When the Jaguars entered the 2021 NFL Draft the team had plenty of needs across its roster. One of the most important needs, however, was to address its pass rush. While the team addressed its defensive line during free agency, the focus there was on the run defense.
In the fourth round of the draft the Jaguars finally felt a strong urge to address its pass rush, trading up 10 spots, sending pick No. 130, 170 and 249 to the Los Angeles Rams for No. 121 and 209, in order to select UAB defensive end/outside linebacker Jordan Smith.
Smith, 6-foot-6, 264 pounds was a clear target for Jacksonville after its first target, Ohio State’s Baron Browning was selected just one pick prior to Jacksonville being on the clock with the first pick in round four. Browning would go to the Denver Broncos, causing Jacksonville to pivot, selecting USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele.
“That was the one area we had a need list and I saw him sitting there and that was one of my first experiences of ‘what if we lose him?’ because we did, we lost, everybody does, you see Baron Browning the night before and I said we’ve got the next pick, can we — boom, he’s gone, I really wanted him,” Meyer said last week when asked about trading up for Smith.
“So we’re sitting there and we have our defensive coordinator sitting with us and here’s this really raw, talented guy who can rush the passer. Very raw, has a long way to go, but that’s why we did it.”
At UAB, Smith accounted for 12.5 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles over the course of 21 games. Now, the rookie pass rusher hopes to bring an even more productive impact to Jacksonville.
“I feel like I was the best pass rusher in this draft,” Smith said following his selection.
“I’ve shown multiple different moves that I’ve used effectively where other pass rushers have less moves, two or three moves. I have a big arsenal of moves. I use my mind. I use my mental game to help me excel in the game. So, I feel like I bring a lot to the table.”
Smith would later note that his favorite pass-rush move is the “stab, swipe” move, something that he’s been using since his high school years.
While Smith originally was slated to play for the Florida Gators coming out of high school, he would be suspended from the team before he could ever play a down, something that he feels he’s grown from. A humbling experience, Smith transferred to Butler, a community college, prior to spending his remaining two seasons at UAB.
Due to coming from a smaller school, Smith arrived at this year’s senior bowl ready to prove to everyone that he belonged, facing off against several players who would be selected higher than him, including the 17th overall pick in Alex Leatherwood (Oakland Raiders).
“I feel like the Senior Bowl was my opportunity to show that I can do what I do against anybody regardless of who’s in front of me, and I felt like I did a great job at that,” Smith said.
“I had some good reps against first-rounders, top-rounders, a lot of great reps against a lot of great tackles that was there. I felt like I did have a good showing that it doesn’t matter who is in front of me. I’m using my skill, I’m using my mind, and I’m going to do the best I can.”
The Jaguars were one of the teams that stood out to Smith during the Senior Bowl. During their meetings, Smith said, Jacksonville was more interested in who he is as a person, rather than trying to “nitpick” his past. Smith would later say that he had the Jaguars as one of his “front-runners” adding that it was no surprise that the team picked him.
“I honestly feel like this is one of the best draft classes of all the teams,” said Smith.
“They did a great job of picking what they needed: Trevor Lawrence as a quarterback, you have Tyson Campbell as a great corner to go beside CJ Henderson. Also, we have Jay Tufele and me to try to build a dynasty.
“I feel like Urban Meyer has done this continually in the past, so I feel like it’s an honor for me to be a part of something, another dynasty that he’s about to create.”
Certainly, the Jaguars and all of Jacksonville will hope what Smith says is true. The team set out to get its franchise quarterback, surrounded him with a key skill player while addressing needs throughout the draft weekend. On the surface, it has the makeup to do something special, but a dynasty would be something remarkable.