JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars added to an already stout defense by drafting Florida’s Taven Bryan with the 29th overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.
Selecting Bryan had more to do with potential than production.
The defensive tackle had 67 tackles, including 5 sacks, in three seasons with the Gators. He was a 6-foot-4, 291-pound enigma his first two years in Gainesville, but came on as a junior in 2017. He had 40 tackles last season, including six for loss and four sacks, while playing solely inside.
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He really played well down the stretch, showing a quick first step and the ability to disrupt offenses. Although he never took over a game, he routinely demanded double teams on a defense that lacked depth and talent up front.
Jaguars top executive Tom Coughlin said Bryan has energy and enthusiasm to go along with play-making ability.
”He’s powerful,” Coughlin said. ”He gets off on the snap. He can cause problems.”
The Jaguars believe Bryan is just getting started, too.
He likely won’t have to do much in his first season since the Jaguars are loaded up front. They have All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell along with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson and Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Jacksonville ranked second in the league with 55 sacks in 2017.
”They’re definitely good at what they do,” Bryan said. ”I’ll just try to come in and learn from them.”
General manager Dave Caldwell said Bryan was the last of four players the team had identified as potential picks at No. 29. And they had no problem adding to the D-line.
”At that position, the more depth you have, the better off you’ll be,” Caldwell said.
Bryan admittedly took his football talent for granted early in his college career. He realized he was blessed physically, but he never thought much about it. He would casually talk about bench-pressing 450 pounds or squatting more than 600 pounds.
Teammates raved about his work ethic and weight-room feats.
So no one at Florida was surprised to see Bryan raise eyebrows at the NFL combine in March.
He covered the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds, one of five defensive tackles to break the 5-second mark, and benched-pressed 225 pounds 30 times. He topped all defensive tackles in the vertical jump (35 inches), the broad jump (9 feet, 11 inches), the three-cone drill (7.12 seconds) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.48 seconds).
Bryan grew up in Casper, Wyoming, as the son of a Navy SEAL. Bryan often tagged along with his dad to build houses. When they weren’t swinging hammers or pouring concrete, they were hunting, fishing and exploring mountain ranges and the high plains.
Football took over Bryan’s life as a teenager, eventually turning him into a big-time recruit from the Cowboy State. He ended up 1,600 miles away in Gainesville. He didn’t become a started until his junior year.
”You can understand why,” Caldwell said. ”He had a lot of talented players in front of.”
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