Trevor Lawrence goes to Jacksonville Jaguars with No. 1 pick in 2021 NFL Draft

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The Jaguars’ star-studded pairing of Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer is finally official.

It’s been presumed since the end of the 2018 college football season — when Lawrence quarterbacked Clemson to the national title as a true freshman — that he would be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, his first year of eligibility. And it’s been known since Dec. 27, 2020 — when Jacksonville clinched the NFL’s worst record — where Lawrence was headed.

Two long roads intersected Thursday in Cleveland with the formality of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announcing Lawrence as the first pick of the first round.

Lawrence is held in the same regard as John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as the can’t-miss quarterback prospects of the past 40 years. Elway and Manning won two Super Bowls each, and Luck was on an upward trajectory before injuries forced an early retirement.

After years of rebuffing interest from the NFL, including from the Browns in his home state of Ohio, Meyer finally bit at the chance to come out of retirement. But the lure was bigger than a monster contract and a chance to return to the area where he is renowned for winning two national titles as coach at the University of Florida. It was the opportunity to coach Lawrence, whom Meyer gushed over in his role as Fox Sports college football analyst.

Lawrence is the first top-three draft pick ever out of Clemson and the third first-round quarterback from his alma mater, joining Deshaun Watson (2017) and Steve Fuller (1979). He is the fourth straight quarterback drafted No. 1 overall, following Baker Mayfield (2018), Kyler Murray (2019) and Joe Burrow (2020). The only longer streak in NFL history happened when five straight quarterbacks were taken No. 1 from 2001-05.

The Jaguars’ pre-draft due diligence, according to NFL.com, included narrowing the top of their board to three quarterbacks: Fields, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. That omitted projected first-round picks Mac Jones and Trey Lance. Fields played at Ohio State for Ryan Day, Meyer’s protégé and successor as coach.

What did they uncover on Lawrence?

“No negatives,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said. “All the research we’ve done, you’re always looking for the stars to align when you’re looking at prospects, whether that be from a physical, mental, character aspect, whatever the case may be. With his situation, like many others in this draft, the stars all align.”

Lawrence came under a silly amount of fire this month for this quote to Sports Illustrated: “I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong.”

Saying the opposite would have been phony, however. He was the No. 1 national recruit and is 86-4 going back to high school, including 34-2 at Clemson. His last regular-season loss happened before he entered the ninth grade.

And yet Lawrence is joining a franchise that finished last season on a 15-game losing streak and has compiled a winning record just once in the past 13 seasons, when the Jaguars were minutes away from winning the 2017 AFC title game against the Patriots.

The Jaguars’ focus immediately turned to building a winning team around Lawrence, which started with a second first-round pick at No. 25. 

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