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The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock. Man, does it feel good to say that!
We are officially just one week away from the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Jaguars will be on the clock first to select who many presume will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a franchise quarterback the team has desperately needed since its inception.
As is tradition shortly prior to the draft, the Jaguars brass including head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke addressed the media on Wednesday, answering any and all questions as they get set to head into the war room.
With the draft board around 95% complete, according to Baalke, the team will work on finalizing its plan to rebuild the roster, and eventually turn the team into a winner following a 1-15 season. That work will take time, but the draft is the yearly spectacle that offers hope, regardless of the past season’s record.
Here are some key takeaways from Urban’s press conference this week.
1. The first pick will be set in stone soon
While it is quite obvious that the Jaguars will be selecting Lawrence with the first-overall pick in next week’s draft, that cannot be made official quite yet, at least not until Meyer and Baalke meet with owner Shad Khan later this week.
“We are knee deep in the NFL Draft process,” Meyer said on announcing the pick prior to the draft. “We’re going to meet with ownership tomorrow and [General Manager] Trent [Baalke] and I are working together, but ultimately, the owner’s going to pull that ticket on that one.”
Khan being heavily involved in the selection process shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to hiring Meyer, Khan indicated that he would be more of a hands-on owner when it came to the decision-making process. While he will not ultimately be in complete control of what occurs, everything will cross his desk prior to a final decision being made.
Khan has had a quarterback in mind for several months, however, stating at his press conference in January that what has evaded the franchise all this time was a franchise quarterback.
“And I think what’s unique, certainly, is that we have the ability now to make a choice and it’s going to define the franchise moving forward,” Khan said in January.
As if it needed further proof, Baalke also made a statement that should resonate with the idea of Lawrence becoming the team’s next franchise quarterback, mentioning that the stars have aligned with the prospect.
“[With] all the research we’ve done, you’re always looking for the stars to align when you’re looking at prospects, whether that be from a physical, mental, character aspect, whatever the case may be,” said Baalke. “With his situation, like many others in this draft, the stars all align and that’s what you’re looking for.”
2. Defensive line will remain an emphasis
What was made clear in March during free agency, the Jaguars value its defensive line greatly. The team made several moves to address it by way of singing defensive ends Roy Roberts-Harris and Jihad Ward and trading for defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Those additions will help the foundation that Meyer has outlined in the past, and they aren’t done quite yet, either.
While the edge position in the draft is deeper than the interior defensive line, Meyer says, there are still some “quality” players on the inside too.
“We addressed some of the needs on the defensive line in free agency; that was obviously a high need area for us. We’re not done yet, but actually today, this afternoon, we’re going to finalize—that’s one of the final pieces. When Trent said we’re finishing the board, that’s one of the final pieces that we’re actually working on,” Meyer said.
“It’s obviously, ‘How good is your team? How good is your defensive line?’ That’s the first answer. We have some really solid pieces right now that we even believe will play better as they get a little more mature and we move on and the scheme fits some of our personnel. But that’s a great question and this afternoon we have to get that answer. It’s not completely done yet.”
There are a few defensive linemen that come to mind, particularly on its interior within the draft. One of the potential selections is Alabama’s Christian Barmore, someone that was mocked to the team at pick No. 25 quite often during the early portion of the draft process.
3. Value will become the calling card during the draft weekend
There is a fine line between best-available-player and needs when it comes to addressing its roster via the draft. While all teams ultimately blend the two together, there also comes a time when reaching for a need cannot be a solution. Meyer understands as a coach his first instinct will be to fill all the holes, but ultimately the team will need to fill based on value to get the best players possible.
“I’ve been working at this now for about three months and the last three to four weeks, this has been our entire life in that room watching video, stacking the board. So, trusting the board is key,” Meyer explained. “I’m at the point almost there that I will trust it, but as a coach, I can see where [you can say], ‘We need this, we need this, and we need this’ and that’s where you get yourself in trouble. It’s been a great learning experience for me.”
The Jaguars have plenty of needs on its roster, including at tight and safety specifically. While it is commonplace to project that the team will address those positions early, that will also depend on who else is on the board, regardless of position. Time will tell whether the team will follow suit, but if free agency was any indication, it appears that value is a followed practice of the current regime.