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O-Zone: Exception to the rule

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … KC from Lawrenceburg, IN:
Longtime reader, first-time commenter. With all the additions in free agency this year, I have no idea what the Jags' plan is for the draft now. It seems we filled many holes across the roster with the signings this year, so now we have a chance to go Best Player Available in the draft. What positions do you think we will target early in the draft?
John: That's a better question now than it was a few days ago; the thing about good questions is they sometimes are really difficult to answer. That's absolutely the case when it comes to what the Jaguars will do in the first few rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. The team's objective in free agency was to fill all needs well enough it could draft without regard to need – or to at least come very close to drafting in that manner. One theory is the Jaguars' free-agency moves have been made to fill the depth chart to the extent they can either select a quarterback at No. 29 overall or try to maneuver up to take one earlier in the first round. My sense right now is the Jaguars won't select a quarterback in Round 1 and that they instead will use the freedom to try to draft the best available player at each spot. The reasoning behind this is there's a very real chance the Jaguars will part ways with some veteran players in the coming offseasons. The key to maintaining competitiveness when you do that is to draft well and have second- and third-year players ready when higher-priced, older players are released. Will the Jaguars take that route or go hard for a quarterback? That seems likely to be the debate between now and the draft. When will we know their approach? Draft night, most likely.
Will from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars took a right guard with their first pick, would this be the best offensive line in the NFL?
John: How good is the right guard?
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I've been sad many times over the years when certain favorites leave: Tony Brackens, Keenan McCardell, Daryl Smith, John Henderson, Marcus Stroud, Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor to name a few. As fans, we tend to see these guys as players first, people second. Wrong? Sure. Natural? Yes. But a few stand out in my mind as equally great on and off the field. Brunell, Calais Campbell, and perhaps most of all, Paul Posluszny. John, just curious – do players care what fans think of them personally?
John: I think most players care about this to some degree, though some obviously more than others. The thing about most of the players you mentioned – particularly the last three – is they generally speaking naturally carried/carry themselves in such a way that they deserved the fans' admiration. When you're a decent person and carry yourself as such, people tend to admire you. Or so I've been told.
Sean from Owings Mills, MD:
Where are we going in the draft? Ask me two days ago and I say guard or tight end in the first round. But now we have a glut at tight end, or at least it appears that way. If you are Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell, what do you do with each pick? I have no idea which way we're going to go. As clueless as I am, I'm really excited now, though.
John: I spend a lot of time clueless and excited; there are times just before lunch I resemble my dog when she needs to go outside. As far as your question, I still see wide receiver, offensive line or tight end as the most likely possibilities. Stay tuned.
Will from Jacksonville:
Concerning compensation picks … would having a player retire equate to "losing a player" and come into play in the compensation formula or no?
John: No. Compensatory selections are based on unrestricted free agents who sign with another team. The unrestricted free agents a team signs during this free-agency period will be weighed against the UFAs a team loses; if it's deemed a team "lost" more than it gained, the team will receive selections in the next offseason's draft. Number and rounds of selections are determined by the league office based on a formula, the details of which are not public. Players who are released and players who retired don't figure into the formula.
Frankie from Ponte Vedra, FL:
When talking about A-Rob, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said a few weeks ago that we still have the franchise tag in our back pocket while Caldwell said we have other needs to address. Is there a gulf between the head coach and the front office? It doesn't sound like they're on the same page.
John: Marrone did say during the recent NFL Scouting Combine that the Jaguars at the time had the franchise tag in their pocket. He never said nor implied they would use it, though some chose to interpret what he said that way. There is no gulf. There is no disconnect. Not even a tiny one.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
Yo, O: I am stoked about the signing of Andrew Norwell, Marqise Lee, and Donte Moncrief. I certainly was not expecting us to be so active, but with an ever-expanding salary cap, huge contracts of today will be the just-shy-of-huge contracts of tomorrow. So it is clear what we must do in the draft now: draft referees with all our picks!!! DUUUVALLL!!!!!!
John: Clever!!
Jim from Jacksonville:
Please explain the rationale for picking up a quarterback in later rounds. Unless you hit on the rare Tom Brady, your late-round quarterback likely will not be able to carry a team very far if No. 1 goes down. As for "developmental" quarterbacks, are there any examples of truly developmental quarterbacks taken in late rounds that have eventually started for a team?
John: I basically agree. While there are cases of late-round quarterbacks starting and flourishing, they're rare enough that it's really not a good bet that it will happen. So, why try? Because finding a quarterback is difficult and you keep trying avenues until you find one.
Hassan from Dallas, TX:
Regardless of Andrew Norwell, I still want Will Hernandez with the 29th pick.
John: OK.
Tom from Charleston, SC:
We keep hearing about Leonard Fournette, a draft pick or free agent and T.J. Yeldon as next season's backfield. Corey Grant has consistently performed better than Yeldon as a change-of-pace back. He has more upside. The only thing that Yeldon shows is the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. That is not enough to warrant keeping him. Can't you see a brighter future with Grant rather than Yeldon? To me, Yeldon has been a disappointment.
John: I can't control what you keep "hearing;" I can control what I write and say, and I've written and said relatively consistently I think the Jaguars' backfield next season will consist of Fournette, Yeldon, Grant and perhaps either a free agent or a draft selection. I believe Grant will continue to have a role as a special-teams player and change-of-pace back, but I don't know that he's going to be the top backup. His size and difficulty in pass protection make that unlikely. As far as Yeldon's value, he's also very good in pass protection as well as catching the ball well out of the backfield, but no … he hasn't been as productive as you would have hoped considering he was a second-round draft selection. But there's not much reason to think of this as a Yeldon-or-Grant question. Yeldon has a year remaining on his rookie contract, and the Jaguars' tender offer to Grant assures he will be with the team next season. There's no reason now to get rid of either player in 2018.
Kent from Jacksonville:
I may be in the minority here, but I'm ecstatic over the signing of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I can remember when he came out of Washington how the scouts raved about his physical tools. I do remember red flags galore as well, but his talent was unmistakable. He seems to have gotten on track with sobriety, and he's still young enough to be that big-bodied, seam-stretching tight end everyone thought he could be. I'm excited that he gets that opportunity with the Jags!
John: Hey, one for Seferian-Jenkins!
Dave from Dallas, TX:
Hey, Mr. O: Surprisingly, offensive linemen score best at Wonderlic as a group. Running backs are worst. Doesn't seem all that relevant, so why does the NFL Scouting Combine keep the test? I do wonder where old hacks who mangle the English language regularly would land? Doesn't matter I guess. I still read and appreciate your column daily. Go figure.
John: Teams use the Wonderlic test for the same reason they use interviews, combine drills, Pro Day drills, psychological tests and anything else they use that's not game tape to evaluate potential draft selections – as a tool to enhance the overall picture they have of a player. And it's really not all that surprising that offensive linemen score that well on the Wonderlic. I've known a lot of offensive linemen in my career. A great majority are upstanding, functioning members of society. And then there's Boselli.

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