Touchdown Jaguars final 2023 NFL mock draft
The 2023 NFL Draft is just over 24 hours away, and soon fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars will be welcoming a new group of rookies to Duval County. Unlike last year, it's been a little harder to predict what Doug Pederson and Trent Baalke will do as 23 other teams will pick ahead of them on Night 1. Still, we've done our best to guess what direction the team will go here at Touchdown Jaguars, and our final mock drafts are now completed.
After firing up Pro Football Focus' simulator one last time, here are the picks we ended up with after a full seven-round process:
Round 1 (24th overall): Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
Many feel it's a slim chance that Brian Branch (6-foot-0, 190 pounds) would be available for the No. 24 overall pick, but there is always a player who falls in the draft that shouldn't. Additionally, it wouldn't be shocking if he fell a bit due to his numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, although his evaluation should mostly be about what he's put on tape.
Branch is an instinctive player in coverage and is physical at the line of scrimmage, which would benefit the Jags, who play Derrick Henry, Damien Pierce, and Jonathan Taylor for a combined total of six times a season. He'd be an immediate help for the team at the nickel position, though taking a cornerback (top options were gone) with this pick could probably do more for them.
Round 2 (56th overall): Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
The Jags must come out of the draft early with a pass-rusher after losing Arden Key and not re-signing Dawuane Smoot (at least for now). Their reported interest in Lukas Van Ness proves that, but he wasn't available in the simulation for Round 1. Their visits may be a sign of that, as well as they've met with many edge rushers who could go in the first three rounds.
Derick Hall (6-foot-3, 254 pounds) of Auburn was one of those prospects. That shouldn't surprise anyone as he fits the description of a Baalke prospect when it comes to arm length (34 1/2"). Mix that in with the fact that he's a Southeastern Conference prospect who has seen fierce competition and his RAS score of 9.40, and you have a prospect who can help bolster the Jags' rotation on the edge.
Trade alert! The No. 88 overall pick was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for picks No. 95 and No. 134.
Round 3 (95th overall): Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan
With my options that were being considered at pick No. 88 off the board (was looking for offensive line help), this was a good opportunity to trade back. After moving back seven picks, the Jags were in a good spot to take Michigan tight end, Luke Schoonmaker.
The Jags are down two veteran tight ends with Dan Arnold on the free-agent market and Chris Manhertz signing with the Denver Broncos. That leaves them with three tight ends on the roster in Evan Engram, Gerrit Prince, and Luke Farrell.
In a loaded tight end class, Schoonmaker (6-foot-5, 251 pounds) is a bit of an under-the-radar name that could be available late in the third round or early in the fourth. He'd give the Jags a tight end with dual-threat ability (though not to the level of Darnell Washington). He's a prospect who also has good hands and body control, although he didn't offer a lot after the catch in the film I watched. Still, he has the type of potential that Pederson can work with and could blossom under the veteran head coach.
Round 4 (121st overall) Nick Saldiveri, OT, Old Dominion
Round 4 (127th overall) Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC
Round 4 (134th overall) Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose
Round 6 (185th overall) Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
Round 6 (202nd overall) McClendon Curtis, OT, Chattanooga
Round 6 (208th overall) Jonah Tavai, DL, San Diego State
Round 7 (226th overall) Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan
Analysis: Saldiveri (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) has been tagged with fourth-round grades and has the height and weight the Jags look for on their offensive line. He also offers versatility with experience at both tackle and guard.
Blackmon, who the Jags have met with, would give the team depth and competition at the cornerback position. He was a standout for the Trojans last season after earning First Team All-Pac-12 honors and a Pro Football Focus grade of 90.6 during his final collegiate season.
Fehoko (6-foot-4, 276 pounds) is one of my favorite sleepers in the class. He has good size and also offers versatility. He took 101 snaps over the tackle, 429 outside the tackle, 41 in the B-gap, and 21 off-ball. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports seems to agree that he's a sleeper and named Fehoko to his list of prospects he favors more than scouts.
Ford-Wheaton (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) would give the Jags some size at receiver. He doesn't separate well, but uses his body to adjust to catches and limit defenders. His route tree is a little limited, too, but he'd have several veterans and coaches around him in Jacksonville to polish his skills.
Curtis (6-foot-6, 324 pounds) is another versatile player (can play guard and tackle) the Jags could use, and according to Justin Melo of the Draft Network, they've been impressed. While the competition level may be a concern, he's a player the Jags could bring in and develop over time.
Tavai (6-foot-0, 290 pounds) is a prospect who doesn't have ideal length and may not strike anyone as a Baalke prospect. However, his ability to push the pocket and disrupt should help the Jags (or any team) look past that. In 2022, he was productive for the Aztecs, garnering 39 quarterback hurries, 12 quarterback hits, and 10 sacks on the season. That reflects in his pass-rush grade via PFF, where he earned a 92.2.
Bell (6-foot-0, 191 pounds) was the best available player, like many of the late-round selections made before him. Bell accumulated 62 catches for 889 yards and four touchdowns last season after coming off a 2021 ACL tear. Like Wheaton, he has good ball skills and could be a developmental project for Pederson and Co.
Round 1 (24th overall): O'Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida
Some Jaguar fans (me) may roll their eyes at yet another Florida Gator selection in the first round, but O'Cyrus Torrence is different. He handled the transfer from the Sun Belt to the Southeastern Conference well and proved he could hang with the big boys. Not to mention Torrence is the type of lineman Doug Pederson has worked well with in the past.
Round 2 (56th overall): Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
Keeanu Benton will immediately slide into the rotation with Foley Fatukasi, Roy Robertson-Harris, and DaVon Hamilton. While not the most explosive prospect, he still managed an 83.5 pash-rush grade, per Pro Football Focus, and can be a solid space eater for the Jags' front.
Round 3 (88th overall): Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan
Luke Schoonmaker is a player who could help the Jags as a dual threat, which is a role somewhat similar to that of former Jags veteran Chris Manhertz. With Evan Engram as the Jags' TE1, Schoonmaker could be brought along gradually in the passing game.
Round 4 (121st overall) DeWayne McBride, RB, Birmingham Alabama
Round 4 (127th overall) Anthony Johnson, S, Iowa State
Round 6 (185th overall) Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte
Round 6 (202nd overall) McClendon Curtis, OT, Chattanooga
Round 6 (208th overall) Ochaun Mathis, ED, Nebraska
Round 7 (226th overall) Keytaon Thompson, WR, Virginia