Rank Em

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Spring Football is upon us for high school football in Southeast Georgia. So here we go with my GHSA Spring Top 10 Power Poll for this area:

1.Ware County: The Gators are loaded for 2021. Thomas Castellanos may be the best QB in all of South Georgia. The UCF commit can do it all.

Jason Strickland has done a fantastic job at Ware. You have to think if Ware doesn’t win a State Title in 2021, the question is ‘will they ever’ because Castellanos is the best QB the school has ever had. This team is loaded folks.

2.Camden County: The Wildcats have brought back Jeff Herron and the physical run the football and whip people along the line of scrimmage style of play will not be far behind.

The home schedule sets up nice this fall with Lowndes and Colquitt coming to Kingsland. Camden will be a pretty good football team in 2021.

3.Coffee County: The Trojans are consistently good every single season. They play in the best 5-A region in the state with Ware, Warner Robins, and Wayne County. Big, fast, and physical that is what you get with Coffee.

4.Pierce County: The Bears won a State Championship in 2020 and have a lot of pieces coming back. The only real question is who will step into the QB position. This team is good. The season opener at Brunswick should be a classic.

5.Richmond Hill: The Wildcats could take a step back in 2021. They lost some quality players on both sides of the ball.

Richmond Hill is well coached and they have 7-A numbers but play in a 6-A region due to the GHSA isolation waiver. The numbers alone make them one of the top teams in the area. Richmond Hill, Brunswick and Glynn are the preseason favorites to win Region 2-AAAAAA.

Glynn travels to the Wildcats and Richmond Hill travels to Brunswick. That will determine how the region shakes out.

6.Brunswick: Sean Pender is very excited about his football team and he should be. The Pirates have quality experience at RB, WR, OL, DL, and DB. QB and LB are the positions to watch on this team.

8-4 in 2020, and don’t be surprised if this team makes a run in 2021. Richmond Hill and Glynn Academy face the Pirates in Glynn County Stadium. Could Ree Simmons and Kobe Hill both rush for 1,000 yards this fall? Don’t bet against it.

7.Glynn Academy: We know this about Glynn Academy and this is they will be good along the line of scrimmage and will play above average defense.

Rocky Hidalgo has established that blueprint in his tenure at GA. This will be a good Glynn Academy football team. Tyler Devlin takes over at QB and Glynn looks to be much improved in the passing game. Will Glynn air it out more in 2021?

8.Appling County: Jordan Mullis was named new head coach in Baxley in February.

Appling went 9-2 with an elite 8 appearance in 2020. Expectations are high at Appling going into 2021.

How the team evolves under Mullis will be a key. He served as the DC under Rick Tomberlin in 2020.

Resources and athletes are in place at Appling to be a serious contender at the AAA level. Appling and Pierce County will battle for the region championship in 2021.

9.Vidalia: The Indians are pretty good most years. They will be good again in 2021. Consistent AA program in South East Georgia.

10.MCA: The McIntosh County Buccaneers will be a force in 1-A football.

Coach Bradley Warren is building something special in Darien. This is a football team on the rise and could make a postseason run this fall.

Will Metter be as good as they were in 2020? I don’t think so, and I’m calling a region championship for the Bucs in May.  Yes, Trenton Johnson graduated, but MCA always has a RB coming through the pipeline.

Just missing out: Jeff Davis and Wayne County. I did not include Savannah schools in my rankings. Why you ask? Here is your answer, because I didn’t want to.

Draft Domination

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There were 259 players drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, with 14.3% hailing from The Sunshine State. The state of Florida accounted for 37 players selected. South Florida alone had 17 and Broward County accounted for 12 players.

Texas was a close second, with 33 players, the same number as in 2020, which led the draft for most picks.

Georgia (21), California (19), Louisiana (13) and North Carolina (10) were the other states with double digit players selected.

American Heritage High School in Plantation set an NFL record with six players picked in this year’s draft. The Patriots are considered to be one of the best high school programs in the country.

Heritage draftees in 2021: Patrick Surtain II the ninth player selected in the draft by the Denver Broncos, Tyson Campell the 33rd to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Anthony Schwartz the 91st to the Cleveland Browns, Marco Wilson the 136th to the Arizona Cardinals, Tadarrell Slaton the 173rd to the Green Bay Packers and Khalil Herbert the 217th to the Chicago Bears.

Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas had three players selected, giving the Raiders 26 alumni being drafted since 2001, the most by any high school during that time period. Elijah Moore, Josh Palmer and Asante Samuel Jr are the newest Raiders in the NFL.

It’s no surprise that Florida leads for Power 5 signees the past 10 years, and that South Florida has roughly provided 45%-50% of the talent pool.

Elite football players come from all over the country, but the largest concentration of them originated from the SEC. The SEC set a record with 65 players selected and this continued the conference’s distinct dominance over the three-day event.

This year’s SEC haul included 6 of the first 10 picks and 12 of the 31 players in the first round.

They included Florida tight end Kyle Pitts 4th to Atlanta, LSU wide receiver JaMarr Chase 5th to Cincinnati, Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle 6th to Miami, South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn 8th to Carolina, Alabama corner Pat Surtain II 9th to Denver and Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith 10th to Philly.

For the 15th year in a row, the SEC asserted its dominance over every other Power 5 conferences. All 14 SEC football programs helped break its own conference’s record of players drafted.

It was a record setting day for Alabama too, the Tide led the way among SEC schools with a total of 10 players selected. Georgia was in second with nine sections, followed by Florida with eight, LSU with seven, Kentucky with six, Missouri with five, Auburn, South Carolina and Texas A&M with 4, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss with 2 and Arkansas and Vanderbilt with 1.

The 2021 NFL Draft featured record setting and record tying draft results for the SEC and Alabama. The University of Alabama had six players drafted in the first round, which tied the record set by the 2004 Miami Hurricanes.

You’ve heard the saying before: “The SEC, it just means more.” College football’s juggernaut conference has done it again, and look out for the 2022 class: a class that looks to break the 65-player mark.

Flying Class

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL draft is in the books. We saw what each team did to address their needs. Let’s take a look to see how the Atlanta Falcons did. This was the first draft for General Manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith.

I’m trying to not get too excited, but I have seen several different publications give the Falcons an A+ draft grade.

They selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the 4th pick. Pitts is the highest rated tight end prospect ever. He’s projected to have an impact like Travis Kelce and that should really help in the red zone. Atlanta should have an explosive top five offense in 2021.

In the second round with the 40th pick Atlanta selected UCF safety Richie Grant. He was first-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2019 and 2020.

Last season he led UCF with 72 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 6 pass deflections, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 9 games. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.

Michigan guard Jalen Mayfield was taken with the 68th pick. The Falcons needed help on the offensive line, so they addressed a need.

Mayfield is only a redshirt sophomore, so he does not have much experience. In 2019 he played 13 games at right tackle and was honorable mention All-Big Ten. He played two games in 2020 before a high ankle sprain ended his season.

San Diego State corner back Darren Hall was the 108th selection. In 2019 he tied for the FBS lead in pass breakups with 16.

In 2020 he was first-team All-MWC and led the Aztecs with 3 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, 38 tackles with 2 for loss in 8 games.

Stanford center Drew Dalman was the 114th pick. He’s the son of former 49ers offensive lineman Chris Dalman and he was a top 10 center nationally coming out of high school. He was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2020 and started all 6 of their games.

The 148th pick was Texas defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham. He was a top-150 recruit nationally coming out of high school.

Graham started every game the past two seasons and was named honorable mention all-conference as a senior in 2020. He had 23 tackles, 7 for loss and 2 sacks.

Notre Dame defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji (pronounced ah-DAY-tok-uhn-bo oh-gun-day-gee) was 17 when he enrolled in college. It took him a while to work his way into the rotation because of that.

He started 12 games as a senior and was a team captain. He was honorable mention All-ACC and had 23 tackles and a team high 7 sacks.

Boise State corner back Avery Williams was the second to last pick (No. 183) for the Falcons.

He was All- Mountain West Conference in all four seasons and he’s a good kick returner as well.

He was a third team All-American as an all-purpose player because he led the FBS in combined return yardage (19-533-28.1 kick returns, 15-229-15.3 punt returns), topped the country with two punt return touchdowns and tied for the national lead with two kick return touchdowns. He also tied for fifth in the FBS with two blocked kicks.

