The 2022 NFL Draft class is officially a week old, with the dust settling and fits and skillsets being further evaluated as we judge how each team fared in their efforts to build their franchise into contenders.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had some of the most at stake considering the failure of the 2021 season and the need to quickly give second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence a healthy environment to grow in. After entering the week with 12 picks, the Jaguars made three trades and ended up with seven players — including two first-round picks.
- No. 1, Round 1: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
- No. 27, Round 1: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
- No. 65, Round 3: OC Luke Fortner, Kentucky
- No. 70, Round 3: LB Chad Muma, Wyoming
- No. 154, Round 5: RB Snoop Conner, Ole Miss
- No. 197, Round 6: CB Gregory Junior, Ouachita Baptist
- No. 222, Round 7: CB Montaric Brown, Arkansas
“I think the free agent period allowed us some freedom to look at the draft a little differently than we might have pre-free agency if that makes sense,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said after the draft. “Again, dealing with Coach [Doug Pederson] and going through the process with the coaching staff, it’s all about developing the best roster, the best 53. That’s how we approached free agency, that’s how we approached the draft.
“Obviously, you have to address needs and we felt we did that. At the end of the season, we go through an end of the season review and write down the top needs that we have on offense, defense, and special teams. We feel like we did a really good job of addressing those and we’re going to continue to address the needs that we see as we work through the offseason program.”
With the draft now in our rearview mirror, what are our closing thoughts on the Jaguars’ 2022 draft class and process?
Grading the process of the first four picks
I think it is usually a moot point to debate draft grades because you are grading based on opinions and not any known facts. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens’ draft with Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum, David Ojabo, and Travis Jones looks spectacular on paper, but we don’t really know how any of these picks are going to play out until they do.
With that said, I do think we are able to make judgements on the processes teams go through to make picks. There is enough information out there to tell us what kind of moves present the most value and which kind of prospects are the most likely to hit, even if it is an inexact science. With this in mind, here is how we view the process of the Jaguars’ first five picks; mind you, these grades have little to do with the talent of the player the Jaguars took.
Travon Walker: B
There are a few school of thoughts on this grade. On one hand, this was a draft class without a unanimous top player and any player the Jaguars picked would have been a somewhat flawed pick for one reason or another. And taking Travon Walker at No. 1 may not be as extreme as some fans and casual followers think considering the NFL appears to have had him as a consensus top-ranked defender in the draft; not all at No. 1, but in the 1-7 range. Pass-rushers with Walker’s traits rarely bust, so the pick might actually be safer than some thing, too.
With that said, taking a player with such little production, one year of starting and no All-conference or All-american accolades at No. 1 overall is a bold choice. No player with Walker’s production profile has ever been taken No. 1, so the Jaguars are going with an outlier in that regard, and outliers usually don’t work in their favor.
So, not an egregious pick by any means, but one that certainly has a fair amount of risk attached to it.
Devin Lloyd: C+
The representation of the difference between evaluating a process and evaluating a player is Devin Lloyd. The No. 27 overall pick fills a giant need for the Jaguars and was widely-ranked as one of the top-2 linebackers in the draft and a top-20 pick. He was even mocked as early as in the top-10 to the Giants at one point in the process, so getting a player with his skills at No. 27 is a big win.
With that said, there are legit criticisms to make about the Jaguars’ move up to get him. The Jaguars traded the No. 33 pick, the No. 106 pick (fourth-round), and the No. 180 pick (sixth-round) for the No. 27 pick. Sure, that may not look like much on the surface, but the Buccaneers turned that into Logan Hall and Cade Otton and used the No. 180 pick to help move up for Luke Goedeke. Those three players compared to just Lloyd is a bit lopsided.
Lloyd is a good player, but did the Jaguars need to move out of 33 for a linebacker in a linebacker-heavy class? Probably not. This point will be rendered useless if Lloyd pans out, but the Jaguars weren’t a team that was a linebacker away from competing, even if they made moves like one.
Luke Fortner: A
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There isn’t much to say about this pick. The Jaguars stuck to their selection and took a center who was always expected to go in the third-round range. One could wonder why they didn’t go for an impact position like wide receiver or a more valuable offensive line position like tackle, but the Jaguars had a big need at center and Fortner checks all of their boxes.
Chad Muma: B-
In terms of pure talent, I believe Chad Muma was an absolute steal at No. 70. I saw him as a top-50 player in the class and truly wouldn’t have thought twice if the Jaguars took him as early as No. 33 overall. The entire point of the draft is to find talented players, and getting Muma at No. 70 accomplishes that. From his athletic metrics to his production, there are really no questions with Muma’s profile.
