It's not often a team owns the No. 1 overall draft pick in back-to-back seasons, but the Jaguars hold that distinction as the 2022 NFL Draft draws near. A year after using the top selection on quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville is looking to build around the young signal-caller, this time with new coach Doug Pederson running the show. The Jags will have plenty of opportunities to do so, too, considering they enter the draft with 12 picks, tied for most among all teams.
A wildly busy free agency, which saw the Jags commit top dollar to veterans like Christian Kirk, Brandon Scherff and Darious Williams, gives the club at least a little more flexibility in terms of addressing needs on draft weekend. But Jacksonville has been such an irregular contender that the 2022 draft remains crucial for their turnaround.
Here's one stab at projecting their entire draft haul:
OLB Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
OG Zion Johnson (Boston College)
|3||65||CB Kaair Elam (Florida)|
|3||70||WR George Pickens (Georgia)|
|4||106||OT Daniel Faalele (Minnesota)|
|5||157||TE Cole Turner (Nevada)|
|6||180||S Brad Hawkins (Michigan)|
|6||188||RB Hassan Haskins (Michigan)|
|6||197||LB Darien Butler (Arizona State)|
|6||198||DT Tayland Humphrey (UL Lafayette)|
|7||222||QB Brock Purdy (Iowa State)|
|7||235||S Amari Burney (Florida)|
Hutchinson has become the clear favorite to go No. 1 overall, and for good reason. It's always smart to invest in the trenches, and there's an argument to be made top tackles like Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu would provide more long-term upside than current left tackle Cam Robinson, who's set to play under the franchise tag for a second straight year. But Robinson showed signs of improvement in 2021, and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff's addition to the front should help Lawrence even more. That makes Hutchinson, who's drawn comparisons to 49ers star Nick Bosa, a logical top choice as a playmaker for the D-line. Paired with fellow edge rusher Josh Allen and new interior man Foley Fatukasi, he'd instantly improve Jacksonville's front.
Back to the trenches: Johnson would give the team more short- and long-term help on the interior, either challenging or replacing left guard Ben Bartch and/or center Tyler Shatley. Elam could be a potential steal in the third as depth/insurance at cornerback, where the Jags have paid big bucks to Shaquill Griffin and Darious Williams in recent years, but still need more results. Speaking of big investments, the team doled out lucrative deals to Christian Kirk and Zay Jones out wide, but Pickens, who met with the Jaguars at the combine, would bring requisite size and athleticism to the outside.
Faalele, in the fourth, would give the team a monster of a project at tackle, specifically on the right side. Turner, meanwhile, projects as a potential pass-catching weapon at tight end, potentially giving Jacksonville competition for the newly signed Evan Engram. Hawkins would provide much-needed help at the back end of the secondary, where the team is leaning on Rayshawn Jenkins and Andrew Wingard as temporary starters. And Haskins, who's met with the Jags during the pre-draft process, would offer big-bodied depth at running back, where James Robinson and Travis Etienne are both coming off injuries.
The final four picks are all about emergency depth/competition. Butler would give the linebacker corps another fresh face after Myles Jack's departure and Foye Oluokun's arrival. Humphrey could be a potential backup nose tackle or 3-4 defensive end. Purdy, who isn't necessarily heralded for his arm but reportedly boasts solid accuracy and pocket presence, would give Pederson a developmental QB behind Lawrence and veteran reserve C.J. Beathard. And Burney, who played alongside Elam at Florida, could add special-teams experience as well as more safety competition.