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Wrapping the draft: "We didn't deviate …"

General view of the stage ahead of the NFL Draft, Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Cleveland. (Aaron Doster/NFL)
General view of the stage ahead of the NFL Draft, Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Cleveland. (Aaron Doster/NFL)

JACKSONVILLE – Culture was paramount.

Ability was, too – and by the end of a historical and hectic three days, this much was clear about the Jaguars and the 2021 NFL Draft:

Urban Meyer liked the results. So did Trent Baalke.

"It was [a] long [three days], but I go back and look at the needs of this team," Meyer said late Saturday afternoon following his first draft as the Jaguars' head coach. "This team lost a lot of games last year. There were a bunch of games it could have won.

"When you look at the roster, there are some very good core players. There are also some very significant weaknesses that you had to hit. I think we've hit them."

Meyer during his post-draft media availability noted an exception to that – that the team still must address a tight-end need that remains an offseason storyline. But overall, he liked the results of three days in which the Jaguars added nine players, including the No. 1 overall selection in the draft: quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Baalke, hired in January as general manager shortly after Meyer, agreed.

"We felt really good about the board," said Baalke, who – like Meyer – praised the collaborative nature of their first draft together. "We didn't deviate at all."

Baalke said all nine players were the Jaguars' highest-rated remaining prospect at the time of their selection. The nine:

*Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson: No. 1 overall (Round 1).

*Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson: No. 25 overall (Round 1).

*Tyson Campbell, cornerback, Georgia: No. 33 overall (Round 2).

*Walker Little, offensive tackle, Stanford: No. 45 overall (Round 2).

*Andre Cisco, safety, Syracuse: No. 65 overall (Round 3).

*Jay Tufele, defensive tackle, Southern California: No. 106 overall (Round 4).

*Jordan Smith, edge, Alabama-Birmingham: No. 121 overall (Round 4).

*Luke Farrell, tight end, Ohio State: No. 145 (Round 5).

*Jalen Camp, wide receiver, Georgia Tech: No. 209 (Round 6).

"The proof is always in the pudding," Baalke said. "We have nine guys we feel strongly about both as players and culture fits. Now, the hard work begins. Now, we have to get them in here and we've got to go to work."

Meyer on Saturday detailed the class, saying he definitely expects immediate impact from players such as Lawrence, Etienne and Campbell – and that Little should provide immediate competition for starting tackles Cam Robinson (left) and Jawaan Taylor (right).

"He's going to push our tackles," Meyer said of Little. "Our tackles have to play better. I like how hard they're working and I like their talent level, but the best thing you can do is create a little competition."

Meyer called Cisco one of his favorite players in the draft.

"You watch him when he's healthy," Meyer said of Cisco, who missed all but the first two games of the 2020 season with a knee injury. "It's hard to say he wasn't the best safety in the draft."

Meyer said Tufele should be in the mix immediately, with Farrell expected to provide depth at tight end. He said Smith and Camp likely will need to develop, and that Camp should make "an instant impact on special teams."

Big schools were mostly the rule throughout the weekend, with the lone exception being Smith – who finished his collegiate career at Alabama-Birmingham after starting it at the University of Florida. The rest of the draft class was peppered with major colleges.

There also was a strong familiarity element, with Meyer – one of the most successful college coaches in history – having recruited players such as Campbell and Tufele and having coached Farrell at Ohio State. He was also long familiar with Lawrence and Etienne and other players in the class.

"It helped a lot," Baalke said. "You look at what [Head] Coach [Pete] Carroll was able to do when he first went to [the] Seattle [Seahawks from Southern California], his understanding of that group of young men that he had heavily been involved with in the recruiting process. You get to know them at a different level."

Such an approach made sense this offseason, with teams unable to meet prospects face-to-face because of COVID-19.

"Having all that previous knowledge of these guys as they came through high school made a huge difference," Baalke said.

The Jaguars exited the draft with one fewer selection than the 10 which they entered, trading up from No. 130 early Saturday to No. 121 to select Smith. The Jaguars sent Selection Nos. 130, 170 and 249 to the Los Angeles Rams for No. 121 and No. 209.

"Our board is based on value, and at that point in time he was clearly the highest-rated guy on our board," Baalke said of Smith. "We just didn't feel comfortable with what we may possibly get if we weren't able to get him, so we just made the decision to move up and be aggressive."

One area that remained a topic through the weekend was tight end, an area Baalke and Meyer each discussed Friday and again Saturday. The Jaguars entered the offseason knowing receiving tight end was a need. It remained that way entering the draft and Meyer said it remained as such late Saturday.

"We just didn't hit it today," Meyer said, with Baalke adding: "We had some guys in line. You can't control the board. The board kind of controls you at times. We feel fortunate to pick up Luke when we did. Filling that room is going to be an ongoing process – just like it is with every room.

"We're going to try to make each room as competitive as we can. We feel like we made great strides in doing that this weekend. But we're far from finished."

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