The Jaguars have said they’re down to four players with the first overall pick in the 2022 draft. In his latest Football Morning in America column, Peter King suggests the Jacksonville pick could be a surprise.
That has prompted Peter to project Georgia defensive end Travon Walker as the selection. We’re picking up indications that it could be Alabama tackle Evan Neal.
The rumblings are strong enough, frankly, to take a close look at the available odds for Neal as pick No. 1. At PointsBet, he’s a 20-1 underdog, behind Aidan Hutchinson, Walker, Ikem Ekwonu, and Kayvon Thibodeaux. DraftKings has Neal at 16-1. The best deal comes at FanDuel, where Neal is a 25-1 long shot.
There’s some objective evidence to support the idea that the Jaguars are looking at Neal. Coach Doug Pederson said in late March, “You can never have enough offensive linemen.” And even though the Jaguars franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson for a second time, he’s now on track to hit the open market in 2023, given the extreme expensive of tagging anyone three times.
More recently, Pederson offered this observation regarding that No. 1 overall selection. “You better be right,” Pederson said. “That person is going to come in and start. That’s why you pick him first overall.”
With Neal, the Jaguars could continue to deploy Robinson at left tackle and Jawaan Taylor on the right side, with the rookie playing guard for a year (teaming up with Brandon Scherff) before sliding outside to replace Robinson in 2023.
That could give the Jaguars the kind of protection they need for the guy who became the first overall pick a year ago, quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Pederson, an offensive coach, surely wants to make his mark on that side of the ball. It can’t happen without good blocking.
A tackle has been the first overall pick only three times since the Vikings selected Ron Yary with the No. 1 choice in 1968. Nearly 30 years later, the Rams selected Orlando Pace with the top pick. In 2008, the Dolphins took Jake Long at No. 1, leaving quarterback Matt Ryan on the board. Five years after that, the Chiefs took Eric Fisher with the top selection — a one-two tackle punch that had the Jaguars take tackle Luke Joeckel at No. 2. (Two spots later, the Eagles took tackle Lane Johnson, a cornerstone who helped Pederson win a Super Bowl in 2017.)
So, yes, despite the widespread belief that the Jaguars will be using the top pick on a pass rusher, the priority could be pass blocker. It could be Evan Neal. And if you are in a jurisdiction that allows wagering on such matters, you could make a little bit of money, if that’s the way the Jaguars go.