JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — I know. You’re sick of pre-NFL Draft speculation.
So is Trevor Lawrence.
Good thing we don’t have to worry about where he’s going. But what about the nine other players who will join him in Duval County?
Here’s this week’s Mia’s Mock Draft Monday.
Round 1, Pick 1
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I'm looking forward to meeting Trevor at his 1 p.m. press conference at TIAA Bank Field on Friday, April 30.
Round 1, Pick 25
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Urban Meyer continues to preach “speed." That’s led many to believe the Jaguars will go play-maker with their second, first-round selection.
But what if "speed" just means the best [fast] player available?
Collins ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Not many 6’4’’, 264 lb human beings can do that. He had 7.5 TFL and four sacks in eight games in 2020… to go along with four interceptions. If not for the fact that he attended Tulsa University (the only school to offer him a scholarship), the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Award winner is probably getting the same publicity Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons (now with the Arizona Cardinals) received last year as “the ultimate chess piece” on defense. Collins can defend the run, rush the passer, or drop into coverage. Collins also played quarterback in high school and has been praised for his high football IQ.
Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen says the Jaguars will run multiple fronts, but their base is a 3-4. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson haven’t played outside linebacker since college, and it’s yet to be seen if that is indeed where the edge rushing duo will line up. Collins would be a true, outside linebacker who the Jaguars could also play at safety (as we’ve discussed in previous Mock Draft Monday’s, Cullen is coming from a Ravens organization that ran more three-safety sets than any other team in the league).
For what it’s worth: in this mock draft, I had my choice of Collins or another hybrid linebacker in Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Which guarantees that the Jaguars will be taking Owusu-Koramoah on April 29 instead of Collins.
P.S. The last Bronko Nagurski Award winner the Jaguars drafted? Allen in 2019. He was also largely selected as “the best player available” at No. 7 overall. That pick has turned out pretty well.
Round 2, Pick 33
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Okay, here’s the playmaker you were looking for at 25 (seriously, don’t jump ship if the Jaguars don’t go playmaker at 25. This year’s wide receiver class rivals last year's -- which is already regarded as one of the best ever. Many analysts believe as many as 20-25 wide receivers from this year's class could have long, impactful NFL careers).
So, why Moore? One, Kadarius Toney was already off the board (and will be). Two, Moore offers more than just a “gadget player/slot receiver.” Sure, he projects in the slot, but he’s proven he can stretch the field, too. He gives the Jaguars the “home run threat” they’ve been searching for, while also providing an option over the middle. Despite playing only eight games in the pandemic-shortened, 2020 season, Moore posted career high’s in receptions (86), receiving yards (1,193), and touchdowns (eight). He even got involved in the run game (shout-out Lane Kiffin Effect, y’all).
I honestly think he’ll be a smaller version of his former teammate, A.J. Brown now of the Tennessee Titans. Brown is about an inch taller and 35 pounds heavier, but, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlan notes, Moore is stronger than his measurables suggest. Moreover, his killer instinct will make up for below-average size.
Moore is a Fort Lauderdale native and a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas… which, of course, was a go-to, recruiting hot bed of Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes program.
Round 2, Pick 45
Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Does he make it to 45? Holland has been one of the fastest risers in the final weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Former Jaguar-turned-NFL Network personality Maurice Jones-Drew has Holland going to the Big Cats at No. 25. MJD coached Holland at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, so maybe it’s biased or maybe he saw this dramatic rise coming before the rest of us. I’ll also blame part of Holland’s late rise on the fact that he opted out of the 2020 season and also played in the Pac-12 (since many college football fans forget the Pac-12 exists).
Holland can play either strong or free safety; MJD says nickel and weak-side linebacker are also in the cards. For a team like the Jaguars that is attempting to rebuild their secondary, that versatility is huge. In his two seasons of college ball, Holland was a steady presence in the Ducks secondary. He had 42 tackles in 2018 and 66 in 2019 (4.5 TFL). He had five interceptions in 2018 and four in 2019. He had six passes defended in 2018 and four in 2019. Sensing a trend? That’s the consistent production the Jaguars need. Moreover, Holland is a vocal leader in the secondary. While the Jaguars remain high on 2020 fifth-rounder Daniel Thomas, he only started two games (appearing in 10) and remains an unknown. Jacksonville still needs a de facto leader in the secondary.
