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Jaguars draft grade. An analysis of their 2021 draft class

The difference that a year makes, heading into 2020, we all thought Jacksonville was going to be in for a long rebuild before they would turn around and field a competitive roster. However, when they brought in Urban Meyer to coach the team, well, let’s just say he’s not overly accustomed to losing. Truth be told, the Jags were amongst the most attractive situations in the NFL that needed a new head coach. First off, they had the top pick in the draft, which meant that they won the “Trevor Lawrence” sweepstakes, but thanks to Jalen Ramsey. Secondly, they were armed with 5 picks in the top 65 and flush with cap space. Lastly, they already had loads of talent around the roster.

Their offensive line is anchored by Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, and AJ Cann, all talented players who would benefit from better QB play. They have young, exciting playmakers in D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and James Robinson already in place. Defensively, Josh Allen looked every bit the rusher he was in Kentucky before his knee injury,  who has been paired with talented 2020 1st round K’Lavon Chaisson, Myles Jack clean up anything that gets by the front four, and C.J. Henderson showed flashes as a rookie 1st rounder last season.

The point is that there was talent all over the field prior to make any additions and the Jags have an owner in Shad Khan who is not afraid to throw some money around. Jacksonville brought in names like Shaquille Griffen to help recreate the Ramsey/ A.J. Bouye tandem, Marvin Jones to man the slot on offense, as well as adding Malcom Brown and Jihad Ward to the front four. The Jags still had needs heading into the draft, the first being QB, but also holes at tight end, safety, and interior defensive line. However, Urban Meyer had done a good job adding a mix of starters and rotational players to a team that needed a veteran presence. Let’s take a look at our Jaguars draft grade analysis.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence (Round 1, Pick 1)

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Lawrence going first overall was a foregone conclusion after his freshman and sophomore campaigns, the question is just when he would actually come out. He’s widely considered the best prospect to come out since Andrew Luck and the expectation is that in today’s NFL, where rookies don’t see as much of a learning curve, he’ll hit the ground running. Me, I think otherwise, not necessarily that he’ll struggle, but I really question his drive and work ethic.

Listen, was this the right pick, obviously, only a mad man or myself might go elsewhere, however, my concerns are not unfounded. Many from Lawrence’s camp have mentioned how he’s not “in love with the game” or that he “would be fine without it”. He, himself, even mentioned that he didn’t necessarily have “a chip on his shoulder”. Those are concerning things, he’s got immense talent, but does he have the drive to push himself physically and mentally when defenses start to throw more at him? Is he so accustomed to winning and ALWAYS being better than the competition that he folds when the going gets tough? Clemson played a lot of good teams and a lot of good players in college, but the NFL is a completely different ballgame.

It’s scary to think for Jaguar fans, but that was roughly the same mentality that JaMarcus Russell had when he was drafted by the Raiders. He was so much more physically gifted than the competition that he was used to just walking on the field and performing, he didn’t have a chip or any drive to be better than he already was. Now, does this mean Lawrence is doomed to be the biggest bust since then? No, he’s going into a much better situation that Russell did, with an established coach and a talented group around him.

I will say this though, if I was Jacksonville, I would have called Carolina, tried to get an offer for the 1st overall (which would have been a boatload of picks and Teddy Bridgewater) and then send some of those to Atlanta with the 4th pick. There, I would have taken Kyle Pitts, adding an absolute game-wrecker to go along with the other young talent on my team. Does this mean I might not be competitive in 2021? Yeah, but you just built an arsenal of young weapons that is unparalleled in the NFL. So, when you’re sitting at the top of the draft again in 2022, I can take my franchise QB. Then again, what do I know?

Clemson RB Travis Etienne (Round 1, Pick 25)

Can’t say I blame them with this selection. I understand James Robinson was awesome as a rookie in 2020, but he’s a completely different back. With Etienne, the Jaguars now have a lighting rod (ran a 4.31 40) who can hit the homerun. He also paired up well with Lawrence at Clemson to score an absurd 168 touchdowns in their career (78 by Etienne).

He’ll also serve as the primary back on 3rd downs, which gives defenses another element to think of when the Jags line up. They’ll have to respect Chark’s ability to create all over the field, Shenault’s ability to win over the top, and Jones’ ability to dominate in the slot. With all of that attention elsewhere, it will make it difficult on defenses to respect what Etienne can do out of the backfield. Not to mention that mismatch that he creates, his speed dictates that you put at least a safety on him, but that also means you have to take a linebacker off the field. In that event, Jacksonville can easily just hand it off and let Etienne do his thing behind a strong offensive line and against a light box.

