It would be hard to make a case for Trevor Lawrence as the top rookie quarterback last year, especially after the season Mac Jones had and Davis Mills' superior efficiency.
But is Lawrence the most likely second-year quarterback to take the leap in year two and separate himself from Jones, Mills, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields? That depends who you ask, but an ESPN poll of NFL scouts and executives has tabbed Lawrence as the best second-year quarterback for the 2022 season.
"This will be like his true rookie year," an AFC scout told ESPN. "Hopefully not too many permanent scars from last year."
Starting all 17 games in Jacksonville's 3-14 campaign last year, Lawrence completed 59.6% of his passes for 3,641 yards (6.0 yards per attempt) for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, which included a lengthy period where Lawrence didn't throw a touchdown pass.
Lawrence's play as a rookie was nationally panned as the Jaguars trotted out one of the league's worst passing games. Many pointed to the fact that the Jaguars and Lawrence were doomed from the start due to the debacle that was the Urban Meyer era, but Lawrence has caught his fair share of criticism for his own play.
"A few coaches said they expected more from Lawrence in a quarterback-friendly Darrell Bevell scheme that should have provided its share of easy throws. But Lawrence struggled against the blitz, ranking last in yards per attempt (4.9) and 30th in off-target percentage (26.5%) on 141 attempts," ESPN said.
Calling last year's Jaguars'; offense a quarterback-friendly offense is an odd summarization of a bland scheme that didn't provide many advantages for the Jaguars or Lawrence each week, but the fact remains that his production was near the bottom of the league of all starting quarterbacks.
Still, the talent that made him the No. 1 overall pick and earned him the title of a generational prospect was still evident each week. It is because of those flashes that those in the NFL appear to still think Lawrence can reach the Andrew Luck-type potential he was always billed as having.
"He didn't have a chance last year," a scout told ESPN. "But having Doug [Pederson] and new weapons will help him a ton. He needs support, both in personnel and schematically, and then the natural ability can take over. He should have that now."
The Jaguars made it a point to restock their offensive around Lawrence this offseason, signing wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram and right guard Brandon Scherff. The Jaguars have been criticized by some for overpaying in free agency, specifically for Kirk and Jones, but at the very least it is clear the Jaguars' offense is more talented than it was a year ago.
"He's in a tough spot because while on paper they restocked weapons, I don't believe them to be legitimate enough," an NFL scout told ESPN. "But he's got enough ability to overcome some of the problems there."
Whether Lawrence truly takes a step forward won't be known until the real action begins this fall. But Lawrence's development this spring during OTAs has been lauded by the Jaguars in public and the sentiment inside the building has been that Lawrence has shown great improvement compared to where he was a year ago.
"He's just more confident," Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said this offseason.
"You know, he's carrying himself with more confidence. He's delivering the ball quicker. He's continuing to do that. I've seen that through the course of the offseason, getting the ball out of his hands, being more decisive."