The Jacksonville Jaguars earned the best loss of their existence on Sunday.
It might be hard to believe for some but the Jaguars will have the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in franchise history in the 2021 NFL draft. (The only remaining teams never to pick No. 1: the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks.)
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s landing in Jacksonville is preordained now. Lawrence should play his professional ball nearly equidistant from his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia, and where he played his college ball, both about a five-hour drive from Jacksonville.
Could Lawrence flex his muscles and force his way out of the Jaguars drafting him? It’s possible. John Elway did it to the Baltimore Colts in 1983. Eli Manning did it to the San Diego Chargers in 2004.
But short of Lawrence staging a coup and strong-arming the Jaguars into trading the pick or his draft rights, it’s a glorious day for Jaguars fans.
The top of the 2021 draft has been in wild flux in recent weeks.
The New York Jets are locked into the No. 2 spot overall. The Atlanta Falcons blew a shot to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but that moved them up into the third pick for now.
The Miami Dolphins — who own the Houston Texans’ first-rounder — are currently in Houston’s No. 4 slot overall.
The order of the first 18 overall picks will be set after next Sunday’s results to conclude the regular season. But we now know Nos. 1 and 2.
The Jets’ dreams of Lawrence seemed to fade last week, even though all hope is not lost after missing out on him.
It’s Trevor Lawrence or bust ... but what else?
Despite not currently having a permanent general manager, the Jaguars’ choice might already be in. Lawrence is considered one of the best prospects to come around in years.
Expect whoever is named Dave Caldwell’s successor at general manager to play coy and say that the team will listen to offers to trade down, consider other options at No. 1 and all the rest. Barring something completely unforeseen, Lawrence will be the pick.
The Jaguars also own the Los Angeles Rams’ first-rounder, which is currently No. 21 overall after the Rams have lost two straight and are facing a Week 17 game possibly without three key starters, including Jared Goff. Jacksonville also owns multiple selections in Rounds 2, 4, 5 and 7, which will give them six selections in the top 97 overall picks.
By clinching the rights to Lawrence, the Jaguars’ vacant head coach and GM positions become that much more attractive. Even Urban Meyer’s name has been floated for the opening, which would be another incredible offseason development if it ever came to pass.
Lawrence also could serve as a pied piper of sorts in free agency, and no team has as much projected salary-cap space as Jacksonville this coming offseason — a time when many cap-strapped teams might be forced to curb their spending and make notable cuts.
The Jaguars have started three quarterbacks for three or more games apiece this season: Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon. It was Glennon who started Sunday against the Bears, and he struggled for the most part.
Minshew and Luton, two former sixth-rounders, could vie for the backup spot behind Lawrence. It will be interesting to see who the next coach will be and what type of offense the Jaguars will run.
Lawrence has a chance to be the most heralded QB in franchise history. He certainly can’t do it alone, and the Jaguars’ rebuild won’t be an overnight achievement.
Even still, there are some alluring offensive pieces, including running back James Robinson; wideouts D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson, among others; and some linemen who are worth building around.
The defense needs work, and the team’s depth reads as quite poor from a season that has featured six one-score losses. But the ammo is there to reload quickly.
And the excitement around the Jaguars’ franchise might reach all-time heights this offseason.
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