JACKSONVILLE – So far, so good.
And in the case of David Caldwell’s first draft as the Jaguars’ General Manager, it’s no stretch to say that with two days and three rounds complete, he sees things as having gone really well.
The Jaguars entered the three-day 2013 NFL Draft with seven selections and many needs. They entered it looking to fill the biggest needs with the best possible value.
“Value and need – and that’s perfect,” Caldwell said shortly after the Jaguars’ final selection of Day 2 of the 2013 NFL Draft Friday evening.
“Somebody in the draft room told me, ‘Hey these are the three guys we were targeting about a month ago.’’’
So far, so good. Really, really good.
The Jaguars closed Friday by selecting University of Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz with the second selection of the third round, the 64th selection overall.
The team already had selected Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall selection of the first round Thursday, and then selected safety Johnathan Cyprien of Florida International with the first selection of the second round.
“It was a nip and tuck at the end there,” Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said, describing the wait for the second selection of Round 3. “We were all standing in the war room watching until the last couple of picks, and we were fortunate that he was there.
“One of the scenarios in the second and third round was Cyprien and Gratz. It’s amazing. I think we had three different scenarios. Once we looked at taking a corner in the second round and a safety in the third. We said, ‘What happens if these things fell into place in case Cyprien wasn’t there? Now what is our plan?’
“It was just unique that it happened that way.”
As Caldwell and Bradley saw it, Gratz being available in Round 3 meant they had chosen three reliable, highly-graded players who have a very good chance to start next season.
That’s absolutely true of Joeckel, considered by many the best player available regardless of position in the draft. And it’s true of Cyprien, who many observers projected in the first round.
Caldwell said it’s equally true of Gratz, rated as the No. 7 available corner by NFL Draft Scout.
“He has to compete to do it,” Caldwell said. “He has the skillset to do it and we hope that he comes in and does it. Obviously that’s going to go around through the OTAs, mini-camp and through training camp.
“The best guy’s going to start, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a third round, first round, second round, or college free agent. I think the best guy’s going to start.”
Caldwell, however, said on Friday that the team received just three calls regarding the selection. He and Bradley each said that the team targeted Cyprien shortly after the first round ended on Thursday night.
“We went through this whole thing,” Bradley said Friday shortly after the Cyprien selection. “Dave and I and Andy (Dengler) and Terry (McDonough), we said, ‘What happens if these three guys are there in the top of the second or these two guys?’ Cyprien was one of those guys that we had hoped would be there.
“We were hoping he would get to us. He’s been targeted for a while now. We really like him.”
Bradley said Cyprien was one of the players the Jaguars studied intently the weekend before the draft.
“We fell in love with him even more,” Bradley said.
Bradley also said the team’s conviction about Cyprien further limited the chance of a trade at No. 2.
“In our conversation we said it’s got to be pretty good,” he said. “You want guys that can come in here and play a long time and can add to it. It’s hard to pass guys like that up to move down a couple of spots. Not that we weren’t intrigued by that but when you have somebody that you really covet and he’s there, that’s great.”
Bradley said late Friday night one of the most striking aspects of the first two rounds was that by the end of Round 2, the Jaguars’ board was almost clean. All but one of the players Caldwell and the scouting staff projected in the first two rounds was off the board when the team selected Gratz.
“(Owner Shad (Khan) commented on them,” Bradley said. “He said, ‘Look at that Gus.’ I said that’s amazing how it went just to follow our board to a T.’’
As much as possible given the uncertain nature of the draft, Caldwell and Bradley said the same was true with the Jaguars’ selections. They wanted to improve the offensive line in Round 1 and did so. And while the idea of a trade was tempting on Day 2, they wanted to improve a depleted secondary. They did that with a pair of players who could start much sooner rather than later.
The draft is far from over. Around the Jaguars this offseason, Rounds 4-7 matter a lot, and college free agency after the draft matters just as much. Caldwell on Friday said that players who join the team Saturday not only will make the team, they will compete for starting roles.
So, yes, work remains this weekend, but make no mistake: with Days 1 and 2 of their first draft now history, Caldwell and Bradley like what has been done thus far.
So far, so good.