Franchise quarterbacks in the NFL are hard to come by. No team in the league knows that better than the Jacksonville Jaguars. In their 26 seasons, the closest they've come to a franchise QB is Mark Brunell, and he last started a game for them in 2003.
This is why the Jags securing the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was so momentous. Can't-miss quarterback prospect Trevor Lawrence is ripe for the picking and promises decades of success for the Jags. And yet the prefix "prospect" is such an important word ahead of Trevor Lawrence. Because while virtually every quarterback evaluator and draft expert peg Lawrence as "can't miss," he most certainly can, just as so many given that title have in the past.
Do you know who is can't-miss? Deshaun Watson. A three-time Pro Bowler who led the league in passing yards this season and has led the Texans to the playoffs two times, Watson is the kind of quarterback every team dreams of acquiring. Unfortunately for Houston, they've alienated Watson to the point he's reportedly considering requesting a trade. If those rumblings are true, the first team that should reach out is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Lawrence is currently the shiny object of affection for every fan of the teal, black and gold, he's also unproven in the NFL and, just throwing out numbers, was less productive at Clemson than Watson was. Yes, in case you forgot, Watson was the full-time starting quarterback at Clemson from 2015-2016, and in those years, his sophomore and junior seasons, he threw for more yards and touchdowns and rushed for more yards and touchdowns than Lawrence did in his sophomore and junior seasons.
Now, you can turn around and tell me Watson also threw for 30 interceptions in those seasons to Lawrence's 13, but I'll just point to Watson's 97 total touchdowns to Lawrence's 77. After we're done there, we can discuss the fact that Watson has thrown 104 touchdowns to only 36 interceptions in four seasons the NFL, so I think we can all agree any "turnover issues" you want to bring up in regard to Watson have no footing.
Of course, those college statistics are not comparing apples to apples. They had different teammates and faced different opponents. And yet, in the same offensive system run by the same coach (Dabo Swinney), Watson was superior to Lawrence in those statistics. Those are just facts.
Forgetting what I've just mentioned in terms of Watson's statistics and proven ability to win in the NFL, both in the regular season and the playoffs, if the Texans were to trade Watson (and that is a big IF) they're going to want a big trade package in return. Well, there's nothing bigger than the No. 1 pick when Trevor Lawrence is in the draft. Perhaps the Texans would ask for more, like the Jags' second first-round pick in 2021, or at minimum the 33rd pick. But because Houston is projected to be $20.3 million over the cap in 2021 during a rebuilding year with a new coach and GM, I'd venture to say they would be okay moving on from one Clemson quarterback for another.
Now comes the really sticky part. These are division foes. Neither is going to want to lose this trade. Lawrence is the can't-miss kid. Watson is the doesn't-miss man. One of them will likely win a Super Bowl in their career and each franchise would be making a huge gamble by giving up the other to a team they play twice a year.
Yet in this case neither should lose. Both of these players have been durable throughout their careers. Both have proven to be elite players and leaders and, perhaps most important, good people. They are humble and driven to win. They don't get in trouble off the field. They don't come across as me-first guys. Everyone loves them.
Still, if I'm Jacksonville, I'm trying to get the guy who I've seen dominate the NFL rather than the guy I've only seen dominate the ACC.
This is not to knock Lawrence. As mentioned, he's got it all and everyone believes he could be one of those generational talents. Hard to pass up on that. But for a franchise that has had no success drafting quarterbacks or signing them in free agency, now's the time to swing for the fences and trade for a quarterback who you know will lead your franchise to greatness for the next 15 years. As long as Jacksonville doesn't mess up as bad as the Texans did, that's a bigger guarantee than Lawrence at No. 1.