The final player drafted was Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby (No. 187). ASU only played four games in 2020 and he played in three as a team captain. He received limited touches after suffering a rib injury in the season opener.

Time will tell if these players develop the way the franchise hopes but Atlanta did a good job addressing team needs.

Winners and Losers

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I sat in the confines of my own home and watched every first-round selection of the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at my winners and losers in the first round:

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars: It turned into a Clemson love affair for the Jaguars.

Trevor Lawrence was selected number 1 overall, which has been known for months, but the Jags get a generational talent at QB who will be the face of the franchise for 12-15 years.

Lawrence’s number will probably get retired in Jacksonville when his career is done.

The selection of Travis Etienne at pick 25 was great in my opinion as the Jags got the most productive RB in the history of the ACC. A threat to take it to the house on every play and can catch the football out of the backfield. A true three down back.

Urban Meyer went offense for a team that needed everything. Now the Jags can address the pass rush with the first pick in the second round. Grade: A+

Loser: Houston Texans: The Texans have no first or second round picks in 2021 because of the Laremy Tunsil trade of couple of years ago. Too many negative waves surround this franchise. Grade: F

Winner: Chicago Bears: The Bears got their QB in Justin Fields by trading up to pick 11 with the Giants, and taking the second best rated QB in the draft.

The Bears with a solid QB are a Super Bowl contender with their defense. The question about Fields is how quickly can the Bears get him ready to play?

I’m predicting he is ready to go on day 1 in Chicago. What a steal by the Chicago Bears to get Justin Fields and finally fix their QB issues once and for all. Grade: A+

Loser: Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow gets carted off the field last year with a blown ACL, but yet the Bengals pass on the best offensive lineman in the draft?

Ja’Marr Chase should be an elite receiver who was a 2020 opt out at LSU, but not getting protection help for your franchise QB makes the Bengals look once again like their nickname the Bungles. Grade: C

Winner: Detroit Lions: My Lions got the best offensive lineman in this draft in Penei Sewell OT from Oregon. You have to be a Lions fan to understand how great this pick is.

This shows a commitment by the new regime to change the culture of this franchise. Lions’ fans are ecstatic with this pick. Championship teams are built from the inside out. Grade A+

Loser: New Orleans: The Saints went defense, which was a shock after the retirement of Drew Brees.

I thought the Saints might trade up to get into the QB sweepstakes unless they are about to make a deal for Aaron Rogers.

They draft Payton Turner a DE from Houston, who may have been a reach at pick 28. You draft a defensive player from a conference that plays the worst team defense in college football the AAC? Head scratcher there Saints. Grade: C-

Beat trade of the night went to the Chicago Bears trading up to get Fields. Kudos to the Eagles for trading up and grabbing Devonta Smith to help that porous WR room.

Most surprising pick went to San Francisco in taking Trey Lance. I love the pick, but thought they would play it safe with Mac Jones.

Mac Jones landed right in the Patriots lap and New England’s QB issues are instantly solved.

Biggest Draft Winner of the Night: The Atlanta Falcons with their selection of TE Kyle Pitts of Florida at pick 4.

I think Pitts was the best overall player in this draft and history will prove this to be true. He is a matchup nightmare for anyone the Falcons face. Grade: A+++++++++

Boom Or Bust

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In some ways the NFL Draft is the ultimate crapshoot, and oftentimes some teams simply need good luck more than anything else.

That was the case with the Seahawks landing Russell Wilson in the third round along with a bunch of other teams finding diamonds in the rough late rounds.

Only 50% of second round picks actually pan out, and the odds are obviously worse for later round picks.

With that in mind, my personal belief is teams should target boom-bust picks in the late rounds. The odds are against a so-called safe pick panning out, so teams should go for the player with one or two NFL traits who could turn out to be a massive steal.

Here is my list of boom or bust players that may get drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

1.Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: Wilson will blow you away with the kinds of throws you’d expect from an All-Pro NFL quarterback (good tape brings Aaron Rodgers to mind) but there are a few outliers that trouble me.

Wilson’s pocket presence is a concern, because he tends to bail. He needs to better identify pre-snap pressure.