With that said, this gets a slight ding due to the need. The Jaguars did need more linebacker help, but they already traded up for a linebacker in round one and signed Foyesade Oluokun to an expensive three-year deal this offseason. Muma is a good player, but it isn’t a pick without questions.
Day 3 was a confusing time, but the first two days added plenty of talent in big areas of need
With the first two days judged above, we now turn our attention to Day 3. It was a day the Jaguars were set to dominate with eight of their original 12 picks coming in that range, but the Jaguars’ series of draft trades led to the Jaguars attempting to go with quality over quantity, ending with seven picks.
In general, the idea for teams like the Jaguars who have a plethora of holes is to build more draft capital. The Jaguars aren’t a team who is close enough to competing that they should trust their own evalutions enough to the point where they give up several potential selections, which made Day 3 a confusing one for the Jaguars.
Selecting two cornerbacks at the end of the draft made sense and doesn’t warrant much criticism considering the need and the point of the draft, but trading away two sixth-round picks for Snoop Conner after already trading two picks for what will likely amount to a late fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay was a curious move to say the least.
With that said, the Jaguars did atone for some of their odd moves on Day 3 by adding four good players with their first four picks. Yes, the process for the Lloyd selection wasn’t ideal in terms of value, but it is unlikely many people think about that if he plays to the level his college tape suggests he can. Add in Walker’s upside, Fortner’s fit and the fact Muma is one of the best linebackers in the class and those are four picks you can be excited about, even if the final day wasn’t ideal.
Not taking a skill player in top-100 will be debated for some time, but was there a time they could they have taken one?
The strangest part of the Jaguars’ draft was the fact they didn’t take a single skill player in the top-100 and only took one overall in fifth-round running back Snoop Conner. We had written several times the Jaguars were higher on their receiver and tight end room than most people on the outside, but nobody expected for them to be high enough on each room to not add any draftable talent to either.
With that said, it is fair to wonder exactly when the Jaguars could have taken a receiver. They clearly couldn’t take one at No. 1, and they filled a big need at No. 65 with Fortner. This leaves No. 33 and No. 70. The Jaguars could have just kept the No. 33 pick and taken Christian Watson, but the Jaguars deemed Lloyd a better player than Watson, While the that may not justify a trade-up, the Jaguars are at least right in their evaluation from our perspective.
No. 70 seems to be the sweet spot. The Jaguars could have traded into the second round during the wide receiver frenzy, but this was likely not possible or even responsible after the Lloyd selection. With this in mind, here are the five receivers or tight ends taken after the Jaguars picked Muma at No. 70:
- Velus Jones Jr.: No. 71
- Jelani Woods: No. 73
- Greg Dulcich: No. 80
- Jalen Tolbert: No. 88
- David Bell: No. 99
Muma is a good player and, in my opinion, should have been the pick over the first two names on the list. The last three, though, would have provided a boost to Jacksonville’s offense, especially Dulcich and Tolbert considering the long-term needs they would fill. The Jaguars can take solace in the fact that they took a good player, but No. 70 really does look like the spot they maybe should have addressed the offense.
Baalke’s draft strategy became even clearer in 2022 than in 2021
The Jaguars’ 2021 draftt class gave us a good idea of what this one was going to look like, in hindsight. Back then, the Jaguars made several picks that were clearly opting for the best player available over need, namely the selections of Travis Etienne, Walker Little, and Tyson Campbell. At the time the picks were made, none were need picks.
The Jaguars kept this strategy in 2022 and it doesn’t appear it is going anywhere under Baalke. The Jaguars had big needs at linebacker and center, but they had bigger needs at wide receiver and guard when they picked each position. The fact the Jaguars went with two cornerbacks over any offensive players at the end of this class only drives this point home further. Baalke and the Jaguars trust their evaluations, and they are likely always going to trust them over what they perceive as reaching for needs.
Seniority reigns as the theme of the class
Other than Travon Walker and Snoop Conner, the Jaguars placed a clear emphasis on experience and seniority among their draft picks. Walker was a true junior who is just 21 and doesn’t turn 22 until Dec. 18, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the Jaguars picks.
Devin Lloyd: Redshirt senior, turns 24 on Sept. 30.
Luke Fortner: Redshirt senior, turns 24 on May 15.
Chad Muma: Senior, turns 23 on August 18.
Snoop Conner: Junior, turns 22 on Aug. 1.
Gregory Junior: Redshirt senior, turns 23 on June 22.
Montaric Brown: Redshirt senior, turns 23 on August 24.
In short, Walker and Conner were the only real “youth” picks the Jaguars made, with the Jaguars having two rookies who will be 24 during their rookie season. Add in the fact that Fortner, Muma and Junior were all Senior Bowl and it is clear the Jaguars placed a big emphasis on getting pro-ready players who, in their eyes, are ready to go today and now.