Jaguars plan to use draft to create more offensive line competition

Jaguars have not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since Luke Joeckel went second overall in 2013

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
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Jaguars coach Urban Meyer likes the continuity established among his offensive line starters enough to not see a need to break up the group.

Earlier this week, he praised Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, and Jawaan Taylor as a talented starting unit. 

But Meyer added they 'could play much better' after allowing 44 sacks last season, the seventh-highest total in the NFL.

To help the group reach the objective Meyer wants, he plans to lean on next week's NFL Draft to bring in some competition to push some of his starters. 

''Competition brings out the best in everyone,'' Meyer said. ''The way I look at our offensive line, they’re very talented people. We made a decision to go with the starting five that we had, which you’re also going to get a guy named Tyler Shatley. 

''We have some veterans inside that I feel good about. But we will try to help bring some competition to the offensive line with the draft; we’re planning on doing that.”

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Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) prepares to block against Notre Dame during the Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texas, in this Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, file photo.

It appears unlikely the Jaguars will select an offensive lineman with their second first-round pick at No. 25 after their expected selection of former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick.

The Jaguars have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since 2013 when former Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel was selected second overall. Joeckel, however, didn't earn a second contract with the Jaguars. He signed with Seattle as a free agent before retiring from the NFL in 2018. 

While the Jaguars have pressing needs to address in the draft at tight end, defensive line, and safety, drafting a tackle or guard on Day 2 or Day 3 could likely be a point of emphasis.

Potential Jaguars targets could be Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins, Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood, Texans guard/center Samuel Cosni, Michigan tackle Jalen Mayfield, Notre Dame tackle/guard Liam Eichenberg or Clemson tackle Jackson Carman.

Oct 31, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Oklahoma State Cowboys offensive lineman Teven Jenkins (73) blocks Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Moro Ojomo (98) during the fourth quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Texas won 41-34. Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

An intriguing prospect is Leatherwood, who can play left tackle or right guard and was first-team All-SEC selection last season. Leatherwood, 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, has good lateral movement, drive power on run blocks and uses his hands well on pass protection.

A  Pensacola native, Leatherwood started 41 of 48 games as a four-year player with the Crimson Tide.

''I love the game of football and more importantly, I love playing O-line,'' Leatherwood said. ''It's one of the most cerebral and technical positions on the field and just that chase of perfection and being good at it is fun for me. And not only that, I am a competitor at heart, love to compete and going against great dudes. I love giving it my all against the man in front of me.''   

In his latest three-round mock draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., wrote that he doesn't think Leatherwood is a top 50 player in the draft and he has him going to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 55th overall pick in the second round. 

Kiper has the Jaguars selecting Wisconsin-Whitewater guard/center Quinn Meinerz with the 65th overall pick in the third round. Last year, the Jaguars selected Division III St. John's University offensive tackle Ben Bartch in the fourth round. Bartch, a developing player, played in 13 games last season with one start. 

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said from top to bottom last year's offensive line class was better than this year's. 

''There might be some difference of opinion there, but I had Mekhi Becton last year, I had a huge grade on him,'' Jeremiah said. ''You look at Jedrick Wills and then you look at Tristan Wirfs.

I actually have (Northwestern) Rashawn Slater as the top tackle in this draft and I have (Oregon) Penei Sewell right there behind him. They're very close. Sewell is a massive dude who's really -- it's interesting because he's very explosive when you watch him at Oregon in 2019."

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