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Jaguars select LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. with No. 23 overall pick in 2024 NFL Draft

The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to move back six slots in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft and select a player frequently mocked to them at their original pick of No. 17.

The Jaguars' selection of LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. on Thursday night fills a need that opened up when Calvin Ridley left town to join the Titans. Jacksonville also had a need at cornerback but opted to take Thomas over Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold, giving quarterback Trevor Lawrence a big, speedy deep threat.

The move is out of character for Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, who hasn't taken a receiver higher than Round 6 in Jacksonville and last used a first-rounder on one in 2012, when the 49ers picked A.J. Jenkins 30th overall in the 2012 draft. That pick didn't work, but Thomas is an exciting prospect with big upside.

Thomas might have played second fiddle at LSU to Malik Nabers, who was drafted sixth overall to the Giants on Thursday, but Thomas has the talent to develop into a No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville. The second LSU receiver off the board after Nabers, Thomas burst out in his third season in Baton Rouge. In his first two campaigns, he generated 359 yards and 361 yards, respectively, and seven total touchdowns. In 2023, he went for 1,177 yards and an FBS-high 17 touchdowns on 68 catches.

At 6-foot-3 and running a 4.33 40-yard dash, Thomas sports an ideal combo of size and speed that will translate to the pro level. His incredible catch radius allows him to make plays on the ball that others can't, and his ability to win with quickness off the line enables him to beat press coverages.

With excellent acceleration, Thomas's ability to burn past defensive backs, combined with his skilled ability to track the ball in flight, is a gumbo that can lead to big plays. After the catch, he's more elusive than most tall receivers and can use his speed to hit the open field.

While he played primarily on the outside in college, Thomas has the skill set to bounce around the formation and be used as a big slot. Entering the NFL, Thomas has room to add mass to his frame. His play strength is sure to be tested, as he can get overpowered. More importantly, Thomas needs to develop his route tree and sharpen his route-running skills to thrive in the NFL.

If he improves his route running, Thomas has the physical tools of a potential No. 1 receiver, and he's landed in a place where his skills can be showcased immediately.

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