With a lack of competition this season Wilsons completion percentage jumped 11 points. Finally, he is being drafted by the Jets. Wilson does not have the body type, accuracy, and support cast. He has BUST written all over him.

  1. Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State: Wilson played with quickness and explosiveness in 2019, but in 2020 he added weight and played slow and uninterested.

Wilson went from a late first, early second round pick to a day three flyer. I say the buyer beware of a BUST.

  1. Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia:On the field, Campbell looks like an NFL boundary corner.  At 6’1” 193 pounds and runs a 4.45 40, he has all the traits NFL teams drool over. However, with these traits, Campbell should have more in-game ball production.

He had 10 pass breakups and just one interception in college. The former five star is susceptible to losing contested 50-50 balls (watch the Florida/Georgia tape).

NFL quarterbacks will test him and I believe a challenging and rocky career will BUST.

  1. Monty Rice, LB, Georgia: Rice isn’t going to blow teams away with his speed or quickness, but he is a smart and savvy linebacker that just makes plays.

As a classic middle linebacker with a nonstop motor, he is fundamentally sound and more importantly, Rice’s instincts and leadership skills will be welcomed in any locker room.

As a late second day or early third day draftee, Rice will excel on defense and special teams. Rice looks like the type to deliver the BOOM.

  1. Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF: Robinson is a quick footed, urgent athlete with excellent turn and run skills to stay in phase versus speedy receivers.

He has solid ball production with 20 passes defended in the last two seasons. One scout stated, “scrappy run defender and a dog in coverage.” After weighing some good with some bad, I see Robinson as a BOOM.

  1. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami:Rousseau put up video game numbers with 19.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 13 games.

Rousseau is the opposite of Jayson Oweh of Penn State, he is very productive where Oweh is very active.

At 6’5” 260 pounds, he seems pro ready but his limited experience makes him an unignorable risk. I’m still calling BOOM.

  1. Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia:I know Bulldog fans are thinking I picked on their team, but LeCounte was the player I just kept watching.

I know he doesn’t have NFL size or speed, but he is a solid football player who was ultra productive at Georgia.

He had 61 tackles, 3 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles, while providing a strict no fly zone on deep passes. I think LaCounte is a disruptive force that will make an impact an NFL roster. Bulldog fans should look out for this BOOM

Throughout NFL history there have been HOF-ers drafted in the mid to late rounds of the draft, and this year may produce one or more of those.

Great players are often backups for a few seasons before earning a starting role and excelling.  When all is said and done, the truth is definitive: The NFL is a big crapshoot!

AFC South Draft Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL Draft is later this week. Let’s take a look around the AFC South to see who will be drafted in the first round.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars (1-15) earned the top pick but they also have the 25th pick.

With a record that bad they clearly need help at several positions. Legendary college coach Urban Meyer came out of retirement and was hired as head coach.

We know Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is going to be the first pick in the draft. He has all of the measurables, standing 6’6 and 220 pounds. He has high football IQ and a strong arm. He has basically every accolade you can get as a college player except for the Heisman Trophy.

He’s a national champion and led his team to the College Football Playoff in the three seasons he played. The last quarterback prospect I can think of that was clearly the top prospect like this was Andrew Luck. I expect him to be very successful in the NFL.

With the 25th pick. I think a difference maker at wide receiver is what they will get to pair with Lawrence.

Purdue receiver Rondale Moore fits that mold. Purdue only played four games last season and Moore played three of them.

He had 35 catches and 270 yards.

His best statistical season was as a freshman in 2018. He had 114 catches, 1,258 yards and 12 TD’s.

He ran a 4.33 40 at his pro day so he’s very fast.

Florida receiver Kadarius Toney is also another possible selection. In 11 games he had 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Indianapolis: The Colts (11-5) are a very solid team. Philip Rivers played his only season in Indy last year and led the team to the playoffs before he retired.

Now they have Carson Wentz as the signal caller. The Colts have the 21st pick so they can go in several directions depending on the players still available.

Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore would be a good pick. In 8 games last season he had 86 receptions, 1,193 yards and 8 touchdowns. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day. He reminds me of Tyreek Hill and Indy could use a playmaker at wide receiver.

Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips might be another possibility. He’s 6’5, 266 pounds so he has ideal size for the position. In 2020 he had 45 total tackles and 8 sacks.

