Reviews mixed on Jaguars drafting Clemson duo


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While surprising, pundits can see why the Jaguars selected Etienne to team up again with Lawrence.
While surprising, pundits can see why the Jaguars selected Etienne to team up again with Lawrence.

New Jacksonsville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said late Thursday night that he had identified drafting the duo of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne a couple months ago.

The move surprised some, especially pundits who have had the idea cemented that taking a running back in the NFL draft first round isn't the way to go. Combine that with having a surprise 1,000-yard rusher last year in James Robinson coming back -- and the individual grades for Etienne's 25th overall selection were not great.

Sporting News graded the pick as a 'D.'

"Lawrence and Etienne led the Tigers’ offense to a lot of big plays and wins in college together, but Urban Meyer made a head-scratching luxury pick here for a team that got a terrific workhorse season from undrafted James Robinson in 2020," SN's Vinnie Iyer writes. "The Jaguars ignored plenty of available defensive help for their rebuild there, across the board. Etienne is a home-run back with great receiving skills, but he doesn’t make Jacksonville that much better with Robinson already there.

"This was a good range for him; it’s just a completely wrong team."

CBS Sports analyzed it as a C+ pick.

"He's my favorite back in this class as a true air back," Pete Prisco said. "He will give them the speed they need in the backfield and help the passing game. But he's still a back in the first round."

Not everybody was in that camp, however, as Yahoo liked the offensive boost that Etienne and Lawrence will be bring, grading Etienne's selection at B-.

"The Clemson-to-Jacksonville pipeline continues with Lawrence at No. 1 and Etienne here. That’s a hell of a backfield now," Yahoo said, "with James Robinson handling the dirty work and Etienne as the weapon in space. With those receivers, a solid line and two quality backs, the Jaguars suddenly have some real offensive juice."

As a package deal, ESPN called the Jaguars one of the winners of the draft day one ($).

"I don't love taking first-round running backs, but I see the logic here," Mel Kiper Jr. said, "in that the Jaguars can build around two great playmakers and figure out the rest later. Etienne is a great pass-catcher, too, and he can be on the field at the same time as James Robinson. Plus, the Jaguars have three more picks in the top 65. I don't think they are done getting help on offense."

NFL.com's Chad Reuter graded the Jags' draft start as an 'A' overall.

"Thursday night turned into a Clemson party in Jacksonville with the selection of Etienne, a very good back with top-40 value who could be explosive if his offensive line gives him gaps to exploit," Reuter said. "His combination of power and speed is tough to stop once he gets those feet churning, whether Lawrence is handing him the ball or throwing it to him out of the backfield.

"With James Robinson already in place, however, I would have expected them to go in another direction, such as the offensive line (Liam Eichenberg, Teven Jenkins) or receiver (Rashod Bateman). It never hurts to have quality depth at running back given the potential for injuries at the position, though."

Day two of the NFL draft with rounds 2-3, where Amari Rodgers and Jackson Carman are projected candidates, starts at 7 p.m. on ABC/ESPN/NFL Network.

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