JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s time.
Trevor Lawrence will be a Jacksonville Jaguar later this week.
That’s all but a guarantee. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
Here’s my final set of educated guesses:
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Round 1, Pick 1
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Kudos to Trevor and his team for selecting three awesome organizations in Feeding Northeast Florida, K9s for Warriors and 5 Star Veterans Center to donate the more than $50,000 raised via the “Toaster for Charity” initiative.
He’s coming to Jacksonville, folks.
Round 1, Pick 25
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
With five quarterbacks projected to be taken in the top-ten, many analysts are projecting this to be the first draft in the modern era in which not a single defensive player will be taken in the top-ten. That will have a direct effect on who is available for Jacksonville at No. 25. In this scenario, arguably the top pass-rusher in this year’s class is available.
Last week, Urban Meyer was asked about the state of the Jaguars defensive line as well as the prospects in this year’s class:
"The edge is a little deeper than the interior, but there are some really quality players on the inside as well. We addressed some of the needs on the defensive line in free agency; that was obviously a high need area for us. We’re not done yet."
While this pick certainly could be interior defensive lineman Christian Barmore, the Jaguars have already spent money in free agency on the interior of their defensive line. Outside of Jihad Ward (who, in my opinion, will play more on the line than the outside linebacker spot), the Meyer/Baalke regime has not invested in pass rushers. While there is value later on in the Draft at the position, they can’t pass up a prospect who Meyer has personally coached against, let alone an athletic freak like Paye.
Many of my contemporaries believe Paye is a better fit for a 4-3, and the Jaguars have said their base will be a 3-4. That all may be true… but defensive coordinator Joe Cullen also has said the Jaguars will “end up in a lot of 4-3 looks.” The Jaguars have a history of forcing square pegs into circle holes when it comes to defensive line picks in the first round (see: K’Lavon Chaisson… Josh Allen… Taven Bryan), but that was under a different regime.
Paye’s personal story is also incredible and a must-read.
Round 2, Pick 33
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
I had Freiermuth in my first Mock Draft Monday and outlined his skill-set here. Most people have him to the Jaguars in their mock drafts. And for good reason: the Jaguars’ tight end room remains largely unproven.
I have heard from people within the building that the Jaguars remain high on James O’Shaughnessy, especially with the upcoming 2021 season being his second, full season removed from an ACL tear. Meyer told reporters post-free agency how excited they are for blocking tight end Chris Manhertz. But the Jaguars still do not have that true, No. 1 “F” tight end.
“We have not finalized that piece of the puzzle yet,” Meyer told reporters on March 19. They still haven’t.
Given that his position coach in college is now the Jaguars tight ends coach, there’s reason to believe Freiermuth has been in the cards all along. But will he be available at No. 45? Do the Jaguars have to “over-draft” at No. 33, just to ensure they get “their guy” -- especially after swinging-and-missing in free agency? Given that Freiermuth is largely regarded as the second-best tight end prospect behind only unicorn Kyle Pitts, there’s a chance the Jaguars may have to trade back into the first-round to get Freiermuth if he really is "their guy." Personally, I just can’t see the Jaguars entering this Draft with multiple contingency plans for this position; the time for that has passed. They need to know who they want -- especially since, upon further review, one-fourth of Trevor Lawrence’s touchdown passes in 2020 were to tight ends.
Round 2, Pick 45
Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
So this is where things get interesting: because the Jaguars have to “go get their guy” at the tight end position sooner rather than later, they will inevitably miss out on playmakers at the top of the second round. Namely, in this sports reporter’s opinion, Travis Etienne (I don’t believe Kadarius Toney and/or Elijah Moore are available at No. 33). The Jaguars seem content with their wide receiver room as is, but both Meyer and Baalke have stressed the need to add depth at the running back position. Etienne would provide that as well as slot receiving ability.
But he is not making it to No. 45.
Rodgers is a sneaky-good consolation prize.