Tennessee: The Titans (11-5) won the division last season. They advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2019. I think this team is a serious championship contender.

Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins would be a good pick to strengthen the offensive line. We know Tennessee loves to run the ball with Derrick Henry, so this makes sense. He was First Team All-Big 12 in 2020.

At 6’6 and 320 pounds he looks the part. He’s very physical and aggressive.

Virginia Tech corner back Caleb Farley might also be a possibility. He opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. He recently had back surgery, which is something to consider. In 2019 he had 20 tackles, 12 pass deflections and 4 interceptions.

The Houston Texans (4-12) do not have a first-round pick. I’m looking forward to the draft to see how teams will address their needs.

Beaten Up

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Coming into the season Braves fans were excited about the success that Braves Baseball has seen throughout the past few seasons and hope to continue.

Just last October, the Braves lost in a heartbreaking NLCS Game-7 against the Dodgers.

Since then, the Braves Ball-Club and its fans have had one thing on their mind, ‘get back to the NLCS (if not the World Series)’.

As most of us know by now, the Braves are one of the best teams in the National League, but the NL East is nothing to mess with this season.

Coming off of three Division Titles in a row, the fourth is shaping up to be the hardest one yet for Manager Brian Snitker and company.

Throughout the offseason, Braves fans around the country were excited to see the ball club take the field after their deepest postseason run since 2001. However, things haven’t gone according to plan for the Braves so far this season.

The Braves are around .500. Not exactly where experts expected them to be at this point either, thus sending Braves Country into panic mode, with fans beginning to blame anyone who looks the part.

Therefore, each series against a divisional opponent will only get more and more important for the Atlanta Braves as we get deeper into the season.

However, as a fellow Braves fan, I wouldn’t push the panic button just yet, for these three reasons:

Injuries: Already this season, the Braves have seen more than their fair share listed on the Injured List. The IL currently sits with 9 players that the Braves consider major contributors to the three-time division champion.

Fortunately, none of these injuries have been season-threatening so the Braves lineup should be back together in no-time.

Ronald Acuná Jr.: We’re early into this MLB season and Ronald Acuna Jr. is putting together MVP number early on.

He’s hitting over .400 and his OPS is over 1.000 along with a ton of homeruns, which all lead the league in its category while also being tied for second in RBI’s.

Since Acuna came into the MLB, he has been a spark-plug for the Braves by continuously driving in runs and making outstanding plays in right field.

Unfortunately for the Braves, they will need more than just Acuna to be able to produce runs in order to get back to the top of the division.

Pitching Bullpen: The injuries for Atlanta’s pitchers so far this season have been difficult to overcome for Atlanta’s ball club.

Injuries to three of their best pitchers in their rotation definitely hurts depth throughout the entire bullpen.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Braves are. Although the Braves came away with a 3-2 record over their most recent road-trip, they have exposed their bullpen depth early and often.

The conversation surrounding Atlanta’s bullpen coming into the season appeared to be one to have the Braves Bullpen as one of their biggest assets.

However, If the rotation continues to be shaky throughout the season. Don’t be surprised if General Manager Alex Anthopoulos makes some moves to keep the Braves in contention for the NLCS/World Series.

A large part of the early season mishaps for the Braves have been due to injury, but only time will tell if the injuries continue to be a theme throughout the entire MLB season.

Possible Flight Paths For Atlanta Falcons

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As we approach the NFL Draft, the vast majority of the attention in Southeast Georgia has been lavished on the Jaguars and their first overall pick, soon to be converted into a golden-haired quarterback of the future.

The selection of Trevor Lawrence is the worst kept secret of this year’s draft, and a polar opposite from what will be happening with the Atlanta Falcons and their fourth overall pick.

Speculation as to what Blank, Fontenot, and Smith will do with their primo real estate in the draft order has been rampant of late, and the rumor mill is having a blast with it.

In a highly unscientific poll I conducted (read as “my fraternity brothers I asked at a wedding reception this past weekend”), most Falcons fans want the team to keep the pick as is. What to do with said pick seems to be less of a unanimous voice.

At first glance, the Falcons don’t have quite as many holes as you would expect from a 4-12 team with a new General Manager and Head Coach, but the holes (and threadbare spots that are about to become holes) are in some pretty important spots.

