The 2021 NFL Draft season is finally upon us. Football, for now, is over. All eyes will turn to the offseason as 32 franchises attempt to build their teams up to championship-caliber squads.
Among those teams will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 11 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.
As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars.
Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.
So, who better to start with than Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence? Lawrence is already projected to be the No. 1 overall pick and just last week held a pro day that Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer featured heavily in.
With this in mind, what stands out about Lawrence’s game, and just how well does he fit into the Jaguars’ rebuild? We take our own look here.
Lawrence is entering the NFL after three extremely decorated years as Clemson’s quarterback, but the legend of his play goes back even further than that. He won two state titles at Cartersville High School, where he broke the Georgia state record for passing yards and passing touchdowns, which were previously held by Deshaun Watson.
Lawrence entered Clemson as a mega-recruit, a consensus five-star player who many considered among the best quarterbacks to hit the recruiting cycle in recent memory. He split time as the Tigers’ quarterback for the first few weeks of his freshman season in 2019, eventually taking over after the first month of the season and leading Clemson to a National Championship victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide
Lawrence would advance Clemson to the College Football Playoffs in each of his three years as a starter, which included two National Championship performances. Lawrence finished his Clemson career 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).
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 was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2020, finishing behind Alabama’s DeVonta Smith.
What Trevor Lawrence Does Well
Well, where do you start in this category when the player is tabbed by many as a potentially generational and transcendent quarterback prospect? Lawrence isn’t perfect, but there are areas where he already thrives at an astoundingly high level.
The first thing that stands out about Lawrence (6-foot-6, 213 pounds) is his ability to process the defense and coverages. He can be downright meticulous when scanning the field and allowing concepts to develop downfield, already showing off some experience in looking off safeties with his eyes and pump fakes. He does things by the book when the offense stays on schedule; if he isn’t impeded, then the play will go as drawn up to the very inch.
Lawrence’s sharpness between the ears shows up when things break down as well, however. While some quarterbacks thrive in a controlled environment but falter when things break down, Lawrence doesn’t have that issue. He stays calm in the face of pass rushes and is able to deliver accurate balls to all levels of the field with a muddied pocket and bodies around him.
Because of all of this, Lawrence is arguably at his best in the red zone. This is a bit surprising considering his length gives him a bit of a natural windup that one would think could potentially hinder him when the field is condensed, but he releases the ball with such velocity and anticipation that it doesn’t matter. His down-to-down accuracy at the other level of the fields isn’t always consistent, but in the red zone he is consistently on the money on in-breaking and back-shoulder routes.
For a quarterback who is as good as Lawrence is at doing things by the book, he can make defenses pay when forced to play out of structure. He has the requisite mobility and athleticism to extend plays outside of the pocket, while also showing good accuracy on the move. He won’t be a Kyler Murray-type rushing quarterback at the next level, but he will be able to pick up first downs and even touchdowns with his legs.
Lawrence has the arm strength needed to complete passes in tight windows and at the deep levels of the field. His accuracy actually appears to improve the further the passes travel, with his ability to hit receivers in stride downfield going unchallenged.
If this all sounds over complimentary, it probably is. Lawrence has to improve his overall consistency in terms of accuracy and footwork against pressure, but he has the arm strength, mobility, instincts, and ability to make plays in and outside of structure to have faith in him as a quarterback at the next level. His floor is already high, but his natural tools give him an immensely high ceiling.
How Trevor Lawrence Would Fit With The Jaguars
On the field, it is clear how Lawrence would fit into the Jaguars’ plans. He is a pro-ready quarterback who can step into the league from day one and make an impact, already having the needed tools to give the Jaguars a significant upgrade at the quarterback position.
The scheme Lawrence plays in at the NFL level will likely be quite different than the one he played in at Clemson last year. Clemson introduced a lot of pro concepts and RPO playcalls, but the Clemson offense also leaned heavily upon the screen game. Because of this, Lawrence was rarely asked to get into much of a rhythm delivering the ball past the line of scrimmage despite his clear ability to do so.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be running the show on offense, though the scheme will be heavily influenced by head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer will almost certainly bring his classic concepts such as drive and mesh, but it would pay off to look at what Bevell allowed his quarterbacks to do last season.
Former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted passes of 20 yards or more at the 13th highest rate (12.7%) among quarterbacks with at least 10 deep attempts in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus. With that said, RPOs we're not a major factor in Bevell’s Lions offense. According to Pro Football Reference, Stafford attempted just 27 passes on RPO plays in 2020.
Bevell’s offense should allow Lawrence to do what he does best and attack offenses at the deeper levels of the field, even if it doesn’t have the RPOs of his Clemson offense. According to Pro Football Reference, Stafford had the league’s fifth-highest intended air yards per pass attempt (8.7) in 2020, which means only four quarterbacks had a higher depth of target on their attempts.
Off the field, there is zero question what Lawrence can do for the Jaguars. His toughness and leadership on the field are clear to anyone who watched him at Clemson, and it is this same leadership that should help him quickly bring credibility to the Jaguars’ quarterback position.
Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery on his left shoulder (non-throwing arm) on Tuesday, but he is expected to be ready for training camp. In terms of a fit for what the Jaguars need, Lawrence fits the bill.
Lawrence isn't a flawless prospect, but he is as close to it as a team like the Jaguars could possibly ask for. He has looked ready to play in the NFL since he was a freshman and he has all of the physical tools needed to thrive at the next level.
Picking Lawrence at No. 1 overall should be a relatively easy decision for the Jaguars. A franchise quarterback can change the entire trajectory of an organization, and Lawrence has that kind of talent.
As long as the Jaguars surround Lawrence with the right type of talent, there should be little doubt about what he individually can do for Jacksonville. The rest would be up to them, but Lawrence is a heck of a starting off point.