The Jacksonville Jaguars made the easiest and maybe most significant selection in franchise history when they chose Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the NFL Draft Thursday night.
The Jaguars made the announcement that’s been expected for months official shortly after the start of the draft, setting off a raucous celebration inside TIAA Bank Field. A sold-out draft party, which included a crowd of 8,000, cheered wildly as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium to call Lawrence’s name.
Lawrence is the fourth quarterback drafted by the franchise in the first round in its 27 years of existence, joining Byron Leftwich (2003), Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014).
The chance to draft Lawrence was one of the factors that lured coach Urban Meyer out of the broadcast booth and got him back on the sideline. Jacksonville has five of the top 65 picks, including the 25th pick later in Thursday’s opening round.
No matter who else the Jaguars bring in, none of them will compare to Lawrence. He’s now the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. And Jacksonville is counting on him solving the team’s decades-old problem at the all-important position.
Lawrence enjoyed a stellar college career at Clemson, going 34-2 as the starter and leading the Tigers to three ACC titles and the 2018 national championship. He completed 66% of his passes for 10,098 yards, with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also ran for 18 scores. He finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting to Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith last season. Lawrence threw for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions while missing two games after testing positive for COVID-19 in October.
The Jaguars locked up the first pick in the next-to-last week of the 2020 NFL regular season, and Lawrence was the target long before Meyer was hired to replace Doug Marrone.
The Jaguars already gave Lawrence a playbook and held several Zoom sessions with him. Even owner Shahid Khan sat in on at least one, getting to know a player he’s prepared to guarantee nearly $40 million in a five-year deal.
Lawrence was the fourth QB Jacksonville drafted in the last four years, following Tanner Lee (2018), Gardner Minshew (2019) and Jake Luton (2020).
Trey Lance, a quarterback from FCS school North Dakota State who started 17 games in his career, was chosen third overall by San Francisco.
Kyle Pitts was considered by many the most dynamic player in the draft. The Falcons thought so and selected the Florida tight end with the fourth pick.
LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who sat out last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was chosen fifth by Cincinnati. The Dolphins followed by taking Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle.
The Lions took Oregon tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh pick, which meant a record seven consecutive offensive players were picked to start the draft.
After the Eagles-Cowboys deal where Philadelphia moved up two spots to No. 10 and selected DaVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy-winning receiver from Alabama, Chicago moved up from No. 20 to the 11th spot, then thrilled its fans by choosing quarterback Justin Fields of Ohio State.
The Cowboys then got some needed defensive help by selecting Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 12 after making their trade down.
The fifth quarterback projected to go in the first round, Alabama’s Mac Jones, is now a New England Patriot. He is the fourth Crimson Tide player taken in the first 15.