I've been busy writing scouting reports, team fits, and the like for the Jaguars' 2021 draft class. So far, I've made it through running back Travis Etienne, cornerback Tyson Campbell, offensive tackle Walker Little, and safety Andre Cisco.
To break up some of the monotony, I've decided to redo the Jaguars 2021 draft. By doing so, I'll show the difference between my process, evaluation, and team-building strategy and that of the Jaguars' current regime, led by head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke. And it'll give me a chance to say "I told ya so" in a couple of years (maybe).
Keep in mind, I'm not working through this exercise to completely bash the Jaguars' thought process. I actually agreed with their process on five of their nine selections. And with Trevor at QB, the Jaguars won't likely need to get a ton of base hits in the draft. There's plenty of talent on the roster to compete sooner rather than later, especially in an AFC South that appears ripe for the taking.
I wouldn't change the first pick. My head coach Urban Meyer has a clear vision of how to use Trevor Lawrence and has been infatuated with the former Clemson star for years. Urban doesn't sign up to come to Duval without Trevor Lawrence being part of the package. Trevor has all the tools, including a strong work ethic and leadership, to become one of the top quarterbacks in the world.
Following the top pick is where I'd begin to switch things up. Like the Jaguars, I'd stand pat at 25. But I wouldn't select the "slasher" Travis Etienne. While I understand his value and envision him working out very well in Urban Meyer's offense, there's a prospect on the board that I have rated much higher, and he just so happens to fit one of our roster's most significant needs. Trevon Moehrig has been one of the top safeties in college football for several years. But in 2020, he became a complete player. He is assignment sound, instinctual, athletic, takes consistently good angles to the ball, and finishes. He's also an elite playmaker, having registered 20 pass breakups and six interceptions over his final two seasons. Moehrig had a minor back issue that popped up during training this offseason, but he still performed well at his Pro Day and is too good, as a leader, playmaker, and assignment sound safety, to pass up. I liked Andre Cisco's value at 65 and acknowledge his ceiling, but his projection to the pros isn't as clean with inconsistent tape and an ACL tear. Safety certainly isn't the most valuable position from a monetary standpoint, but you don't pass on good football players.
Up next is 33, the top pick on day two of the draft. The Jaguars opted to add length and speed at cornerback in Tyson Campbell. While Campbell is sticky in coverage, he rarely wins with the ball in the air. Can the Jaguars coaching staff teach him to play more physically and compete at the catch point? Maybe. But there's a prospect here with a much cleaner evaluation, who also happens to play one of the most valuable positions in football. Teven Jenkins is one of the meanest offensive tackles you'll find. He buries opponents. At nearly 6'6" tall and 317 pounds, Jenkins has the length, strength, demeanor, and technical refinement to win a starting job right away. And he tested incredibly well, putting up 36 reps on the bench, leaping 32.5", running a 5.01 40, and posting quality times in the agility drills. Jenkins has experience on the left and right side and the strength to move inside to guard. He'd be a day one starter with elite physical tools and a lovable nastiness about him.
While I can see the allure of Walker Little at 45, he was an inconsistent player that struggled to create push as a run blocker before he tore his ACL in 2019. He hasn't played a down since and represents a high risk-high reward approach.
I'd let the board fall to me at 45. Our top remaining needs are slot cornerback, tight end, defensive line, and offensive playmaking. There are a ton of options here. As the cornerback well is drying up, I'd opt to take Asante Samuel Jr. He has ball production, pedigree, quickness, technical refinement, and inside-outside versatility. Samuel doesn't have the length that the Jaguars appear to covet, but he has the ability to become a lock-down man-to-man cover corner on the outside or in the slot.
Now, it's time to get aggressive. Pat Freiermuth still hasn't been selected as pick 49 gets turned in. We're trading pick 65, 170, and a 2022 third-round selection for pick 50. In doing so, we land Pat Freiermuth, who will immediately be the most talented tight end on the Jaguars' roster. He displays plus athleticism, elite hands, excellent route running, a feel for finding soft spots in zones, and a knack for making clutch grabs. He's currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury, so that adds a little bit of risk here, but these types of surgeries generally strengthen the shoulder and allow athletes to come back better than ever. Tight end is now a strength of the roster, and Freiermuth's presence as a safety valve will help ease Lawrence's transition to the pro game.
I'm not sure why the Jaguars punted the F-tight end position in this draft. Perhaps they don't feel the need to give their young quarterback another reliable target that knows how to get open.
Having landed values at safety, offensive tackle, cornerback, and tight end, we could still use a defensive lineman or two and an offensive weapon. Our next pick is at 106, and I'm actually going to take Jay Tufele here. The SAME pick as the Jags? Yep. I can't fault the process or decision-making behind this pick. Tufele has all the tools to be one of the better 3-techs in the league, and his motor runs hot. He rounds out a solid group of interior defensive lineman in Duval.
At 130, it's time to add an offensive playmaker. Kenneth Gainwell is the perfect candidate to fill Urban Meyer's slasher or slotback role. He's low to the ground, shifty, and has excellent hands. Gainwell isn't a true burner, but he gets to top speed in a heartbeat, allowing him to zoom past middle of the field defenders. He forced 56 missed tackles in 2019, displaying one of the most critical abilities for a slotback.
At 145, we take a late bloomer at left tackle who projects to be a quality pass protector at the next level. Cam Robinson is only under contract through 2021, and Jawaan Taylor failed to improve in 2020. We've got Teven Jenkins in the fold to replace one of them, but if Jawaan doesn't take a step forward, we'll need a backup plan for him as well. Enter offensive tackle Stone Forsythe, who held a round-three grade on my board. He's got long arms, body control, and excellent athleticism for a player of his size. He may never be a mauler in the run game, but he'll do well to protect our franchise quarterback.
Instead of waiting for pick 249, we trade up to 209, giving the Rams 249 and a 2022 sixth, to take Quincy Roche. He's an experienced pass-rush specialist with a variety of moves and counters and production against major competition. He's a much better athlete than Jordan Smith. Roche tested pretty well at his pro day and dominated at the Senior Bowl. He's going to be a solid contributor when it comes to getting off the field on third down.
In this draft, we addressed virtually every aspect of our offense and defense and landed value at every stop. We've added an assignment sound, playmaker at safety. We've set up a long-term plan for protecting Trevor Lawrence. A pass-catching tight end is no longer a need. We landed a slasher, a 3-tech, and a situational pass rusher. THIS is the draft class I would have built had I been given the opportunity. There's no way of knowing how these prospects will pan out, but I believe in my evaluation, valuation, process, and team-building philosophy.
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