The Jacksonville Jaguars had needs at the offensive line and tight end position while entering the 2018 NFL draft. Despite these, general manager Dave Caldwell drafted a wide receiver and safety in the second and third round, choosing to add depth. Here’s a look at who was drafted and how they fit with the Jaguars.
WR D.J. Chark, Louisiana State University (Round 2, Pick No. 61)
Drafting wide receiver D.J. Chark was a bit of a surprise for Jaguars fans. For one, Jacksonville had acquired former Indianapolis Colts’ receiver Donte Moncrief. Keenan Cole and Dede Westbrook are coming off solid rookie seasons, creating a logjam at the receiver position.
Despite this, Jacksonville expects Chark to fulfill duties on offense and special teams. Chark is a huge downfield threat with his 4.34 speed in the 40 yard dash, the fastest among receivers at the NFL Combine. Chark was also the co-MVP at the Senior Bowl, catching five passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. In his Senior year at LSU, Chark had 40 receptions for 847 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to stretch the field could help the Jaguars overcome the loss of Allen Robinson.
On special teams, Chark could be a punt returner with his speed being elite. He averaged 10.6 yards per return, finishing with 190 punt return yards at LSU. Furthermore, special teams was a point of emphasis at the start of free agency for the Jaguars.
According to general manager Dave Caldwell, Chark will be helpful to the running game as well. The Jaguars faced more eight-plus man boxes than any other team last season, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN. By making plays deep down the field, Chark can make things easier for fellow LSU alum Leonard Fournette and the running game.
S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama (Round 3, Pick No. 93)
The Jacksonville Jaguars made an appearance in the AFC championship game, where they blew their lead against the Patriots. A major reason for the blown lead being that the elite defense that had shut down the Patriots offense for most of the game was worn out in the final period.
Ronnie Harrison won a National Championship with Alabama, and has experience playing in big games. By drafting him, the Jaguars gain a non-starter who can be trusted in high pressure situations. Harrison will learn and develop behind safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, but can become the starter in the future.
Harrison was a key reason for Alabama getting to the National Championship game against Georgia. In his junior season, he finished with 74 total tackles, 43 solo tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, and three interceptions. He’ll likely make an impact immediately for Jacksonville, despite not starting.
Regardless of the Jaguars playoff aspirations, Harrison could be the future at the safety spot. For now, though, he will have to back up Church, Gipson, and others. He will give the starters time to rest during long drives, and be critical in case of injuries.