The Jacksonville Jaguars have had only one winning season in the last ten years, when they caught lightning in a bottle in 2017, advancing to the AFC Championship game. Compare that with last year, posting a dreadful 1-15 record. Their prize for the worst record? The first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, undoubtedly to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
However, the team needs significantly more to get back to respectability.
According to lines.com, statistically, the Jaguars ranked third from the bottom in scoring at 19.1 points per game, fourth from the bottom in rushing at just 94.9 yards per game, and fifth from the bottom in total yards. Defensively, the Jaguars were equally as inept, ranked next to last in points allowed at over 30 per game and in yards at nearly 420 per game. The Jaguars were also among the worst in turnover differential at minus-8. Clearly the team needs massive improvements on both sides of the ball.
With Trevor Lawrence coming in at quarterback, Gardner Minshew will become the backup. One area where the team is solid is at starting running back manned by James Robinson, who rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.5 per carry. However, the second leading rusher on the team was Minshew, meaning that a competent backup is needed to take the load off Robinson.
The receiving group of D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, and Chris Conley were solid in 2020 but none are of superstar, game-changing status players. Shenault led the receivers with 58 catches and Chark topped the team with 706 yards. Finding a receiver who can finish in the 80-to-100 receptions range for over 1,000 yards will be difficult in free agency, but with two first round and two second round picks, the Jaguars could land him. However, the team is likely to stock up on defensive selections after picking Lawrence first.
A major deficiency on the defensive side of the ball is a dominant pass rusher. The Jaguars recorded only 18 sacks on the season, led by Dawuane Smoot’s 5.5 quarterback takedowns. Some mock drafts have the Jaguars looking at defensive tackle Christian Barmore out of Alabama. Last year’s third round pick DaVaon Hamilton should progress to also help the interior of the weak defensive line.
The Jaguars’ secondary also left a lot to be desired and as a team intercepted only 12 passes. Linebacker Joe Schobert recorded three of those and Sidney Jones led the cornerbacks with two interceptions. Plucking a cornerback out of free agency is an option, but another possibility is selecting Derion Kenrick out of Clemson with the 34th pick, should he be available. C.J. Henderson is solid but the Jaguars will need someone opposite of him particularly with D.J. Hayden likely to leave via free agency.
Although teams rarely draft a placekicker, there could be a need at that position as well for the Jaguars. The team went through an unprecedented five kickers, who combined to hit 18-of-25 and only 8-of-13 from beyond 40 yards. Josh Lambo has never been missed as much by a team.
The Jaguars will automatically improve with Lawrence at quarterback, but no one should be fooled into thinking that is enough to bring the team from one win to contention. The key to their 2021 success will be moves made in the remainder of the draft and free agency.