Dropping the ball: Jags hope to end decades of ineptitude when it comes to drafting receivers early

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have been mostly inept at drafting wide receivers.

They've repeatedly dropped the ball.

They have selected nine wideouts over the first three rounds of the NFL draft in three decades of existence, and only two of those guys (DJ Chark and Allen Robinson) notched 1,000-yard seasons and just one (Marqise Lee) signed a second contract with Jacksonville.

It’s a head-scratching stretch of futility the Jags hope to end in 2024. General manager Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson are expected to take a shot at changing the franchise’s fortunes at the position during the NFL draft next weekend.

The Jaguars have five of the first 116 picks, with three of those scheduled for the first two nights of the draft.

Cornerback remains the team’s top need after releasing starter Darious Williams and opting not to re-sign nickelback Tre Herndon. Jacksonville also has fellow starter Tyson Campbell entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Baalke responded by signing journeyman Ronald Darby to a two-year, $8.5 million contract in free agency, but Darby is far from a building block for new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. Alabama’s Terrion Arnold or Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell would make the most sense with the 17th overall pick.

But no one should be surprised if Jacksonville takes a receiver there, either.

The Jaguars lost Calvin Ridley to rival Tennessee in free agency, and Zay Jones is entering the final year of his contract; he signed a three-year, $24 million deal in 2022.

Baalke did land Buffalo’s Gabe Davis on a three-year, $39 million deal last month, but Davis is considered more of an upgrade from Jones than a replacement for Ridley. Drafting a receiver early appears to be a given, especially as the Jaguars continue building around quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. and Xavier Worthy of Texas could be options at 17. Whoever it is, the Jags can only hope he turns out better than all of their other early round receivers.

They missed on R. Jay Soward in 2000 and have been chasing it since. Their receiver draft list includes Reggie Williams (2004), Matt Jones (2005), Mike Sims-Walker (2007), Justin Blackmon (2012), Allen Robinson (2014) and Lee (2014).

More recent misses are Chark (2018) and Laviska Shenault (2020).


Pass rush and offensive line are other areas of need for the Jaguars despite addressing both in recent months.

Jacksonville signed outside linebacker Josh Allen last week to a five-year contract worth up to $150 million and includes up to $88 million guaranteed. The team also re-signed guard Ezra Cleveland (3 years, $24 million) and added Buffalo center Mitch Morse (2 years, $10.5 million) in free agency.

Although Allen and 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker are locks to start, the Jags are looking for depth behind them after letting backups K’Lavon Chaisson and Dawuane Smoot leave in free agency.

On the other side of the ball, left tackle Cam Robinson and backup Walker Little are entering the final year of their contracts. So is veteran guard Brandon Scherff.


Quarterback is one of the few positions that seems set in Jacksonville. Baalke traded a sixth-round pick to New England for 2021 first-rounder Mac Jones. Jones will compete with C.J. Beathard to be Trevor Lawrence’s backup in 2024.


Jacksonville’s years-long search for a kicker might end during the final day of the draft.

Baalke thought he signed Denver’s Wil Lutz to a three-year deal to open free agency. But Lutz changed his mind hours later and ended up re-signing with the Broncos. The Jaguars scrambled and added Washington’s Joey Slye a week later.

They now have Slye and Riley Patterson on the roster but would consider Arkansas’ Cam Little, Alabama’s Will Reichard or Stanford’s Joshua Karty on Day 3.

The Jaguars have used nine different kickers since 2019, including Brandon McManus last season.