ESPN not buying the Jaguars in three-year future power rankings

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Though Jacksonville will certainly hope to see some improvement after the 2020 season ended with a franchise-worst 1-15 record, the 2021 season is mostly shaping up to be a rebuilding year with a new coach, rookie quarterback, and young starters all over the field.

But this offseason was a clear investment in the future. In addition to drafting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, the Jags gave a big contract to 25-year-old former Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin and drafted guys who could eventually start on Day 2 in offensive tackle Walker Little and safety Andre Cisco.

Given these pieces (and the fact that the team has finally drafted an elite quarterback prospect), one would think the Jaguars would fare pretty well in future power rankings. But ESPN’s, which ranks the NFL teams based on potential over the next three years, is still rather bearish on Jacksonville.

The Jaguars rank just 21st with a score of 74.3, which corresponds with an “average” outlook. Here’s how the Jags break down in each factor ESPN considered. One thing worth noting is how much weight Lawrence is carrying here. When you remove him from the equation, Jacksonville’s roster ranks just 25th in the NFL.

CATEGORY

SCORE

NFL
RANK

Overall roster (minus QB)

70.8

25

Quarterback

80.8

9

Coaching

74.8

18

Draft

80.3

5

Front office

66.5

28

The Jags are also getting credit for their strong drafts the last few seasons, but it’s clear that ESPN isn’t sold on either Urban Meyer as the head coach or Trent Baalke as the general manager considering Jacksonville scores in the bottom half of the league in both coaching and front office.

Here’s ESPN’s full breakdown of the Jaguars’ outlook.

Why they’re here: From the keep-it-simple department, we could be talking about Jacksonville in a categorically different light by the middle of this season if Trevor Lawrence comes close to realizing his early potential. No one can alter the trajectory of a franchise like a rookie quarterback can, and Lawrence is about as qualified to do so as any quarterback over the past 23 years. The roster needs work around him, though. Jacksonville must hammer offensive line investments in future offseasons to keep Lawrence upright. — Yates

Biggest worry: What happens regarding Urban Meyer’s approach if he is not able to get things pointed in the right direction quickly? There are no doubts for me about how he philosophically views the game of football between the white lines, but he can’t out-recruit and outwork everyone to a successful season like he could at Ohio State. — Riddick

What could change for the better: Jacksonville has heavily invested in defensive talent and could have a top-10 defense soon enough. The first-string defense features four recent first-round picks and five veterans who signed extensions or free-agent deals worth close to $210 million combined in the past 24 months. Jacksonville would have to work overtime to mess this up. — Fowler

Stat to know: The Jags’ pass defense ranked 31st in expected points added per play last season. The good news is they invested resources to fix it — Shaquill Griffin arrived in free agency, Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco were selected in the draft and CJ Henderson has a year under his belt. — Walder

The breakdown makes it clear that a lack of confidence in Meyer and uncertainty regarding defensive improvements are the main things holding the Jags back on these rankings. However, as Louis Riddick points out, the play of Lawrence is an X-factor here that can’t be understated.

If he’s dominant as a rookie, it will go a long way to mask the roster deficiencies that still plague the team in 2021. Only time will tell if he’ll have a transcendent first season like Justin Herbert did last year, but for the time being, ESPN remains unconvinced.