NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense could be sneaky good in 2022 after inspired Night 1

The NFL Draft was all about defense in Duval, and suddenly the league's worst team doesn't feel like the league's worst team anymore.

JACKSONVILLE — Feel good, Jacksonville Jaguars fans. Your team in general — and front seven in particular — is much better today than it was two months ago. The NFL Draft was all about defense in Duval, and suddenly the league’s worst team doesn’t feel like the league’s worst team anymore.

Jacksonville Jaguars get defensive in NFL Draft

Trevor Lawrence’s development, of course, will impact the Jaguars’ fortunes more than anything in 2022. But he shouldn’t have to feel like he has to do it all himself, not after the commitment to defense made by the front office this offseason.

The Jaguars on Thursday maximized their draft capital, which is all you can ask of a front office. They opened the night by taking do-everything Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker. Two hours later, they jumped back into the first round to take advantage of some big-time luck. They selected Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd with the 27th overall pick, and all it took to move up the six spots to get him were a fourth and sixth-round pick.

Walker and Lloyd join a revamped defensive front that includes free agent signings Foyesade Oluokun and Foley Fatukasi. Those additions, along with Josh Allen and Dawuane Smoot, could make up a sneaky good and dangerous defensive front.

Why the Jaguars traded up for Devin Lloyd

Landing Lloyd was a coup. His positional value surely hurt his stock, but in terms of pure ability, few would argue that he’s a top-15 talent. He was the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American at Utah in 2021.

Lloyd had a staggering 22 tackles for loss in 2021 along with 4 interceptions. He’s a three-down linebacker and should start immediately for the Jaguars.

“He does a little bit of everything,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said. “He can cover. He can rush the passer. He’s very good against the run.” Baalke continued: “He’s a culture-setter. He’s a great young man. He fits into what we’re trying to build around here.”

Trading up for Lloyd wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was something they discussed going into the evening. Once he got past the Cowboys at 24, the Jaguars knew they had a chance to land him. All that was needed was a willing trade partner. The Buccaneers obliged — at a very reasonable asking price.

And as a result, the Jaguars are a much better defensive team today than they were yesterday. Colts tailback Jonathan Taylor ran for 193 yards in two meetings with the Jaguars in 2021. The sledding will be tougher in 2022.

“It’s a big man’s game, especially in this division,” Baalke said. “You’ve got to play physical football. You’ve got to win the line of scrimmage. You’ve got to win the front on both sides of the ball. These two guys will help us do that.”

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