- Can Trevor Lawrence build off his strong finish to 2022?: From Week 9 onward, however, he posted a 90.0 grade and trailed only Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes.
- New weapons: The Calvin Ridley addition should aid Lawrence's ability to put up MVP-caliber numbers in 2023 if the environment around them remains positive.
- Bottom line: Lawrence was effectively playing at an MVP level over the second half of the season, and if he just continued that vein of form into the 2023 season and sustains it all year, he will be firmly in the conversation.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
If Trevor Lawrence has truly “arrived,” does he have a shot of winning NFL MVP in 2023? This is a real question we should be asking following how Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars finished the 2022 season.
When Lawrence was drafted he was billed as the best quarterback prospect since at least Andrew Luck (2012), and possibly as far back as Peyton Manning (1998) or even John Elway (1983). His rookie year was squandered in one of the worst coaching tenures in league history, but the Jaguars made the postseason before winning a playoff game thanks to a very impressive second half of his sophomore season.
Overall in 2022, Lawrence posted a 78.6 PFF grade — solid, if unspectacular, and good enough for 14th in the league. From Week 9 onward, however, he posted a 90.0 grade and trailed only Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes.
Lawrence also posted stats that looked a lot like those elite quarterbacks over that span as well.
Perhaps more importantly, his stats were also night and day from his previous baseline. Until Week 8 of his second season, Lawrence averaged 6.2 yards per attempt, completed 60.5% of his passes and recorded a 3.3% big-time throw rate —all of which skyrocketed after Week 9. He totaled only three fewer big-time throws in the second half of last season than he had in his entire career to that point.
Critically, that uptick in performance also led to wins. The Jaguars went 7-2 to finish the regular season with the two losses coming early in the run to the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. They reeled off five straight victories to end the season and then knocked off the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs before coming up short again to the Chiefs.
The Jags enter the 2023 season as the AFC South favorites, in part, because of how far the rest of the teams have fallen, but it also sets this team up with the ingredients for end-of-season awards.
The biggest issue is whether the pattern in performance is real, or just the product of small sample sizes. Is this a trend or just noise within the signal?
We have seen similar anomalous runs from players in the past. It’s entirely possible that Lawrence and the Jags simply hit a rich vein of form, so 2023 will see a regression to a more average baseline. Because Lawrence is young and came with such big billing at draft time, we naturally want to lean toward the light going on and the second half of last season serving as his “arrival” on the biggest stage.
So, let’s dare to dream. If last season was, in fact, his coming out party, Lawrence heads into the 2023 season playing as well as any quarterback in the game with an ascending football team around him.
Calvin Ridley returns from suspension to play his first football for the team and add to the weaponry the Jags already have at their disposal. Ridley is one of the best route runners in the game and even if his status as a true No. 1 receiver is up for debate, the last full season we saw from him produced 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 2.44 yards per route run, and in five games in 2021, he recorded 51 targets. He would make a significant impact on any roster in the NFL, but the Jaguars, in particular, have the space for a receiver with his skill set to earn a large number of targets.
Nobody has ever doubted that Lawrence has supreme talent. Pulling out one of his big-time throws to illustrate what he is capable of seems superfluous. His 6.4% big-time throw rate down the stretch last season trailed only Josh Allen, and he offset those big plays with a turnover-worthy play rate almost half that of Allen. Lawrence was effectively playing at an MVP level over the second half of the season, and if he just continued that vein of form into the 2023 season and sustains it all year, he will be firmly in the conversation.
The start to his career caused everybody to have to tap the brakes a little on Trevor Lawrence hype, but a year and a half into his career he is now back on the course everybody expected him to be on when he was coming into the league.
If the Jaguars stay on course and become a true force in the loaded AFC this season, Lawrence’s MVP candidacy will be a real thing to be reckoned with.