After a breakout season in 2022, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to take the next step forward. The Jaguars have the pieces to contend in the future, including a star quarterback in the making in Trevor Lawrence, but still need a couple more pieces to ascend to that level. With free agency mostly complete and not much cap space, the Jaguars will likely have to keep building through the draft.
After picking first overall in each of the last two years, Jacksonville will instead pick at 24th overall in 2023. That alone is a huge sign of the progress the team has made over the past year. That said, there are a few positions at which they could still use an upgrade.
With only a week to go before the 2023 NFL Draft, we have a pretty good idea of where the Jaguars may go thanks to hundreds of mock drafts and predictions. However, enough uncertainty remains that they could still throw a curveball our way. Without further ado, here are three players who could be sneaky options for the Jaguars with the No. 24 pick in the draft.
3. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
Jacksonville did well in many key areas last year, but rushing the passer was not one of them. The Jaguars had just 35 sacks all season, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
Furthermore, Jacksonville suffered big losses to its pass rush this offseason. Arden Key, who ranked third on the team with 4.5 sacks, left to sign with the division-rival Tennessee Titans in free agency. Dawuane Snoot, second on the team with five sacks, is still a free agent, but it doesn’t seem like a return to Jacksonville is happening anytime soon. With these losses, the Jaguars must find some more pass-rushers to help out Josh Allen and Travon Walker.
As such, many have predicted that Jacksonville will take an edge rusher with their first-round pick. Some of the more common picks are Clemson’s Myles Murphy and Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness, but they could be off the board at this point in the draft. If that happens, then Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey could be a good backup option.
Foskey was a monster for the Fighting Irish, recording 11 sacks in each of the last two seasons. He stands at 6-5 and 264 pounds, and has good speed with a 4.58 40-yard dash. He’s still a work in progress, though, leading to most seeing him as a second-round pick. Still, Foskey has good upside and could sneak into the first round.
2. Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
Safety is another position where Jacksonville could use an upgrade. Rayshawn Jenkins is a very good player, but the other safety spot isn’t as clear. Though Andre Cisco is a decent option, he’s not irreplaceable.
Naturally, many mock drafts have also featured the Jaguars going safety in the first round. In fact, Alabama’s Brian Branch is the most popular pick for the Jaguars in mock drafts, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. Branch is the best safety in the draft, but once again, there’s a good chance he’s off the board before Jacksonville picks. In that case, Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson would be the next-best option.
In 2022, Johnson recorded 71 tackles and three forced fumbles. He isn’t the fastest safety, but he is big at 6-2 and 198 pounds and makes good use of it with his physicality. Johnson is versatile enough to be a do-it-all safety for any NFL team, and could be right at home in Jacksonville.
1. Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
The other part of the secondary position is also a big need for Jacksonville. The Jaguars allowed 238.5 passing yards per game in 2022, the fifth-most in the league. To compete with the dynamic offenses in the AFC, the Jaguars must improve their pass defense substantially.
If they want to address that need in the draft, they will have plenty options to choose from. The cornerback class in this year’s draft is very good, with at least a handful of corners all but locks to go in the first round. However, the Jaguars could also go off the board and take Clark Phillips III out of Utah.
Phillips definitely has some concerns as a prospect. He’s pretty small at only 5-9 and 184 pounds, and not particularly fast with just a 4.51 40-yard dash. However, he is a natural ball hawk, with his six interceptions last season tying for second in the country. Phillips definitely has his limitations, but also a strong skillset that could allow him to sneak into the first round, where Jacksonville should at least consider bringing him in.
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