JACKSONVILLE – The unofficial kickoff to the NFL offseason.
If there's a way to describe the NFL Scouting Combine, that may be it – and that's true for the Jaguars as the '18 version approaches.
The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine will be held Tuesday through Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The official purpose of the event: to put 336 NFL Draft-eligible players through a series of on-field workouts, medical tests and interviews.
In that sense, it's the most public of job interviews – but the combine's importance reaches beyond the draft.
While the NFL's 2018 NFL League Year begins on March 14, when unrestricted free agency officially opens, the combine is when the NFL offseason truly accelerates. It's the biggest convention of every NFL offseason, with nearly every head coach, assistant, personnel type and agent attending.
Although agents and franchises can't officially negotiate contracts, speculation and rumors about all offseason goings on – from free agency to the draft – reign supreme in hotel lobbies and restaurants throughout downtown Indianapolis all week.
Because of its late February timing, the combine also has become in recent year a major offseason news point, with general managers and coaches from many teams addressing the media – often for the first time since the end of the previous season.
It's a different feeling for the Jaguars this season entering the combine.
Whereas they entered the past six offseasons holding a Top 10 draft selection, their appearance in last month's AFC Championship Game means the they hold the No. 29 overall selection. They haven't selected that late in the first round since selecting Southern California wide receiver R.J. Soward No. 29 overall in 2000.
A Jaguars-centric look at the '18 combine:
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell are scheduled to address the media at 10:15 and noon, respectively on Wednesday. These will be streamed live on jaguars.com and across Jaguars social-media channels.
Jaguars.com will cover the combine with live coverage of the Marrone and Caldwell press conferences with Marrone and Caldwell also each expected to join Jaguars.com Live during the week. We'll also be talking with national media about the Jaguars and breaking down Jaguars draft positions of interest.
Prospects spend four days in Indianapolis and go through the combine process in position groups. The breakdown is as follows:
*Kickers, special teams, offensive linemen, running backs: Tuesday (arrival), Wednesday (measurements/medical), Thursday (psychological testing/media/bench press), Friday (on-field workout).
*Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends: Wednesday (arrival), Thursday (measurements/medical), Friday (psychological testing/media/bench press), Saturday (on-field workout).
*Defensive linemen, linebackers: Thursday (arrival), Friday (measurements/medical), Saturday (psychological testing/media/bench press), Sunday (on-field workout).
*Defensive backs: Friday (arrival), Saturday (measurements/medical), Sunday (psychological testing/media/bench press), Monday (on-field workout).
THE POSITIONS OF INTEREST
The Jaguars and every team will scout all players at the combine. We'll focus this week on the following positions that seem the most likely areas the Jaguars will consider in the early rounds of the draft:
*Wide receiver.The importance of this position in the early rounds for the Jaguars could depend on what happens in the coming weeks with wide receiver Allen Robinson. The fourth-year veteran is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent; if that happens, receiver in the first round could be a possibility. This is generally considered a good receiver class, if not necessarily a great one, with players such as Calvin Ridley of Alabama, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M and Courtland Sutton of Texas A&M all being projected as first rounders and possibly available when the Jaguars select at No. 29.
*Tight end.This appears likely to be a targeted position sometime in the first three rounds. The team exercised the option on veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis' contract last week, meaning the veteran tight end will return for a 13th season, but the offense could use a pass-receiving player at the position who can make plays downfield. The Jaguars' draft position late in the first round could play into their favor here, with tight end typically being a position selected somewhere from Nos. 20-32 or later. Mark Andrews of Oklahoma is considered by some the class' premier tight end, with players such as Hayden Hurst of South Carolina, Dalton Schultz of Stanford, Mike Gesicki of Penn State and Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State considered by many second- and third-round possibilities.
*Offensive line.This is another area the Jaguars seem almost certain to target in the early rounds of the draft. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, but guard appears to be an area the team could address in the draft. A strong offensive tackle class late in the first round also could be enticing if the team wants to address the right-tackle position. The highest-rated offensive lineman in the class, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, is expected to be Top 10 selection, but guards such as Isaiah Wynn of Georgia and Will Hernandez of Texas-El Paso have been projected in many mock drafts to the Jaguars, as have tackles Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) and Connor Williams (Texas).