The 2019 NFL Draft has officially wrapped up, and by all accounts, the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to be bringing in a great haul of rookies.
For me personally, this was an incredible experience, as I got to travel to Nashville and see the draft in-person for the first time. Now that the festivities are over, it’s time for Big Cat Country’s annual post-draft Q&A pieces with the folks who have covered the players throughout their college careers.
We start off our seven-part series by discussing Auburn defensive tackle, and Jacksonville’s seventh-round pick, Dontavius Russell. In an effort to learn more about Russell, I reached out to Jack Condon, managing editor of the quintessential Auburn Tigers website, College and Magnolia.
He turned out to be one of the surprises on a defensive line that’s had big-time recruits for years now. Russell wasn’t the most highly-rated guy coming out of high school, and he was overshadowed by guys like Montravius Adams and Derrick Brown (who’s projected to be a top ten pick in 2020). That said, he had offers from Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia, but chose to go to Auburn instead. Once on the Plains, he showed off a propensity to do the dirty work and let everyone else gain the glory on the front seven. Russell’s game is to clog things up, submarine blockers, and let the pass-rushers and linebackers eat. He finished with 153 tackles and six sacks in 50 career games, but he’s not going to be your primary pass rusher. He’s not even going to make that many tackles. He may not show up at all until you look back at the film and see him occupying two blockers at once, or getting a guy on the ground and causing a back to have to try to bounce things outside. He’s very strong, but he’ll need a little technique work to get him playing lower more consistently. He was one of the best and most dependable players on a defensive line that boasted some special talent over the past few seasons.
Looking at the Jags’ defensive line group, I think that there’s definitely going to be a challenge to make the 53-man roster, but Russell’s not the kind of guy to get discouraged and wilt in the face of a daunting task. Judging by what he did in college, the coaches should be impressed with him quietly doing his job and letting the stars make the big plays while he cleans up the messes. If I had to make a prediction, I think he’ll make the team in the end and see some playing time this year. His strength and calm demeanor will help him adjust to the NFL speed fairly quickly, and I think that’s what’ll ultimately help him the most when he gets to camp.
There were some that thought he might be Auburn’s first draft pick due to his play inside. However, most believed that he would end up getting drafted in the late rounds, and that’s exactly where he went. That was pretty consistent with the beliefs of most at College and Magnolia, but we would’ve thought he would go higher if he’d been having the kind of performances that Derrick Brown had last year. Of course, it’s thanks in large part to Russell’s play in the other tackle spot that Brown was able to do so much last year.