The Jacksonville Jaguars have made it official, turning a new chapter by at last selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday evening to kick off the 2021 NFL Draft.
The selection of Lawrence is a momentum shift, a change of trajectory for a long-hapless franchise that has spent more time in the dumps than they have around the .500 mark.
What does the selection of Lawrence mean for the team moving forward? We deliver our instant reactions below.
Lawrence was always the obvious pick for more reasons than one can count
There was never any reason to doubt that Trevor Lawrence would be a Jaguar at the end of the evening. He was the overwhelming favorite to be the pick before the Jaguars even had a head coach; once they hired a coach who has long been obsessed with Lawrence's rare skill set in Urban Meyer, the most obvious pick of the last plus-decade was locked in.
Sure, the Jaguars had their pick of talented quarterbacks in a class that could see five quarterbacks be drafted within the first 15 selections. But Lawrence's blend of on-field prowess, rare athletic ability, accomplished track record, and leadership style all mesh with the Jaguars seamlessly. His level-headedness will do well in a franchise that has long been marred by drama and off-field conflicts. His natural ability to fit passes into tight windows while in the pocket and on the run will set him apart for a team whose last first-round quarterback was a self-admitted unnatural thrower of the football. Lawrence was always the obvious selection and the Jaguars, at last, did the easy part.
Lawrence has just become the most important player in Jaguars' history
This may seem a tad hyperbolic since he hasn't stepped on the football field yet, but Lawrence became the most important player in franchise history the second the Jaguars drafted him. Yes, more important than Tony Boselli, the first draft pick and the closest thing the team has to a Hall of Famer. Yes, more important than legends Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, and Maurice Jones-Drew.
With Lawrence, the Jaguars have their first-ever bonafide franchise quarterback prospect. For as much hope as they put into Byron Leftwich, Blaine Gabbert, and Blake Bortles, the Jaguars have never drafted a star quarterback prospect; a right arm that scouts and pundits alike consider generational. The fact he plays the sport's most important position only adds to his importance. The Jaguars have been gifted, for the first time in franchise history, a football unicorn at the quarterback position. If the Jaguars can't win with him, it is unlikely they can win in general. As a result, no Jaguar who has ever donned the uniform is more important than Lawrence is right now, even if he hasn't started a game yet.
The Jaguars must make setting Lawrence up for success one of their priorities over the next nine picks
The elation and natural high that come from picking Lawrence won't wear off for some time when it comes to the fan base -- nor should it. But the Jaguars should quickly move on from their post-Lawrence celebrations and focus on ensuring their next several selections help solidify the situation Lawrence is walking into.
There is arguably even more pressure on the Jaguars to build around Lawrence than there is on Lawrence to succeed. If he doesn't work out, the large likelihood is because it will be failures made on an organizational level. The Jaguars have some solid pieces already in the building in James Robinson, DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, and Brandon Linder, but more is needed. The Jaguars can't afford to be content with their support system in place for Lawrence, not after a 1-15 season and a free agency period with only one impactful offensive player added.
Thoughts on Lawrence's fit, who can benefit the most thanks to his edition
Lawrence is obviously talented enough to fit into any offensive system, but there are a lot of reasons to believe his specific fit into Jacksonville's is encouraging. It remains to be seen exactly what the scheme will look like, but one can imagine offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will play a significant role. And in Bevell, Lawrence will be with a coordinator who excels at letting his quarterback test the deep portions of the field.
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. Bevell’s offense should allow Lawrence to do what he does best and attack offenses at the deeper levels of the field. 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. Bevell will help the Jaguars immensely in terms of fitting Lawrence seamlessly into the scheme.
Who will benefit the most from Lawrence's arrival? Laviska Shenault is a smart answer, but I am going to go with DJ Chark. Chark is the team's resident big-play threat and he has the speed, size, body control, and catch radius to be Lawrence's go-to target on deep shots. I think Chark's production will ultimately explode because his skill set is just such a perfect fit for what Lawrence does the best, which is make circus throws to all deep areas of the field.