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Coughlin on '18 draft: "The process remains the same"


JACKSONVILLE – The key questions were answered quickly.

Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin did much of the answering at the team's 2018 pre-draft luncheon Friday, and Coughlin typically did so succinctly.

Yes, the team can get done what must be done in Round 1.

"I do feel like we're going to get a good football player," Coughlin said Friday, six days before the 2018 NFL Draft.

And yes, trading up or down is possible. But no, both Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell told local media, the basic draft approach has not changed simply because the Jaguars are selecting significantly later than they have done in a significant amount of time.

"The process remains the same," Coughlin said.

The Jaguars, 10-6 and AFC South Champions last season, currently hold Round 1's No. 29 overall selection because they advanced to the AFC Championship Game. The last time they selected so late in Round 1 was 2000 after their last AFC title game appearance.

They're scheduled to select 25 spots later than last offseason when they selected running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall. The last time they selected outside the Top 5 was their 2011 selection of quarterback Blaine Gabbert at No. 10 overall.

Their last time outside the Top 10 was their 2008 selection of safety Reggie Nelson at No. 2 overall.

"The process will stay the same," Caldwell said. "Obviously, we'll still have our target of five or six guys that we like there, then we'll prepare for the one or two guys we think may have a chance of falling. Hopefully we'll get one of the guys we target there.

"You still always have that cluster of a few players there that you're going to target, and you can pretty much count on there will be 15 or 20 guys that are definitely going to be gone."

Coughlin said his draft philosophy remains fundamentally the same as when he was the head coach of the Jaguars from 1994-2002 and with the New York Giants from 2004-2015.

"I've always been a take-the-best-player [drafter],'' Coughlin said. "The difference obviously this year is picking where we're picking versus where we picked in the past. … You know someone's going to drop, but will they drop as far as we are?"

Coughlin added, "Inevitably, people fall. Who's it going to be? Who knows? According to the work that we've done, we feel like we will get a good football player at that spot."

Coughlin and Caldwell on Friday both discussed the possibility of trading. Speculation is the Jaguars could trade out of the first round in exchange for an early second-round selection and later draft selections, possibly with a team seeking a quarterback.

Take a look at images as the Jaguars held their annual Media Draft Luncheon.

"I would never close the door on anything," Coughlin said. "Questions inevitably come when you're at this point: 'Would you trade back? Would you trade up to get somebody? What would you give up? How close are you?' I don't ever close the door on any of that stuff, but the reality is it takes two to tango. You have to get a pretty good deal and the other club has got to be interested in doing the same thing."

Caldwell said much of the draft-day strategy – including a trade – could "depend on what happens in the top of the round," meaning that what teams drafting early in Round 1 do there could dictate whether they try to trade ahead of the Jaguars later in the round.

"You never know until that time comes," Caldwell said.

Also on Friday, Caldwell said the team has yet to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.

Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, is under contract through 2018. Because he was a first-round selection, the Jaguars have an option on his contract for 2019. If they pick up the option, they would be assured of having Fowler under contract for $14.2 million for 2019.

If they do not pick up the option, Fowler will be scheduled to become a free agent in 2019 – though the Jaguars and Fowler could negotiate a long-term contract to prevent that. Even if the Jaguars do exercise the option, they could release Fowler before the March beginning of the 2019 NFL League Year, but Fowler would be guaranteed $14.2 million if unable to pass a physical at that point.

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