The Jacksonville Jaguars are just days away from making an incredibly important decision when they come on the clock with the No. 1 overall selection in Thursday's 2022 NFL Draft. It unfortunately qualifies as familiar territory for a Jaguars franchise that selected former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the same selection a year ago. Jacksonville surely wished to avoid finding themselves in this familiar position, but dysfunctional occurrences assured just the opposite.
The appointment of the now former Head Coach Urban Meyer turned out to be one of the worst decisions Jacksonville could have made last offseason. Meyer's short-lived reign of terror was felt all throughout the organization and is largely responsible for Jacksonville's draft positioning in 2022. New Head Coach Doug Pederson is a much more capable leader of men, but the Jaguars would be wise to carefully avoid familiar themes of dysfunction on Thursday.
We've now officially entered the week of the 2022 NFL Draft, and rumors and smokescreens are running especially rampant, as expected. Jacksonville hasn't been spared from this annual tradition. If anything, it’s been magnified this year. We're typically aware of which prospect a team is going to draft with the No. 1 overall selection by now, but the 2022 class is particularly unpredictable (and exciting) due to the lack of one single clear cut high-end talent that has separated himself at the top. The Jaguars are reportedly struggling with the situation. Owner Shad Khan reportedly wants to draft Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson with the top selection. General Manager Trent Baalke is allegedly keen on Georgia's workout warrior Travon Walker. And last but not least, Peterson is reportedly high on NC State's Ikem Ekwonu (because of course, offense).
Healthy debate can play a productive role throughout a team-building decision-making process, if and when exercised correctly. Any one of Hutchinson, Walker and Ekwonu could arguably be viewed as a wise selection for the Jaguars. Hutchinson was extremely productive while recording 14.0 sacks for the historically successful Wolverines in 2021. Hutchinson's athletic profile and balanced, advanced skill set makes him a high-floor prospect. Walker possesses a truly rare athletic makeup, and his freaky measurables and explosive ability allows him to do things other defensive prospects simply can't. It also means the sky's the limit for Walker, even if he’s yet to reach those heights. Having drafted a franchise quarterback a year ago, protecting Lawrence's interests by placing Ekwonu on the blindside makes complete sense, as well. Whether or not this era of Jaguars football succeeds or fails will almost completely depend on Lawrence's development. Selecting Ekwonu No. 1 overall would ultimately be an investment in Lawrence, and that's always a good idea, too. I could write you three separate 700-word articles on why any one of these three players are the right pick for Jacksonville.
That's not quite the point. Jacksonville must collectively reach the right decision for their program without falling victim to the old habits of dysfunction they've tried so hard to shake this offseason. Dysfunctional organizations typically have a difficult time winning football games between September and February. There's always the possibility that these reports are false and baseless, or that Jacksonville's front-office brass is attempting to throw the general public (and league circles) off their scent. It's worth acknowledging that possibility, but as the owners of the No. 1 overall selection, Jacksonville possesses little reason to engage in smokescreen antics. Typically where there's smoke, there's fire, and all current signs point to this critical decision dragging throughout this ever-important week in franchise history.
Few are aware of what exactly is occurring behind closed doors in Jacksonville, but recent reports qualify as potentially concerning. Khan, Baalke and Pederson have roughly 48 hours to get themselves on the collective page. Doing so may be of the utmost importance should the Jaguars hope to possess a much later first-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.