2021 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Boosts Jaguars’ QB Position, Defense in Latest Mock

ESPN's Mel Kiper has released his first mock draft of 2021, leading us to analyze his decisions for the Jaguars and whether the player fits make sense or not.
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While we continue to march through the 2020 season, we will take looks at mock drafts from throughout the football industry to reflect on what outside projections for the Jacksonville Jaguars look like.

The Jaguars currently hold the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, along with the Los Angeles Rams' first-round pick (No. 25) as a result of the Jalen Ramsey trade. As of this writing, the Jaguars have 11 picks in the upcoming draft.

We now know who will be leading the Jacksonville Jaguars on the sidelines and in the front office moving forward. Urban Meyer has been selected as head coach while Trent Baalke is the team's newest general manager. Now, the duo will have to navigate an immensely important offseason that features the Jaguars holding the draft's top selection.

How Meyer and Baalke shape the Jaguars' roster over the course of the offseason will be fascinating on all fronts. This of course means mock drafts and other projections for how the Jaguars move toward their future.

For every team other than the four still in the playoffs, attention has shifted toward the 2021 NFL Draft. This year's draft is set to be especially important for the Jaguars considering their 11 draft picks, which includes two picks in the first two rounds apiece.

To get an idea of what positions or which names could be options for the Jaguars in the first round, we take a look at some of the players selected for them in recent mock drafts from national analysts and sites. For each pick, our own analysis will be included.

In this edition, we analyze the latest first-round projections from ESPN's Mel Kiper. Not many have been in the draft industry longer than Kiper, so it is always worth seeing what kind of perspectives he brings to the table. 

So, who did Kiper mock to the Jaguars in the first round? Do the fits make sense for the Jaguars from a needs and value point of view? We attempt to answer the question here.

No. 1: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

Same old, same old ... for obvious reasons. Kiper doesn't go outside the box here and instead mocks a franchise quarterback to Jacksonville.

As long as the Jaguars hold the draft's first overall pick, they will be mocked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The 6-foot-6 junior has dominated the college ranks for the last three seasons and proved to be the perfect successor to Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars made the mistake of passing up on Watson in 2017. They won't do the same with Lawrence in 2020.

Jacksonville has needs all over the roster, but quarterback trumps all of them. For as talented as DeVonta Smith or Penei Sewell are, neither would change Jacksonville's outlook like Lawrence. Lawrence is the player who can lift the Jaguars out of the football abyss because he is an elite quarterback prospect; it is as simple as that. The Jaguars have never had a bona fide franchise quarterback, so there is no reason to think they pass up on taking one in Lawrence.

Lawrence is 34-2 as a starter, having only lost in the College Football Playoffs (as a sophomore, to LSU in the Championship and as a junior to Ohio State in the semifinals). As a freshman, Lawrence defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship.

In his career, Lawrence completed 66% of his passes for 10,098 yards (8.9 yards per attempt, 9.8 adjusted yards per attempt) for 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns. He isn't perfect, but there is a strong argument to make for him being the best quarterback prospect of the last decade. 

The Jaguars haven't publicly said as much as Lawrence's name, but they have made it clear that a quarterback will eventually be the team's top pick. 

"You see [Clemson QB] Trevor [Lawrence], you see [Ohio State QB] Justin [Fields], you see [BYU QB] Zach [Wilson]. As Shad said, this is a monumental moment for this franchise," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said at his introductory press conference. "We’ve seen some franchises explode and we’ve seen others fail. I’ve said this many times throughout my career is that when the NFL says it’s a quarterback league, I would say ‘well so is college and so is high school, so is Pop Warner.’ It’s a quarterback sport, so whoever takes that snap, we have got to be right on.

"Who we pick at that quarterback spot, that’s going to be one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my lifetime, along with the partnership of our owner and our general manager. The ones that are out there, my initial study, because I have been studying a lot, I like to use the term elite. I see some elite quarterbacks out there right now.”

So for as much controversy as some would like to potentially create about the Jaguars and the top pick, there is no reason to think Lawrence shouldn't be locked in to the Jaguars at No. 1 overall. 

No. 25: Alabama DT Christian Barmore

If quarterback is the Jaguars' greatest need, defensive tackle isn't far behind (same with cornerback, too). As a result, we see Kiper give the Jaguars an athletic and playmaking defensive tackle in Alabama's Christian Barmore, who has been frequently projected to the Jaguars in this year's mock draft cycle.

"I thought about a receiver or offensive lineman here to help Trevor Lawrence, but this defense is depleted, particularly along the defensive line and in the secondary," Kiper said.

"Barmore really came on at the end of the season, with six sacks in his final six games. He was dominant in the two College Football Playoff wins. I love the fit in Jacksonville, where he can be a penetrating 3-technique. "

In the SEC Championship, College Football Playoff Semifinal, and the National Championship, Barmore collected 15 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, and took home the Defensive MVP award from the title win over Ohio State. These are nearly identical numbers to what Jacksonville's entire defensive tackle position provided in 2020.

Jacksonville's six primary defensive tackles last season — Doug Costin, Taven Bryan, Abry Jones, DaVon Hamilton, Daniel Ekuale, and Caraun Reid — combined for just 2.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits. No defensive tackle had more than one sack, and only three of the six defensive tackles recorded one. 

Considering how massive of a bust Bryan has been with just 3.5 sacks in three seasons, the Jaguars need to find his immediate replacement. Barmore is the type of replacement who makes perfect sense for the Jaguars due to his youth, high ceiling, and versatility. 

Barmore has the size and strength to anchor against the run but his real upside is as a pass-rusher. One of the biggest reasons Jacksonville's defensive line failed in 2020 was due to a lack of disruption in the middle of the defense. Barmore would potentially change that in a big way.