Like Etienne, he played with Trevor Lawrence in college, truly blossoming into Lawrence’s No. 1 option his senior year. He has met with the Jaguars. Somewhat quietly, Rodgers led the nation in catches from the slot last season with 68. When he gets the ball in his hands, he basically becomes a running back in space. I found this play while grinding some Trevor tape from 2019, and I was blown away by Rodgers’ first step away from the defender and breakaway speed.
And at 5’10’’ 210 lbs, Rodgers, much like Laviska Shenault, does not have to be confined to the slot. As one NFC area scout put it: “I love his value because you can play him like San Francisco uses Deebo Samuel, but he has the strength and speed to line up outside, too.”
Rodgers also received a sterling review from honorary Jacksonvillian Chad Ochocinco (can we call him that? I feel like we can now).
Round 3, Pick 65
Richie Grant, S, UCF
The Jaguars already added two, Florida natives to their secondary in Rayshawn Jenkins and Shaquill Griffin. They add another (and a UCF Knight) in Grant.
I heard a caller on local radio describe this year’s safety prospects as such, and it was some of the more insightful analysis I’ve heard: “TCU’s Trevon Moehrig is good at everything. He’s not great at one thing. The Jaguars historically have ‘well-rounded’ safeties. They need someone who’s really good at one thing -- especially if that one thing is making plays on the ball. Richie Grant is really good at that one thing”
(I do apologize that I don’t remember this caller’s name because he’s dead-on).
Grant tallied 10 interceptions and 17 passes defended in three(ish) college seasons. No safety currently on the Jaguars’ roster has more than five interceptions (Rayshawn Jenkins) and nine passes defended (Jenkins and Jarrod Wilson) during that same time span. There is obviously a difference between playing in the American Athletic Conference and the National Football League. But it’s evident where Grant’s strength lies: in an area the Jaguars have lacked for years.
As you’ll see in this final mock draft, Grant is my only projection who did not play at the Power-Five level last season (sorry, UCF. Still not quite there). I won’t be surprised if that happens: with no NFL Combine and Meyer’s experience both as a coach and a broadcaster, his familiarity is with top-tier prospects. Grant did play at the Senior Bowl, and UCF did claim a national title during his time in Orlando (see, I don’t hate you, UCF!). His name carries weight. It won’t be surprising if he goes before No. 65.
Round 4, Pick 106
Tyler Shelvin, IDL, LSU
As Meyer told reporters last week, there’s more depth at Edge than interior defensive line in this year’s Draft. And the Jaguars “aren’t done” addressing their defensive line. The Jaguars will have to make their move sooner rather than later.
Shelvin opted out of the 2020 season, but Meyer was on-hand as a broadcaster for Shelvin and LSU’s show-stopping, 2019 season. He’s not going to stuff the stat sheet (Shelvin had 4.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks in 17 career games in college) but Shelvin will stuff the run, something the Jaguars obviously struggled at doing in 2019 and 2020. They ranked 28th and 30th, respectively, in rushing defense the past two seasons. With Tyson Alualu opting to remain in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars can afford to add another nose tackle in Shelvin.
Round 4, Pick 130
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
*Insert smiling devil emoji here*
I’ve seen plenty of mock drafts that have multiple Buckeyes coming to Jacksonville because of Meyer’s familiarity with them (and his frustration with the pre-Draft process because of COVID-19 limitations). Coincidentally, most of those mock drafts don’t have the pride of Jacksonville sticking around in Duval County.
After a sub-par season on the perimeter (and a shortened season, to boot: Wade and the Buckeyes played eight games), it’s as if people forgot how dominant Shaun Wade was in 2018-2019. The dude did literally everything: seven passes defended, four TFL, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pick. He also almost sent Trevor Lawrence into another dimension in the College Football Playoff (and paid the price in the form of a targeting ejection).
ESPN’s Todd McShay said it immediately following the 2021 National Championship and it’s still true: Wade is a nickel corner and can play a little free safety. Assuming the Jaguars will be running a defensive scheme similar to Baltimore’s (where DC Joe Cullen came from), they’ll be running three-safety, heavy defensive back sets. There’s a place for Wade somewhere there. As of this writing, it appears Tre Herndon would slide to his more natural position of nickel with 2020 fourth-rounder Josiah Scott competing for reps. Wade immediately boosts the position room before he ever steps on the field for Jacksonville.
