Urban Meyer has a lot to learn about the NFL in his first season as a head coach at the professional level, but we still have a lot to learn about Meyer in our own right. Luckily, last week's draft served as a three-day crash course in lessons,
The former elite college coach is in untested waters in the NFL, and the intrigue and mystery surrounding how he may operate at the NFL level now that he has finally made the jump is one of the league's most intriguing storylines in 2021.
But what specifically did Meyer and the Jaguars do during the draft that taught us something about the Jaguars' new head coach? We examine five things we learned about Meyer and his NFL identity below to give thought to.
Urban Meyer wanted to add a dynamic skill player more than he wanted any player not named Trevor Lawrence
If there is one word that is has been constant when it comes to how Meyer describes what he wants on the field, it is speed. Meyer has said since he took the Jaguars job that he wanted Jacksonville to be a fast team in all aspects, whether that is playing fast and to the whistle on defense or creating explosive plays on offense.
As a result, it is little surprise Meyer made it a point to add a dynamic athlete to his skill player arsenal with his second-highest draft pick. But from how Meyer described his first target at No. 25, and how he has described his actual selection, it is clear how much of a priority adding a playmaker at No. 25 was for the first-time head coach.
For Meyer, it came down to Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who can be used in the backfield and excels on screens and gadget plays, or Clemson running back Travis Etienne, a dynamic home run hitter at the running back position who can take any carry or catch the distance thanks to his speed and contact balance.
"Travis Etienne, and someone said why would you take another running back? He’s much more than a running back. He’s a slash — we did not recruit him just because he’s a running back. We probably wouldn’t have," Meyer said following the draft on Saturday.
"He’s a guy that had a lot of production in the pass game at Clemson. He has excellent hands and he’ll be dual-trained, he’ll be a guy that we dual-train. Those guys are hard to find, but if you find one, we know how to use them. With him I expect an instant impact."
The emphasis Meyer placed on relationships carried over from free agency to the NFL Draft
Meyer made it clear during his first few months on the job that relationships would be a driving force behind his information-gathering process. Due to the fact that all conversations and visits with players have had to be virtual over the offseason, it is harder for teams to get a great feel for who players are. As a result, Meyer and the Jaguars have used relationships and connections in quite a few free agency signings and draft picks.
Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne? Players Meyer knows well due to his relationship with Dabo Swinney and Ohio State's battles against Clemson in recent years. Tyson Campbell and Jay Tufele? Meyer recruited them out of high school. Safeties coach Chris Ash knew Andre Cisco from high school since he was the head coach at Rutgers at the time. Luke Farrell was not only recruited by Meyer, he committed to the Buckeyes and played for Meyer at Ohio State.
It was fair to wonder whether Meyer would utilize relationships during the draft process, but we have now learned how much of an emphasis it is for Meyer in all aspects of the team-building process. Meyer will eventually run out of players he has recruited, but his connections to college will likely always be a big part of his evaluation process.
How much pull Meyer's assistant coaches have in terms of evaluations is clear
Meyer mentioned his coaching staff quite a few times this week when asked about why the Jaguars made decisions or why he was confident in player development taking place. Meyer mentioned defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi when it came to the selection of Jay Tufele, as well as the influence of wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal on the pick of wide receiver Jalen Camp in the sixth round.
"I love Jay, I always have. He’s a guy — I think we’re going to get a lot out of him. I know the D-Line Coach Tosh [Lupoi] told that to him. Having someone believe in you has got to be the greatest feeling in the world and Tosh believes in him," Meyer said.
"Our receiver coach came down, we’re right at the end and still a couple short and he’s a guy that we studied. I did not study him as much as [Wide Receivers Coach] Sanjay [Lal] did and our scouting staff," Meyer said when asked about the selection of Camp. "If you look at his measurables, he’s a big, fast guy that we had a great call with and look forward to working with him.”
Meyer likely doesn't make these picks without that valuable input from his staff. He has said before that his assistant coaches would play a big hand in which players the team acquires, and the draft is another example of this.
The amount of trust Meyer puts into his staff to develop players is evident in the team's draft selections and strategy
When it comes to projecting college players to the NFL, there is no exact science. If there was, James Robinson wouldn't have gone undrafted, Tom Brady would have been the No. 1 pick, and so forth, though is fair to evaluate the skill set of college players to gauge what kind of tools are there to develop and how much of a leap has to be made.
With this in mind, it is fair to determine when picks are made with the future in mind. Some picks are high-ceiling rolls of the dice but are just that -- rolls of the dice. And with the Jaguars' picks of Tyson Campbell (No. 33), Walker Little (No. 45), Andre Cisco (No. 65), Jordan Smith (No. 121), and Jalen Camp (No. 206), Meyer showed faith in his staff to develop high-ceiling players who have untapped potential. Meyer has said it before that there are no bad players in his eyes; if a player fails, it is on the organization. Meyer backed those words up with the 2021 class.
Every one of these draft picks could be considered a "risk" for different reasons, but each also has the chance to hit in a big way. Few cornerbacks have Campbell's length of size, length, and speed, while Walker Little is only a non-first rounder due to circumstances that have kept him off the field for nearly two years. Cisco, Smith, and Camp all provide similar give and take scenarios; they need work and a good deal of coaching, but you can't teach their traits. Meyer took a few leaps in this draft class, but his strategy showed just how much faith he has in his coaching staff to give the roster the coaching they need.
Meyer has made it clear where tight end is on the pecking order of offensive weapons
Most of the time when a team wraps up a draft or a certain round of the three-day event, they will make a point to use some public lip service to enforce their confidence in weaker aspects of the team. But Urban Meyer didn't do this when it came to the tight end room following the draft, opting to admit his "concern" with the team's current depth chart after the team's first pick at the position came in the fifth round.
"Concerned. There’s some great quality, quantity wasn’t there in the draft this year, and that’s a concern right now," Meyer said when asked about the tight end room following the conclusion of the draft.
"That’s a concern right now. That’s the one area that I feel like — we felt the same about defensive tackle — we just didn’t quite hit that and then we got Jay [Tufele], when we picked him, the tight end position — you’re staring at that board and that horizontal piece. We just didn’t hit that today.”
The Jaguars' lone additions at tight end this offseason have been Chris Manhertz, who is a blocking tight end with 12 career catches, and Luke Farrell, a player who The Athletic and Bleacher Report both gave Priority Free Agent grades during the scouting process. Farrell also caught just 34 passes in 44 career games, but Meyer and the Jaguars passed on Pat Freiermuth, Hunter Long, Tommy Tremble, and Brevin Jordan at several different points in the draft.
All in all, this teaches us what Meyer thinks about the tight end position unless the player is a high-tier talent like Kyle Pitts: it just isn't a big part of the passing game. The Jaguars draft showed us that Meyer more or less sees tight ends as pieces to help the running scheme be more versatile and flexible, not as pieces to catch the ball at a high volume.