… and again: if Joe Cullen’s defense is to look anything like the one he worked under in Baltimore, the Jaguars will be using heavy safety sets. They need as many athletes at the position as they can get.
Round 3, Pick 65
Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
In this mock draft, both Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth and Miami’s Brevin Jordan were already off the board by No. 65. Obviously, Florida's Kyle Pitts was gone. This is the doomsday scenario if you’re the Jaguars. For fear they wouldn’t nab one of the Top-Five, tight end prospects, they over-draft the Notre Dame junior who has played in just 19 career games. In two seasons, Tremble had 35 receptions for 401 yards with four touchdowns.
It’s not a question of his blocking prowess: his 83.7 blocking grade by Pro Football Focus was the best in the nation last year. My concern is that Tremble has never been a true, Number One tight end. Cole Kmet served that role for the Fighting Irish in 2019. Freshman phenom Michael Mayer immediately seized that role in 2020. The Jaguars desperately need an alpha to emerge from their tight end room -- and if they draft a tight end in the first three rounds, he better become that No. 1 tight end.
My contemporaries in the Jacksonville market (shout-out the folks at The Jaguar Report in particular) are extremely high on Tremble’s potential. Tremble’s pre-Draft testing suggests he may be a more athletic option than Freiermuth and Jordan; he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and scored a Relative Athletic Score of 8.9. His teammates, including his quarterback Ian Book, insist Tremble is not “raw.” “Unpolished,” perhaps.
Urban Meyer is well-connected to the folks in South Bend. Might this be a project he’s willing to take on?
Round 4, Pick 106
Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
Back-to-back tight ends? Huzzah!
Sure, there are some “hidden gems” at the tight end position later on in the 2021 NFL Draft. But after taking a relative unknown in Tremble, the Jaguars can’t afford a second project. Plus, Hunter Long was recruited and began his career at Boston College under Meyer's disciple Steve Addazio. It could happen!
Long has the production numbers Tremble fans wish he had: 57 catches for 687 yards and five touchdowns in 2020 alone. Long was anything but underutilized, as he was targeted 89 times in 2020, the most in the nation by 22 targets. At 6’5’’ 254 lbs, Long is your prototypical tight end, but scouts worry about his athleticism. He silenced some of those critics with a 4.63 40-yard dash (.02 better than Tremble) and a 32.5-inch vertical jump (4 inches shy of Tremble’s 36.5 inch VJ).
If the Jaguars were to draft tight ends back-to-back, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up like the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. The Birds drafted Jacksonville’s own Hayden Hurst in the first round (before Lamar Jackson, lest we forget) and John Mackey Award winner Mark Andrews in the third round. Hurst had 100 career receptions and three touchdowns in 31 college games, but was regarded as a “chess piece” the Ravens could use in the receiving game. Andrews had 112 receptions and 22 touchdowns in 35 college games and was seen as a “red-zone target.”
Andrews has made a Pro Bowl and been targeted no less than 50 times each of his three seasons in the NFL. Hurst now plays for the Atlanta Falcons.
For what it’s worth: the more and more I’ve thought about it, the more I see the Jaguars continuing to “develop” and not press adding to their tight end room… because they already have that big-bodied, red-zone threat on the roster. His name is Collin Johnson, and he’s going to need to get catches somehow.
Round 4, Pick 130
Jaylen Twyman, IDL, Pittsburgh
Another prospect who opted out of 2020. While he projects as a three-technique in a 4-3 defensive front, Twyman would give the Jaguars an interior pass rusher that they do not currently have. He had 12 TFL and 10.5 sacks in 2019. None of the Jaguars free agency additions along the line (Roy Robertson-Harris, Jihad Ward and Malcolm Brown) have had more than three sacks in a season. I know, I know: they don’t play the same position as Twyman. Well, if the Jaguars are to play the “multiple fronts” Joe Cullen told Jaguars.com they plan on playing, they’ll need players with different skill sets!