I said this to someone the other day: if you had told me one year ago that one of these gentlemen was a Top-10 pick and the other went in the fourth-round to the hometown team, I 100-percent say Mac Jones is staying home. Yet here we are. Jaguars get a steal.
Round 5, Pick 145
Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Not too long ago, Little, like Wade, was a projected first-rounder. He still has all the measurables (6’7’’ 309 lbs), but he hasn’t played a game since September 2019 thanks to a knee injury and after opting out of the 2020 season. Little received All-Pac 12 honors as a freshman and a sophomore and was the No. 1 recruit in the nation in 2017. He’s worth the flier.
Urban Meyer said the following last week with regards to the offensive line: "We have some veterans inside that I feel good about. But.... we will try to help bring some competition to the offensive line with the draft; we’re planning on doing that.”
Little is the ideal candidate to “redshirt” this year as Cam Robinson plays on the franchise tag at left tackle. If the Jaguars want to keep Robinson around after 2021, great: Little provides depth and could always move to right tackle if Jawaan Taylor struggles. If they part ways with Robinson at season’s end, Little has been in the building for a year.
Walker Little is just the right amount of polarizing prospect for Urban Meyer to select him. Which leads me to...
Round 5, Pick 170
Chris Evans, RB, Michigan
More Wolverines than Buckeyes? A player who was suspended an entire season? What!?
Again, as mentioned earlier, re: Travis Etienne: back in March, Trent Baalke sounded hell-bent on adding depth at running back through the Draft. This is also the same man that drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. Even if they draft a running back, don’t be surprised when the Jaguars bring several undrafted free agents in.
So why Evans? He’s regarded as one of the best pass-catching backs in this year’s Draft class -- even if he wasn’t used in the receiving game nearly enough in 2020. He can create yards after contact. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash (there’s that speed Urban Meyer loves). He comes from a pro-style offense. In total: Evans offers a complimentary skill-set to James Robinson at a value, late fifth-round spot.
Evans did miss the entire 2019 season due to academic suspension. But coaches and scouts have raved about his leadership and resilience in returning to the Wolverines program -- and commitment despite being under-utilized in 2020.
Like Little, Evans is just the right amount of polarizing prospect for Urban Meyer to select him.
Round 7, Pick 249
Briley Moore, TE, Kansas State
I hold firm to the notion that the Jaguars will draft two tight ends (come for me, Old Takes Exposed). As I wrote about last week, I do think the team recognizes Collin Johnson as that big, red-zone target they need, a role normally filled by a tight end. But that should not deter them from drafting multiple tight ends. Unless you’re a Clemson fan, you probably don’t know the names J.C. Chalk, Davis Allen and Braden Galloway. They’re all Tigers tight ends. And all three caught touchdowns from Trevor Lawrence last season.
Moore is an interesting project. I covered him when he was at FCS Northern Iowa, arriving as a zero-star recruit and transforming into an all-conference performer within three years. Moore led the Panthers with 536 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2018. He suffered an injury in 2019 that limited him to one game and then grad-transferred to Kansas State. He was second-team All-Big 12 in his lone season in Manhattan, averaging more than 15 yards a catch and scoring three touchdowns. More importantly, Moore’s blocking improved upon the jump to Kansas State; he proved he can also line up at H-back and fullback.
I previously profiled Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble as a possible Jaguars target. Tremble has less experience than most of this year’s tight ends (he played in just 19 career games), but he posted a 9.02 Relative Athletic Score. NFL scouts are salivating over his potential.
...guess who else posted a 9.02 RAS? Briley Moore.
Don’t hate me, but Chris Simms has him in his Top-Five rankings for tight ends in this Draft class. He feels Moore has the second-best hands in the class to only Kyle Pitts. Mark Andrews is his player comp. Again: I’m just the messenger!
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Well, that was fun! Let's see how we do this week!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts as we get set for the 2021 NFL Draft.