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Dede Westbrook: 'I'm just thankful'


JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars' first Day 3 selection was hardly a no-brainer.

The Jaguars early Saturday afternoon made Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook the third selection of Round 4 of the 2017 NFL Draft, the No. 110 selection overall. It was a notable selection because of Westbrook's production on field and because of his history of issues off of it.

Westbrook (6-feet-0, 178 pounds), the 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner given to the nation's top receiver, was projected by many analysts as a possible second-round selection.

But Westbrook had been accused of domestic violence twice in 2012 and 2013, and questions about off-field issues and character likely caused his slide to the fourth round.

"He had some issues early in his career, but we feel that's behind him – and it has to be behind him," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said. "There's no choice in that. … Obviously with [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone and Coach [Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom] Coughlin here, there's no margin for error for him off the field."'

Westbrook, speaking to Jacksonville media on a conference call shortly after the selection, said while he didn't expect to fall into the fourth round he knew entering the draft his background would be an issue.

"I knew it was going to be somewhere along these lines, but I'm just thankful – and God is never wrong," he said.

Westbrook also said the Jaguars "most definitely" made clear there would be no future margin for error off the field.

"At the end of the day that's up to me, and I've overcome adversity many times in my life and it's just another chance for me to overcome it," he said. "I thank the Jacksonville Jaguars for giving me the opportunity to do that in their organization."

Caldwell said the Jaguars did extensive investigation into Westbrook's background.

"We did a lot of work on it – all the way back to his high school days," Caldwell said. "We have some really good sources there at Oklahoma that I have known for a long period of time."

Caldwell also was asked if he worried about the public perception of such a selection.

"I think we have done our due diligence enough to realize that is behind him," Caldwell said. "All of those charges were dropped. I think we all have been accused of things, not all of us, but many of us have been accused of things. We don't take it lightly.

"Obviously it is a serious issue, and we just feel like at this point in time to give the kid a chance to make it right."

Westbrook visited Jacksonville in the weeks leading to the draft.

"It was pretty good," Westbrook said. "I vibed with them right when I went in there. We built a relationship from the start of it and they handed out a bargain and now it's time for me to hold mine."

Westbrook, asked about his maturity as he enters the NFL, said he has learned from his past.

"I've grown up," he said. "My past did happen a few years ago and it made me a lot wiser, it made me think things over. For every situation I go about I think it through twice or three times and get someone else's opinion and make sure it's correct all the way around.

"For Jacksonville, I thank them for believing in me and I'm going to do everything that I possibly could to help this organization win."

Westbrook, the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2015 after transferring to Oklahoma from Blinn Community College, was a unanimous first-team All-America selection in 2016. He also was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2016, when he caught 80 passes for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"This is a guy who was a Biletnikoff Award winner, and fourth in the Heisman voting," Caldwell said. "He averages 18 yards a catch. He's a dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands. He can run by people and catch it and run away from them and he's got a little wiggle, so he's got really good run after the catch."

Westbrook joins a receiver group that includes three fourth-year veterans who have been productive at various times in their first three seasons – Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns – along with third-year veteran Rashad Greene and veterans Arrelious Benn and Bryan Walters.

"Obviously it is not a position we need for, but we have a good receiving crew," Caldwell said, adding that Westbrook can play either outside or in the slot. "We feel like this is a guy that can come in and contribute there. He has a lot of specialties where we can use him in different situations and then the punt return aspect and the special teams aspect of it."

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