JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the verge of landing free-agent quarterback Nick Foles, with the news breaking Sunday that the team is expected to sign the former Super Bowl MVP when the new league year begins on March 13.
If that does indeed happen -- and there’s still more than a week until Foles can sign -- the team’s draft plan should now be getting Foles as much help as possible. He does fix a significant problem, but there are still several other major offensive issues that the Jaguars must address in the first few rounds of the draft.
It’s not unreasonable to argue that the Jaguars should still make quarterback a priority in the draft even with Foles on the roster -- to have a Plan B in place as well as prepare for the future -- but that’s an unrealistic scenario. It’s obvious after the combine that Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins almost certainly won’t be around when the Jaguars pick seventh, and the Jaguars are unlikely to trade up for a player they won’t want to use for several years.
Instead, executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell should focus on tight end, receiver and offensive line. They can get impact players at those positions in the top three rounds, and that will go a long way toward ensuring that a top-10 defense doesn’t have to carry the offense every week, which was the case for the final 12 games of 2018.
Tight end is currently a wasteland for the Jaguars after they opted not to pick up Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ option for 2019. Coughlin prefers tight ends who can help in the run game over strictly pass-catching tight ends, and 6-foot-5, 251-pound T.J. Hockenson (Iowa) is regarded as the most complete tight end in the draft, and he’s definitely the best blocker.
It’s unusual for a tight end to be taken in the top 10 -- it’s only happened 11 times since 1970 -- but Hockenson won’t be available when the Jaguars pick 39th. They could trade down and take a chance he’d be available in the early teens, but tight end is by far their weakest offensive position and they could give Foles an option in the middle of the field and boost the run game by taking Hockenson seventh.
No receiver at the combine was more impressive than D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss). The 6-3, 228-pound Metcalf ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, did 27 reps on the bench press (225 pounds) and measured in at 1.6 percent body fat (which has nothing to do with running routes, but is amazing nonetheless).
The Jaguars don’t have much coming back at receiver. Dede Westbrook is part of their plans, but Marqise Lee is coming off a serious knee injury. Keelan Cole didn’t progress from his rookie season, and 2018 second-round pick DJ Chark didn't make much of an impact on offense.
Metcalf would be an immense help, and the Jaguars might still be able to draft him even if they trade back into the mid-teens.
The offensive line was decimated by injuries last season. It was so bad that by Week 15, there was only one starter still on the field, and three of the starters in the final three games were not with the team when October began. Left tackle Cam Robinson (knee), left guard Andrew Norwell (foot) and center Brandon Linder (knee) missed a combined 26 games last season, and the Jaguars aren’t expected to bring back right tackle Jermey Parnell or right guard A.J. Cann.
Tackles Jonah Williams, Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford are projected first-round picks and would be good additions. The Jaguars want to run the football and be effective with play-action passes, and they'll need to beef up the offensive line to make that happen.
Coughlin has shown -- last year and when he was with the New York Giants -- that he’s willing to draft defensive linemen even when that’s already a position of strength, and there are multiple top defensive linemen who would be available at No. 7. However, the Jaguars should not operate that way next month.
Foles fills a major need, but he alone doesn’t fix an offense that managed just two touchdowns in the final five games last season. The Jaguars have to get him as much help as they can.