By: Hays Carlyon
The Jaguars are consistently coming in dead last in most NFL power rankings.
Unfortunately, I agree.
The reason is the Jaguars have a stunning lack of elite veteran talent compared to the rest of the NFL. The void was created through a lack of retention through a seven-year draft period from 2010-16. The Jaguars have four players left from those seven drafts: center Brandon Linder (2014), right guard A.J. Cann (2015), linebacker Myles Jack (2016) and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (2016). That group has combined for one Pro-Bowl appearance (Ngakoue in the 2017 season).
The 2010-16 drafts should have created the elite veteran core of proven players who have earned multiple All-Pro and Pro-Bowl accolades. The Jaguars haven’t negated the damage by adding enough elite veterans through free agency/trades or drafting elite young players from 2017-19.
I compared the Jaguars top talent with those of their 2020 opponents.
In doing this, I came up with the top five for each team. The quarterback had to be included, as well as at least one defensive player.
For the Jaguars, their list is quarterback Gardner Minshew, defensive end Josh Allen, Ngakoue (who could still be traded), receiver DJ Chark and running back Leonard Fournette.
The five consists of two Pro-Bowlers last season (Allen and Chark made their debut as alternates) and a 2017 Pro Bowler in Ngakoue. Minshew is entering his second year in the NFL after going 6-6 as a starter. Fournette gained 1,674 yards of total offense with three touchdowns last season.
Here’s a look at how the 2020 Jaguars opponents compare. Rookies were only considered when projected to be the starting quarterback for the majority of this season.
Core Five: QB Deshaun Watson, DE J.J. Watt, LT Laremy Tunsil, WR Brandin Cooks and OLB Whitney Mercilus.
Review: Watson is a rising star. Watt is breaking down, but still the future first-ballot Hall of Famer heads the list of a regressing Texans defense. Tunsil is arguably the best left tackle in the game. Losing DeAndre Hopkins in a trade hurts, but the 26-year-old Cooks has posted four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career. Mercilus (50 career sacks) has never made a Pro Bowl in eight seasons.
Jags comparison: Houston has an advantage because of the 24-year-old Watson, a Pro Bowler the last two years. The Texans don’t have any depth in terms of an elite veteran core.
Core Five: QB Philip Rivers, LB Darius Leonard, LG Quenton Nelson, DT DeForest Buckner and WR T.Y. Hilton.
Review: The Colts are stacked. Leonard and Nelson are current All-Pros. Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowler, while Hilton has made four appearances. Buckner made the Pro Bowl in 2018. I didn’t include Pro Bowlers in center Ryan Kelly, tight end Jack Doyle and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Outside linebacker Justin Houston had 11 sacks last season. Running back Marlon Mack had over 1,100 yards of total offense with eight touchdowns.
Jags comparison: The Colts have a massive edge. There’s no debate.
Core Five: QB Ryan Tannehill, FS Kevin Byard, RB Derrick Henry, LT Taylor Lewan and WR A.J. Brown.
Review: Four of the five are Pro-Bowl players, with Brown the exception. He had 1,051 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie last season. Lewan has played in three Pro Bowls. I didn’t include outside linebacker Harold Landry, who had nine sacks last season or promising cornerback Adoree Jackson.
Jags comparison: The Titans have an edge. Henry gives them that just based on his record against the Jaguars.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Core Five: QB Justin Herbert, DE Joey Bosa, WR Keenan Allen, DE Melvin Ingram and SS Derwin James.
Review: Herbert is a huge concern, but the Chargers have elite talent galore. I didn’t include four-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. Running back Austin Ekeler had over 1,500 yards of total offense last season. Cornerbacks Chris Harris and Casey Hayward are multiple Pro Bowlers. Receiver Mike Williams had over 1,000 yards last season and tight end Hunter Henry is a good starter.
Jags comparison: Outside of quarterback, it isn’t close. The Jaguars will have hope because Minshew could easily outperform Herbert or veteran Tyrod Taylor.
Core Five: QB Ben Roethlisberger, OLB T.J. Watt, FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, DT Cameron Heyward and C Maurkice Pouncey.
Review: This list would be among the NFL’s elite. Watt, Fitzpatrick and Heyward were All-Pros last season. Pouncey is an eight-time Pro-Bowl player, while Roethlisberger has gone to six. Two Pro-Bowlers from last season (right guard David DeCastro and cornerback Joe Haden) aren’t included. Neither are 2018 Pro Bowlers in receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner. Oh, and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (11 ½ sacks last season) missed the cut as well.
Jags comparison: Huge mismatch in favor of the Steelers.
Core Five: QB Baker Mayfield, DE Myles Garrett, LG Joel Bitonio, RB Nick Chubb and WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Review: The Browns have serious talent. Garrett, a 2018 Pro Bowler, had 10 sacks in 10 games last season before getting suspended for the final six games. Bitonio is a two-time Pro Bowler. Chubb had over 1,700 yards of offense last season in making the Pro Bowl. Beckham has gone over 1,000 receiving yards in five of his six seasons in the NFL. Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry missed the cut, as did a new addition in Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper.