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Some did view this as a redundant pick for Jacksonville because of Robinson, and we didn’t even think this would happen. You could make the argument that a different position would have been just as impactful. Again, the Jaguars need help on the interior defensive line and at safety. The top players at their spots were still there in Christian Barmore and Trevon Moehrig.  Either one of those players would have filled a massive hole in the Jacksonville defense.

However, I’m good with taking a guy who scored nearly 80 touchdowns in 4 seasons, so as many questions as I had about Lawrence, shockingly enough, I have far fewer about this one.

Georgia CB Tyson Campbell (Round 2, Pick 33)

Literally the same as above, very good selection, Campbell is a talented player, but with both Barmore and Moehrig still on the board. Wouldn’t you have been better served going there? Campbell is “tweener” with regards to his status as a 1st or 2nd round talent. Barmore and Moehrig on the other hand, they’re sure-fire 1st round talents that inexplicably slipped out. Plus, how much does Campbell really propel you forward? You already have Shaquille Griffen and CJ Henderson, both of whom are talented outside corners.

Could it be that the Jags have already given up on Henderson, who even though he flashed, struggled with injuries and consistency as a rookie? If so, then why not grab a more talented guy like Eric Stokes with the 25h pick? Chances are that Etienne would have still been there at 33 as no one behind them really needed running-back help.

Regardless, I still like the selection, in today’s world you need 3 good cover corners because every team (besides New England) can run out three good receivers. Campbell has all the tools that you look for in a corner, he’s tall (6’2), he’s fast (4.4 40), and he’s physical (scouts praise him for his willingness to play the run). The only real knocks on him is that he didn’t force many turnovers and he’s a bit skinny for his height (185). However, with proper technique and training program, you can address both of those weaknesses. Another solid pick for our Jaguars draft grade.

Stanford OT Walker Little (Round 2, Pick 45)

I liked the fact that they targeted an offensive lineman, Jawaan Taylor needs to be put on notice and Cam Robinson isn’t exactly the best blindside protector in the world. However, I didn’t really like the person they targeted. Walker Little has great size (6’7, 310), but never really produced at Stanford (career PFF score less than 60), so the fact that he was ranked so high was always surprising to me. I would have preferred they gone after a guy like Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, who offers the same upside from a size standpoint, but his production is light-years ahead (90 PFF score in 2020).

You could also make the argument that Jacksonville should have looked elsewhere for better values. Azeez Ojulari and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah were both projected 1st round picks. Sure, the Jags just invested to consecutive 1st rounders in edge rushers, but in this league you can never have too many. Also, could you imagine pairing a playmaker of Owusu-Kormaoh’s caliber with linebackers Myles Jack and Joe Schobert? It would have helped to take that defense to a different level. Instead, they reached on a guy they probably could have grabbed at 66 and one that has never really exhibited much in the way of on-field success. This is the only pick I would not count as a clear positive for our Jaguars draft grade.

Syracuse S Andre Cisco (Round 3, Pick 66)

I love it when needs match value and that’s exactly what you got here. They got a steal here, a major plus for our Jaguars draft grade. Cisco was unbelievably productive for Syracuse, he nabbed 26 career interceptions and only played in 24 career games. He’s a playmaker in centerfield and a ball-hawk, which is exactly what that backend was missing. Does he take chances? Sure, he’s been burned and he’s not the greatest tackler in the world either, but those are things that can be taught out of a player. Instincts and willingness to just “go after it”, well you can’t teach that.

He should immediately step in and become the full-time starter, there will be some bumps and veteran QBs will make him bite, but let him learn through his mistakes. Give it a couple of years, but this Jaguars secondary can become lethal, they have the talent, now all they need is the coaching to bring it all together.

Hats off to Urban Meyer, he had a boatload of picks, but he didn’t botch any of them. Our Jaguars draft grade is as high as any of the other teams in the league. He landed a franchise QB, home-run hitting running-back, gifted corner, and a playmaking centerfielder. My only real gripe is that they reached on Walker Little and probably should have looked elsewhere. I’m also going to knock them for not going after interior defensive line, as we’ve seen numerous times (Dallas is the best example), if you can’t control the middle, it’s hard to play defense.

Jaguars Draft Grade: A

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