Having finished 2020 bottom of the pile, the Jacksonville Jaguars get first pick in the NFL Draft this year. The question is whether or not they can turn things around by taking advantage of being granted the first pick, or are their issues too deeply rooted to fight at the top-end of the standings in 2021?
If you were to go back in time and look at the NFL odds at sites such as The Game Day in the early weeks of the 2020 campaign, you’d find that many sportsbooks had the Jaguars as heavy favorites to finish last in their division, and the entire league. At The Game Day, you’ll discover a wide range of odds across all the most popular sports betting sites for the coming 2021 NFL season.
Teams that have had the first pick over recent years have had a mixed bag of results. Think about 2007’s number one pick, JaMarcus Russell, who was arguably one of the worst first picks in the history of the NFL. In his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders, he made four appearances, throwing for two touchdowns and only 373 yards. In contrast, there’s Kyler Murray, the first pick of 2019’s NFL draft. The Arizona Cardinals quarterback enjoyed a stellar debut season which climaxed with him being awarded Offensive Rookie of the Year.
More recently, Jared Goff was taken as the first pick with the Los Angeles Rams, and despite an underwhelming opening season, the quarterback took his team to a Super Bowl in 2019. Similarly, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions has enjoyed success on a personal level since joining as the number one pick in 2009 but has never won a playoff game.
Unquestionably, the best first pick in recent memory was that of Cam Newton, chosen by the Carolina Panthers. The 2011 number one pick helped his team to a playoff appearance just two seasons later where the Panthers were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers. By the 2015 season, the Carolina Panthers had rebuilt to become one of the most formidable teams in the country. A Super Bowl matchup against the Denver Broncos was evidence enough, in spite of the fact the Panthers came out second best on the night.
The time to rebuild is now
Rebuilding after a difficult season is never easy, and the pressure of getting the number one pick could make or break a team’s season. For the Jaguars, 2021 is almost guaranteed to be better than last year, with just one win in the entire campaign accompanied by 15 losses. With playoff outings in 2017 still fresh in the memory of many supporters, could the new teal-colored redesign of their kits spell a successful period?
Highly-rated quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, announced his intention to leave school to make the move to the NFL back in January of this year and is expected to be that number one selection. Lauded by many, Lawrence led Clemson to a second-place finish in the ACC standings last season, scoring 8th in terms of yards thrown and 12th on the touchdown leaderboards. Regarded as the next big thing by many, the 21-year-old could be exactly what the Jaguars need if they’re to improve during the fast-approaching season. Although you’ll always need more than just a quarterback to have a winning season, the Jaguars have arguably never had a true franchise signal caller.
However, as we’ve seen in the past, picking a talented prospect doesn’t always lead to silverware. No team which has selected a rookie quarterback as their number one pick has ended the season with a positive win/loss record since Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. With Lawrence considered being the most impressive quarterback to join the NFL since Luck, could it prove to be a positive omen for Urban Meyer and co?
Comparing the Jacksonville Jaguars to other sides that were previously in their position is hard due to the wide range of variables to take into consideration. Yes, the Jaguars struggled last season, even with some solid talent within the team. Boasting the likes of Myles Jack, James Robinson, D J Chark Jr among others, there’s no doubt that the Jaguars could’ve performed better. Looking forward to 2021, fans will expect a response from their team, with the sides’ hopes likely hinging on the form and health of Trevor Lawrence.
Jaguars should improve – but we’ve been here before
It feels as though we’ve been saying the Jaguars should use their failures of the previous season to learn and improve. The team has been one of the worst in the NFL record-wise in the past decade. In fact, it’s nearly ten seasons ago that we saw the Jaguars make one of the worst starts to an NFL campaign in 2013 with eight defeats in the first eight weeks. A “rejuvenated” Jaguars side, due in part to the addition of Meyer at the helm, may well be on the menu in the near future.
Throughout their struggles recently, they’ve never really been in a position like this. A rookie head coach and starlet quarterback, as well as potential improvements to their offense, should excite even the most pessimistic of followers. With over ten defeats in nine of the last ten NFL seasons, grabbing perhaps the most sought-after quarterback in decades is some coup.
That said, history doesn’t shine in their favor. Just three of the 25 quarterbacks taken first have gone on to win Super Bowls, with just eight making it to a Super Bowl at all. Since 2004 and the infamous Eli Manning saga, only two out of eleven rookie quarterbacks have made it to America’s greatest sporting event. Of those eleven, five have never reached the playoffs.
Urban Meyer’s track record – albeit solely outside the NFL – isn’t too shabby, however. The new head coach has delivered two national titles in the college game during his previous ventures, leading his teams to nearly 150 wins overall. Could two NFL newbies take the league by storm and push the Jaguars up in the rankings? We’ll have to wait and see.