The Jaguars drafted nine prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. There's no questioning the impact that group will have in 2021 and beyond. A franchise quarterback and several other talented players will enter the fold in Jacksonville. How will they perform? I've got five predictions for five of the Jaguars' rookies heading into training camp.
Trevor Lawrence - 30+ touchdowns
Thirty total touchdowns for a rookie is no small feat. But this ain't your father's NFL. In recent years, a handful of rookie quarterbacks have flirted with 30 touchdowns, and in 2020, Justin Herbert eclipsed that number with 37 total scores. In 2019, Kyler Murray scored 24 total touchdowns, and in 2018 Baker Mayfield scored 27. Trevor Lawrence is more talented than all those quarterbacks and has a distinct advantage: a deep and talented group of skill players. The Jaguars have three runners who have the ability to function at a highly efficient level in James Robinson, Travis Etienne, and Carlos Hyde. At receiver, DJ Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault are ready to silence the critics. With an offensive line returning all five starters, plus some quality depth, run blocking and pass pro should operate at an acceptable level. I'm predicting at least 27 passing touchdowns and three rushing scores for Trevor.
Travis Etienne - Over 180 touches
This might not be all that bold, but with an offense that features a plethora of other talented options, Etienne eclipsing 180 total touches will be impressive. He'll get more rushing attempts than targets in the passing game, but I expect him to get somewhere in between 70-80 targets as a receiver or about 12-15% of the target share. In the backfield, Etienne should get around 30% of the carries, or perhaps even more. I don't think we will see Etienne take over as the lead back, but I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of that happening down the stretch. Regardless, feeding Travis Etienne the ball will feel natural for Trevor Lawrence because, you know, he's been doing just that for the last three years.
Tyson Campbell - Plays third-most snaps of any CB
This one doesn't feel too bold either, but for Campbell to play the third-most snaps of any of the Jaguars' cornerbacks, it'll essentially mean he's a starter for the majority of the season. Especially when you factor in that the Jaguars will likely be in nickel or dime looks on defense at least 75% of the time. That also means he'll likely out-snap Sidney Jones and Tre Herndon. You can say what you want about Jones's ability to stay healthy, but he's a high-level coverage player when he's on the field. The Jaguars re-signed both Herndon and Jones this offseason, but they want an immediate impact from Campbell, and I think they'll get him on the field early and often. I can't guarantee how well Campbell — who is long, athletic, and sticky in coverage but lacked ball skills in college — will perform, but I'd wager he'll be on the field a ton.
Andre Cisco - Takes over starting job during training camp
Andre Cisco is one of the most interesting rookies in football. He was a turnover machine in college, registering 16 turnover-worthy plays in 24 games at Syracuse. But he's also coming off an ACL tear. When will he be at full speed? How long will it take for him to get comfortable on his surgically repaired knee? Will he be able to play with more discipline than he showed in college? As long as Cisco is fully healthy for the start of training camp, I'm taking him to start at one of the safety spots in week one. He might have some mental errors and be overly aggressive at times, but Cisco has the ability to get the ball back for the offense, a trait that few defenders have displayed in Jacksonville over the last couple of years. His speed, play demeanor, and ball skills are undeniable. I think Urban Meyer, Joe Cullen, and the rest of the Jaguars' coaching staff will value the potential to get game-changing plays from Cisco. And getting his feet wet in week one against a depleted roster in Houston could help build a solid foundation of confidence for the young safety.
Jay Tufele - A "starter" by mid-season
Coming off an opt-out season in 2020, Tufele may take a bit to get up to speed at the NFL level. But his natural talent and hard work will endear him to the coaching staff. What I mean by starter here is that he'll be playing among the most snaps — top two to three —of any interior defender for the Jaguars. The Jaguars' defensive front will vary from snap to snap, drive to drive, and game to game. They'll be multiple. But by mid-season, if not sooner, I expect Tufele to be a key cog in this rotation.
I'm not providing any predictions for offensive tackle Walker Little, EDGE Jordan Smith, tight end Luke Farrell, or wide receiver Jalen Camp. Why? Barring injuries ahead of them on the depth chart, I don't envision any of them seeing significant playing time on offense or defense in 2021.
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