In the context of roster-building, offseason needs, and the NFL Draft, the AFC South is a fun division to evaluate. All four franchises are in transition, albeit at slightly different points. Following Peyton Manning’s long run of dominance with the Indianapolis Colts, this has been a division marked by parity.
The Colts last won the divisional crown in 2014. Since then, the Texans have won the AFC South four times, the Titans have two divisional titles, and the Jaguars have added their second this weekend. The Jags look to be the team on the rise, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence taking a huge step forward under his new head coach, Doug Pederson.
2023 NFL Draft: Reviewing team needs in the AFC South
2023 NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are the lone team in the AFC South with a franchise quarterback in place. After being drafted #1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, Lawrence endured a rocky rookie season before making a leap this year, particularly in the back half of the season. In his last nine games, Lawrence has a TD/INT ratio of 15/2.
With a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract, the Jaguars have the luxury of continuing to build around him. While the offense is ranked among the league’s Top 10 (10th), the Jags’ defense is in the bottom 10 (24th). Jacksonville will need to continue to arm Lawrence with weapons while making defense a priority in order to compete with the elite offenses in a loaded AFC.
Top Draft Needs: IDL, CB, TE
The Jaguars need help on the defensive line, especially inside. Jacksonville has lacked an elite interior playmaker since Calais Campbell departed for Baltimore following the 2019 season. After using the first overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft on EDGE Travon Walker, the Jaguars should look to pair another disruptor alongside Walker. On top of that, the defensive line currently has only Foley Fatukasi under contract through next season.
Cornerback figures to be another top priority for the Jaguars. Shaquill Griffin was not playing particularly well before his season-ending injury, and the team is currently projected to be over the salary cap. There’s a solid chance that Griffin becomes a cap casualty this offseason. Pairing a strong, young cornerback opposite Tyson Campbell should be a main focus for the Jaguars brass.
On the offensive side of the ball, much of the Jaguars’ direction will depend on their ability to sign tight end Evan Engram to a multi-year extension. Lawrence and Engram have shown tremendous chemistry in recent weeks, and it seems probable that Engram will look to cash in. Given Jacksonville’s tough cap situation, they may not be able to retain his services.
If by some chance the Jaguars are able to reach an extension with Engram, another position to keep an eye on is wide receiver. Though Lawrence has had success this season with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, he could still benefit from adding another high-ceiling pass-catcher. Calvin Ridley’s return from suspension could be a revelation for Jacksonville, but it may be tough to pass up the position if the right prospect is available when they’re on the clock.