This draft is shaping up to be a potential record breaking one for quarterbacks, and the speculation that the Falcons will pick Matt Ryan’s replacement with their first pick seems to be a fairly safe bet.

Obviously, Trevor Lawrence will be the first off the board at number one, and all signs from the Turnpike point to the Jets pulling the trigger on Zach Wilson at number two. What happens with the 49ers at number three could prove pivotal.

The two big names mentioned at three since the Niners traded into the spot are Alabama QB Mac Jones and Georgia native Justin Fields.

If Kyle Shanahan & company go with Jones, Justin Fields to the Falcons seems like a perfect fit.

Matt Ryan’s time under center is drawing to a close, and let’s be honest; his pending salary cap hit is the only reason why he’s still in Flowery Branch.

Justin Fields has drawn more than one comparison to a pre-Ron Mexico era Michael Vick.

The fact that he would be coming to his home state would make more than a few fans happy and put more than a few butts in seats at Mercedes Benz…oh, who are we kidding? After COVID, there’s going to be no problem getting butts in seats again, but Fields will more than likely keep most (if not all) of those butts happy.

If Fields winds up going to San Francisco, Atlanta could take the Bama signal caller, but don’t be surprised if the Falcons pass on Jones and take North Dakota State product Trey Lance.

He’s been mentioned at #4 most of the offseason, and has only slid down some prognosticators’ boards fairly recently.

It also won’t be a shock if Atlanta forgoes the QB need entirely and jumps on Florida’s Kyle Pitts.

Although he’s primarily been used as a TE, his college career shows he could easily line up as a WR, and would ease the injury & age concerns swirling around Julio Jones.

Then of course there’s the speculation that the Falcons could trade out of the spot entirely. Supposedly New England has eyes on Pitts as well, hoping to turn him into Gronk v2.0.

If the trade happens, the Falcons reportedly don’t want to drop too far in the first.

Regardless of who they trade with, look for Atlanta to go for one of the two Alabama receivers projected to be first rounders (Jaylen Waddle and Heisman winner Devonta Smith) to pair with Calvin Ridley.

If an early second round pick is in the mix, watch for them to look for a replacement for pending free agent departure Todd Gurley.

Top running backs in this year’s skimpy crop are UNC’s Javonte Williams and (surprise, surprise) Alabama’s Najee Harris.

Long story short, I’d look for the Dirty Birds to harken back to the glory days with an electric, mobile, scrambling young gunslinger, or expect them to start looking like Tuscaloosa East.

The Golden Boy

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Trevor Lawrence has been on the NFL radar since he was in High School at Cartersville, GA.

It is a foregone conclusion that he’ll be joining one of the league’s most faceless teams. Lawrence enters the NFL as the surest thing since the last sure thing, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Add Lawrence with three-time national champion head coach Urban Meyer, and suddenly the Jacksonville Jaguars have a chance to turn things around in a span of a few months.

The Jaguars have long been one of the first names to be mentioned when it comes to relocations. According to Jacksonville Business Journal, the Jaguars attendance was way down before the pandemic. Despite a passionate city around them, owner Shad Khan has looked into the ideas about playing overseas.

Now, the talk of Lawrence changes everything as Khan appears ready to invest in Jacksonville.

The city and Khan have recently reached an agreement to update parking. Jacksonville historically is not a professional sports town, but this vote has it trending in the right direction.

The best comparison for the Jaguars is the 1998 Colts, who drafted Peyton Manning first overall. Just like the 98 Colts, the Jaguars need a face of the franchise. They need an identity.

Khan has long championed a Lot J deal as a catalyst to the development of Downtown Jacksonville.

Khan hopes the stadium and surrounding area will become the centerpiece of a revitalized downtown, bringing hotels, restaurants, office space and housing with it.

Lawrence is coming to Jacksonville at what is the tail end of a year long quarantine that has altered business plans of every retailer in the world.

Lawrence has a unique opportunity that could make him and the City of Jacksonville the best ‘buy low’ proposition in sports history.

With most stadiums empty or mostly empty last season due to the COVID Pandemic, the Jaguars actually finished second in the league in attendance despite having the 1-15 record.

