The franchise arrives: Jaguars make Trevor Lawrence top pick in NFL draft

Clemson QB is one of highest-rated NFL draft prospects ever

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2019, filer photo, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson is preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.(AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2019, filer photo, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, in Clemson, S.C. Clemson is preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.(AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The silver lining. The franchise. The generational quarterback prospect.

Duval has found its leading man.

The Jaguars turned the page to the next chapter in franchise history, making Trevor Lawrence the No. 1 overall selection Thursday night in the NFL draft. Usually, there’s at least some type of suspense surrounding a top draft pick, but this wasn’t one of them.

There was no surprise. No doubt. No questions.

“Couldn’t be more excited. I think it’s a great fit. Me and my family, we’re just so excited to get down there. Thank you guys for all the support already,” Lawrence said.

“Like, we’re not even there yet and we definitely feel the love and support, and really excited just to bring some energy to the city and do everything in my power to get us back to where we want to be. So, thank you guys so much. It’s going to be a really fun year and just know that once I get there, all my focus, all my attention is to make us the best we can be. So, thank you guys.”

The Jaguars used most of their allotted 10-minute draft window before they delivered the card to commissioner Roger Goodell, and with it, optimistically change the trajectory of the struggling franchise that bottomed out to a 1-15 record last season.

Lawrence (6-5, 213 pounds) has been dubbed a can’t-miss prospect and a once-in-a-career quarterback.

Behind the NFL awarding Jacksonville the franchise on Nov. 30, 1993, drafting Lawrence is arguably the most seismic moment in Jaguars history. There’s that much electricity and momentum behind getting Lawrence, one of the most polished and hyped prospects in draft history.

Lawrence has been on the minds of NFL general managers since he led Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman. He never lost a regular-season game in high school or college.

Never.

Lawrence went 69-0 at those levels (38-0 at Cartersville High in Georgia, and 31-0 at Clemson).

And Lawrence will start his NFL career on a pedestal in a city that has been starving for a franchise quarterback ever since it dealt Mark Brunell to Washington in 2004.

Fourteen different quarterbacks have started for the team since Brunell’s departure. The players who have auditioned for that role have run the gamut from promising and engaging (Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Gardner Minshew), to flat-out terrible (Blaine Gabbert). There have reaches in the draft made worse by financial commitments (Blake Bortles) and just plain bad signings (Nick Foles).

Lawrence is positioned to change the direction of the franchise on the field, and he’s already been doing it off of it.

The city has already been branded Trevor Town, with Lawrence fever building ever since it became apparent that the Jaguars would get the No. 1 pick. Fans have embraced Lawrence. Jaguars players have talked about him in veiled references, knowing that he’s been the target for months. He donated $20,000 to be split among three charities in Northeast Florida after fans chipped in to buy him a toaster from his wedding registry.

Lawrence is the most hyped quarterback prospect to enter the league since Andrew Luck in 2012. He’s been lauded by many in and around NFL circles as a player who could develop into a player along the lines of a John Elway or a Peyton Manning. Consider the timelines of those three players.

Elway went No. 1 overall to the Baltimore Colts in 1983. Manning went first to the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Luck came along 14 years after that, and also went to the Colts. Finding a player of that caliber doesn’t happen often. And it has never happened to the Jaguars.

They’ve whiffed time and again in the draft and free agency. They used high draft picks on players like Leftwich and Gabbert and Bortles. They spent a third-round pick on a punter when Russell Wilson was still on the board. They drafted a running back No. 3 overall when Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes were available. The Jaguars gave Foles an $88 million deal in free agency, only to jettison him a year later.

Lawrence has the potential to put that history of failure in the rearview in a hurry.

The Lawrence factor was one of the largest in pulling coach Urban Meyer from the television set into the NFL for the first time. Had Jacksonville been drafting second or third, would Meyer be the one in charge now? Probably not.

“Coach Meyer, got a great feel just talking to him on the phone and obviously I’m excited to get down there and be in person with the guys and the coaches and all that,” Lawrence said.

“But I think the biggest thing is that he’s a winner. You’ve seen he’s done that his whole career so I’m really excited to be a part of that. And then number two, like you said about just adjusting and adapting. I think that’s something I do well just because I want to earn the respect of everyone around me, teammates, coaches. I’m not really, I’m not expecting for anyone to hand me anything. I want to come in there and earn the respect and the right to lead the team. So that’s, that’s what I’m gonna do and just put the work in like I said.”

That the Jaguars had the fortune of being in position to draft Lawrence took producing the worst season in franchise history at just the right time.

The Jaguars have been erratic as a franchise, but they’ve been mostly awful since owner Shad Khan purchased them from Wayne Weaver in 2012. In those nine years, Jacksonville is 39-105 in the regular season and has picked in the top 10 all but once. But they’d never been as bad as they were in 2020, a testament to a dearth of talent on the roster and purging bad contracts to set the table for the future.

That all crashed together in spectacular fashion late in 2020.

When the New York Jets upset the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 20, 2020, it put the Jaguars in position to be able to select Lawrence. Jacksonville officially secured the top pick a week later with New York’s second consecutive win and the Jaguars’ 14th straight loss. The euphoria was everywhere. Sports merchandise shops in town started putting out shirts with Lawrence’s name and number on it.

Khan later fired coach Doug Marrone and lured Meyer to Jacksonville, took the interim role off of general manager Trent Baalke and set the table for the most spectacular offseason in franchise history.

On Thursday night, they landed the player who will lead the franchise into its new era.

The Trevor Lawrence file

Age: 21

Family: Wife, Marissa; parents, Amanda and Jeremy; siblings, Chase and Olivia

Position: Quarterback

High school: Cartersville High, Ga.

Record in high school: 52-2 as a starter

High school stats/notable: 13,908 passing yards, 161 TDs, 21 INTs; USA Today offensive player of the year; U.S. Army player of the year; won two state championships and went 14-2 in the state playoffs

College: Clemson

Record in college: 34-2 as a starter

College stats/notable: 10,098 passing yards, 90 TDs, 17 INTs; 943 rushing yards, 18 TDs; never lost a regular-season game as a starter; led Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman; Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2020

College major: Degree in marketing

Endorsement deals: Adidas, Blockfolio, Bose, Gatorade, Topps

Trevor Lawrence was the Jaguars No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night. (News4Jax)

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