Who should the Jaguars draft with the No. 17 overall pick?

Why McAfee likes Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen's new deal (1:42)

Pat McAfee weighs in on pass-rusher Josh Allen's new deal with the Jaguars, calling it a "massive keep" for the team. (1:42)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Last offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the primary favorite to win the AFC South. But now after a free agency filled with moves by the Titans and Texans, the division appears to be one of the more competitive in the NFL.

Especially on offense.

Houston added receiver Stefon Diggs and running back Joe Mixon to an offensive lineup that already included 2023 Offensive Rookie of the Year quarterback C.J. Stroud and receivers Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Tennessee brought in receiver Calvin Ridley, running back Tony Pollard and center Lloyd Cushenberry. While Indianapolis didn't add any marquee players to a team that won nine games and was in the playoff hunt until Week 18 with a backup quarterback, it did sign receiver Michael Pittman Jr. to a contract extension, and quarterback Anthony Richardson is going to be back after missing most of his rookie season with a shoulder injury.

So, while drafting a wide receiver may be tempting for the Jaguars with the 17th overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, adding a defensive player would be the better move.

The Jaguars have a need at cornerback and edge rusher. Cornerback is regarded as one of the deeper positions in the draft -- ESPN's Field Yates has nine being taken in the first two rounds of his latest mock draft, for example. But there seems to be a gap at edge rusher after the top four are off the board.

Logically, that could allow the Jaguars to take an edge rusher in the first round and then still get one of the top cornerbacks available in the draft with their second-round pick (48th overall). Or if there is a run on quarterbacks and wide receivers, the Jaguars could instead have their pick of the best cornerbacks at No. 17.

What's the best way to go? Here's a look at both positions and an argument for each spot at No. 17:


On the roster: Tyson Campbell, Ronald Darby, Christian Braswell, Montaric Brown, Tevaughn Campbell, Erick Hallett II, Gregory Junior, Amani Oruwariye

Campbell and Darby, who signed a two-year contract with the team in March, are the starters on the outside. Coach Doug Pederson said safety Darnell Savage, whom the team signed to a three-year deal in March, will be the nickel.

And Campbell is in the final year of his rookie contract. He played well in 2022, and it looked like he was headed for a contract extension, but he had an injury-plagued 2023 and is looking to have a bounce-back season. Brown subbed in for Campbell and started six games last season, but the Jaguars view him as a backup.

"We've got to add to that group," GM Trent Baalke said at the NFL combine. "I think coach [Ryan] Nielsen spoke on it, coach Pederson probably spoke on it. Now, I'm speaking on it. It's a group we need to address. We feel good about the group we have, we feel like we've got some good young guys to work with. We've got some veterans in there, but we're definitely going to look to add to that group."

Take the cornerback because: Winning the division means dealing with offensive threats such as Stroud, Diggs, Collins, Dell, Richardson, Pittman, Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins -- and not just in 2024.

Stroud was eighth in the NFL in passing yards (4,108) and threw 23 touchdown passes to only five interceptions as a rookie. Receiver Nico Collins ranked eighth in the league in receiving yards (1,297) and sixth in yards per catch (16.2), and rookie Tank Dell averaged 15.1 yards per catch in 2023. Now Houston adds Diggs, who caught 107 passes for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and Mixon, who has the fifth-most rushing yards (3,053) by a running back over the past three seasons.

The Colts ranked 10th in the NFL in scoring (23.3 points per game) with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who completed 62% of his passes for 3,305 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, playing most of the season. In Tennessee, Will Levis played in only nine games but threw eight TD passes and now has Ridley, who caught 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns in 2023, to go along with Hopkins, who surpassed 1,000 yards receiving (1,057) last season for the first time since 2020.

To combat those offenses, among others, the Jaguars need more help -- especially with this being the first year of defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen's scheme.

In Atlanta, Nielsen's defense played nickel or dime coverage 79.2% of the time last season, and he likes to play a lot of man coverage. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Falcons were in man coverage 41.7% of the time in 2023, the third-highest rate in the NFL behind only the Cowboys and Giants. For comparison, the Jaguars played zone coverage 82.8% of the time, the third-highest rate behind only Indianapolis and Seattle.

That means the Jaguars need at least two more corners who they could rely on to be on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps. And there's a good chance they could have their pick of the top guys in the middle of Round 1.

Potential draft targets: Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo), Terrion Arnold (Alabama), Nate Wiggins (Clemson), Cooper DeJean (Iowa) and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (Missouri)

Two of the top corners that stand out in the draft class are Mitchell and Arnold. Mitchell had 15 pass breakups last season (and four picks in one game in 2022). He ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine and stood out at the Senior Bowl. Arnold picked off five passes last season and had 20 pass breakups over the past two seasons.

Edge rusher

On the roster: Josh Allen, Travon Walker, Trevis Gipson, Yasir Abdullah

Allen set a franchise record with 17.5 sacks last season and was rewarded when the Jaguars signed him to a five-year, $150 million contract extension this week. Their other top pass-rusher, Walker, improved from 3.5 sacks as a rookie in 2022 to 10 in 2023 -- so the Jaguars are in good shape with their top two defenders.

But that is where it ends. Gipson had 11 sacks in 48 games with Chicago and Tennessee, but seven came in 2021 when he was teamed up with Robert Quinn, who was second in the NFL with 18.5. The Jaguars hope he can have similar production as rotational rusher in 2024. Abdullah played in just five games as a rookie in 2023 and made one tackle.

Take the edge rusher because: There's not much behind Allen and Walker. Those two combined for 27.5 sacks, and K'Lavon Chaisson and Dawuane Smoot were the only other edge rushers on the roster to record a sack (they combined for three). The rest of the defense combined for 9.5.

Gipson had one good season but otherwise has not made an impact, and Abdullah may not fit as a hand-in-the-dirt rusher in Nielsen's four-down scheme because of his size (6-foot-1, 234 pounds).

In addition to Stroud, Richardson and Levis, the Jaguars also face Lamar Jackson, Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts in 2024. The Jaguars have to create more pressure on the quarterback because it's going to be one of the keys to making it to the postseason.

Eight of the top 10 teams in quarterback pressure percentage made the playoffs last season, as did seven of the top 10 teams in sacks. It's especially important in the AFC, where the seven playoff teams all ranked in the top 10 in the conference in quarterback pressure percentage and sacks.

Potential draft targets: Dallas Turner (Alabama), Jared Verse (Florida State), Laiatu Latu (UCLA) and Chop Robinson (Penn State)

Turner (22.5 sacks in three seasons) is the first defensive player off the board in a lot of mock drafts, usually in the top 10, so unless the Jaguars are willing to part with multiple picks to trade up, Turner likely isn't an option. Verse (18 sacks in two seasons), Latu (24 sacks in four seasons) and Robinson (11.5 sacks in three seasons), however, are possibilities.

"We want to be an attacking and aggressive style of defense that runs to the ball, that goes and hunts the ball, just put the pressure on the offense," Nielsen said. "That's just a style that we want to play."

Adding an edge rusher would help the Jaguars get to the quarterback more, which could get them back to the playoffs.