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The Jacksonville Jaguars are primed for the most exciting season in franchise history. Man, does it feel good to say that!
There’s no question that the Jaguars struck gold in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The franchise that had been deprived of any semblance of a true franchise quarterback throughout its history.
After selecting former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the wait may have ended.
But what Jacksonville did in the latter portions of the draft last week is nothing to scoff at, either. While there was risk involved, the team that leaned on the term “value” and stuck with it, selecting players with high ceilings, though there were certainly risks involved.
The team chose to go with upside with one of its second-round selections and the team’s third-round selection.
At pick No. 45, Jacksonville took a gamble in selecting former Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little, a high-upside player who has played just one game since 2019 due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during the first two weeks of Stanford’s season, and an opt out in 2020 due to the ongoingcoronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of the Pac-12’s season.
In Little, Jacksonville believes it has potentially struck gold. A player who was quickly rising as one of the top offensive tackles in the country, available to them in the middle of round two. During his recruitment out of high school, the rookie offensive tackle was thought of as the No. 9 player overall, according to 247Sports Composite, compiling all grades from various recruitment sources.
He was the No. 3 ranked offensive tackle prospect in the class.
“We were kind of hoping he’d go play in the Senior Bowl so we could go and watch him, but we did a lot of intel,” Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said shortly following Day 2 of the NFL Draft. “I know Coach [David] Shaw fairly well, and you watch his athleticism and bendability for a big man. The tackle position was very thin this year, and we needed a backup left tackle. He’s again trying to develop to at one point to become a starter. We’ve kind of focused on him pretty early in the whole scenario.”
In an interview with Shaw, conducted shortly following the draft by Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser, the Stanford head coach did note one thing about Little that should raise eyebrows. Little was the first freshman offensive lineman in Stanford history to receiver starts at left tackle, and the team didn’t give him any help on the blind side.
A special talent that, if he’s able to get back to the level of play he showed early in college, could become the ultimate steal of the draft.
With pick No. 65, Jacksonville took another gamble, selecting ball-hawk safety Andre Cisco out of Syracuse. Cisco, like Little, also suffered a torn ACL during his collegiate career, getting hurt just a few games into the 2020 season. While he is only six months out of recovery thus far, Meyer believes he should be good to go soon, noting that the injury was clean-cut.
In three years at Syracuse, Cisco forced 14 turnovers, including 13 interceptions and a forced fumble. If healthy, he was thought to be one of the top safeties in the nation, likely selected much earlier than the third round.
The Jaguars had Cisco targeted from the very start, with Meyer noting that Cisco was one of his favorite players on the draft board.
“You watch him when he’s healthy and it’s hard to say he’s not the best safety in the draft,” said Meyer. “Trevon [Moerhrig] from TCU, excellent player as well, but this guy from day one we thought he was as good as there is.”
Meyer compared him to two players from his past, former Florida (and Jaguars) safety Reggie Nelson and former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. Both players were known to fly around the football, making plays from all areas of the field, especially causing turnovers.
“Best ball skills we felt in the back end of the draft. We had a couple incredible Zoom calls with him. Great background, great character and if he wasn’t injured, I think that was a value pick. We’re real pleased with that.”
A value pick. While not yet proven, the Jaguars were able to secure at least two players they feel could make an instant impact on the team without the need to spend high-value assets to acquire them.
Though it appears to be risky, the payoff could ultimately be worth it, at least they believe it will be.