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O-Zone: Always and forever

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Philip from Jacksonville

I've seen you say a lot lately you don't think the Jaguars should trade up for a wide receiver. I don't know what you're seeing. We need a true WR1.

I don't know that I've said all that often the Jaguars shouldn't trade up for a receiver in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, though I indeed have said quite often I don't expect them to do so. If it's the right player – i.e., a game-changing impact player – a wide receiver selected early certainly would be remembered as a good move. It would even be remembered this way if a trade was needed. The argument against such a move – and one reason I don't think they will do this – is this is considered a very deep draft at wide receiver. The Jaguars also have a very capable receiving corps of Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Gabe Davis with tight end Evan Engram whereas their cornerback roster isn't nearly as robust. That causes me to believe they will select cornerback in Round 1 and receiver somewhere in the next few rounds. That's my projection. It's a guess. It is only a guess.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Zone, whenever I think about this draft, I keep sort of finding myself wishing they would take offensive line and be done with it. Why is that?

I'm sorry I must tell you this, but we are of similar mind here. I have written for weeks that I believe the Jaguars will select a cornerback in Round 1 Thursday. I could well be wrong because pre-draft predictions have a better chance of being wrong than right. They could select wide receiver, offensive line or defensive line early – and all would make sense given the current roster and future contract situations. I suppose they could even select University of Georgia tight end Brock Bowers if he is available at No.17 overall. Corner makes sense from this perspective because it feels as if need and value will intersect there. Wide receiver makes sense to many observers because they believe that football now begins and ends with whether your team has a "True No. 1 receiver" even though there is little evidence to suggest a "True No. 1" receiver is necessary to make a deep playoff run. But as this draft approaches, I indeed find myself thinking what I have thought entering many recent drafts – that if a team doesn't need a quarterback, that team probably can't go wrong selecting the best offensive lineman, defensive lineman or disruptive edge player available. Teams that are really good at those positions are usually really good – and teams that aren't good there usually find themselves facing a lot of situations during the season in which they wish they were a lot better there. Would I think it silly on Thursday if Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke stepped to the podium and said, "We wanted to be as strong as we could on the line so we selected 'Player X.'" I wouldn't think that silly at all.

Keith from Saint Augustine, FL

When considering all the questions you receive, approximately what percentage would require the use of a crystal ball to answer directly?

I'm not sure yet.

Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone, a need for additional defensive line and pass rush help have been mentioned, thus am wondering if there is any scuttlebutt around the building regarding Tyler Lacy and Yasir Abdullah possibly having shown enough over the past 12 months to be considered more as rotational contributors this year than bottom of the roster guys who may or may not make the final 53?

Lacy played 15 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season, which is perhaps a bit low – though far from absurdly low – for a fourth-round defensive tackle as a rookie. Abdullah, a fifth-round selection and edge defender, was active in just five games as a rookie. I would expect Lacy to continue to be in the rotation. Time will tell if he's more than a rotational player. This will be a big year for Abdullah, who must still fit into the Jaguars' new defensive scheme and prove he deserves a spot in the rotation.

Paul from Lake City, FL

Signing the checks is the automatic tiebreaker in a mustache battle, yes? Then out of conference record, strength of schedule, etc...


Bill from Jacksonville, FL

"But teams shouldn't avoid selecting a player from Toledo in 2024 because a player from Toledo failed in the NFL in 1992." I dunno, John. That sounds an awful lot like "Scout the player, not the school." You know that got Gene Smith fired here, right?

General managers get fired for many reasons. Logic and NFL history tell you that more big-school players become good professional football players than small-school players. Logic and NFL history also tell you that if you ignore players because of where they went to school you're going to ignore a lot of good players.

Zach from Jacksonville

So, the team is about to release some throwback jerseys for the upcoming season. They are rumored to be potentially getting an alternate helmet color as well. Might I suggest silver helmets and silver pants. A fauxback homage to the original 93' uniforms. I think it'd be neat, but I don't expect them.

You can suggest anything your little heart desires.

Dave from Jacksonville

Now that college players have gained more power and money in the last few years, which has changed the college game immensely, do you see the same thing happening with NFL players where they're able to pick where they want to go in the draft and each team bids on the player?

Not unless the NFL and NFL Players Association get together and say, "What can we do to thoroughly ruin the game?" The legitimacy of the NFL Draft has withstood a lot of years of questioning because of its collectively bargained nature and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Chris from Tampa, FL

Perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly, but wasn't the rookie wage scale the one thing players and owners agreed on? Some veterans were annoyed that rookies, with no experience whatsoever, could come in and land contracts larger than theirs – and to that end, consuming more of a team's cap than warranted, leaving less for them.

The NFLPA at its core is typically against anything that reduces salaries for any players because the theory is the higher salary the better – and that that trend typically will lead to higher salaries, etc. That includes salaries for rookies. But you're correct that implementing the rookie wage scale was one of the easier "sells" for ownership with the players association in the 2011 CBA talks. The owners obviously at that point weren't going to agree to a new CBA without it, and it was easier for players to reduce the salaries for rookies than it would have been to reduce it for veterans already in the league.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

For fans that have school or work on Friday about what time will the 17th pick be "in"?

Sometime between 10 p.m. and 10:30ish. Or a little earlier. Or a little later.

David from Orlando, FL

Zone - When Ozzie Newsome was the general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, he was respected for being one of the best. If you go back and review all of his drafts, I bet you would see that all he did was pick the best available player on the board. But his list of best available players was more in line with the Mel Kipers and Daniel Jeremiahs of the world. So, when the Jaguars were on the clock, fans would see the list of best available players on their TV screens and pray to the football gods for us to "pick that guy". Unfortunately, teams create an alternative universe where they believe their big board is better than everyone else's. So, in the past, while we outsmart ourselves with selections like wide receiver Matt Jones and defensive tackle Taven Bryan, Ozzie Newsome would select the top-ranked player on the TV screen and is seen as some kind of genius. I've sent a variation of this "theory" over the years, so I know this may get a laugh from you, but I have a feeling many fans feel my pain.

There's no doubt in my mind that fans believe they could select better than the general managers of their respective teams. And there's no doubt in my mind that fans believe picking the player highest on the list on television is the best solution. Maybe they're right. Maybe they're wrong. I've done this long enough to know whatever is written in this space won't change how fans feel on this topic. Newsome was a great general manager, though. Perhaps the best of the last three decades.

Greg from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Are you the king of all funk?