Jaguars select OT Anton Harrison with 27th pick in NFL draft
By MARK LONG
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Cam Robinson's potential suspension surely affected Jacksonville's approach to the NFL draft Thursday night.
The Jaguars already had a hole at offensive tackle, one that would grow significantly if Robinson has to sit out multiple games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
So they selected Oklahoma left tackle Anton Harrison with the 27th overall pick, hoping he can provide short-term relief and long-term stability for a franchise doing all it can to build around budding star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“Everything plays into the draft, everything plays into the pick,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said. “We knew this was a pending situation for a while, but our board was set strictly on ability and the value of the player.”
The Jaguars traded down twice - moving from 24th to 25th and then from 25th to 27th - before landing Harrison. They got three picks in return from the New York Giants and Buffalo for dropping down three spots.
“If (Robinson's situation) was that big of a deal, we would have obviously made that pick and not traded back," Baalke said. "We feel really good about how the day went.”
Jacksonville now has 11 picks over the next two days, with holes to fill at pass rusher, cornerback and tight end.
Harrison, meanwhile, could end up being a plug-and-play starter in Jacksonville - especially if Robinson is sidelined to start the season. His fate hinges on the results of a B sample test, which could take up to a month to finalize.
According to league rules, Robinson could be suspended without pay for up to six games. It would cost him roughly $900,000 a game in missed salary.
The potential hole made adding an offensive tackle a must even though it was already high on the team’s to-do list. Jacksonville lost right tackle Jawaan Taylor to Kansas City in free agency, and Robinson likely is entering his final year in Jacksonville.
Robinson is due to count more than $22 million against the team’s salary cap this year and next after signing a three-year, $52.75 million contract in 2022 that included $33 million guaranteed. He missed the final five games last season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee in mid-December and could be sidelined again to open 2023.
Harrison likely will be groomed to replace Robinson - maybe for part of this season and for good down the road. Harrison allowed one sack in 425 pass-rush snaps for the Sooners in 2022. He also has the ability to play left or right tackle as well as guard.
“It’s an easy, natural switch for me," he said.
The Jaguars plans to start him at tackle and expand his role from there. But coach Doug Pederson believes there's plenty of potential for Harrison to become a durable and dependable starter, maybe even sooner than expected.
“You can see it in his play, you can see it in his development," Pederson said. "Obviously, when we get our hands on him, he’ll be able to continue what he sort of has built and what he’s put on tape.
"There’s a lot of consistency in his game. We love everything about his length and his athleticism, how he moves, his strength - all the things that will fit us.”
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Updated April 28, 2023