A lot can change from one season to another in the NFL. It's not uncommon to see clubs that were in the cellar of the league reach the playoffs one year later. Similarly, players who previously flew under the radar can get widespread recognition and become household names. For instance, Trevor Lawrence has gotten lots of recognition after a highly successful 2022 campaign.
Lawrence isn't the only Jaguars player who's turning heads around the league ahead of the 2023 season though. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is also getting lots of attention, and to no one's surprise, both popped up on ESPN list's of top 100 players.
For his part, Lawrence landed at No. 28. Here's what Michael DiRocco had to say about the third-year quarterback.
"Lawrence is in his second season in coach Doug Pederson's offense and has had more input this offseason in shaping how it looks. Not only does Lawrence have all his playmakers back from last season -- when the unit ranked 10th in scoring and yards per game -- but the Jaguars have added wide receiver Calvin Ridley."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft, struggled as a rookie. Not only did he lack a solid supporting cast, but Urban Meyer had no idea how to develop him. Following the 2021 season, the Jags hired Doug Pederson as the head coach and got the former Clemson Tiger a much better arsenal of weapons. Not surprisingly, Lawrence showed improvement in Year 2, completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,113 yards with 25 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
As DiRocco noted, Lawrence's now got Ridley, who's made a strong impression since joining the team in March. Regarding Ridley, DiRocco says the star wide receiver took advantage of his time away during his suspension for betting on NFL games to "heal up mentally and physically." On top of that, DiRocco believes Ridley was the most impressive Jaguar in training camp.
Ridley, a first-round selection in 2018, became a fixture of the Atlanta Falcons, hauling in 217 receptions for 3,061 yards with 26 touchdowns from 2018-2020. However, he stepped away from football five games into the 2021 season, citing mental health as the reason. During his retirement, he got an indefinite suspension for placing wagers on NFL games.
Even though Ridley was suspended, the Jaguars traded for him last year but he wasn't allowed to have contact until he was reinstated in March. Since then, he's done nothing to work to return to greatness. He's currently 89th on ESPN's top 100 list but he could move up several spots if he's back to the player he was early in his career.
The Jaguars only have 2 players on ESPN's list after having 3 earlier this year
Earlier this year, ESPN released their list of the top 100 most valuable players from 2022 and three Jaguars made the cut: Lawrence (8), cornerback Tyson Campbell (49), and running back Travis Etienne (90). The biggest reason for the discrepancy might be that Seth Walder alone did the 2022 list while several analysts contributed to the one for the 2023 season.
Either way, both Lawrence and Ridley got relatively fair spots. Steezy Trev was the seventh quarterback on the list, below Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Patrick Mahomes. Heading into the 2023 season, the consensus has placed Lawrence between Nos. 4 and 10, so it doesn't look out of place on the list.
On the other hand, Ridley got somewhat of a low spot because he didn't play last year. While signs point toward him being the elite receiver he was in Atlanta, he first need to play a few games before he regains his place in the upper echelon.
You could argue that there were other Jaguars deserving of a spot on ESPN's list. But the truth is that it's hard to justify removing any of the players who made the cut. The good news is that the Jags are in a position to do big things in 2023. If they make a deep playoff run, many of their players should make the next edition of the list.