Recapping the Jags 2021 NFL Draft

Riley Platt, Reporter

Jaguars fans had their fair share of optimism coming into the 2021 offseason, and this rightfully carried over into the draft. Landing a franchise quarterback isn’t an immediate solution to the team’s struggles, but it’s certainly a start.

A moment all of Duval County had been waiting for since January came last Thursday night when the Jaguars selected Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This came following an abysmal 1-15 season, the worst in franchise history. This wasn’t the only pick, though; let’s take a look at how the Jags did in the draft.

 A day after being drafted first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence arrived in his new city and was seen taking in the new sights (Justin Nedrow)

Everyone knew that Lawrence would be the newest Jaguar, but the real talking point of Jacksonville’s first round was Clemson running back Travis Etienne being selected with the 25th overall pick. Taking Lawrence’s college teammate at this point certainly raised eyebrows, especially after Jaguars running back James Robinson had an impressive rookie season in 2020. However, having depth at this spot is far from being a bad thing, and not to mention that Etienne has the potential to be a superstar.

With the franchise gutting the front office over the offseason, there was reasonable hope that the team would fare better in draft decisions. New general manager Trent Baalke raised concerns during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers due to his apparent fondness for players coming off of injuries; a trend that seemed to continue this year with a few of the selections.

Baalke’s history with injured players was brought to the spotlight when the team selected Walker Little, an offensive tackle out of Stanford, with the 45th overall pick. The main concern with Little is the fact that he hasn’t played the past two years due to a knee injury and a 2020 opt-out decision. When healthy, he showed incredible skill, making the 2018 All-Pac-12 first team. A quarterback is only as good as their offensive line, so adding some protection up front for Lawrence is definitely ideal.

Adding fuel to the fire, Jacksonville’s next selection was another player who hasn’t seen the field in quite some time due to injury: Syracuse safety Andre Cisco. A torn ACL ended his 2020 season early, but taking a look at his first two seasons with the Orange where he totaled 12 interceptions, it’s hard to ignore the potential. Adding a playmaker of Cisco’s caliber to a defense that gave up 4,231 passing yards in 2020 is a great move, assuming injury is not a lingering concern.

Another desperate need that the Jaguars looked to fill during this year’s draft was that of tight end. It was a question mark going into the draft, but to say it’s been answered would be misleading. The team picked up Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell in the fifth round, but he likely won’t be a long-term solution to this void. While there were rumblings of Florida Gators legend Tim Tebow coming out of retirement to join the Jags as a tight end, even this still wouldn’t be the answer the Jags need.

Other picks included Georgia CB Tyson Campbell (second round), Southern California DT Jay Tufele and Alabama-Birmingham LB Jordan Smith (fourth round), and Georgia Tech WR Jalen Camp. The Jaguars also picked up an incredible steal when they signed Alabama LB Dylan Moses as an understated free agent. 

Overall, the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to have had a successful go in the 2021 NFL Draft. Only time will truly tell, but the newly-assembled front office did a solid job in their first draft as a unit. Realistically, fans shouldn’t expect the team to win the Super Bowl this season, but this could be a reality in the near future if the organization plays its cards right. It will certainly be interesting to see how the team fares in the first season of this new era.