JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars used the early rounds of the NFL draft to put more pieces around budding quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Jaguars selected Penn State tight end Brenton Strange with the 61st overall pick and then added Auburn running back Tank Bigsby with the 88th choice Friday night. They joined offensive tackle Anton Harrison in Jacksonville’s draft class. Harrison was the 27th pick in first round Thursday night.
All three choices were designed to help Lawrence take his game to the next level in a season that should open with the expectation to repeat as AFC South champion.
“You have a plan heading into the draft and obviously you have needs,” coach Doug Pederson said. “You’re not just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to focus on one side of the football. You want to make decisions that are best for the football team. It doesn’t matter if it’s offense, defense or special teams.
“It’s just kind of the way the board fell for us the last two days, and we’ve got several picks left to address other areas.”
Although the Jaguars have needs at pass rusher and cornerback, they loaded up on offense before Pederson’s second season.
Strange gives them a versatile tight end to pair with veteran Evan Engram, and Bigsby provides a complementary backup to Travis Etienne.
“He’s kind of a ready-made tight end for us,” Pederson said.
General manager Trent Baalke let tight ends Chris Manhertz and Dan Arnold walk in free agency, creating holes. Baalke filled them — and probably upgraded — by adding a 6-foot-4, 253-pound player with the potential to pose matchup problems for defenses and a red zone option for Lawrence.
Strange had 32 catches for 362 yards and five touchdowns for the Nittany Lions last year. He finished his college career with 70 receptions for 755 yards and 11 scores in four seasons.
“I would say definitely my best football is ahead of me and my strengths are I can provide a lot,” Strange said. “I’m very versatile. You can put me anywhere on the offense and be effective, I can play the Y, play the H, play fullback. You can put me in multiple different positions to be able to impact the game.
“I just can’t wait to be a part of the team, help us win games and make plays for us.”
He joins a position group that includes Engram and seldom-used backups Luke Farrell and Gerrit Prince. Jacksonville used its franchise tag on Engram, guaranteeing him more than $11 million this fall, but he’s yet to sign the tender offer.
Bigsby, a 6-foot, 210-pound junior from Georgia, ran for 970 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Tigers last season. He fumbled just once and added 30 receptions for 180 yards.
He ran for 1,099 yards and 10 TDs in 2021 and had 834 yards and five scores as a freshman the year before.
Jacksonville spent the majority of last season searching for someone to share the workload with Etienne. The team traded James Robinson to the New York Jets, creating more opportunities for rookie Snoop Conner and JaMycal Hasty. But neither came close to Etienne’s production.
Now, Bigsby will get a chance.
“I’m going to run the ball. I’m going to catch, I’m going to block my butt off,” Bigsby said. “I’m going to do whatever, special teams. I’m going to do whatever I have to do for our team to win. … That’s what I’m known for: working hard and putting in the work. And I’m going to be the best version of myself.”
The Jaguars are far from finished adding to the mix. They traded down five spots, from No. 56 to No. 61, to choose Strange and received the first pick in the fifth round in return from Chicago.
That left them with 10 selections on the final day of the draft Saturday, including three fourth-rounders and two fifth-rounders.
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