It’s that time of year again folks.
We’re 31 days away from the 2021 NFL Draft and Trevor Lawrence finally arriving in Duval County. And with NFL free agency and Pro Days wrapping up, it’s time to jump into an all-new season of Mia’s Mock Draft Monday’s.
If you’ll allow me to get sentimental with this first-edition: we started this project last year at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic simply as an easy way to fill time in our newscasts. We ended up creating a community. The back-and-forth banter, the emailed suggestions, the new friends created – in what was an anxiety-ridden time in this journalist’s life, you all provided a smile week-in and week-out. As our world, thankfully, appears to be heading towards the light at the end of this tunnel, let’s keep that conversation going.
After all, there’s another light at the end of the tunnel of a miserable 2020. His name is Trevor Lawrence.
Round 1, Pick 1
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Spoiler alert: this will be the selection for each of these Mock Draft Monday’s at Pick No. 1. I am still workshopping different ways to say that for each week’s installment.
Round 1, Pick 25
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
For the longest time, I had this pick slotted as defensive tackle Christian Barmore. Then the Jaguars went and added 1,209 pounds along their defensive front in free agency. Then Tyson Alualu had his “change of heart” and went back to Pittsburgh. Even then: while I still think Barmore could be a game-changer at the next level (and may appear in a future Mock Draft Monday), this is no longer the position of need for the Jaguars.
… and the cupboard for Edge/Outside Linebacker is a bit barer than you’d think.
While the Jaguars did re-sign Dawuane Smoot (and even big end Adam Gotsis) and both have the ability to pass rush, I personally do not see either lining up outside in Joe Cullen’s 3-4 scheme. That leaves Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson… and that’s about it. Joe Giles-Harris provided a spark as a pass rusher down the stretch last season. Lerentee McCray and Leon Jacobs are both on the books for 2021. But none of them scream complimentary, “elite pass rusher” – and that’s assuming Chaisson bounces back from a slow-start to his career.
Like Chaisson last year, for better or worse, he's got a lot of tread left on the tires. The Jaguars will have to be patient. A redshirt sophomore, Oweh played just 20 games in college. But he is an absolute freak. 6’5’’. 257 pounds. 4.36 speed. His body fat before the start of the 2020 season was 4.9 percent. Seriously: he consistently made The Athletic’s 2020 College Football Freaks list.
In his lone, full[ish] season of college ball in 2019, Oweh had 21 tackles (5 TFL) and five sacks in 11 games. He also had one pass defended and two forced fumbles. It’s a small sample size, but the dude can do a little bit of everything – and can do it fast. Because the Jaguars have Allen and Chaisson (plus those other, aforementioned depth guys), Oweh won’t be called upon to be the No. 1 Edge rusher early on in his career if he is drafted by the Jaguars. That’s a perfect fit.
As I noted in this story last week, Urban Meyer recruited Oweh to Ohio State. The Buckeyes ultimately finished as runner-up’s to the Nittany Lions. Former Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen is now with the Jaguars (more on him in a second). There’s familiarity between Oweh and the Jaguars staff.
Round 2, Pick 33
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The worst kept secret in Duval County. The Jaguars swung-and-missed on a TE1 in free agency. Unless they’re to pull off a trade for a veteran like Zac Ertz (or trade back into the Top-10 to get Florida’s Kyle Pitts), Freiermuth is the best available option. He should be available when the Jaguars pick first on Day Two.
Like Oweh, Freiermuth did not opt out of the 2020 season (true “football guys” -- you love to see it). But he did suffer a shoulder injury that cut his 2020 season short. Freiermuth told reporters at Penn State’s Pro Day on March 25 that he is still 2-3 weeks from being fully cleared. The medicals will have to check out.
But again: the Jaguars don't have an alpha tight end. They have no choice but to take this risk.
Freiermuth only played four games in 2020, but racked up 310 yards on 23 catches. That averages out to about 77 yards a contest. The last time a Jaguars tight end even sniffed that sort of production? Julius Thomas on November 29, 2015 (116 yards on nine catches) against the San Diego Chargers.
Freiermuth had 113 yards in his final collegiate game alone.
He’s 6’5’’, 258 lbs, the prototypical size you want in a pass-catching tight end. His blocking has been scrutinized, but the Jaguars just went out and signed Chris Manhertz with the intent of making him their “blocker.” They still need a “receiving tight end.” Freiermuth’s the guy.
Round 2, Pick 45
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Jaguars wide receiver room as of this writing: D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Colin Johnson, and Phillip Dorsett, along with return man Jamal Agnew (who just converted to wide receiver). They also currently have third-year wide receivers Terry Godwin and Jon’Vea Johnson on the roster, as well as second-year wide receiver Josh Hammond.
