By: Hays Carlyon
Get all your licks in now, punks.
Yes, I am including myself in the punks as well.
Get all the shots and jokes out of your system in the next few months.
Because I am making a guarantee.
The Jaguars won’t be down after this season.
The Jaguars will be in the 2021 playoffs.
Yes, even if Jaguars owner Shad Khan decides to bring back general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone.
I see the Jaguars in the 2021 playoffs no matter how the quarterback fortunes go this season, as we finally get underway Sunday when Indianapolis visits TIAA Bank Field.
If the Jaguars surprise everyone, Gardner Minshew stays and enters his third season. His bar for keeping the starting job might not be as high as you think. If Minshew can put up similar numbers to his rookie season and win six games, the Jaguars might stick with him. Keep in mind, the legendary Drew Brees threw 29 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in his first three years in the NFL.
If the Jaguars live up to their lousy preseason billing, they will have the first pick. That would likely mean Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence arrives, assuming he decides to enter the draft early.
Could a rookie quarterback lead the downtrodden Jaguars into the playoffs? Absolutely. Lawrence will have the same affect on his team that Andrew Luck had on Indianapolis in 2012. The Colts went 2-14 the year prior. Luck won 11 games as a rookie, a staggering nine-win improvement.
Lawrence has an easier path then Luck since the playoffs are now expanded to include seven teams.
The key is the volume Caldwell has amassed in a painful way. By trading so many talented players, he’s stockpiled loads of picks.
It’s the volume that will ultimately win the day for the Jaguars. Even great NFL teams whiff on 60 percent of their personnel decisions.
The key is playing the percentages. If you have a seven-man draft class, the odds of picking four impactful players is slim. If you have a 12-man draft class, the odds become excellent.
Caldwell just selected 12 rookies in the draft and all of them made the team. Four other undrafted rookies made the squad.
That adds to the eight second-year veterans on the roster.
So, that’s 24 players in their first or second year. That will likely bring pain in the present.
Of those 24, defensive end Josh Allen looks like a star and right tackle Jawaan Taylor looks like he’s headed to a successful career.
Now, look at the 2021 season, starting with the draft.
The Jaguars have two first-round picks, two-second round picks, a third-round choice, two fourth-round selections and two fifth-rounders. That’s nine picks in the first five rounds and 11 overall.
That’s now 35 players brought in from 2019-21.
That list doesn’t include 11 older veterans that could return in 2021 like receiver DJ Chark, center Brandon Linder, outside linebacker Myles Jack, middle linebacker Joe Schobert, kicker Josh Lambo, receiver Chris Conley, left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, safety Jarrod Wilson, punter Logan Cooke and defensive tackle Taven Bryan.
Caldwell has played the percentages to the point where either he, or a new general manager, will have the odds working in their favor.
If you have 35 young players, you really only need 12 of them to become stars or quality starters to be a playoff team. The batting average (34 percent) fits what a mediocre decision maker should attain. Again, Allen and Taylor already get the Jaguars to two with the possibility of Minshew joining them.
The draft will be the biggest key in the turnaround, but free agency can’t be discounted.
The Jaguars will have nearly as much salary-cap space as any team in the NFL in 2021. We know Khan will spend. That’s never been an issue.
So, if the Jaguars do see a difference-maker available on the market, they will be as well armed as any team to present the richest deal.
I believe Khan and Caldwell have always eyed 2021 as their return to contention from the start of this offseason. It’s why I do believe they (not the coaches or players) are tanking this season.
The plan is clear and well thought out, if you can stomach one more tough campaign.
The Jaguars stockpile of current and future assets make it a certainty.
The Jaguars are going to the playoffs in 2021.
It’s a matter of simple math.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)