The best QB prospect since Andrew Luck. Former Clemson QB, Trevor Lawrence, has heard this phrase used to describe him for nearly 3 years now. 3 weeks from today, the Jaguars will surprise nobody and select the highly touted and voluptuously maned former Tiger. How will Jacksonville’s selection shape the AFC South next year? Will Trevor live up to this vaunted title or will he fold under the pressure of the ever-present, scrutinous eye of the vicious sports media?
The AFC South looks to have the biggest boom or bust potential of any of the divisions in the NFL. Houston is dealing with an unhappy quarterback, who also happens to be dealing with some very unhappy women. The Colts have Carson Wentz at QB and Sam Tevi slotted in as their starting left tackle. Take it from a Chargers fan, Tevi isn’t even someone you want on the bench. The Titans are dealing with the loss of one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, and a sore lack of identity or quality players on defense. In comes the Jaguars. The Jags have a brand new coaching staff, a budding young roster, and this article’s titular QB joining the roster for spring training camp. The Jags have every opprotunity to clinch this division and spoil everybodys preseason predictions.
How so, one might ask. As “the best qb prospect since Andrew Luck“, the average NFL fan would link Trevor’s immediate impact to that of Luck’s. In 2011, the Colts had lost Peyton Manning to injuries that held him out of the entire season. Indianapolis went 2-14, fired their coaching staff and released Peyton Manning to free agency. With this subpar record came a reward, the first overall pick and the ability to draft one of the most complete QB prospects in years, Andrew Luck. In the following year, Luck started every game for the Colts and led them to an 11-5 record and a wildcard birth. Luck flipped this Indianapolis team around from the bottom of the league to a perenial playoff contender. Its fairly clear that Trevor could very much do the same.
From a talent prespective Trevor Lawrence could very much be a top 10 quarterback as soon as he enters the league, but his day one production depends for the most part on his day 1 supporting cast and his schedule. His supporting cast is surprisingly good for a team that went 1-15 in the regular season last year. The leader of the Jags weapons is wide receiver DJ Chark. Chark had a little bit of a down year in 2020, but that mostly has to do with mediocre QB play and Jay Gruden using him solely as a deep threat. DJ’s ADOT increased from 11.5 to 14.0 from 2019 to 2020. A switch from Jay’s west coast offense to Urban and Bevell’s run heavy spread offense should allow for Chark to play to the best of his abilities.
Second year WR Laviska Shenult will likely emerge as the best receiver on this team with the scheme change. The spread offense is all about putting the ball into the playmaker’s hands; that is what Shenult does. Shenult broke a tackle once on every 7.3 receptions, this ranked 8th amongst wide receivers, and he had the 2nd best drop percentage among the top 10 receivers on receptions per broken tackle. However, that isn’t all that he does, for a YAC receiver, Laviska possesses exceptional route running and contested catch abilities. With a QB like Trevor, expect for Laviska to explode on to the scene in 2021. Laviska isn’t the only sophomore Jaguars weapon to watch.
James Robinson, a UDFA running back out of Illinois State, was the big stand out player on Jacksonville this season. Robinson boasted a 1,000-yard season while averaging 2.6 yards after contact. With more spread philosophies in the Jags offense, Robinson will likely be facing lighter boxes which will hopefully allow for Robinson’s run blocking to improve, thus increasing his yards before contact. With these weapons and a solid pass blocking offensive line, it is fairly likely that the Jags and Lawrence will see success and see it soon. Season 1 depends on the schedule though.
In the 2021 season, the Jaguars play 2 games against Houston, Tennessee, and Indianapolis as well as single games against the Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, Bengals, and Falcons. The Seahawks, 49ers, Colts, Titans, and Bengals all lost their top corners to free agency. The Falcons, Texans, Titans, Jets, Bengals, and Cardinals have very inexperienced secondaries that will likely need more experience before they are successful. The only top tier secondaries that the Jags face are the Rams, Patriots, Bills, Dolphins, and Broncos. That means that Lawrence really only has to face top tier pass defenses 5 times next season. This means that Trevor faces middle tier to low tier defenses for 70% of his games his rookie year. This should allow for him to adapt to the NFL speed against teams he should definitely be able to compete against immediately. This should lend quite well to his ability to lead this Jaguars team to a playoff birth in his rookie year.
So, based on my analysis, Trevor Lawrence should absolutely carry this Jags team to the playoffs due to a solid supporting cast with a scheme that lends to all of their talents well, and a rather cake walk of a schedule when it comes to the pass defenses they play. As the first overall pick, he will face a lot of scrutiny from the media. However, media scrutiny is something Lawrence has faced time and time again at Clemson. As such, there is no doubt that, even with a slow start, Lawrence will be able to withstand the pressure and take the unlucky Jaguars to the playoffs for the first time in years.
Photo Credit: Bob Donn