Two weeks from today, the Jacksonville Jaguars will kick off the 2021 NFL Draft with a bang. They will draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick -- the franchise's first time ever picking at No. 1 -- and the most important draft in team history will officially commence.
But how have the past drafts compared? We know Lawrence will be the next all-important Jaguars draft selection, but who have been the best picks before him?
For recency purposes, we went back and looked at the last 10 years of Jaguars drafting and did our best to put together a top-10. I evaluated the list based on impact while on the Jaguars, accolades, and draft slot. For instance, Blake Bortles has a higher weighted career approximate value than most players on this list, but he was a No. 3 overall pick who stuck on the roster for just five seasons and he failed to work out at the most important position in sports.
So, who cracks our list for the 10 best Jaguars draft picks of the last 10 drafts?
The only player on this list from before 2014 (an amazing note), Cecil Shorts was miscast as a No. 1 wide receiver during his Jaguars career due to their lack of offensive talent, but he was still a quality player in a bad situation. Shorts spent four years with Jacksonville, starting 24 games (playing in 50) and catching 176 passes for 2,343 yards (13.3 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. In an offense with better quarterback play and more weapons around him, Shorts is likely appreciated more than he is now for his solid tenure at a time in which the Jaguars simply failed at the receiver position over and over. During his four years in Jacksonville, Shorts caught 42 more passes than the next player on the team's receptions list during that span, while also leading the team in receiving yards and receiving scores.
Yes, Gardner Minshew II cracks this list -- in large part because he is one of the best value picks the Jaguars have ever made. He didn't do enough to earn the team's long-term starting job, but he outplayed Nick Foles as a rookie and has completed 62.9% of his passes for 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 20 starts. He won six games as a rookie quarterback on a bad Jaguars team in 2019, which makes him nearly a best-case scenario in terms of sixth-round quarterback selections. Minshew is better off as a backup than as a starter, but he has shown he belongs in the NFL and can win games in the right situations -- that is a great pick considering he was selected No. 178 overall. As of right now, only 12 members of the 2019 draft class have a higher weighted career approximate value, according to Pro Football Reference.
It is unlikely that Josh Allen would be on this list if the Jaguars were even average at drafting (the same can be said for the next player on this list), but he has star potential and has already broken Jaguars records. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Allen gave the Jaguars the confidence to not extend Yannick Ngakoue in 2019. He recorded a franchise rookie record 10.5 sacks in 2019, becoming the first rookie in team history to ever be selected to a Pro Bowl. His second season wasn't as successful (2.5 sacks in eight games), but Allen has flashed the talent to become a productive and disruptive edge rusher for the Jaguars to build their defense around. He has the potential, now he needs the production to match starting in 2021.
This one is a bit premature, but that is mostly because there is a significant gap between the success of some of the Jaguars' picks -- the fact that Shorts and Minshew are on They have either drafted home runs, complete busts, or just solid players. Chark is in that weird grey area where he is easily an NFL starter but it is hard to determine what his ceiling is due to the Jaguars' broken offensive ecosystem since he has been drafted. Still, Chark has played up to his draft slot of No. 61 overall and has produced 126 catches for 1,714 yards (13.6 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter, earning a Pro Bowl and a 1,000-yard season in that span. With better quarterback play, Chark could be a star. That kind of potential is a big reason he is on this list, but the Jaguars' failure to draft consistent contributors plays a role too.
While A.J. Cann has never been named to a Pro Bowl and has had a few years of inconsistent play, there hasn't been a more frequent member of the team's lineup. Cann has started 90 games since the Jaguars picked him with the No. 67 overall pick in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft and he was a stalwart on the team's 2017 offensive line that helped push the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game. Cann isn't a top-tier guard, but he is a solid starter who is one season away from hitting over 100 starts. For a third-round guard, that is a solid pick. Cann has a weighted career approximate value of 35 according to Pro Football Reference, which ranks 19th among the members of the 2015 class if you only take into account their value with the teams who drafted them.
What could have been. What if Allen Robinson didn't suffer a season-ending ACL injury in Week 1 of 2017? Would the Jaguars have felt more comfortable agreeing to a contract with him, keeping their No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville for years to come? But even with the fact that Robinson essentially only played three seasons, his 2015 season alone earns him a spot on this list. He was productive for his entire healthy Jaguars tenure, catching 202 receptions for 2,848 yards and 22 touchdowns after the Jaguars picked him No. 61 overall. His Pro Bowl 2015 season (80 catches for 1,400 yards, 17.50 yards per catch, and 14 touchdowns) ranks 10th in catches, second in receiving yards, third in yards per catch, first in touchdowns, and eighth in yards per target among single seasons in Jaguars history.
One of the most underrated interior offensive lineman in the NFL since the Jaguars selected him No. 93 overall, Brandon Linder is one of only four players on this list who is still on the Jaguars' roster. He has been the team's best offensive lineman in every season since his rookie year, even in the years like 2020 where he has struggled with injuries. He has missed a fair amount of games and has never earned a Pro Bowl nod, but he is one of the top centers in the NFL and is still the lynchpin of Jacksonville's offensive line. Linder has stared 79 games in seven seasons and has been a captain each year since the 2017 season.
It was tough to pick between Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue for this spot. Ngakoue plays the more valuable position and had a Pro Bowl on his Jaguars resume, but Jack has stayed with the Jaguars longer and is one of the core pieces of the team in the middle of his second contract. Coming in at third, Ngakoue was one of the NFL's most productive defensive ends during his Jaguars' tenure and missed just one game in four seasons. His relationship with the Jaguars bottomed out during the 2019 season/2020 offseason, but he produced 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits, 42 tackles for loss, and 14 forced fumbles. He also earned a Pro Bowl nod for a stellar 2017 season in which he was second on the team in sacks with 12. Ngakoue isn't one of the most valuable players of the 2016 class by weighted career approximate value, but this is more so due to the fact that the 2016 class has several future Hall of Famers littered throughout it.
The best player on Jacksonville's roster today, there are few players who are more important to Jacksonville's rebuild of the defense than linebacker Myles Jack. The Jaguars took a risk when they traded up to No. 36 overall to select Jack, but it has since paid off with several seasons of high-level play at strong side linebacker and weak side linebacker. He has been a multiple-time team captain and the emotional leader of Jacksonville's defense in the years since, and his sophomore season saw him make a number of memorable plays that will be long talked about in Jaguars' lore. Jack should have been a Pro Bowler in 2020, but he is one of the NFL's top off-ball linebackers today. Dave Caldwell should be given credit for knocking that pick out of the park, but the most credit goes to Jack for developing throughout numerous coaching staff and position changes.
This one will bring some raised eyebrows because of how Jalen Ramsey's marriage with the Jaguars went down in cataclysmic flames, but be honest -- no Jaguars draft pick of the past 10 years has been better than Ramsey, even if he spent just a little over three seasons in Jacksonville. The No. 5 overall pick in 2016, Ramsey instantly became Jacksonville's CB1 and he played every single game for his first three seasons, earning two Pro Bowl trips and a First-Team All-Pro recognition in the process. No player was more important to the team's 2017 season, either. Ramsey and the Jaguars each deserve blame for how the relationship between the pair ended, but the Jaguars had the NFL's best cornerback for 54 games. At the end of the day, that has to be the best pick.