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Looking Back: 2021 NFL Draft, Day 1

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is selected to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Seneca, South Carolina. (Logan Bowles/NFL)
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is selected to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Seneca, South Carolina. (Logan Bowles/NFL)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars Media/NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks review Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, on which the Jaguars selected quarterback Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall and running back Travis Etienne No. 25 overall...

Brooks …

1.Winners win. If you are surprised by the selections of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, you probably haven't been around the college game enough to understand how big-time coaches quickly turn around programs. Elite program-builders believe in acquiring players, particularly team captains, from championship programs to establish a culture that prioritizes winning as a top priority. In short, coaches believe winners find ways to win at every level because they understand the sacrifices and commitments needed to win. Given their previous successes, they expect to win whenever they step onto the field and their individual and collective confidence raises the standards on and off the field. Lawrence and Etienne won a national championship at Clemson and participated in the College Football Playoff every year after winning multiple ACC Championship Games. Their lofty standards will mesh with Urban Meyer's expectations as a winner with an ultracompetitive spirit. As the Jaguars' new head coach establishes a new culture in the locker room, it is not a coincidence that his first picks are five-star players from one of the winningest programs in college football.

2.Lawrence is the perfect QB1 for the Jaguars. I don't know if Lawrence will live up to the hype as a "generational talent," but he is absolutely the right fit for the Jaguars as a franchise quarterback. Lawrence (6-feet-6, 213 pounds) checks off all the boxes as a player with A-plus arm talent, athleticism and leadership skills. He can make every throw with touch, timing and precision while displaying the ability to operate on or off the script as a playmaker. Lawrence displays elite traits as a big-stage performer and his winning pedigree (zero regular-season losses as a high school and college player) suggests he will raise the performance standards in Jacksonville. Moreover, his quiet but steady leadership style will endear to a team and fan base that is desperate for a quarterback who wants to win at the highest level. Lawrence has answered the bell at every turn since being a ballyhooed high school recruit expected to take college football by storm. He will answer it again as the Jaguars' franchise quarterback for the next decade.

3.The addition of Travis Etienne gives the Jaguars an elite backfield. Running back didn't appear to be a position of need heading into the draft, but Meyer wants a dominant running game in place to alleviate the pressure of a young quarterback. Etienne joins a stable that features a 1,000-yard back in James Robinson and a workhorse runner in Carlos Hyde. The trio enables the Jaguars to play smash-mouth football behind a beefy offensive line with the workload split between three runners with contrasting running styles. Robinson and Hyde are grinders between the tackles while Etienne has some sizzle as an off-tackle runner with home-run speed and big-play ability. In addition, Etienne is a solid pass-catcher with exceptional patience and timing in the passing game, particularly on screens. The Jaguars have quietly assembled one of the top running back units in the league.


1.They got their man. Just because it has been said over and over again in recent weeks doesn't make it not true: The Jaguars got their man Thursday and doing so could change the future of the franchise. That's the importance of the Lawrence selection. Meyer shortly after the draft Thursday revealed that the team essentially decided on Lawrence as the selection in early February, which General Manager Trent Baalke said that allowed the Jaguars to have extensive conversations with Lawrence in recent months regarding the offense. "We feel very good about where he's at within the learning process already and now we can expedite it," Baalke said. Wherever Lawrence is in terms of the offense, make no mistake: He is unquestionably the highest-profile draft selection in franchise history and has a chance to be the biggest star in franchise history. He has the potential to be the franchise's first elite quarterback. This is as important as a draft selection gets.

2.They felt the need for speed. Meyer and Baalke each made clear leading to the draft that speed and explosiveness offensively was a priority. They backed up those words by selecting Etienne. While some observers considered this a "luxury" selection, Meyer made clear that he sees Etienne as more than a luxury – and even more than a back – and said Etienne is as effective as a receiver as he is a runner. Meyer last week spoke of the need to add big-play players to the offense, and he reiterated the point Thursday after the Etienne selection. This was what that selection was about. It wasn't about the luxury of adding a player to an already capable position. It was about addressing what Meyer viewed as a glaring need for speed.

3.Baalke likes where the Jaguars are at No. 33. The Jaguars hold the first selection of Friday's Round 2, the No. 33 selection overall. The first selection of the second round often draws trade interest because many teams had first-round grades on players still available. "We've got three or four guys left that we had valued at that level," Baalke said. "We've got a long day to sit down and talk things through, but [I] feel very good about where we're sitting right now going into [Friday]. I think you can always expect some calls for 33 because every organization now gets to sit back for a night and look at their board and look at the value they place on different players. There's always a player left from day one that you want to go get on day two, so I would expect some calls. How willing we will be to move back? That remains to be seen. We feel very good about the position we're in and very good about a few of the players that are still left on the board at that level."

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