Led by quarterback Trever Lawrence and head coach Doug Pederson, the Jacksonville Jaguars defied all expectations in 2022. Following two straight seasons of having the first overall pick, the team proved to be on the verge of something special.
The Jaguars the season with a 9-8 record and a trip to the playoffs. After taking down Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers, they fell to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round by a score of 27-20. Just one season after a 3-14 finish, the Jaguars found themselves on a playoff run.
After spending the most money in the NFL during the 2022 offseason, the Jaguars have not attacked the new league year with the same aggression. Instead, they have focused on retaining many of the building blocks already on the roster. They have brought back several key players on new contracts including Andrew Wingard and Tre Herdon. The team also chose to franchise tag tight end, Evan Engram. Arguably their most notable free agent signing so far has been the addition of running back D’Ernest Johnson. They also made the blockbuster move to acquire Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley during last season’s trade deadline
With the Jaguars not being as active in free agency, it is safe to assume that they will look to complete their roster through the 2023 NFL draft. In the first round, they will have the 24th overall selection. With this pick, they could look to address several different needs, and the defensive side could prove to be the focus. With that being said, let’s take a look at possible options in the first round for the Jaguars.
Here are three potential targets for the Jaguars in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.
Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia
With the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, the Jaguars added Georgia edge rusher, Travon Walker. Now, one year later, they could look to add his former teammate, edge rusher Nolan Smith.
During his time at Georgia, Smith regularly looked elite. Over four seasons and 38 total games, he recorded 110 total tackles, 63 solo tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception.
Smith played the best football of his career in 2021 while playing alongside Walker. He finished the season appearing in 12 games, recording 53 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, and three forced fumbles.
This past season, Smith spent much of the campaign sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle. When healthy, he appeared primed to post the best numbers of his collegiate career. Over eight games, he recorded 18 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, and three sacks.
With Smith’s senior season ending early, he fell down many draft boards. But with his elite performance at the NFL combine, he found himself back in the conversation for being selected in the first round. At the combine, Smith ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, while recording a 41.5″ vertical jump and a 10’8″ broad jump.
With his skillset and overall athletic ability, he is primed to be a force from day one. If the Jaguars can reunite Walker with Smith, they may not be able to pass up on the chance.
Cam Smith, cornerback, South Carolina
This year’s cornerback class is arguably the deepest of any position in the draft. With the elite talent available, as many as six cornerbacks could hear their names called in the first round.
The Jaguars are a team that could look to improve the secondary. With a need at cornerback, they could have their pick of playmakers at pick 24. The team could have its sights set on several players, including South Carolina’s Cam Smith.
During his four seasons at South Carolina, Smith regularly disrupted opposing teams passing games. In total, over 32 games, he recorded 91 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 18 defended passes, and six interceptions.
Smith has the potential to become a legitimate CB1 at the next level. While at the combine, he showcased his speed, running a 4.43 40-yard dash. While coming in at 6’1″ and 180 pounds, he also has the size to keep up with even the NFL’s bigger pass catchers.
With the addition of Smith, the Jaguars could add a potential star at cornerback. He would also fill a major need in the position.
Deonte Banks, cornerback, Maryland
Another cornerback option for the Jaguars could be Maryland’s, Deonte Banks. While it is unclear which cornerback will become the best of this year’s group, Banks has the potential to do so.
In each of his four seasons at Maryland, Banks saw his game improve. This past season, he saw his play reach a new peak. While taking the field in 12 games, he recorded 38 total tackles, one interception, and eight defended passes.
At 6’0″ and 197 pounds, Banks is one of the bigger cornerbacks in this year’s class. Along with this size, he also has elite speed. While at the combine, he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, the third-fastest time of any cornerback.
With the speed that many of the AFC’s wide receivers have, adding a player such as Banks could make sense. He could also step in and immediately become the Jaguars top cornerback.
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