After Sugar Bowl loss, what's next for Trevor Lawrence? Clemson star will be No. 1 pick
NEW ORLEANS — Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence's legacy was complete even before the Tigers' 49-28 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national semifinals.
With one national championship, a second appearance in the championship game and three playoff appearances to go with his 90 touchdown passes, Lawrence will go down as the one of the most accomplished college quarterbacks in recent history.
"Yeah, just finishing with no regrets," Lawrence said Friday. "Obviously tonight didn't go well, but I know that the way I prepared, the way this team prepared, and then just this whole year, the way we've carried ourselves, I'm proud of it. I don't have any regrets. There's not much I'd go back and change."
If there is any asterisk on an otherwise shining college career, however, it would be in the results of his two trips to the Superdome, the site of his only losses as the starter.
In both games, against Ohio State and in last year's championship game against LSU, Lawrence was outplayed by an opposing quarterback who decimated Clemson's defense. LSU's Joe Burrow threw for five touchdowns last January. While Lawrence still threw for 400 yards and two scores in the Sugar Bowl, his performance was lost behind Justin Fields' six touchdowns and more than 400 yards of total offense.
While his execution Friday will go down in Ohio State and playoff history, Fields' performance won't complicate one of the most predictable events of the NFL offseason: Lawrence going first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in this spring's draft.
Lawrence has been pegged for the top of the draft since late in his freshman season and cemented in that place since Burrow was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals last April, to the point where Jacksonville's duel with the New York Jets for the worst record in the NFL provided one of the most interesting subplots to the 2020 season.
Having secured that pick after the Jets won two games in December, the Jaguars now luck into having the chance at selecting a prospect long compared to Peyton Manning and talented enough to reverse the fortunes of one of the league's biggest underachievers.
Lawrence's arrival would signal a major step in the sweeping changes that await in the Jaguars' offseason. Jacksonville, 1-14 heading into the season finale against Indianapolis, has already fired general managed Dave Caldwell and is expected to dismiss head coach Doug Marrone.
Lawrence would immediately become the face of the franchise and bring stability and promise to a position that has cycled through wild instability since 2011. The Jaguars have used six different starting quarterbacks in the past three seasons, including three this year, and have failed to develop a long-term option in more than a decade.
In all, just three Jacksonville starters in the franchise's history have started more than 20 games and posted a winning record.
For prospective new coaches and general managers, the chance to build around Lawrence and put a new stamp on the franchise makes the Jaguars an attractive option. Three teams already have openings at both spots: Detroit, Atlanta and Houston.
It's become more common than ever for rookie quarterbacks to start immediately and produce at a high level. Before suffering a season-ending injury in November, Burrow averaged 268.8 passing yards per game with 18 total touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals. Justin Herbert, the sixth overall pick by the Los Angeles Chargers, has thrown for 4,034 yards and an NFL rookie-record 28 touchdowns.
"I mean, Trevor Lawrence is a generational guy," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He's going to be a great player for a long, long time."