O-Zone: Apple of their eye

INDIANAPOLIS – Heading home.

Let's get to it … Travis from Analla:
I get that people like Leonard Fournette and that he might be good, or even great. This is also a guy that decided to not play in a bowl game with his team that he battled with all year. He also came into the combine weighing 240, and making the excuse that it was water weight. Am I looking too much into this or should this not be a concern to any team drafting him?
John: There inevitably is a prospect that gets overanalyzed and over-discussed in the wake of the NFL Scouting Combine, and it appears Fournette is this year's model. That became the case when the former Louisiana State running back showed up at this year's combine at 240 pounds and when he didn't jump as high in the vertical jump as many expected. So now, analysts and draftniks undoubtedly will speculate and breathlessly quote "people in the NFL" about Fournette's falling draft stock. I honestly doubt Fournette's stock truly drops all that much. First, I care not one iota about Fournette missing the bowl game – and I imagine the great majority of NFL people feel the same way. It's perfectly OK for prospects to protect their bodies for the NFL once their final college regular season ends; my guess is draft-eligible players foregoing their bowl games is going to be far more the norm than the exception moving forward, particularly for players with NFL millions at stake. As far as Fournette weighing 240 pounds … sure, that will be a topic. But Fournette is going to go somewhere in the Top 10, and how he early he goes will depend far more on his game tape and how teams feel philosophically about taking running backs early than anything that happened this week in Indianapolis.
Jeff from Keystone Heights, FL:
I don't pretend to know how to run a football team or a scouting department and whether or not to put a running back in your Top 4 or not. But I know I don't remember EVER a discussion about a Jags dominant offensive line, yet two of the greatest players in my mind in Jaguars history are both running backs ... Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. If the staff believes either of the top two running backs in the draft can be the type of playmakers those two were you take them at No. 4 regardless of the thought about it not being a premium position. Get the ball into their hands ... in space ... with the ability to score ... from anywhere. If they can do that I'd draft them at four every day of the week and twice on. … Thursday evening.
John: I don't think you should underestimate the quality of the offensive lines that blocked in front of Taylor and Jones-Drew. Were they dominant? Perhaps not, but some of those lines were very good run-blocking units. As far as the running-back-premiere-position thing … it's nearly two months from the draft and I can already see myself getting a little worn out over the debate. I'd be surprised if the Jaguars take either player at No. 4. I can see the reasoning for doing it, especially if they believe Fournette is a build-the-offense-around-him player – which might well be the case. If he's that guy, and if he can define the franchise for a while … then, sure, take him. This franchise hasn't had enough defining guys in a good, long while. It sure could use one. Still I doubt it happens. I believe the value of other positions at No. 4 eventually will win the day.
TJ from Tuscaloosa, AL:
Seems safe to assume we aren't taking a running back with the No. 4 pick with those sub-par performances from the big dogs.
John: I wouldn't assume that – certainly not because of 40-yard dashes at the combine.
Ryan from Apopka, FL:
I understand the notion of bringing in competition for Blake Bortles at quarterback and not wanting to pay an arm and a leg. What are your thoughts on Mike Glennon and Colin Kaepernick? I would gather both could be signed at a reasonable contract and could provide solid competition.
John: One part of this discussion is the definition of "reasonable." Is paying starter's money for a player who might not start reasonable? That's a matter of opinion. I don't get the impression that Glennon's contract is going to come cheap – and Colin Kaepernick's likely won't, either. Another issue is something former Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominick noted on Jaguars.com LIVE Friday -- that a lot of quarterbacks don't want to sign somewhere to compete with an incumbent because the belief is the incumbent has a big advantage. It's easy to see how that could be the perception of Jacksonville. Bortles has started for the better part of three seasons and he has put up some seriously good numbers. Many who watched this team in recent seasons know he struggled, but trying to find a quarterback to compete against him may be trickier in real life than it would be in Madden.
Michael from Tupelo, MS:
Would it be possible to see Myles Jack playing safety this year? Do you see him as a possibility there?
John: Yes, it's possible. No, I don't believe this will happen. I think there's a good chance Myles Jack plays middle linebacker with Paul Posluszny at strong-side. Another option could be having Posluszny in the middle on passing downs, and having Jack play the position in passing situations. Either way, I think Jack plays linebacker and not safety.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
Give Caldwell credit where it is due: he can cut these free agents easily due to the way he is structuring their deals. No general manager hits 100 percent in free agency, but to make the release painless as possible is something he controls very well.
John: This is true, and it stems from Caldwell's general philosophy when it comes to free agency. He considers it a necessary evil, something he reiterated at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine this week. There's no way to avoid overspending in free agency and the chances are great that you're going to miss on players – or that at the very least those players won't perform as well as they did at their previous stops. It's the nature of the beast. But the Jaguars indeed have been able to get out from under disappointing free-agent situations. The positive is that they will be able to sign more free agents this offseason. The downside may be that they are able to sign more free agents this offseason, but we'll see.
Dan from Ormond Beach, FL:
You often hear that teams are going to let potential free agents test the market to set their value. Do you think with the salary cap going up annually as much as it is that perhaps that's a bad idea? Teams are so flush with cap space that if you let your free agent test the market, he is probably gone these days.
John: Letting potential free agents test the market is a fine idea if you're OK with losing that player. If you want to keep him it's a horrible idea because he usually winds up signing elsewhere.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Having played guard, center and a little nose tackle, I question a comment you made Thursday when you talked about a rushing game was basically sticking your "chest out." I agree. When you can impose your will on another team it's a beautiful thing and dovetails very nicely with the Lombardi principal of attacking the teams' strengths. Is it wise to attempt this with a line that's not there yet? An attempt with failure will take the wind out of your sail pretty quickly. Are we ready for this yet? Like most very old linemen, I believe a great offensive line can solve most issues, but how do we do without a great line? #DTWD
John: I think the Jaguars' offensive line will be different entering next season, with at least two new starters. Will that make them great? I have no idea. Will it give them an opportunity to be a better run-blocking team? That's the Jaguars' hope.
David from Oviedo, FL:
Johnny-O: Free agency is like a dance club; everybody is eyeing the same pretty girl. We act as if we can pick up anybody we want, greasing back our hair and flashing our $69 million wad of cash. What we don't seem to realize is three other teams actually have more cap space than us (Cleveland, San Francisco, Tampa Bay) and eight teams have more than $54 million to woo away the apple of our eye. My point is that there's a lot of competition on the dance floor; try not to fall in love, because there's a good chance you're not going home with the one you want.
John: Yes, because free agency.

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