JACKSONVILLE – Among the Jaguars' more intriguing rookies is offensive tackle Walker Little.
And if there is a limit to what can be gleaned from watching offensive linemen in no-contact situations, this much was clear during Jaguars 2021 Rookie Minicamp presented by Baptist Health this past weekend:
The Jaguars like Little, and he has big-time potential.
"Without putting the cart before the horse, I'm just really excited about him," Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said Saturday after the second day of rookie camp.
Little, selected from Stanford University with the No. 45 overall selection of Round 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft, had been projected as a likely Round 1 selection before sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of his 2019 junior season. He then opted out of the 2020 season because of uncertainty around the Pac-12 schedule, which perhaps caused him to slide in the draft.
Whatever his pre-draft circumstances, Walker looked the part of an early-drafted player during rookie camp.
"He's 20 percent body fat, heavy hands and great footwork," Meyer said. "He's a really intelligent guy, and you just wonder if he would've played the last two years — he had an injury and obviously the Pac-12 canceled football and put the players in a tough position, and he didn't play — but he's been outstanding."
Little was one example of a story that played out for the Jaguars throughout draft weekend. With NFL teams' ability to scout players before the draft limited because of COVID-19, the Jaguars relied heavily on personal knowledge of players and contacts with those close to the players.
Meyer talked immediately after the draft about a level of concern with selecting a player who had played just one game over the past two seasons coupled with the unknown of the limited pre-draft contact. That made Meyer's relationship with Stanford Head Coach David Shaw important when selecting Little.
"We did so much homework on him and obviously their coach is a friend of mine — David Shaw," Meyer said. "So much respect for Stanford and when they say something …
"The people I've talked to… we just believe he would've been a first rounder had he never had that knee injury. At one point he was one of the top tackles in the country, and that was really hard because you never saw them until they got there.
"You just don't know what their legs look like, etcetera. Then when he got there, you're like, 'Twenty percent body fat is pretty good for a 330-pound man.'"
Jaguars rookie running back Travis Etienne worked at wide receiver during rookie camp, with the idea being to cross train him at both positions in advance of him playing a hybrid role. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Etienne's college teammate at Clemson, said of Etienne's work this past weekend: "It's different, it's awesome. I'm glad he's getting to work that and getting those reps right now. He's just a dynamic player, he can do a lot of different things, but that's something he's not very used to. At Clemson, he was pretty much in the backfield all the time. He ran a lot of routes out of the backfield, but splitting out wide is something he hasn't done a lot. So, it's cool seeing him out there, working, learning something new, and just [seeing] the improvements he makes every day is really cool. So, [I'm] excited for that and we've just got a bunch of good players out there that are flying around, and it's been fun to watch."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, on assuming a leadership role as he begins working with veterans in the coming weeks: "I think leadership is earned, it's not just given, you don't just walk in and have it. So, I'm just going to put my head down, go to work and do everything I can to put us in position to win. Through that, the team grows together and that just kind of happens on its own."