Almost every No. 1 overall pick walks into a tough situation in Year 1 — after all, their new team finished dead last in the NFL the year prior. In the case of Trevor Lawrence, his debut season with the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars was about as bad as it can get — both on and off the field.
The play-calling was suspect; the offensive line was a bottom-10 unit; receivers consistently dropped passes and lost at the catch point; and the head coach's antics made him a weekly punching bag by the media.
It was nearly an impossible environment to play in for a first-year starting quarterback.
Click here for more PFF tools:
Lawrence proceeded to finish his rookie campaign with a 59.6 PFF grade that ranked 28th in the NFL and third among rookies. While his debut NFL grade was a poor mark, there were positives in his play that signal promise for the Clemson product in the coming seasons.
REVIEWING TREVOR LAWRENCE’S ROOKIE CAMPAIGN
Lawrence was the most complete quarterback prospect PFF has ever scouted coming out of the collegiate ranks. There were plenty of strengths within his game, including the ability to make any throw to all levels of the field. As a rookie, he recorded at least one big-time throw in 15 of his 17 starts — only six other quarterbacks in the NFL delivered at least one big-time throw in 15 starts last season. The arm talent the football world fell in love with at Clemson showed up in Jacksonville right away.
While the accuracy was inconsistent throughout his rookie year, Lawrence showed a good understanding of his receivers' leverage in contested scenarios. He placed it where only his wide receiver could get it. Lawrence’s 10 big-time throws to a contested target outside the numbers were the second-most in the NFL behind only Kyler Murray.
His special arm showed up on the many dropbacks Lawrence had to endure under pressure. The Jaguars passer typically stayed composed under pressure, something rarely seen from a first-year starter. After a few rough performances to start, Lawrence ranked top-10 in both big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate from Week 4 through the rest of the season, something only he, Joe Burrow and Aaron Rodgers managed during that span.
Trevor Lawrence is cool af pic.twitter.com/cgow9VgZYd
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 10, 2022
Lawrence’s pocket presence was as good as it was at Clemson, too. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback owned a pressure-to-sack rate of 14.5% as a rookie. It was the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL, the lowest among 2021 rookies by multiple percentage points and the seventh-lowest among all rookies in the PFF era (since 2006). Maneuvering the pocket under pressure is second nature for Lawrence. His mobility shined, allowing him to escape the pocket and turn what would have been a sack into a big gain. Lawrence’s 11 explosive runs of 10 or more yards on scrambles tied for sixth in the NFL.
At the end of the day, Lawrence still earned a poor PFF grade as a rookie. Bad decisions and forced throws were a big reason. When throwing beyond the line of scrimmage, 4.7% of his passes in 2021 were deemed a turnover-worthy play — the seventh-worst rate in the NFL. Lawrence produced multiple turnover-worthy plays in nine of his starts, tying for the second-most in the NFL behind only Ben Roethlisberger at 11. He had a tendency to force throws to his first read in college, and that was no different in Year 1 of the pro ranks.
Lawrence needs to understand the NFL is a different ball game: The defenders are smarter, faster and stronger than those in the ACC, and his receiver isn’t going to bail him out nearly as much. That will come with more reps. He still had plenty of high-level “quarterbacking” moments, like hitting the backside dig, going side-to-side with his eyes and moving defenders to open throwing lanes, but there’s no denying the inconsistency in his reads.
first look doesn't take the bait, scans across to see the other CB take it and immediately drops in a perfect ball for a TD
Trevor Lawrence ???? pic.twitter.com/XQoQ0zrz9l
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 28, 2022
look at him open up this throw with his eyes pic.twitter.com/FUEElxiZiF
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) January 10, 2022
The accuracy was up-and-down as well in his rookie campaign, which was a concern in the pre-draft process. Lawrence had these small bouts of inaccuracy at Clemson, and they popped up in Jacksonville. He ranked 27th in uncatchable pass rate beyond the line of scrimmage and 24th in accuracy rate over expected in 2021.
Related content for you:
Lawrence still has rare tools and would be the first quarterback off the board in a redraft right now. His rookie campaign was full of lows, but there were highs scattered throughout a bad situation that should make the Jaguars excited for the future. With a loaded set of draft capital anchored by the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and the second-most cap space available this March, Jacksonville has every opportunity to revamp Lawrence’s supporting cast.
Here’s how they can do it.
IMPROVING THE OFFENSE AROUND LAWRENCE IN FREE AGENCY