Draft report card: Jaguars receive high marks for most of their picks

Gene Frenette
Florida Times-Union
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Quarterback Trevor Lawrence highlights the Jaguars' 2021 draft class.

Times-Union sports columnist Gene Frenette grades the nine Jaguars’ picks in the 2021 NFL draft based on value and need at the time of the selection:

1st round (No. 1) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

This was the biggest no-brainer pick since the Indianapolis Colts snatched up Andrew Luck in 2012. The Jaguars have had a ton of misfortune with first-round quarterbacks, but it doesn’t mean you stop trying to land a franchise guy. Lawrence is the total package – arm talent, mobility, accuracy, football IQ. Just as important, he has the maturity level that lends itself to great leadership qualities and having long-term success. Whether he becomes Peyton Manning Light or another Matt Stafford, it’s impossible to second-guess this pick.

Grade: A+

1st round (No. 25) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

This might be viewed by some as a head-scratcher, considering the need for reinforcements on both lines and already having James Robinson and Carlos Hyde, but those are way different type of backs. Etienne is a classic trust-the-board selection, which is what the Jaguars’ brass insisted it would abide by. Besides lightening the load for Robinson and Hyde, he brings the speed element and after-the-catch elusiveness that Meyer craves. He should be a chain-mover and a frequent end-zone visitor. Don’t be surprised if he’s as electric, in a different way, as Maurice Jones-Drew.

Grade: A

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2nd Round (No. 33) Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

In the Jaguars’ mind, Campbell’s speed and ability to play various coverage positions (even safety in a pinch) made him slightly more desirable than quality players at need positions like DT Christian Barmore, OT Teven Jenkins and S Trevon Moehrig. Incidentally, all of them went off the board before the team’s next pick at No. 45. Otherwise, somebody among that trio would also be in teal because the Jaguars went after those positions in later rounds. Acquiring Campbell will allow the Jaguars to play more man coverage and that’s a big deal, but it does raise questions about CJ Henderson's health.

Grade: B+

2nd round (No. 45) Walker Little, OT, Stanford

It was a surprise the Jaguars passed up Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, who went 10 picks later to the Pittsburgh Steelers, at this spot because tight end depth in this draft was scarce. But it was also nice to see GM Trent Baalke and coach Urban Meyer not waiting terribly long to address reinforcements on the offensive line. It’s definitely a concern that Little (6-foot-7, 314 pounds) has played only one game in the last two years due to a COVID opt-out and sustaining a season-ending injury in the 2019 opener against Northwestern. It’s not imperative Little plays right away, but he must be ready to step in for Cam Robinson at left tackle by 2022.

Grade: C+

3rd round (No. 65) Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse

This is undoubtedly a high-risk, high-reward choice. Meyer’s insatiable appetite for speed, speed and more speed certainly played into taking Cisco, not to mention his 13 career interceptions in college. Cisco fits the definition of a ball-hawk, but his medical issues can’t be ignored either. He tore his ACL in a fluke pre-game collision with receiver Ed Hendrix, forcing him to miss Syracuse’s last eight games. He also missed three games in 2019 to injury. He played both free safety and rover for the Orangemen, so he brings some versatility.

Grade: B-minus

4th round (No. 106) Jay Tufele, DT, USC

The Jaguars got nice value with Tufele, who probably would have been drafted higher had he not opted out of 2020 due to family COVID issues. It heavily impacted his older sister Noreen, who was on a ventilator for over a month, so Tufele had no reservations about staying on the sidelines. A former rugby player, the 6-foot-2, 305-pound lineman has a reputation for a high motor and should be a good fit at the three-technique.

Grade: B

4th round (No. 121) Jordan Smith, Edge, UAB

At 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, Smith was a SAM linebacker in UAB’s 3-4 scheme and played both standing up and with hands on the ground. He showed his productivity with 14.5 sacks the last two years and called himself “the best pass-rusher” in the draft because of his arsenal of moves. But he’s going to have to add weight and get stronger to have success in the NFL. Smith might well be the Jaguars' most intriguing draft pick.

Grade: B

5th round (No. 145) Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State

The Jaguars insist they stuck to their value board, but this one felt like a reach. On the plus side, Meyer coached him for one redshirt year and two playing seasons with the Buckeyes, so it’s doubtful he would make this big an investment unless he thought Farrell could make the roster. Still, he’s not considered a big playmaker and his 40-yard time (4.81 seconds) is nothing special. You have to wonder why the Jaguars chose not to take Miami’s Brevin Jordan, a more dependable pass-catcher, over Farrell.

Grade: C-minus

6th round (No. 209) Jalen Camp, WR, Georgia Tech

At this point, wide receiver is probably the right place to go because it's the deepest position in the draft. Camp was Tech's leading receiver as his speed (4.45 in the 40), size (6-1, 226) and strength (29 reps at 225 pounds) combination is up there with anybody at the position. He should be a special-teams demon.

Grade: B+            

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