Grading the Jaguars’ draft: Cole Pepper’s marks

Jaguars' first round picks Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence with Jaguars' head coach Urban Meyer. (2021 WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Let me start by acknowledging that the whole concept of grading a draft is a little bit crazy. But because I cover an NFL team, there is an FCC requirement, I believe, to produce a draft grade segment every year, so here goes.

When I grade a draft, I weigh it. The higher the pick, the more weight it gets in the draft grade formula. So the first pick of the draft is substantially more important to get right than a pick in the sixth round.

So here goes.

Round 1, pick 1 - Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson

The selection of Lawrence is an absolute A-plus. Any other pick would not have been--and I don’t give out A-pluses very often. But this is a slam dunk of a pick and it makes the rest of the draft look a whole lot better.

Round 1, pick 25 - Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson

Choosing Etienne with the 25th pick was a bit of a luxury pick in my opinion. I think he can be a good player and I ran some mock draft simulations where I picked him in the second round, so I like the addition and I think he can make a difference, but I prefer drafting quarterbacks, pass rushers, and left tackles in the first round and failing that, interior defensive lineman. The big guys. The Jaguars didn’t do that here. SO it’s a B-plus for me.

Round 2, pick 33 - Tyson Campbell, cornerback, Georgia

With the first pick of the second round, the Jaguars selected Campbell, a cornerback some had graded as a first-round pick, and others projected to a mid-to-late second-round selection. I’m not against this pick, I just don’t think it’s a home run pick. I give it a middle B. If he can do what Jalen Ramsey did and improve on catching interceptions as a pro, this grade gets better.

Round 2, pick 45 - Walker Little, offensive tackle, Stanford

Taking Little with their other second-round pick feels like it needs two grades. For the immediate impact, I’m skeptical. He’s played only one game in the past two years, but he was very good as a sophomore and was expected to be a top tackle as a junior before his knee injury. He opted out in 2020. He has a year to prepare for the NFL since the Jaguars used the franchise tag on Cam Robinson, so it could work out. B-minus in the short term, B-plus in the long term.

Round 3, pick 65 - Andre Cisco, free safety, Syracuse

I like the pick of Cisco at the top of the third round. He’s a ballhawk. Although he tended to take some risks in coverage at Syracuse, I think that can be coached out of him. It’s a low A for me.

Round 4, pick 106 - Jay Tufele, defensive tackle, Syracuse

Tufele is probably the most intriguing pick for me. Some think he will be a starter from day one. I don’t expect that out of any fourth-round pick. But I do like the pick. He adds some beef up front and addresses an area the Jaguars struggled in last year, run defense. Another low-A for me here, although this is about the area of the draft where I thought the Jaguars could address the tight end position.

Round 4, pick 121 - Jordan Smith, defensive end, UAB

Smith is intended to be the backup to Josh Allen. While I’m fine with trading late-round picks to move up for a player, there is one aspect of Smith’s predraft workout that bothers me. His three-cone drill lacked suddenness. Maybe he just had a bad day. He showed some burst on the field. In any event, he’s a backup right away and maybe a starter in the future. C-plus.

Round 5, pick 145 - Luke Farrell, tight end, Ohio State

Farrell is predominantly a blocking tight end from Ohio State. Raise your hand if you think Farrell would have been drafted if he played somewhere else? No? Me either. It’s fine that Urban Meyer knows the kid, but you don’t have to draft blocking tight ends. You sign them as undrafted rookie free agents. There are some positions you just don’t have to spend draft capital on. In Meyer’s last year at Ohio St., Farrell caught a career-high 20 passes. So maybe there’s more to him than just being a blocker. But even if he’s the best blocking tight end in the draft, it’s a C-minus.

Round 6, pick 209 - Jalen Camp, wide receiver, Georgia Tech

This is totally a flyer of a pick. Camp has very good size-speed-strength measurements but is very raw. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds, he seems like a competitor/replacement for Collin Johnson. Again, a bit of a luxury pick. He’ll need to make the team first, then contribute on special teams. Middle-C as far as the grade.

So add it all up, and I’m giving the Jaguars a B-plus in the draft. And I’ll just say this: What would you give the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL draft when they took Tom Brady? Or the Colts in 1998 when they selected Peyton Manning? Or the Chiefs in 2018 when they took Patrick Mahomes? Ultimately, draft grades don’t matter if you get the quarterback right. Then, it’s all an A-plus.