The Jacksonville Jaguars 2022 campaign was wildly encouraging to say the least. Despite getting off to a 3-7 start on the season, and seemingly having no shot at making the playoffs, the Jaguars managed to win six of their final seven games to win the AFC South and clinch the four seed in the AFC postseason bracket.
Once making the playoffs, the Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NFL postseason history against the Los Angeles Chargers, but they crashed out of the postseason in the Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs, despite playing against a hobbled Patrick Mahomes. Still, the Jags announced themselves as contenders this season, and the rest of the league better take notice.
Heading into the 2023 offseason, the Jaguars will have their work cut out for them when it comes to building off of this wildly successful season. One such way to do that is in the draft, and Jacksonville will end up picking much later in the first-round than they are typically accustomed to. So with Mel Kiper of ESPN releasing his first mock draft of the offseason, let’s take a look at who he believes the Jags should take with the 24th overall pick and see whether or not we agree with the pick.
Mel Kiper’s Jaguars prediction: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
It’s safe to say that a big goal for the Jaguars this offseason is going to involve them upgrading their defense pretty significantly. They have successfully retooled their offense around Trevor Lawrence under center, and while that unit could certainly be more consistent, it’s time to get the defense up to speed with the offense over the next few months.
As for what the Jaguars could address in the first-round, Kiper has them targeting Deonte Banks, a cornerback from Maryland. Banks spent four seasons with Maryland, and really began to show his potential this year after missing most of the 2021 season. This is a deep cornerback draft class, and that could allow Jacksonville to fill one of their biggest holes on defense alongside Tyson Campbell.
Banks put together the best collegiate season of his career in 2022, racking up 38 tackles, 0.5 TFL and 0.5 sacks, as well as an interception and eight passes defended. Banks is a physical outside cornerback who can hold up in man coverage, and he would be a perfect fit alongside Campbell, who is quietly becoming one of the best corners in the NFL himself.
Off the bat, it makes a lot of sense for the Jags to target a cornerback in the first round here. There’s certainly an abundance of top-tier corners who appear set to come off the board in the first round, and aside from Campbell, the Jaguars did not have an NFL caliber cornerback to line up across from him.
But is this the best path for the Jaguars to take this offseason? Their pass rush also needs a significant boost, as their 35 sacks were tied for 25th in the league, and even though they addressed the inside linebacker position with Devin Lloyd in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, they still could use a strong coverage linebacker moving forward.
It’s tough to totally justify attacking these spots, though, because of the recent investment in the position. Lloyd was just drafted in the first-round last year, and when it comes to pass rushers, Travon Walker was the first overall pick of the 2022 draft, and Josh Allen was the seventh overall pick of the 2019 draft. At some point, those investments are going to have to pay off.
These weaknesses don’t necessarily feel big enough to address in the first-round of the draft this year. They have already been addressed in previous drafts, and as previously mentioned, the Jaguars are perilously thin at cornerback. Banks has proven to have a ton of upside, and pairing him up with Campbell could be what Jacksonville needs to get their secondary back on track.
While the Jaguars could be convinced to change their mind if another top prospect falls to them, Banks seems like a good option to plan for with the draft still months away. There’s a decent chance he won’t be available when Jacksonville is on the clock, as his stock could rise depending on what he does at the NFL Combine, but if he’s available, he seems like a really good fit for the Jags.
Generally speaking, though, the Jaguars may be better suited just taking the best defensive player left on the board when they are up to pick in the first-round. Kiper had five cornerbacks going in the first round of this mock draft, so there are certainly other options available, but they don’t necessarily have to pick a cornerback just to pick a cornerback. If Banks is available at the 24th pick, though, this seems like it would be a good fit for both sides, so it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising to see him end up in Jacksonville.