact that the team walked away from Day 2 with two skill position role players isn’t great. What’s truly bad, though, is Jacksonville’s depth at cornerback and edge rusher. Those were both roster weaknesses last year, and both positions have only lost talent this offseason.

Unless the Jaguars trade for Budda Baker, and until they sign defensive veterans after the draft, nothing that happens on Day 3 will give me confidence to feel good about Jacksonville’s 2023 defense.

Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow are all on the team’s schedule this year. Houston, Indianapolis, and Tennessee all added a rookie quarterback in the draft. Do the Jaguars know this?

Day 2 grade: D

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