Jags comparison: The Browns have a sizable edge. If Minshew takes the next step, Mayfield is the kind of player he needs to jump past.
Core Five: QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marlon Humphrey, LT Ronnie Stanley, CB Marcus Peters and FS Earl Thomas.
Review: Jackson is the reigning MVP. Humphrey, Stanley and Peters are reigning All-Pros. Thomas made the Pro Bowl last season for the seventh time. The list doesn’t include: defensive end Calais Campbell (a Pro Bowler last season with the Jaguars), as well as running back Mark Ingram, tight end Mark Andrews, right tackle Orlando Brown and outside linebacker Matthew Judon.
Jags comparison: It’s laughable.
Core Five: QB Joe Burrow, DT Geno Atkins, WR A.J. Green, RB Joe Mixon and DT D.J. Reader.
Review: Burrow is a rookie, but the unquestioned Week 1 starter. Atkins was a Pro Bowler last season, his eighth appearance. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowler, returns after missing all of last season. Mixon gained over 1,400 yards of offense with eight touchdowns last season. Reader was a significant free agent signing from Houston. Receiver Tyler Boyd (1,046 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season) missed the cut, as did two-time Pro-Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap (81 ½ career sacks).
Jags comparison: The Bengals have improved after a dismal 2-14 season. They have an advantage over the Jaguars. However, how you feel about this game will largely depend on when it falls on the schedule. Facing Burrow early rather than later would likely benefit the Jaguars.
Core Five: QB Tua Tagovailoa, CB Byron Jones, WR DaVante Parker, CB Xavien Howard and OLB Kyle Van Noy.
Review: Not much here. Tua is a complete unknown. If he can’t play, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the quarterback. Jones and Howard made the Pro Bowl in 2018. Parker finally got going last season, but has never made the Pro Bowl. Van Noy helped New England win two Super Bowls, but has never been to the Pro Bowl as he joins the Dolphins.
Jags comparison: The Jaguars have the edge. The Dolphins have little established elite veteran talent. Miami selected five players in the first two rounds of the draft (three first-rounders). This is another opponent the Jaguars would prefer to see early in the season.
Core Five: QB Matthew Stafford, DE Trey Flowers, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones and OLB Jamie Collins.
Review: The Lions are awful. Stafford gives them some hope. The 32-year-old Stafford has thrown for 256 career touchdowns but has been to one Pro Bowl. Flowers’ career high in sacks is 7 ½ and he did that in New England. Golladay is a rising star, coming off his first Pro Bowl. He has consecutive seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdowns last season. Jones, 30, has never made the Pro Bowl but caught nine touchdowns last season. Collins went to the Pro Bowl in 2015 with the Patriots.
Jags comparison: The Jags have the edge.
Core Five: QB Nick Foles, OLB Khalil Mack, FS Eddie Jackson, CB Kyle Fuller and WR Allen Robinson.
Review: Hey, did you know Foles was a Super Bowl MVP? Mack is a superstar, as a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler. Jackson and Fuller are coming off Pro Bowl seasons. They have both gone twice and been All-Pro once. Robinson, a former Pro Bowler with the Jaguars, had 1,147 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. Running back David Montgomery (over 1,000 yards of offense last season) missed the cut.
Jags comparison: The Bears have the edge because they are so much more talented on defense.
Core Five: QB Aaron Rodgers, NT Kenny Clark, LT David Bakhtiari, WR Davante Adams and OLB Za’Darius Smith.
Review: Rodgers is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Clark, Adams and Smith made the Pro Bowl. Adams made his third appearance. Bakhtiari was an All-Pro. Running back Aaron Jones gained over 1,550 yards of total offense with 19 touchdowns last season, but missed the cut. The Packers also have outside linebacker Preston Smith (12 sacks last season) and cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Jags comparison: Huge edge for Green Bay at quarterback and in overall top talent.
Core Five: QB Kirk Cousins, DE Danielle Hunter, MLB Eric Kendricks, RB Dalvin Cook and FS Harrison Smith.
Review: Cousins and Hunter are both a two-time Pro Bowler, including last season. Kendricks was All-Pro last season. Cook made his first Pro Bowl trip last season. Smith has made the Pro Bowl the last five years. Receiver Adam Thielen, a two-time Pro Bowler, missed the cut.
Jags comparison: The Vikings have a substantial edge.
I gave the Jaguars the edge over two teams – Detroit and Miami. That would change if Ngakoue or Fournette were to be traded this summer. The roster simply does not have the elite talent needed to consistently win against these opponents.
The NFL season is often unpredictable and it will take something extraordinary (looking at you, Minshew) for the Jaguars to have a winning season.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)