Rondale Moore can do things none of those guys can. And he has personally done them against an Urban Meyer team.
Moore is 5’7’’. He only weighs 180 pounds. Many will knock him for these measurables. But he runs a 4.29 40-yard dash (we know “speed” is an emphasis for Meyer’s Jaguars). His vertical jump is 42.5’’. He squatted 600 pounds as a freshman. And it goes beyond the Pro Day numbers. Moore did not drop a pass on 44 targets in 2020. Should Agnew and the Jaguars not work out, Moore was an all-conference return man, too.
Moreover, of those eight wide receivers already on the roster, none can feast in the slot quite like Moore. The 6’1’’ Shenault is the closest (and the Jaguars certainly used him there in 2020), but by adding Moore, the Jaguars would be able to #LetLaviskaCook and become more of a threat in the vertical-passing game, as opposed to their de facto, gadget player. Shenault wouldn’t have to constantly be lining up in the wildcat in an effort to “get creative.” Jacksonville would also have a chess piece in Rondale Moore. Coincidentally, The Draft Network’s 2020 comparison for Moore is Shenault, but that is also because both receivers' final two, collegiate seasons were injury-plagued. Shenault went on to play in 14 of 16 games for the Jaguars his rookie season, and that was after having core muscle surgery two months before he was drafted. Shenault did play in 11 games his final collegiate season; Moore played in seven games his final two seasons combined, although the 2020 season was abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than just filling the void at slot receiver and providing Urban Meyer with another chess piece, Rondale Moore would also fill that “small receiver, security blanket” that Trevor Lawrence has had throughout his career. 5'10'' Hunter Renfrow? 49 catches for 544 yards in 2018 with a freshman Lawrence. 5’10’’ Amari Rodgers? 77 catches for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. Though Moore is smaller in stature than both, his game is even bigger.
Round 3, Pick 65
Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson
With this pick, the Jaguars literally go back to the Clemson well and Lawrence’s comfort-zone. Carman blocked Lawrence’s blind side for three seasons and was an All-ACC performer in doing so. He’s 6’5’’, 345 lbs. Carman is massive – but that’s raised some mobility questions and prompted many draft analysts to peg him as a guard at the next level.
Which, either way, is a victory for the Jaguars.
The 2021 Jaguars offensive line is set. They’re running it back with the same five guys. But both starting guards, A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell, are not under contract in 2022. Left tackle Cam Robinson is currently slated to play on the one-year, franchise tag. Carman is the perfect candidate to learn in 2021 and then step-in in 2022 – at whatever position 2021 reveals is the most pressing need.
Additionally, Carman was the only, No. 1 rated prospect in the state of Ohio that did not sign with Meyer’s Buckeyes during his tenure at Ohio State. And then Carman and Clemson faced the Buckeyes in the 2019 College Football Playoff – and won. You KNOW that’s been eating at the new Jaguars head coach. I envision a signature, Urban Meyer smirk after this selection.
Round 4, Pick 106
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
That change-of-pace back that the Jaguars have sorely missed the past two seasons? Yeah, they got him. And to be quite frank, when conducting this seven-round, mock draft, I didn’t think he’d be available with the Jaguars first, Day Three selection. Because, despite only having played 18 games at the collegiate level, Gainwell is regarded as one of the biggest playmakers in this year’s Draft class.
Gainwell appeared in four games but was able to redshirt his freshman season. He ascended to the starting role his redshirt freshman year after Antonio Gibson’s departure for the NFL and Patrick Taylor’s injury. Gainwell seized the moment: 1,459 rushing yards on 231 carries with 13 rushing touchdowns. Not to mention 610 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Outside of TJ Yeldon’s four-receiving touchdown, 2018 campaign, the Jaguars haven’t had a running back put up those types of all-purpose numbers since Maurice Jones-Drew. Plus, Gainwell’s blocking has been praised, despite his 5’11’’, 191 lb frame. He also lined up in the slot for the Tigers; given the aforementioned chess pieces that are Laviska Shenault and Rondale Moore, this would add yet another wrinkle to Urban Meyer’s offense.
Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season. He played quarterback until he got to college. The lack of tread on the tires is concerning. But Gainwell would not be called upon to be an every-down back. He’d be the perfect, third-down compliment to James Robinson, giving the Jaguars a 1-2 punch for years to come.
