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2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Trevor Lawrence, Year 2 breakout candidate

Hey, remember when the Jacksonville Jaguars were splitting first-team reps between Gardner Minshew and Trevor Lawrence last summer, pretending a legitimate competition existed at quarterback?

And remember how that episode of coaching malfeasance ended up not even being one of the 50 dumbest things that happened under Urban Meyer?

Yeah, last season was a wild, stupid ride for the Jags, a team that did literally everything wrong on its way to a 3-14 record. Urb's carnival of horrors spared no one who entered, Lawrence included.

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Just twelve short months ago, pretty much everyone believed the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft had superstar potential. Today, after a season in which Lawrence threw only a dozen TD passes and a league-leading 17 interceptions, we treat him as an afterthought in fantasy. He's drafted in only 51 percent of Yahoo leagues, taken later than Mac Jones and Justin Fields when he's drafted at all.

The case for Lawrence to make a massive fantasy (and reality) leap in his second pro season is, in fact, easily made. For starters...

Arm talent is definitely not a worry

Lawrence is very much still the guy who threw 90 touchdown passes over three seasons at Clemson while producing a 38-2 record. His completion percentage and yards per attempt improved in every collegiate season. Arm strength, anticipation and accuracy aren't issues here.

You may have already seen the dart Lawrence tossed against the Steelers in the team's third preseason game, but just in case:

He consistently attacked outside and downfield against Pittsburgh, completing 14 of 21 throws, generally looking the part of a dangerous NFL passer. His arm is plenty live. If you believed in his talent a year ago, there's no reason you should doubt him now. Also...

Lawrence is a member of the dual-threat club

In an often disappointing and relentlessly chaotic rookie season, you may have missed the fact that Lawrence ran for 334 yards and two TDs. Only six NFL quarterbacks out-rushed him. He wrecked poor Sam Hubbard on this filthy Thursday night rushing score:

Lawrence was a devastatingly effective runner at Clemson, too, crossing the goal-line 18 times in his three years — and those scores weren't simply one-yard plunges.

We're not trying to tell you Lawrence is about to do Josh Allen-ish things as a runner, but 400-plus rushing yards and 4-5 scores is definitely in play. He's hardly a statue. Jacksonville has had him on the move in the preseason, which is sensible. Whatever else you think of Doug Pederson, hopefully we can all acknowledge this one important fact...

This year, the Jaguars are coached by an adult

Even if you set aside Urban Meyer's various non-football missteps (which you shouldn't), the level of dysfunction and toxicity in Jacksonville last year was still almost unprecedented.

It's kind of incredible that anyone gave Urb the benefit of the doubt through the Minshew nonsense, the hopelessness of the Tim Tebow experiment, the preseason treatment of D.J. Chark and the fierce, inexplicable dedication to Carlos Hyde. The Jaguars were a steaming mess. It appeared that a guiding principle of the team's passing offense was to have all receivers arrive at the same spot simultaneously. Meyer routinely disavowed any responsibility for seemingly important decisions. It was simply a wasted year.

Doug Pederson being the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach is a major upgrade for Trevor Lawrence, making the QB more appealing in fantasy. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Doug Pederson being the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach is a major upgrade for Trevor Lawrence, making the QB more appealing in fantasy. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pederson has, of course, reached the pinnacle of the sport and he did it with a combination of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles at QB. His coaching staff is loaded with experience and competence. Based on what we've seen in the preseason to this point, it sure seems as if the team is putting Lawrence in favorable positions and playing to his strengths. At the very least, the Jags offense has been designed by people who've clearly done this sort of thing before. And then there's this...

Jacksonville's receiving corps is undeniably improved

We all had jokes when this team spent a zillion dollars on a group of not-quite-elite receivers. But when a franchise reinvents what it means to hit rock-bottom, the cost to acquire talent understandably goes up.

Last year, Jacksonville funneled 188 total targets to Laviska Shenault Jr., Laquon Treadwell and Tavon Austin. Redistributing many of those opportunities to Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Zay Jones is going to benefit Lawrence specifically and this team's offense generally. Wherever you've slotted Kirk and Engram on your cheat sheet, it's probably too low. Travis Etienne's return from injury is a gift to the Jaguars' passing game as well; he caught 85 balls for 1,020 yards in his final two seasons at Clemson, producing nearly all of those numbers with Lawrence.

It wasn't so long ago that analysts were using the word "generational" to describe Lawrence's talent and his place in the prospect hierarchy. He was then dropped into the worst first-year situation imaginable. Don't be surprised when he thrives in a more ordered and supportive environment, surrounded by proven, capable vets. Keep Lawrence in your plans as a deep-league QB target, a player with a clear chance to vault into the position's top-12.

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