Entering the league as the prodigal son of a struggling franchise certainly can place unreachable goals on the shoulders of a player, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been touted as this product even before his time with the Clemson Tigers. Having been drafted with the first overall selection of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lawrence is now being tasked with helping revitalize a team that is devoid of talent and bring them back into relevancy.
Making that drastic shift from winning almost every game to likely losing the vast majority of his games, Lawrence is going to be going through it all during his early-on acclimation to what it takes to make it in the NFL. The Jaguars are naturally going to be ready and willing to suffer through some of his growing pains, but his future is bright and so is that of Jacksonville’s, elements not commonly grouped together into one thought.
But expecting Lawrence to become a world-beater immediately on his entrance into the league is unfair – surrounding Lawrence with proven weapons still may need to happen, even with the selection of his collegiate running back Travis Etienne in the second round. Pairing Etienne with incumbent James Robinson, as well as wideouts Laviska Shennault Jr., D.J. Chark, and offseason signee Marvin Jones helps, but there is more work to be done.
The AFC South division, once seen as the league’s worst and commonly won by a team with single-digit wins, now features two upstart franchises in Indianapolis and Tennessee, with the Jaguars looking to make the climb out of the basement. Likely to fall to the bottom (and remain there for quite some time) is the Houston Texans, unable to cobble together law-abiding talent and not get out of their own way when it comes to personnel matters.
But enough about the division – Lawrence was brought in to make the kind of impact Andrew Luck did when he was drafted by the Colts. Seen as a generational talent and one that certainly has the skills to ascend into a franchise leader, he will be asked to do a lot for a city that wants to play ball on the same level with its fellow Floridian counterparts.
Even with the recent comments made about how the starting QB decision has not yet been made by Jaguars’ brass, this little doggy bag of media jargon should be seen purely as a ploy to show that the team is not handing anything to anyone, especially a generational talent that did everything he could to set himself up for this stage.
With how their current roster looks and what can/should be expected from Lawrence in his quest to take home the Rookie of the Year honor, let’s dive into how he will likely produce this upcoming season.
2021 Projected Statistics
17 Starts / 391 for 598 / 4,016 yards / 26 TDs / 14 INTs / 317 rushing yards / 4 rushing TDs
Working in a rookie QB is a hard task in itself, yet working in a rookie QB and RB at the same time is even tougher – thankfully, with both of these guys having been teammates at Clemson, that transition can be made slightly easier.
With Lawrence able to fall back and rely on the pass-catching trio of Chark, Jones, and Shennault, combined with the Etienne & Robinson stack at RB, the weaponry around the rookie QB certainly could be a lot worse. The upside these five have will only be fully unlocked by what kind of performance Lawrence puts together, results that should make the team’s fan base extremely excited.
Barring any injuries, Lawrence will start all 17 games of the regular season, jumping right into the extended slate of schedule that was approved this offseason. Getting an extra game to showcase his skills certainly will help endear himself to the fan base, and the stats should easily make people believe in him.
Throwing for 4,016 yards would have put him as having the 13th-most passing yards last year, sandwiched in between Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray. While JAX will likely be playing from behind in most games and will present Lawrence plenty of opportunities, it feels wrong to be placing a rookie ahead of those proven veteran options that are much more up to speed on the nuances of this league.
Putting him around 300 yards behind the rookie record, set by Luck back in 2012, feels like a fair place to put him, even with the league trending towards becoming even more of a high-powered, run-first machine. Not overworking Lawrence is going to be very important for this team, even if that means conceding some potential victories.
30 total TDs, 26 of which are through the air, is a very healthy estimate for Lawrence, meaning that someone is going to have to establish themselves as the bonafide WR1 option in this offense. With the house money seeming to be trending towards Shennault taking on that role, Lawrence is going to need to find his target.
Double-digit interceptions seem to be a common projection for rookie QBs, even though Lawrence is no typical rookie. Thrust into playing-from-behind situations will certainly put more pressure on his shoulders, potentially forcing him to commit mistakes that result in the ball going the other way.
His abilities on the ground should not be discounted either, as he can help run some read-option looks to keep him comfortable and makes the pro-style offense hold some collegiate elements to it. Falling well short of Robert Griffin III’s 815-yard record, also as a member of the 2012 draft, Lawrence needs to remain healthy, which is why his running abilities should not be focused on too heavily in the NFL.
The Jaguars have planned for this moment for years – coming to fruition in this year’s draft. Lawrence exceeded all expectations to get to this point, and while maybe not a match made in heaven, this pairing has the look of a potential league-stormer in a few seasons.