By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected former Clemson University quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This has been expected since at least last December, when the Jaguars clinched the top pick, but the speculation can probably go back to his freshman year. As a number one pick and as the top quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, he has very high expectations. This week I wanted to discuss if I think he’ll meet expectations and possibly exceed them.
One of the benefits he has are the coaches in Jacksonville. Head Coach Urban Meyer will make his NFL debut with the Jaguars, but he has almost 20 years of Division I experience in college. Not only does he have experience, he has experience in winning. It didn’t matter where he went, he created a winning culture in each program he was a part of. He’s never had a losing season, and he’s led two schools to national championships. The NFL is a different game, but I feel that if he can win with multiple college teams, he can do so with a pro team as well.
Lawrence also gets to work with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. He spent six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks from 2011-2017 and has over 20 years of NFL experience. Bevell groomed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson into a top-five quarterback and Super Bowl champion.
He took Wilson, who was a third-round pick in 2012 and wasn’t even the initial starter and made him into one of the top players in the league. He also did this fairly quickly, and Wilson played in two Super Bowls by the end of his third season. If Bevell can develop a third-round pick into a potential future Hall of Famer, I think he can do the same with the number one pick.
Looking at the Jaguars roster, they have more talent than a team who went 1-15 in 2020 should. Unlike most teams looking for a quarterback in this year’s draft, Lawrence has a nice trio of receivers and a solid running back. He’s got good options around him which is rare for a number one pick to have. Jacksonville signed wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr earlier this year. Last season with the Detroit Lions he had 76 catches for 978 yards and nine touchdowns.
Wide receivers D.J. Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. also had good seasons in 2020. They combined for over 1,300 yards with some of the most lackluster quarterback play. It must be nice for Jaguars fans to imagine what they’re capable of with someone like Lawrence under center. I feel it’s one of the most underrated receiver cores in the league, and I expect them to succeed with Lawrence next season.
Jacksonville found a diamond in the rough last season in running back James Robinson. The undrafted free agent had over 1,000 rushing yards and the fourth undrafted rookie in NFL history to do so. While I think there’s a chance for a sophomore slump, I said the same thing about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
They play different positions, but sometimes a strong rookie season is a sign of a player about to take over the league. I don’t think Robinson is nearly at Mahomes’s level yet, however, I didn’t see Mahomes taking over the league as fast as he has. It’s certainly not impossible for Robinson to reach that level.
The Jaguars also drafted Lawrence’s college teammate in Clemson running back Travis Etienne. He brings two things to Jacksonville: versatility and, more importantly, the trust and chemistry with Lawrence. Having Etienne could really help Lawrence ease into the NFL, and that chemistry could be a big factor in their success. I was initially surprised at the pick but I think it’s a great pick and will instantly benefit the Jaguars.
I view Lawrence as a favorite to win Rookie of the Year. I think he’s going to come to Jacksonville and help create a winning culture with his experiences at Clemson. I expect the Jaguars to be much better than 1-15. I still think the defense is a question mark, as they were second-worst in total yards allowed and were one of the worst against both the run and pass.
I think the defense will be the weak point, but I also don’t feel they need to play exceptional either. If they can keep their offense in the game I think Lawrence has the experience and poise necessary to win some games. As of now I don’t have Jacksonville in the playoffs, but I think by year two Lawrence and the Jaguars will be ready to compete in the AFC.