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NFL Scouting Combine: That’s a wrap

Posted Mar 5, 2018

Senior writer John Oehser takes a final look at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine and what lies ahead for the Jaguars this week …

JACKSONVILLE – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is in the rear view.

Actually, it officially ends Monday afternoon when defensive backs finish on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. But with most of the 1,300 media covering the event having left Indy over the weekend, we’ll take this opportunity to look back on Jaguars combine news – and to peek ahead.

There was definitely a different feel to the Jaguars’ combine this year – specifically, the lack of specific questions directed at General Manager David Caldwell about the team’s draft plans.

Such is the difference between selecting in the Top 10 and No. 29 overall.

“We have to look at a lot more players, that’s for sure,” Caldwell said Wednesday.

Caldwell this year also was not asked about the prospect of trading his first-round selection, a common offseason topic in recent years. Not that that will be out of play for the Jaguars, but the media’s interest in your selection tends to wane proportionally based on your distance from the Top 5.

The top five is where the Jaguars selected every offseason from 2012-2017, and the lower profile draft-related profile likely will continue in the coming weeks. But while there will be less attention paid to the Jaguars’ selection – a good thing because it means success the previous season – Caldwell said the approach to the draft won’t realistically change that much.

“It is just really the first round that it affects,” Caldwell said. “Now you are looking at the second, third and fourth round like you are at the front of the second round, front of the third round and front of the fourth round. …

“I think it is a good draft. I think the last couple of years we have been fortunate with our early picks and I think this year will be different for us because we are picking a little bit later in each round, so we have to have a little bit different strategy, but I think you can find starters in the first two to three rounds like we have and some good depth after that.”

Looking back and looking ahead:

*With the combine over, the NFL’s key dates in the coming weeks mostly involve free agency. The first key date: Tuesday, the last day teams can apply franchise or transition tags to pending free agents. After that, the next day date is the March 12 opening of the pre-free-agency negotiating period. Teams can negotiate with agents for players from other teams during that period, but they may not finalize deals until free agency begins on March 14. …

 *The top Jaguars candidate for the franchise tag continues to be wide receiver Allen Robinson, but this writer’s thought coming out of the combine continues to be that it’s unlikely the Jaguars will use the mechanism on the fourth-year veteran. Franchising Robinson would mean paying him just over $16 million for 2017. That would still allow Robinson to negotiate with other teams, but it would dramatically decreased his chance of signing elsewhere because the signing team would have to give the Jaguars two first-round draft selections; that’s something a signing team likely would not do. As it stands, the Jaguars appear unlikely to commit $16 million of cap room to Robinson. Stay tuned. …

*Caldwell at the combine discussed the team’s running backs, saying that while starter Leonard Fournette will “take a bulk of the carries” he also expects reserve T.J. Yeldon to have a key role. “T.J. has found a niche for us,” Caldwell said. “He is a terrific pass catcher and is really good in the pass pro. The combination of those two guys, as you saw, we are going to need them both for a 16-game season.” …

*Caldwell said a lot about quarterback Blake Bortles on Wednesday. Among the comments was this when asked about other players criticizing Bortles: “I think the NFL is a little bit of a copycat league in some regards. I think sometimes people have a hard time thinking for themselves, so when they see someone getting some attention, they tend to follow that. I think Blake handled himself extremely well after that. He took the high road. I think as a team we were successful in those games too, multiple games.” …

*Caldwell on Jaguars rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook: “It wasn’t too big for him. There was no point in time, even in the AFC Championship Game, where you felt like he missed training camp and the first [nine] weeks of the season, but he made some plays and he has an incredible spirit and an incredible way of competing on the field.” …

*Caldwell on the AFC South: “It is a very good division if you look at the AFC, if those things hold true and the young quarterbacks we have in the division between [Andrew] Luck, [Deshaun] Watson and [Marcus] Mariota, I think it could be one of the better divisions in football, which hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past years. We have a lot of work cut out for us.” …


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