With the annual all-star week drawing to a close, it is worth examining just how often the Jaguars have drafted players from the event in recent years.
The Reese's Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and a number of other pre-Super Bowl all-star events have flooded the practice fields this week. They have been the stage for flocks of coaches, scouts, front office executives, owners and more as the offseason has officially been kicked into drive.
As a result, we are taking a trip down memory lane this week to take a ook at just how important the Senior Bowl week has been to the Jaguars' draft classes in recent years.
Most importantly, in the years since Trent Baalke joined the Jaguars' front office. The last two drafts as general manager as the most important, but Baalke also had a voice in the Jaguars' front office during the 2020 NFL Draft as the Jaguars' director of player personnel.
With 28 picks made by the Jaguars over the last three drafts, we take a look at how many of those players had Senior Bowl ties before the Jaguars make nine draft picks this April.
2022: Luke Fortner, Chad Muma, Gregory Junior (3 out of 7)
The Jaguars made seven draft picks in 2022, with Senior Bowl participants making up 42.85% of the Jaguars' picks. The Jaguars went senior-heavy with the class to begin with considering they also took non-Senior Bowl seniors in Devin Lloyd in Montaric Brown. The only non-senior picks were No. 1 pick Travon Walker and fifth-round running back Snoop Conner, two juniors.
There are a lot of reasons to think this is the draft class that most reflects who Baalke is as a general manager, too. There was no Urban Meyer influence this time, while Baalke also had a lot more flexibility at No. 1 overall after taking the consensus No. 1 pick with quarterback Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
The biggest impact the Senior Bowl made on this class was likely at cornerback, though it is fair to say it also helped them with their evaluations of Luke Fortner and Chad Muma, two third-round picks.
"I talked to them at the NFLPA [Collegiate Bowl], at the Senior Bowl, and they came down to my pro day, so we’ve been staying in contact a lot," Jaguars sixth-round pick Gregory Junior said after he was drafted in April.
"“The advantage with him was he was at the Senior Bowl, so we got a chance to see him there. We had several scouts go into the school, so he wasn’t somebody that was unknown or unheard of. The scouts did a good job of identifying him in the fall obviously, enough to get him a look at the Senior Bowl," Trent Baalke said after Day 3. "We felt pretty good that we had a good amount of work done on him.”
"When you turn on a small school guy that you feel can compete at this level, he jumps out at you and Greg[orgy Junior] did that, so we’re very confident he’s going to come in here and now compete obviously. It’s a much higher level, he’s going to have to adjust to it, but he showed at the Senior Bowl that he was capable of making those steps. We’ll bring him in and let him go to work.”
2021: Jordan Smith (1 out of 9)
This is the outlier year. The Jaguars made nine picks this draft, but they went with a complete youth movement with almost all of them. There were few seniors in the group, and the only Senior Bowl participant was fourth-round pass-rusher Jordan Smith, who the Jaguars traded up for.
While it is fair to say Smith's performance at the Senior Bowl may have left an impression with Baalke or Jaguars' scouts, the Jaguars only took a Senior Bowl player with 11% of their draft picks in 2021. And when they took Smith, they mentioned his coaches in college as a key factor in their background research, which was likely even more important than the Senior Bowl.
2020: DaVon Hamilton, Ben Bartch, Collin Johnson (3 out of 12)
A year in which the Jaguars led off with a trio of young players in the top-50 in CJ Henderson, K'Lavon Chaisson and Laviska Shenault, the 2020 draft can probably be thrown out of this conversation to some extent. Baalke wasn't general manager -- Dave Caldwell was. But Baalke was in the room as the Jaguars spent 25% of their picks on Senior Bowl players, including a third- and a fourth-rounder.
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