The knock on Twyman for the longest time was his size (he's 6'1''). He made the most of his 2020 opt-out season, bulking up to 301 lbs. His Pro Day was a bit of a hot mess, another reason he may fall to Day Three -- a 5.51 40-yard dash ain’t great, even if you’re 300-plus pounds. But then Twyman followed that up with an eye-popping 40 reps of 225 lbs on the bench.
He may not be Aaron Donald, but in such a lean Draft class for defensive tackles (and having not selected one earlier in this mock draft), Twyman may be Jacksonville’s best option late in Round Four.
Round 5, Pick 145
Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville
Here’s your speedy complement to James Robinson, Urban Meyer. As expected, Hawkins ran a blazing, 4.40 40-yard dash at Louisville’s Pro Day earlier this month. He gives play-callers options: he can split out, he can run a jet sweep, or he can, as he did in college, serve as a traditional tailback. “Playstation” is 5’8’’ 193 lbs, so he’s not going to be an every-down back at the next level. But he’s one of those players that need to get on the field somehow.
Perhaps surprisingly, Hawkins had only 21 career receptions at Louisville (16 of which came in 2020 before he opted out). His head coach, Scott Satterfield, told 247Sports he could’ve -- and must -- prove to be a consistent pass-catcher. Hawkins said he has spoken to all 32 NFL teams, including the Jaguars early in the Draft process. He also has limited experience as a kick returner (we know Urban Meyer loves special teams guys).
Round 5, Pick 170
Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
A guy I covered during my time in Iowa? Sort of.
This is what Smith looked like as a redshirt freshman circa 2017 (when I covered the Panthers). And this is what Smith looks like now.
6’6’’, 252 lbs coming off the edge? Not too shabby. That’s 50 pounds of quality mass since 2016 added by Smith, by the way.
Smith had an eye-popping, 21.5 TFL and 14 sacks in his lone season as a starter for the Panthers. He also had five forced fumbles; the Jaguars haven’t had a disruptive edge rusher like that since trading Yannick Ngakoue.
With that said, Smith has a lean, 252 lb frame. He’s not lining up in the trenches. But he presents another option from that outside linebacker, designated pass rusher spot to spell Josh Allen/K’Lavon Chaisson from time-to-time. And because they have Allen and Chaisson (and Zaven Collins, in this scenario), the Jaguars could afford to ease Smith’s transition to the league.
Round 7, Pick 249
Franklin “Mac” McCain III, CB, North Carolina A&T
The grandson of a civil rights icon, Mac McCain opted out of the 2020 spring season. That means he only played three seasons of college ball before declaring for the NFL Draft.
That didn’t stop him from earning two degrees in that same time-frame.
The only thing more aggressive than McCain’s pursuit of academic excellence is his coverage. He’s not afraid to mix it up with much larger receivers, a true, long press-man corner. And McCain’s got some wheels, too, having clocked a 4.46 40-yard dash at his Pro Day (many outlets say he was even quicker prior to a 2018 knee injury).
McCain burst onto the scene in 2017 when he tallied six interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Check out how he explodes to the ball on this pick. Dude is a natural ballhawk. He tore his ACL two games into the 2018 season and missed the beginning of the 2019 season. While he finished the 2019 season, he was a step slower than he was before the injury. A year of “redshirting” in the league could ease his transition from FCS as well as continued rehab from the injury. The Jaguars have bought themselves some time in waiting for McCain to develop by re-signing Tre Herndon and, presumably, keeping Chris Claybrooks and Sidney Jones around.
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Well, that was fun! Let's do this again next Monday morning, shall we?
And don't forget: you can watch all three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft LIVE on ABC25 April 29-May 1, 2021.
Hit me up on Twitter at @MiaOBrienTV or email@example.com with your thoughts for next week's Monday Mock.