As the NFL Draft approaches in just under one month the Jacksonville Jaguars are set to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick. If you need any reassurance about that, head coach Urban Meyer all but explicitly confirmed they are taking Lawrence when he joined NBC Sports' Peter King’s podcast earlier this week.
“I’d have to say that’s the direction we’re going,” Meyer said of the prospects of taking Lawrence at No. 1 overall. “I’ll leave that up to the owner when we make that decision official. But I’m certainly not stepping out of line that that’s certainly the direction we’re headed.”
So, the Jaguars have their quarterback. And thanks to free agency, they have some other positions filled as well.
But one position they really do not have yet figured out is tight end. They added one with the signing of Chris Manhertz, but he is almost solely an in-line blocking tight end. What will they do about finding a pass-catching option at tight end?
It’s the biggest hole on the team currently, and a great passing option at tight end would be a big benefit to a rookie quarterback. However, how vital is the tight end position to Lawrence? Were they a big deal for him or did it not really matter if he had a great tight end or not?
Well, the answer, in large part, is the latter.
In the three years Lawrence led Clemson's offense, only one season ended with a tight end finishing top five among receiving yards. That was Braden Galloway this past season with 27 receptions for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2018, Lawrence's freshman season, Galloway was Lawrence’s favorite tight end target ... but only for five catches for 52 yards and one touchdown.
In 2019, Galloway once again led all tight ends on the roster in receiving yards with two receptions for 60 yards. It’s safe to say tight ends were underutilized at Clemson with Lawrence under center.
Now, that’s not to say it’s Trevor’s fault tight ends were not a focal point in the offense. The coaching staff may not have put much of an emphasis on tight ends in recruiting, they may not fit the style of passing attack they utilize at Clemson, or there were just other pass-catching options Lawrence had in the loaded arsenal that is Clemson.
I mean, if you had guys like Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow, and Cornell Powell as receiving options you would probably go to them more often than not. Not to mention one of the best all-around running backs in all of college football over the last four years in Travis Etienne catching balls out of the backfield.
Nonetheless, Clemson did not utilize the tight end position hardly at all while Lawrence was at the helm. The only season in which tight ends made any sort of impact was this past year.
Galloway led the way in 2020 and overall Clemson tight ends hauled in 50 receptions for 664 yards and seven touchdowns between four players. So, were they important at Clemson during Lawrence's final season? The honest answer is, no, not really. In 2020, Amari Rodgers (1,020) and Cornell Powell (882) had more receiving yards than all four tight ends combined.
None of this means the Jaguars are not trying to go after a great pass-catching tight end in the draft or via trade. And Lawrence, if he has a great tight end, will probably utilize him.
All any of this means and the overall message here is that Lawrence does not have to rely on having a difference-maker at tight end to have success. It often was the opposite case, at least for Clemson. Lawrence was wildly successful in getting the ball to his outside receivers and backs during his college career.
Jacksonville is likely hoping they will be able to secure a great tight end and Lawrence has a reliable option to throw to early on.
But if they don’t do that and end up whiffing at tight end, it won’t be the end of the world for Lawrence. His history at least tells us it’s not a requirement for him to be great.