The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a chance to change their franchise’s fortune. Jacksonville only made three trips to the playoffs in the past 20 years. However, hope is finally setting in with Urban Meyer taking over as head coach and Trevor Lawrence presumably arriving as the first overall pick.
Meyer’s team is in a perfect place entering the draft. They have young talent from the past two classes with low cap hits and high potential. Jacksonville added a crucial cog to their defense in free agency by signing former Pro Bowl corner Shaquill Griffin. With a strong draft, the Jaguars could challenge Indianapolis and Tennessee for the AFC South’s top spot in a year.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to check each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed spots over several simulations. I did not predict any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for those optimistic fans that think their teams will add a ridiculous amount of talent.
Round 1 (No. 1): Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
Joe Burrow, Lawrence, and Andrew Luck are the three best quarterback prospects from the past decade. Lawrence made the College Football Playoffs in each season with the Tigers and won the National Championship as a rookie. While he sometimes gets too confident on his throws and has occasional inaccuracies, Lawrence is a complete prospect and a lock to go first overall.
Ideal pick: Duh
Round 1 (No. 25): Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Jacksonville addressed their cornerback corps over the past year. The team added C.J. Henderson as the ninth overall pick in 2020 and recently signed Griffin. However, you can never have enough corners in the NFL. That’s one of the few positions where it’s okay to keep throwing in assets.
Farley’s history of back issues stands out as the only stain on one of the best prospect profiles in this draft. He recently underwent a minor Microdiscectomy, which caught the attention of the media and NFL teams. Farley didn’t participate at Virginia Tech’s pro day, where scouts anticipated he would’ve turned heads.
Despite the injuries, Farley is still my top cornerback in the upcoming draft. He has the best combination of fluidity, height, length, pattern matching, and speed of any corner in maybe the past ten years. Taking him in the first-round comes with some risk, especially if other positional leaders like Trevon Moehrig and Jaelan Phillips are on the board.
Ideal pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL USC
Round 2 (No. 33): Trevon Moehrig, S TCU
Moehrig is easily the top safety prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, but there’s no guarantee that he goes in the first-round. The earliest safety taken last year was Alabama’s Xavier McKinney at 36th overall. With so many talented safeties hitting free agency or coming off the board in later rounds, Moehrig likely waits until Day 2 to hear his name called.
If the Jaguars feel that Moehrig is a hot commodity in the late first-round, they could snatch him up at 25 and go with the best player available at 33. While Moehrig is a starting-caliber prospect, he’s not going to get the Jamal Adams/Derwin James treatment.
With offensive tackles and edge rushers potentially falling into that 25-40 range, I think the Jaguars get their man at the top of the second-round.
Ideal pick: Moehrig OR Jaelan Phillips, EDGE Miami
Round 2 (No. 45): Pat Freiermuth, TE Penn St.
Jabril Cox and Alex Leatherwood could draw interest if Zaven Collins and Freiermuth are off the board. Collins is a versatile linebacker that could start opposite of Myles Jack, while Cox is arguably the best coverage linebacker in this class. Leatherwood could provide depth at both tackle and guard while serving as an eventual replacement for one of Jacksonville’s mediocre starters.
The decision is easy if it comes down to Cox and Freiermuth at 45. Freiermuth isn’t going to dominate the NFL, but he can go for 55 catches and 650 yards per year while providing reliable blocking. If the Jaguars aren’t adding a wide receiver in the first two rounds, the least they can do for Lawrence is snag the draft’s second-best tight end.
Remember, only one tight end went in the first two rounds last year (Cole Kmet).
Ideal pick: Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa
Round 3 (No. 65): Jabril Cox, LB LSU
Cox fell to the top of the third-round in several simulations. Coincidentally, he also reached that point in the latest mock draft I did with Kyle Bazin. Cox is a no-brainer at this point. While he didn’t perform any of the tests at LSU’s pro day, the North Dakota St. transfer dominated the one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl. Those drills are almost impossible to win for linebackers.
Jacksonville has a borderline Pro Bowl linebacker in Myles Jack and a solid starter in Joe Schobert. However, there’s a hole at the other linebacker spot. Perhaps Cox isn’t a fit for what the Jaguars want to do, but he’s a tremendous value selection at 65.
Ideal pick: Liam Eichenberg, OT Notre Dame
Round 4 (No. 106): Tyler Shelvin, IDL LSU
The Jaguars thought they had a deal with Tyson Alualu, but the former tenth overall pick decided to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Alualu served as a nose tackle in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. While he’d presumably have a slightly different role in Jacksonville, his overall impact would still be primarily as a run defender.
Shelvin carries much more weight than Alualu and won’t come close to offering what the veteran can as a pass rusher. However, Shelvin is certainly the definition of a nose tackle. He checked in at 6-2, 350 lbs. at his pro day. While the mammoth lineman isn’t going to collapse pockets, he provides Jacksonville with an immovable force along the interior.
Ideal pick: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR USC
Round 4 (No. 130): Walker Little, OT Stanford
Little was one of the best pass-blocking left tackles in the nation and trending toward first-round status before injuries cost him most of the 2019 season. Little opted out last year to prepare for the draft. A notable injury history and nearly two years’ worth of rust could easily drop Little into the mid-rounds, where he becomes the perfect bargain selection for a team like Jacksonville.
The Jaguars recently franchise tagged left tackle Cam Robinson, ensuring that Lawrence has a somewhat stable blindside protector. Unfortunately, Robinson hasn’t lived up to expectations since joining the franchise as the 34th overall pick in 2017. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who Jacksonville selected with the 35th pick in 2019, is dealing with similar struggles.
Little is a high-risk, high-reward prospect at 130 that could eventually supplant either of Jacksonville’s current starting tackles.
Ideal pick: Little
Round 5 (No. 145): Sadarius Hutcherson, IOL South Carolina
Outside of center Brandon Linder, Jacksonville’s offensive line isn’t very good. Starting guards A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell won’t be on the team in 2022 as things stand now. Ben Bartch is the only notable backup that could step into a starting role. Assuming Meyer and his staff prepare to play winning football two or three years down the road, they should grab quality developmental linemen in the late rounds.
Hutcherson has a lot of power, but he’s still rough around the edges. The South Carolina product isn’t a Day 1 starter, but he doesn’t have to be in this scenario.
Ideal pick: Hamilcar Rashed Jr., EDGE Oregon St.
Round 5 (No. 170): Cornell Powell, WR Clemson
Powell isn’t a freak athlete, but he and Lawrence connected at Clemson once the star quarterback returned from his bout with COVID-19. During their final four games together, Lawrence connected with Powell roughly 22 times for 464 yards and four touchdowns. In the last eight games of his senior season, Powell amassed 39 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns.
Powell’s pro day confirmed that he’s an average athlete for his position. However, outside of DJ Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault Jr., the Jaguars don’t have an established receiver. Considering his history with Lawrence, Powell is worth the late-round investment.
Ideal pick: Kylin Hill, RB Mississippi St.
Round 7 (No. 249): Tarron Jackson, EDGE Coastal Carolina
Jackson was a quality edge rusher for Coastal Carolina. In his final two seasons with the Chanticleers, the 260 lb. defensive end amassed 18 sacks, 26.5 tackles for loss, 110 tackles, and five forced fumbles. Jackson doesn’t have much hype coming out of Coastal because he’s only 6-2 and played against Sun Belt offensive lines.
Most seventh-round picks don’t make it long-term in the NFL. Very few even become productive players over two or three seasons. Teams can justify taking almost anyone in the seventh-round. As a highly productive college player, Jackson offers tremendous value at 249.
Ideal pick: Tay Gowan, CB UCF