Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer certainly has a type. If he wanted to add anything to the Jaguars' offense during the 2021 NFL Draft, he wanted to add speed, explosion, and a whole lot of touchdowns.
And that is why he wanted Kadarius Toney at pick No. 25; but the New York Giants had the same idea, selecting the Florida wide receiver five selections before the Jaguars at No. 25 overall.
"Toney. I’ve got to know him over the last couple weeks and obviously with my connection with Coach Mullen and those guys. I just think, if you watch him play, he’s a human highlight reel," Meyer admitted when prodded about the player that got away in the first round.
The Jaguars, of course, selected Clemson running back Travis Etienne at No. 25 overall. While they didn't take a slot receiver in Toney, they did add a weapon to their passing game in Etienne that Meyer sees as a multi-dimensional threat.
"With the offense of Jacksonville last year, just the lack of big play. I’ve just always had a very strong belief in speed and we’ve tried to address that with free agency with Phillip Dorsett and Marvin Jones. We have a good, young group of receivers that can run well, and we have two good backs," Meyer said on Thursday following the selection of Etienne.
"This is a multi-dimensional back that we’ve kind of, from day one, I know Coach [Darrell] Bevell and [Coach] Schotty [Brian Schottenheimer] and I all feel that the idea of offense is to create match-up nightmares. And I’ve had some good fortune over the years to have a guy that can do both, flex out. He’s as good outside as a receiver as he is as a running back. So, [he’s a] high-end character guy that has elite speed, that—really, really excited. It got a little tense there near the end, so I’ll take some questions.”
In the end, the Jaguars got a player they greatly value in Etienne, but one that is different from Toney in quite a few ways. Each is immensely athletic and does their best work after the catch, using their blazing speed and contact balance to force missed tackles.
But Etienne is both a proven runner and catcher of the football. Toney has been used as a gadget player in the backfield at times, but no team is lining him up consistently in the backfield. As Meyer said when asked if Etienne and Toney would have played the same role, “We talked about that. He can’t really run the ball.”
On the flip side, Etienne provides a true ability to bring the best of both worlds. He is the most productive running back in ACC history, but he also brings the versatility to do damage as a receiving threat.
"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 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."