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O-Zone: Bleak reality

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Peter from Wuhan, China:
Now that we have a lot of high-profile visits in the next day or two... what in the heck goes on in these visits? Is it on-field workouts, whiteboard-type stuff, interviews, personality evaluations, small talk? How does it work when you have several prospects visiting at the same time? Are they kept separate or are they together? What actually are these visits and what do they accomplish?
John: There is a misconception about these visits, one caused at least in part by media referring to teams as "bringing players in for workouts." That isn't the case. When draft-eligible prospects visit teams, there is no on-field element. Instead, it's about interviews and meetings with coaches and personnel officials, etc., and yes, there is some whiteboard-type stuff and some small talk. When players visit on the same day, they often see one another and often dine together or speak in the hallway. Many prospects know that other prospects exist and there is little-to-no-benefit to teams keeping them away from another. As for what the visits accomplish, the idea is the same as the entire pre-draft process – to allow teams to get a better feel for prospects. This is just a chance for teams and players to get one-on-one time toward that end.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Just for fun, can you write us a rhyme about the Jaguars?
John: Oh … no.
Nick from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
In a scenario in which Houston does take Clowney at No. 1, does that lower the probability of us being able to find a trade partner? With this being such a deep draft with little difference in the Top 10-to-15 except for Clowney, where everyone says he has the once-every-20 -year tangibles … I feel if he's out, Atlanta most likely would be, too, and I see them as our most probable trade partner.
John: Nick, you're understandably falling into the trap of believing that because Clowney is a special prospect, he therefore is the only special prospect. This is not necessarily the case, and I doubt it's the case. Although many media and fans have focused on Clowney, there are in fact a number of players such as Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack – not to mention a handful of quarterbacks – who teams for various reasons could covet come draft day. The Jaguars had no takers at No. 2 overall last year because the draft was widely considered relatively weak and there weren't a lot of players for whom teams wanted to move up. There are a number of good players available this year, and that should mean a number of good teams willing to consider trades to move up to get them.
Jim from Neptune Beach, FL:
Does Dave Caldwell know the timing on when they can regain access to Blackmon? Or is the timing still up in the air? It's got to be important to have some idea as to Blackmon's future with the Jags before the draft. It would seem to me to be penalizing the Jags not to be able to have some idea on his status before draft decisions are made?
John: The timing and everything else around Blackmon is pretty much up in the air and will remain that way until it's not. This isn't a situation that's going to be clearly laid out. As far as how Blackmon's status will affect the draft, it really won't. The Jaguars will almost certainly address wide receiver in the draft, and I expect them to draft it in the first two days. I expect that will be the case whether or not they hear something on Blackmon's status before the draft or not.
Tom from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I recently saw an article grading each team in free agency. The Jaguars were graded a C- due to not addressing needs such as receiver and center. Do you agree with this?
John: I agree with it about as much as I care about it.
Glen from Lake City, FL:
What probably bothers me most if the Texans do take Clowney is two players who very well could define their position for the next 10 years will have gone to division rivals in the last three drafts. I guess I'm just jealous, O-Man.
John: I guess I just don't think about the draft that way. First, there's no guarantee that Jadeveon Clowney will define his position. He's an otherworldly talent, but there's a lot more to being great than having otherworldly talent. He still has to develop, produce, etc., etc. But really, the draft isn't about worrying about who other teams draft as much as focusing on what you're doing to build your team.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Glancing at the live cam of the South end zone and seeing the extra support towers going up as the old scoreboard gets dismantled really starts to give a "real world" sense of what the scale of the new boards will really be. Wow! It really is striking! So, One fer the new massive scoreboards and Shad/the city's commitment to this team! Now in a few more years, bring on that canopy maybe?
John: Hey! One fer the videoboards and one fer Shad and the city … and hey! Everyone! And yes, the scoreboards absolutely will be on a scale that will amaze and awe people. There seems to be a growing sense of that, but until they're actually up I doubt people will grasp the full effect.
Keisha from Annandale, VA:
Can the team with the No. 1 pick choose a player prior to the draft and start negotiating a deal?
John: Yes.
John from St. Louis, MO:
O-man, with all the talk about trading back and which quarterback to take doesn't that say that none of these quarterbacks are worthy of a Top 5 pick?
John: It says that there are more than a few teams and analysts who feel that way. That has been increasingly obvious as the draft approaches. When it comes to the draft, "worthy" is a very dicey word, particularly when it comes to the quarterback position. Teams need quarterbacks enough that those without one tend to deem otherwise unworthy players worthy. Whether that will happen next month is what is providing this year's draft much of its intrigue.
John from Jacksonville:
There is an inner peace in not thinking about nor worrying about the draft. When the dust settles, we'll have anywhere from 5-to-15 new players drafted, anyone from Clowney to someone nobody has heard of, and the focus will be on what we gained and not what we lost. Some will be very good, some will struggle, and others might even get injured. It happens every year but the arrow pointing up is that I have more confidence in Caldwell's approach where the settled dust might have more gold flakes than in the past.
John: I'm glad you have peace. Having peace can be … well, peaceful. And you're right that there's every reason to have confidence in Caldwell's approach. Through two free-agency periods, one season and one draft he has been consistent in his approach of focusing on the long-term by building through the draft while trying to use free agency to fill spots for the short-term. He has moved a little more toward higher-priced free agents this offseason but hasn't sacrificed the long-term plan to do so. As I have written, there are no guarantees in professional sports because you're dealing with human beings and trying to project how those human beings will perform in the future. But you have to have a sound plan and you must stick with that sound plan. So far, Caldwell in a little more than a year seems to have done that.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
It seems like there is an Ozone post every day of the week? For how long has this been going on?
John: Including today, 976 days. -ish.
Bruce from Gotham:
If the Jags were to draft Sammy Watkins at No. 3, do you think there is a possibility of trading Shorts or Blackmon [if any interest to take a chance] for more late-round picks?
John: I seriously doubt it. The Jaguars want to add more firepower to the offense not take it away.
Mike from White Plains, NY:
The Texans have the No. 1 pick and a need at quarterback. There is a clamoring for them to take the hometown hero, the guy that would revolutionize the position with his knack for plays. The Texans stun many, though, and make a somewhat criticized pick at the time of Mario Williams instead of quarterback Vince Young (or any of the other touted quarterbacks). Now, in hindsight it seems like a no-brainer that they made the right choice. I can't imagine they will chuck the good sense they had then for this recent bout of quarterback frenzy. They have to take Clowney, right?
John: Your implication is that there are similarities between the '04 draft and this year's, and your implication is correct. But there are differences, too. One significant difference is Mario Williams wasn't considered nearly as elite-level a prospect as Clowney. But the most significant difference is that the key decision-maker on the Williams selection – General Manager Charley Casserly – is no longer with the Texans organization. They still could take Clowney, of course, but although the Texans still operate with "good sense" it's a different good sense than 10 years ago.
El Bimbo from Riverside Hood:
Sometimes John, like your letter from Charlie, you absolutely nail it. I live for these moments.
John: I pity you.

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