The Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence and a few promising building blocks in the 2021 NFL Draft but if they want to build the foundation for sustained success, they must have an even better talent haul this year.
Michael DiRocco of ESPN recently wrote about the main reason the Jags have only had one winning season in the last ten years, which is their inability to identify talent at the top of the draft. DiRocco points out that as long as they don’t consistently hit on their selections and develop them, they will continue losing games.
"Why have they had so many high draft picks? Because they’ve lost 10 or more games in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Why have they lost so many games? Because they’ve drafted poorly, especially when it comes to those high picks. It’s a vicious circle that won’t end until the franchise starts hitting on its picks, developing them into core players, and signing them to second or third deals, instead of trying to fix its draft mistakes via free agency."
DiRocco then goes on to list all the players the Jags have drafted in the first round from 2012 to 2020 and only outside linebacker Josh Allen and edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson remain on the roster. This is a subpar track record when you take into account that the Jaguars have picked in the top 5 in 13 of the last 14 years.
GM Trent Baalke can put an end to the Jaguars’ streak of bad draft picks.
Trent Baalke started his tenure as the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers with a bang, drafting edge rusher Aldon Smith and quarterback Colin Kaepernick in consecutive rounds in 2011. However, his following drafts weren’t as fruitful and his hits were few and far between. He did find two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Bucker in 2016 but you would expect a better success rate, especially when you take into account that he used 61 selections during his six-year stint. The fact that he employed three different head coaches in as many years didn’t help his case and he ended up getting the boot in 2017.
In spite of his lack of success late in his tenure in San Francisco, the Jaguars promoted Baalke from vice president of player personnel to general manager last year. All things considered, he had a solid draft haul even if you leave Trevor Lawrence aside. Tyson Campbell turned into a pretty good starting cornerback and both offensive tackle Walker Littler and safety Andre Cisco showed promise. If running back Travis Etienne can become a playmaker after having to sit out his rookie campaign due to injuries, he could be the cherry on the top of Jacksonville’s 2021 draft class.
However, Baalke can’t stop there and one good draft won’t be enough to turn the Jags into a playoff contender. He must ace most of the team’s 12 picks, including the first overall, in this year’s selection meeting. It won’t be easy but that’s what he has to do if he wants to prove the organization made the right decision when they stood by his side earlier this year.
The Jaguars have a head coach that knows how to win in Doug Pederson and a young promising quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. To pull off the hat trick, Trent Baalke must nail the 2022 NFL Draft and the one next year.