It wasn’t flashy or a big splash but rather described as a “value pick” as the Jaguars selected defensive lineman Taven Bryan with the twenty-ninth pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Bryan is listed at 6’5″ and 291 lbs and was projected to “become an instant starter” by the NFL scouts at the combine.
So how did the Jaguars get to Bryan?
They were a little surprised that three offensive linemen were picked so early in this draft. They knew G Quenton Nelson and OT Mike McGlinchy would be gone before their pick but going in the top 10 was a bit unexpected. That shifted their focus to other players, and once the Raiders took T Kolton Miller at 15, it shifted their focus to the next four players on their board.
“We felt like we solidified a lot of needs in free agency so we could take our highest rated guy. And we did,” General Manager Dave Caldwell said.
Of the nine picks before they were on the board, the Jaguars had four players rated about the same. Leighton Vander Esch, the linebacker who went to the Cowboys at 19 probably wasn’t in that group because the Jaguars, and much of the league, thought he’d be gone before then. Back to back centers were taken at 20 and 21, not on the Jaguars radar. They might have liked Rashaan Evans, the Alabama linebacker taken at 22 by the Titans but he was gone. Not a pressing need.
Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, listed as an offensive tackle was a nice player but not rated that high by the Jaguars. Probably not big enough. Listed at 6’3.” He went to the Patriots.
The next three picks are probably players the Jaguars were considering if they fell to them at twenty-nine.
“We thought with about 10 picks to go, one of the players we liked would come to us,” Jaguars VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said.
It might not have been a top-heavy draft for receivers but D.J. Moore from Maryland was getting a lot of late attention. Even with third and fourth string quarterbacks he had plenty of production for the Terps. And he’s fast. Not unexpected the Panthers needed just that and took him at twenty-four.
Local product Hayden Hurst was a favorite in town and emerged as the top tight end prospect in the last several weeks. He would have filled a need, and at 25 years old, he’s got the maturity to step in and play. He spent two years in the Pirates organization as a pitcher before going to South Carolina to figure out a football career. Quite a story for a first round pick, the first ever out of Bolles. The Jaguars would have liked him, but the Ravens took him at twenty-five.
Was it possible Alabama’s Calvin Ridley would fall all the way to the Jaguars? Even though he dropped through the top twenty, there were still too many teams in front of the Jags to expect to get receiving help. In a surprise, the Falcons took him at 26, despite having Julio Jones, another Alabama receiver, and Mohamed Sanu as their starters. He was projected as an excellent slot receiver and could be that for Atlanta. Even if the Falcons hadn’t taken Ridley, he probably wouldn’t have gotten by the Seahawks or the Steelers, picking right before Jacksonville.
Coughlin said he took some calls from other teams but decided to stick in their spot. Bryan was the highest rated player remaining on the Jaguars board when they made their pick.
“Outstanding value,” Coughlin noted. Which means he thought Bryan would go higher.
‘He showed athleticism at the combine, that’s for sure,” Jaguars Coughlin said late on Thursday. “His 40, his vertical, his direction changes. He’s a solid young man.”
Running under 5 seconds in the 40-yard dash is impressive for a player his size, but it wasn’t just the “measureables” that convinced the Jaguars to take Bryan. Coughlin has always liked players who compete in the weight room as well as on the field and Bryan fits that bill.
“He’s a weight room guy,” Coughlin said with a big smile. “If I was a young guy like Bryan, I’d be getting Calais’ coffee to learn from a great pro like him.” Coughlin on Bryan’s personality.
“Is that what he said? Bryan said with a laugh on a conference call with local reporters. “I don’t know. I will have to see when I get there, I guess.”
With the success they had on defense last year, Bryan thought he might go to any team but the Jaguars. And he thought he’d go higher in the first round.
“Yes, honestly I was really surprised,” he noted. “I thought there was no way the Jags were going to pick us. You guys already have a bunch of Pro Bowlers and a bunch of great players. I was, ‘Well, they are definitely not picking me.’ Then you guys called me and it was awesome.”
Bryan said all of the right things you’d expect a rookie to say coming into a new situation in the NFL.
“It is a great opportunity. Those guys are Pro Bowlers. There is a mix of old and young guys. They are definitely good at what they do, seeing this past year. I’ll come in and try to learn everything I can from them and try to pick their brains as much as I can and try to do as much as a I can to help the team out.”