For the better part of the past year, the conventional wisdom has held that former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence would not only be the top overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft but is also a generational talent capable of singlehandedly changing the fortunes of whichever franchise lucky enough to select him. While Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars appear set to follow the thinking of the masses and choose Lawrence with the first pick in the draft, the reality is that the QB prospect is less of a sure thing than his proponents would have you believe.
Specifically, Lawrence could struggle in a league where there is enough parity across the board that he cannot simply out-talent his way to victory.
During his tenure with the Tigers, Lawrence tended to rely on his brute arm strength and superior speed of his receivers to force the ball into tighter windows than he otherwise should have. Through a combination of sheer athletic talent on the side of the Clemson receiving corps and the strength of Lawrence’s right arm, the former National Championship MVP was picked off only 17 times over the course of his three-year career with the Tigers–good enough for a minuscule 1.4 interception rate. Emboldened by his continued success attacking secondaries down the field, Lawrence largely operated in the same way throughout his tenure, valuing quick releases and his throwing ability rather than trusting his offensive line to hold the pocket while he made more mature reads.
Even if his career numbers are positive–and to be clear, Lawrence’s raw production while in the NCAA is quite frankly staggering–the process by which they are accumulated often matter as much as the total themselves.
By all accounts, the quarterback possesses a high football IQ, able to break down film and identify trends and schemes as they develop, but his unwillingness, or inability, to deploy that knowledge during the heat and pace of games may turn out to matter more than his work in the leadup to Sundays. In a league where windows are tighter and top-level players are only marginally better than the average ones, a player’s success often depends on their ability to maximize the gifts they have rather than hoping their talent will do all the work.
For the past three years, Lawrence could rest knowing that he stood head and shoulders above whatever opponent the Tigers had that week. In the NFL, he will have no such luxury.
Trevor Lawrence may grow and find a way to maximize every opportunity a defense allows him, but we haven’t seen him do so yet. It’s time to stop pretending he’s a finished product when in reality, he is a prospect that could very easily fail. Hopefully, the Jaguars have considered all of their options