JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A day after landing Clemson’s most dynamic offensive playmakers, the Jacksonville Jaguars turned their attention to the other side of the ball.
The Jaguars selected Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell with the first pick in the second round (No. 33 overall) of the NFL draft Friday and added safety Andre Cisco in the third (No. 65).
Campbell and Cisco should help coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke rebuild the worst defense in franchise history. Jacksonville set team records for points and yards allowed.
Grabbing Campbell so early in the draft raised some questions about the team’s confidence in cornerback CJ Henderson, the ninth overall pick in 2020 who missed eight games as a rookie and was inconsistent when he was on the field. Henderson is recovering from labrum surgery.
“He’s doing great,” Meyer said. “It’s been very positive in all areas. A wonderful guy, a very talented guy and he’s doing very good.”
Added Baalke: “You need more than two. You saw last year how quickly things can change. The game with as many four- and five-wide (sets) as you see in today’s game, you need guys that can cover. The whole goal is to do a good job in increasing our ability on the back end of the defense.”
In between Campbell and Cisco. Jacksonville chose Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little at No. 45.
Campbell, Little and Cisco add to Jacksonville’s draft haul that includes two former Clemson stars: quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. Both were formally introduced Friday and then sat back and watched the second and third rounds unfold.
Jacksonville has five picks remaining Saturday, including two in the fourth. Tight end, defensive tackle and edge rusher remain areas of need.
Meyer and Baalke see the three players they took Friday as value picks and eventual, if not immediate, starters.
Little likely will be groomed to replace up-and-down left tackle Cam Robinson, who recently signed a one-year franchise tag worth $13.75 million in 2021. Robinson was ranked as one of the league’s least effective pass-blockers last year.
Little played one game in 2019 before tearing a ligament in his left knee. He opted out of last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just trying to be at my peak and step in as soon as I can,” Little said. “I have no concerns about playing again.”
Cisco also is recovering from a major knee injury. He tore a ligament while colliding with a teammate during pregame warmups in late September. He is six months removed from surgery and hopes to be ready for training camp in July.
“Still working through this journey,” said Cisco, who has 13 interceptions in 24 college games. “Can’t say I’m there yet.”
Meyer struggled to come to grips with the notion of finding value in guys who haven’t played in some time.
“Very hard and I needed help with that to be quite honest,” Meyer said. “We had to do as much intel as we could.”
Cisco is expected to eventually start alongside newly signed safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who signed a four-year deal worth $35 million.
Campbell could join them as new faces in the secondary. He has played exclusively at cornerback since high school, but said he would be willing to do anything to get on the field as a rookie.
“I’m versatile and I could learn a new position,” Campbell said. “I trust my feet, trust my hips. I feel like I can run with anybody.”
The Jaguars now have Henderson, Griffin and Campbell at cornerback as well as Tre Herndon and Sidney Jones. That’s nearly $75 million committed to the position, which is become more and more important in a passing league. NFL teams play three or more cornerbacks about 60% of the time.
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