When the Jaguars hired Meyer and had the top selection in the upcoming draft (Trevor Lawrence), they raised season ticket prices by 7.2%. The team just announced that the 2021 season will involve a normal stadium experience as the Jaguars will host a full crowd.

Also, the Jaguars currently do not have an agreement with the league to play a home game in London, as they have from 2013-2019.

The team said demand for 2021 season tickets is “at an extreme high.”

Shad Khan purchased the team in 2011 for 770 million dollars. Forbes value the Jaguars at 2.45 billion dollars with a 14% increase in value since January 2021. That increase is not due to fans in the seats, it is due to the team drafting Lawrence.

Add all this up and there is a subsequent event setting up in Jacksonville. One that can change the fortunes of the Jaguars and City of Jacksonville.

Few players in NFL history have this much pressure riding on them. The marriage between Lawrence and the Jaguars begins with big expectations, and that’s what Jacksonville needs for the next decade and beyond.

Mock Draft

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Everyone who loves the NFL can come up with their own mock draft.

Draft junkies, like Mel Kiper Jr., have made a nice career out of player projections and mock drafts.

I’m delivering my first annual Kipp Branch official mock draft.

I use the word official because I’m just dumb enough to put this in writing so I can be graded against it. Here goes the KB Top Ten NFL Mock Draft with trades factored in:


First Round


Pick 1: The Jacksonville Jaguars select the best QB prospect in the history of QB prospects Trevor Lawrence from Clemson.

Lawrence will be handed the keys to the city of Jacksonville and the surrounding community will suffer from a lack of local barbers because every young man within 150 miles of Jacksonville will refuse to get their hair cut ever again. Long hair will the cool fad in North Florida and South Georgia.

Lawrence will lead this franchise to a Super Bowl by 2025.

Pick 2: The NY Jets select Zach Wilson QB from BYU.

This pick is set in stone after Sam Donald was traded to the Carolina Panthers.

I feel sorry for Wilson because he is about to get thrown to the wolves. The Jets are struggling and the New York sports media eats young QB’s alive.

Good luck Zach you need all the help you can get.

Pick 3: The San Francisco 49ers select, and yes, I’m calling it, Mac Jones from Alabama.

Jones reminds me a lot of Joe Montana coming out of college and San Fran is the perfect landing spot for Jones.

This will go down as a great pick 5-10 years from now.

Pick 4: The Atlanta Falcons want to draft Kyle Pitts from Florida, but they don’t want to draft him this high so they trade with the Denver Broncos and move back to pick 9.

The Broncos select Justin Fields QB from Ohio State.

The Drew Lock experiment is over in Denver. Fields takes over in Denver on day 1.

Pick 5: Remember the Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase combination at LSU in 2019.

Well, this duo is about to be reunited in Cincy. Bengals take the best WR in the draft with Chase.

Pick 6: The Miami Dolphins select Devonta Smith WR from Alabama.

The Heisman winner gives Miami a playmaker that they need. The Dolphins are all in on Tua so you better get him some weapons.

Pick 7: My Detroit Lions need everything and I mean everything.

Is Jared Goff the answer at QB? Hell no he is not, but there are bigger needs.

The WR position has been gutted; wait, the phone rings and it is Jerry Jones of the Cowboys who offers the Lions some draft capital to move back to pick 10.

The Lions accept and the Cowboys select CB Patrick Surtain II from Alabama to address that horrendous secondary.

Pick 8: The Carolina Panthers select Penei Sewell, the best OL in the draft. Perfect fit for Sewell with Carolina trading for Sam Darnold. A protect our investment pick.

Pick 9: After trading down with the Broncos the Atlanta Falcons get the guy they wanted all along and that is Kyle Pitts TE from Florida.

Pitts will be a monster matchup problem for opposing teams. Great pick by Atlanta.

Pick 10: My Detroit Lions after trading down with Dallas take WR Jaylen Waddle from Alabama to replace often injured Kenny Golliday, who left via free agency.

Bonus Pick-Pick 11: The Chicago Bears trade with the NY. Giants and land in at #11 and select Trey Lance QB of North Dakota State.

Lance develops into a superstar to go along with that defense and the Bears become a beast in the NFC over the next decade.

There you have it folks. Zero chance at being correct, but it is fun to speculate.

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