Round 4, Pick 130
James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
One of my favorite, mid-round hidden gems. Even with the Jaguars re-signing veteran Josh Jones (on top of signing free agent Rayshawn Jenkins to play strong safety), Wiggins still makes a ton of sense in this situation. Many mock drafts, including Mel Kiper's, have the Jaguars selecting TCU safety Trevon Moehrig with their second, first-round selection. That would be a homerun. Moehrig would step right in as the starting free safety. I personally think he will be gone by No. 25 – and so that’s where the Big Cats opt for the “value” safety pick on Day Three and get a versatile safety in Wiggins.
Wiggins tore his ACL two days before the 2019 opener and then suffered a set-back five months later. Prior to the injuries, Wiggins was a highly regarded prospect and one of “Feldman’s Freaks.” His production before those injuries in 2018: 54 tackles (2 TFL), four interceptions, and five passes defended. His numbers after the injuries in 2020 (and in four less games): 32 tackles (1 TFL), one sack, one interception, a forced fumble, and six passes defended. That’s not too shabby following two major injuries.
The reason I really like Wiggins is that he is a thumper. He’s not afraid to make his way to the line of scrimmage and defend the run, a point of emphasis for the Jaguars following two seasons of porous run defense. Joe Cullen will most likely be running a three-safety scheme similar to Baltimore’s. Wiggins has lined up at two-deep, single-high, and in the slot during his career. That versatility could be critical if the Jaguars really do run a lot of three-safety sets, because, at this time, depth at the position remains in question. Wiggins is also projected as a key special teamer, something Urban Meyer values.
Round 5, Pick 145
Kary Vincent Jr, CB, LSU
Another "fast" prospect for Urban Meyer. Vincent opted out of the 2020 season after starting at nickel cornerback for the 2019 National Champion Tigers. He was also a member of the LSU track team, running the 100-meter dash and serving as the lead leg on the school’s 4x100 team. That tandem ranks 14th in NCAA history.
Vincent isn’t just a track-star on the football field. In 2019, he had 47 tackles (2 TFL), four interceptions, and an eye-popping, eight passes defended. He finished his three-year playing career at LSU with 15 passes defended.
Like Wiggins, Vincent offers the Jaguars versatility. He can also slide into a safety position. The team currently has Tre Herndon slated to begin the year at the nickel cornerback spot (one would think) and also has 2020 fourth-round pick Josiah Scott on the roster.
Round 5, Pick 170
Tre McKitty, TE, Georgia
After swinging-and-missing in free agency, the Jaguars really have no choice but to draft multiple tight ends.
McKitty never got off the ground-running in Athens after transferring from Florida State; he did have a knee scope prior to the start of the season. He had just six catches his senior year, but averaged 18 yards per catch. “Yards after the catch” is his calling-card. He’s effective as a blocker, providing a middle ground between Freiermuth, Manhertz, and O’Shaughnessy. McKitty has prototypical tight end measurables: 6’5’’, 240 lbs and a compact frame. He was used in the slot and the backfield in college; a creative mind like Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could turn McKitty into yet another chess piece.
He was the fifth overall tight end in the Class of 2017, turning down Meyer’s Buckeyes for Florida State. Obviously, McKitty’s lack of production could also be blamed on the turmoil in Tallahassee during his three years there (he played for both Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart).
Round 7, Pick 249
Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR/RS, Iowa
(I swear, this isn’t just me, former Iowa reporter and fellow New Jersey native talking. Smith-Marsette and the Jaguars have reportedly been talking for weeks!)
Another wide receiver? With that room now up to nine guys? Yes, because Smith-Marsette (or, “ISM”) can also be a core special teamer, and we know Urban Meyer values special teams. Depending on what shakes out with Agnew and if the Jaguars want to preserve Moore’s health, Smith-Marsette is an All-Big Ten return man. ISM ranks second in Big Ten history with a 28.7 yards per kick return average. The record is 28.8. He’s also yet another gadget player: he scored a receiving, rushing, and return touchdown against USC in the 2019 Holiday Bowl, arguably his best performance as a Hawkeye.
Smith-Marsette lived up to the hype as a speedster at Iowa’s Pro Day last week. He ran a 4.3 40-yard dash; his 10-yard split was 1.44, which would’ve been faster than any player at the 2020 NFL Combine. The Jaguars had a representative in attendance.
Also, ISM was a high school water polo player. That is very fun (and also a very hard sport!).
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Well, that was fun! Let's do this again next Monday morning, shall we?
And don't forget: you can watch all three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft LIVE on ABC25 April 29-May 1, 2021.
Hit me up on Twitter at @MiaOBrienTV or email@example.com with your thoughts for next week's Monday Mock.