The 2021 college football season is officially in the books.
There were upsets, records broken, and countless memorable moments as the Georgia Bulldogs fought their way past Alabama in a 33-18 victory on Monday night in the National Championship bout. And now, the focus has turned to the 2022 NFL Draft for countless college programs and NFL teams alike.
That includes the Jaguars, owners of the No. 1 overall pick (as well as the No. 33 overall pick) entering the 2022 offseason after a 3-14 record in 2021. Few teams have more at stake in the 2022 NFL Draft than the Jaguars, which makes Monday night's game all the more important.
So, what did Monday's game mean for the Jaguars' draft plans and long-term prospects? From Evan Neal to George Pickens, we break it all down below.
Evan Neal looked like a No. 1 overall-caliber player
While the Alabama offense didn't look in sync for much of Monday night's game, there was one Crimson Tide offensive player who more than looked the part against an elite Georgia defense: Alabama left tackle Evan Neal, who is one of the current favorites to land in Jacksonville at No. 1 overall. There is clearly more to Neal's draft profile than a single-game performance against the Bulldogs, but Neal looked like a dominant left tackle who is more than deserving of going No. 1 overall.
Neal looked like a complete bulldozer as a run-blocker, frequently blowing open holes for Alabama's running game at the line of scrimmage while also showing dominant mobility for his size at the second level. Neal's size and strength were on clear display as he made easy work of his assignments as a run-blocker. His awareness in pass-protection against a blitz and stunt-heavy Georgia defense was also a big plus, with Neal having quick eyes, feet, and hands when adjusting to new targets. He did give up four pressures in over 50 drop backs, but Neal looked like a ready-made tackle with the ability to dominate defensive ends in both the running and passing game. There were a few lapses in technique that led to wins from the Bulldog front, but Neal was more often than not the best player on Alabama's entire offense.
Jameson Williams's injury is a tough pill to swallow for WR-needy teams like Jaguars
There aren't many receivers in this year's draft who made more sense for the Jaguars than Jameson Williams. He is a big-play threat at every level of the field thanks to genuinely elite speed -- whether it be as a deep threat or as a YAC monster on short passes. Alabama's entire passing game looked like a different animal when Williams was in the game, and there is a lot of reason to believe that his knee injury in the first half is a big reason the Alabama offense failed to generate enough big plays to win the game.
While the full extent of Williams' injury is unknown, it is tough to see a talented young receiver like him get injured in what should have been his final college game before potential NFL stardom. It is a blow to NFL teams who need a speed threat on the outside as well, especially for a team like the Jaguars whose options in free agency are limited. Williams looked like a terrific option for the Jaguars at No. 33 overall and even a potential trade back option if the Jaguars didn't hold onto No. 1 overall, but now the focus will likely have to shift elsewhere.
George Pickens' big-play ability stood out
George Pickens only touched the ball once against Alabama, but it only took one touch for him to showcase exactly why he is an enticing talent at the next level. Pickens made one of the biggest plays of the entire game on Monday night, hauling in a 52-yard catch downfield from Stetson Bennett that helped the Bulldogs break out of their offensive funk. Before Pickens' catch -- which came on a less than ideal throw -- the Bulldogs offense couldn't buy positive yards. His big play helped generate positive momentum to the entire offense, something the Jaguars were badly missing in 2021.
While Pickens has his own injury history to consider, he has made big plays throughout his career that display the type of field-stretching potential he can bring to the next level. Monday night was a perfect example of this, with Pickens' massive catch downfield displaying top-notch ball skills and tracking ability in a massive moment.
Derion Kendrick deserves consideration at No. 33 overall
One of the best cornerbacks in the entire class, it would be hard to blame the Jaguars for considering Derion Kendrick at No. 33 overall, even after they took fellow Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell at No. 33 in 2021. Campbell and Shaquill Griffin are going to return as starters in 2022, but Kendrick is a talented corner with the athletic ability to line up inside/outside and he put out some dominant film against Alabama on Monday night, allowing zero catches.
While the Jaguars' focus at No. 33 overall should be a wide receiver, Kendrick deserves at least some consideration from the Jaguars' front office. The cornerback room is far from deep and the Jaguars could desperately use another young cornerback to develop beside Campbell as they enter the second year of Griffin's three-year contract. Kendrick may not fill a screaming need, but he would go a long way toward helping the Jaguars fix their pass defense.
Christian Harris: potential Damien Wilson replacement?
The Jaguars got admirable play out of Damien Wilson in 2021, with the veteran inside linebacker making a big impact as a blitzer and run defender, even with his range and pass coverage issues. With that said, the Jaguars will likely look to get younger and more explosive at inside linebacker. And while Nakobe Dean was a star in the middle of Georgia's defense, Alabama linebacker Christian Harris may be a more logical replacement for Wilson considering Dean is a likely first-round pick.
Harris didn't have the same consistent year that Dean had, but he put forth a truly dominant showing against Georgia on Monday night. The junior linebacker recorded seven tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks, providing massive value as a blitzer thanks to his dynamic athleticism. Considering how often the Jaguars blitzed their linebackers in 2021, a player like Harris would make perfect sense for the middle of their defense if the new coaching staff keeps the same defensive system in place.