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O-Zone: A big draft truth

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Strnbiker from Dothan, AL:
Are you relieved? I sure am. This draft, compared to three years ago, is nice. Really nice. Depth getting into the equation and true competition. Filled in missing talent in key positions. Without the Kool Aid, it still leaves a warm fuzzy. Loving it. #DTWD
John: I don't know how relieved I am. I do know I once knew a guy who told me the cool thing about relief was it could be … well, you know, relieving. I couldn't stand that guy. As far as the Jaguars' draft this weekend, I'd say that's exactly the theme that began being obvious on Friday night – that in contrast to the last two drafts, General Manager David Caldwell is adding good players to positions where there are already serviceable players. That indeed has created depth and good competition. Caldwell spent his first two offseasons with the Jaguars just trying to get a team on the field that didn't have glaring, gaping holes. Now, the draftees have a feel of upgrading positions rather than saving them. That's progress, and yeah, it's a little warm and a little fuzzy.
Justin from Jacksonville :
Do you think T.J Yeldon is an every down back? Somewhere I read that he lacks second-level speed, tackle-breaking ability and ball security to be an every down running back. I hope that's not the case. But reading something like that definitely makes me nervous for a top-of-the-second-round back.
John: I read similar things about Yeldon. When I went to another draft site, I read that he's shifty and that his ball-security issues improved. On another, I read about his vision and power. The Jaguars had their choice of every back after Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon and liked Yeldon in part because he has the size and vision and versatility to be an every-down back.
Stephen from Gloria, NM:
"Oh … before we do, you'll have to get away from you-know-who" Great line. Oh, and great pick. Fowler will shake 'em up!
John: I saw the Cars open for Foreigner at the Coliseum in '78.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
John, how long until everyone starts to panic until Fowler signs!
John: I can't see that happening to any significant degree. The days of the Rookie Contract Watch in the NFL are pretty much behind us because of the rookie wage scale; there's simply no reason to panic over rookies signing. Rookies get signed before training camp because there's no reason for it to happen any other way. As I write this, I seem to recall a touch of a hint of some panic last offseason over some Jaguars players who hadn't signed weeks before training camp. I think one was Marqise Lee. Maybe he was the only one. Either way, it didn't matter enough to stick in my memory or for me to look it up. The moral of the story … ah, there's no moral. Just don't worry about Dante Fowler Jr. or any other rookie not getting signed. It's not an issue.
Lance from Jacksonville:
Love the Cann pick! That's how you take care of the quarterback!
John: I was surprised with the Jaguars' selection of South Carolina guard A.J. Cann in the third round Friday. I thought wide receiver would be the pick. But clearly, this was the sort of situation you want. Rather than having to take wide receiver or another position, the Jaguars were able to take a player in the third round that they believe has a chance to improve an area where they are already OK. In years past, the Jaguars might have had to reach in the third round. This was more a case of a player of high value being available and selecting him. That's how you want to draft all of the time.
Lance from Jacksonville:
We're 15 years behind the Titans and Colts now. Unless Bortles makes massive improvement.
John: Fifteen years? Because of Mariota? OK, Lance.
Chad from Yulee, FL:
Left tackle, quarterback, Leo … check them all off. Now, who is going to score touchdowns besides our tight end?
John: That's a fair question. It needs to be Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson with perhaps some Marcedes Lewis in the mix. And it needs to be whoever starts at running back – whether it's Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson or T.J. Yeldon (and yeah, the obvious leader and favorite is Yeldon). I'd keep an eye on Lee, Hurns and Robinson. They didn't score many touchdowns as a rookie group last season. That's supposed to change as the trio and quarterback Blake Bortles mature.
Paul from St. Johns, FL:
In hindsight, I guess we should have taken the silence of Dave's phone as evidence that the Titans were going to just pick Marcus Mariota on Thursday. Seems so clear now, but I never saw that.
John: I don't think the silence of Caldwell's phone was a "tell" about the Titans' direction at No. 2, necessarily. I do think it showed that the general feeling around the league was either the Titans were going to select Mariota or trade the pick – and that once that selection happened, the evenness of the rest of the top players meant there wasn't going to be much opportunity for the Jaguars in the way of trades.
Andrew from Panama City Beach, FL:
London Collins was a song by "The Clash."
John: So was "Charlie Don't Surf." (And by the way, I think he should.)
Chris from Delray Beach, FL:
I know you don't put much stock in national respect and coverage of the Jags; however … it was glaringly obvious as I watched ESPN and the NFL Network that they do prioritize where the commercial breaks occur and which teams get the in-depth interest stories. At 8 p.m. sharp, the stories about the top two picks started with clips, interviews, pundit's opinions, etc. When the second pick was completed, both networks cut to commercial, came back only to give a cursory, perfunctory reading of the Jags pick and then almost immediately moved on to predicting what the Raiders would do, with several minutes of Cooper's highlights. It really felt like our pick was an afterthought. But as you say, winning fixes everything. It was a great pick and I'm already planning on which Dante Fowler Jr. team gear to buy. Go Jags!
John: It was indeed annoying for the networks to cut away for commercial just as the Jaguars went on the clock Friday. And there seems little doubt the decision at that point probably would have been different for another team. At the same time, remember this from the networks' perspective: there was intense interest in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota at Nos. 1 and 2, so they weren't going to cut away for an extended period with either the Buccaneers and Titans on the clock. Once the Titans selected, it probably seemed prudent from a national point of view to take commercials at the No. 3 selection. I guess. I suppose. Whatever.
Rob from Jacksonville:
If Fowler is the "best edge rusher in the draft," then why did he only have 14.5 sacks in college? If he didn't do it in college I just don't see why Caldwell thinks he's going to turn it up in the pros.
John: First off, Caldwell's far from alone in thinking Dante Fowler Jr. was the best edge-rusher prospect in the draft. That was pretty much a consensus. Really, the debate – not that there was much of a debate, really – leading up to the draft for the Jaguars wasn't whether or not Fowler was the best edge prospect, but who made more sense at No. 3: Leonard Williams, Amari Cooper or Fowler. It came down to position more than raw talent. As for the statistical question, the college and professional games are dramatically different, particularly at certain positions. One of those positions is pass rusher. Because college offenses are geared more toward the spread and toward getting the ball out of the quarterbacks' hands and avoiding sacks, it can be difficult to project defensive end/pass rusher in the NFL based on college production. Because of that, teams look for traits they believe will translate into the NFL, and Fowler has those traits. That's why multiple teams had him as the best edge rusher and best player in the draft. That's the theory. We'll see if it plays out.
Scott from Section 137 and Ponte Vedra, FL:
Apparently the Jaguars have had the most Top 10 picks since 2008 and the least amount of productive picks at those positions. We also have the worst NFL record since 2011. I sure hope our recent picks continue to pan out. If those picks don't pan out, are we in for more years of the same or is there enough talent so that we can be a team in the upper half of the league? Thanks from a perennial season-ticket holder.
John: Top selections need to be productive, particularly if they play quarterback.

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