Jaguars go with defense for 6 of 7 picks in draft
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars treated the NFL draft much like they did free agency — with defense being the No. 1 priority.
The Jaguars spent six of their seven picks on that side of the ball, including adding Notre Dame defensive tackle Sheldon Day (fourth round), Montana defensive end Tyrone Holmes (sixth) and Central Arkansas defensive end Jonathan Woodard (seventh) on Saturday.
Those final-day selections followed cornerback Jalen Ramsey (first), linebacker Myles Jack (second) and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (third).
General manager Dave Caldwell took Day with the 103rd overall pick, Holmes with the 181st selection and Woodward with the 226th choice, continuing to bolster a unit that gave up the second-most points in franchise history last season and ranked last in the league in getting off the field on third down.
"Obviously strong emphasis on the defensive side of the ball," coach Gus Bradley said Sunday. "We just felt like we really wanted to infuse a lot of competition on the defensive side."
The Jaguars also drafted Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in the sixth round with the 201st pick. Allen likely will compete with veteran Chad Henne to be Blake Bortles’ backup.
The defense was the story in Jacksonville, though.
It was the first time in franchise history that the Jaguars used their first five draft picks on defensive players. They believe several of them can be significant contributors right away.
Especially Ramsey and Jack, two of the most talented college players in the country in recent years.
"They’re premier, bordering on rare athletic ability," said Andy Dengler, Jacksonville’s assistant director of player personnel. "To have both of them in the fold here, it’s exciting. I think it’s really exciting for our roster and our team."
The Jaguars felt fortunate to get Ramsey with the fifth overall pick and were even more surprised to see Jack on the board in the second round. They traded up two spots to No. 36 to grab Jack, who is recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Jacksonville evaluated Jack’s knee three times and believe he will make a full recovery. If so, he could be the steal of the draft.
Jack had 178 tackles and four interceptions in 29 games at UCLA. He injured his knee last September and left school a few weeks later to rehab in Phoenix. He raised eyebrows earlier this week by saying he might need micro-fracture surgery down the road. Jack said Saturday he was misquoted.
"I was asked a question and I detailed it and told everything and then I got asked the back end of a question and said that, so I got quoted saying that," Jack said. "So at the end of the day, if it got me to end up here, where I wanted to go, then I’m cool with that. … It’s a great fit man, so I’m cool with everything."
Because of NFL graduation rules, Jack won’t be able to attend the team’s conditioning program or organized team activities. The other five defensive draftees will be there.
Ngakoue and Holmes give the Jags pass-rushing ends to play behind last year’s first-round pick, Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler missed his entire rookie season after tearing a knee ligament during rookie camp.
Ngakoue had 13 sacks last season, ranking second in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Holmes had 18, which led the Football Championship Subdivision. He was named the FCS defensive player of the year.
Day, meanwhile, had 33 tackles, including 15 for loss, and four sacks as a senior. Jacksonville believes Day can be a disruptive 3-technique, meaning he will play behind Malik Jackson and Sen’Derrick Marks. Woodard, who recorded 30 sacks in four years at Central Arkansas, will compete with Tyson Alualu behind starter Jared Odrick.
The rookies are the latest pieces in the team’s defensive makeover. After ranking 31st in points and 24th in yards allowed in 2015, Bradley fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich, promoted D-line coach Todd Wash and hired veteran Monte Kiffin to help get the unit turned around.
Jacksonville then signed defensive tackle Malik Jackson (five years, $85.5 million), free safety Tashaun Gipson (five years, $36 million) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (one year, $5.5 million) in free agency.
So the Jaguars should have at least five new starters on defense.
"It’s a heavy emphasis on defense," Dengler said. "We’re looking to have those upgrades, so I think it’s significant."
- Dante Fowler Jr.
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- Malik Jackson
- Prince Amukamara
- Sen'Derrick Marks
- Tashaun Gipson