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O-Zone: Eye on the prize

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Doug from Jacksonville

Seven first-round picks from the almighty SEC since 2013 ... yeah. The best conference has given the Jags the foundation they needed to be perennial powers in the NFL. Oh, wait. Shoot. We'll pick the kid from Georgia who was on a team with lots of good players who padded his numbers against Candy and MO.

I have been struck by the recent passion – and anger – from Jaguars fans and observers on various sides of the debate over who the team will select No. 1 in the 2022 NFL Draft. I don't recall this level of pre-draft anger among Jaguars observers in recent years, and I suppose it has reached this level for a couple of reasons. One is that unlike last year, when quarterback Trevor Lawrence was a clear consensus choice for the No. 1 overall selection, there are legitimate reasons to like and dislike multiple possibilities for the selection this year. Another is that fans have had a lot of time to get worked up over these differences, and perhaps many are so dug into their opinions that they are interpreting those opinions as facts. Some people like Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1 overall. Others like the "kid from Georgia," defensive lineman Travon Walker. Still others like offensive tackles Evan Neal of Alabama and Ickey Ekwonu of North Carolina State. Passionate opinions aside, the reality is no one – not fans, observers or general managers – knows which of the four will be the best NFL player. Maybe it's the kid from the almighty Southeastern Conference. Maybe not. But if you're trying to say that Walker won't be good because he played in the SEC … well, I don't quite get that.

Josh from Hugo, MN

I'd like to think that NFL teams want their first- or second-round picks to eventually be Pro Bowlers. Does making the Pro Bowl still have the same resume oomph as it used to?

The Pro Bowl still has resume oomph. If you make one, it usually at minimum means you've had a good enough season to get talked about a lot. If you make more than one, it means you probably have had a few good enough seasons to be in these types of conversations. Most Pro Bowl players aren't bad players. Does that mean the participants are always the best players? No, because the Pro Bowl admittedly is often about recognition, popularity and success level of a player's team as much as ability. Remember, too: The Pro Bowl never has had the oomph of the Associated Press All-Pro team. That's far more exclusive than the Pro Bowl.

Nick from Southside

Everyone is talking about trading out of the No. 1 pick. However, isn't more likely that we get really good value for trading out of Pick No. 33? Particularly if an attractive quarterback falls out of the first round, it feels like a good spot for someone to offer picks to get their guy.

The No. 33 overall selection appears to be the Jaguars' best chance to get good value in a draft-weekend trade this year. How good-looking a particular quarterback happens to be won't matter much either way.

David from Chuluota, FL

_KOAF. In 2019, ESPN ranked the Top 300 high school Football recruits. The two most popular players currently being mocked to the Jaguars are on the list, Travon Walker is ranked No. 46 and Aidan Hutchinson is ranked No. 193 (in 2018). Do you know who ESPN ranked as the No. 1 player in all 50 states? The same guy the Jacksonville Jaguars should draft with their No. 1 pick, Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. Get it done! _

So, one fer Thibodeaux – and one fer a little recruitin'.

Armand from Jacksonville

Could the USFL be a development league for the NFL with each USFL team working with four NFL teams?

If you mean a developmental league in the sense that specific NFL teams would have rights over specific players and call them up or down from a "minor league" as happens in baseball, probably not. NFL teams will certainly monitor/scout USFL players, though – and players from that league eventually will play in the NFL. That happens with pretty much every minor football league with any profile at all.

Andy from Halifax

Would you consider it positive if the Jags valued Linderbaum high enough to take him with the second pick or do you think that would heavily compromise our WR options?

I imagine the Jaguars value Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum enough to select him No. 33 overall. He generally is projected as a mid-to-late first-round selection, so projecting him as good value at the top of the second round makes sense. Selecting him there probably would mean waiting on receiver until Round 3 or so. Whether that's good or bad depends on how much you like the receivers available at No. 33.

Mike from Cortland, NY

I feel like I'm alone in this at this point, but I believe people are underestimating the probability of Thibodeaux at No. 1. If this pick was made in November, he was the unanimous No. 1. Has much really changed since then or is it all just smoke and mirrors and media pundits getting bored?

I think you are pretty much alone in this. Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday the team is considering four players at No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. My assumption is those four are Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson, Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal and North Carolina State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu. That assumption could be wrong, but it's probably not.

Brandon from Clemson, SC

Could the Jaguars draft wide receiver Justyn Ross?


Charles from Riverside

Hello, John. In a recent Florida Times-Union article in regard about the current status of our running backs, it was stated that running back James Robinson's lower production in his second year was due to injuries, and also to "former coach Urban Meyer's mismanagement of the rotation." What was that all about? Which also leads to a bigger football question, what is generally considered the proper rotation in the NFL for running backs?

There's no real "proper" rotation for NFL running backs; coaches typically determine this based on the skill set of the running backs and a team's offensive approach. As for the running back rotation … it has been reported that former Head Coach Urban Meyer limited Robinson's carries at times last season, perhaps notably after a fumble against the Los Angeles Rams. Robinson also carried relatively sparingly in the first few weeks of the season, leading to speculation that Meyer favored Carlos Hyde over Robinson. I assume that's what was meant by "mismanagement of the rotation." I don't pretend to know enough about Meyer or what motivated his decisions while with the Jaguars to know "what it was all about." I'm good. I ain't that good.

Bruce from Owensboro, KY

Dear Zone, I used to hate Tom Brady as probably most people would whose teams had lost cherished football games to the GOAT. I hated him less after he left New England and actually rooted for him to win the Super Bowl with Tampa. After just recently reconstructing his contract with the Bucs to make a measly $10 million this year, I have found I actually kind of like the dude. What are your thoughts about Brady and his career?

He's a-ight.

Bruce from Saint Simons Island, GA

O, I was happy to hear that the Jags' "brain trust" was still considering four players for its No. 1 pick. I believe Travon Walker would be the best No. 1 pick because he can play several positions on the defensive line (also MJD likes him, and I value his opinion). I then believe Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum would be the best pick at No. 33 (or higher) as he is considered a generational player who could both protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence and improve the Jags' running game. Finally, Travis Etienne Jr. may well be the wide receiver the Jags need, and I am always wrong -- I mean right!

I wouldn't be stunned if Walker and Linderbaum were the Jaguars' first two selections this weekend. I would be a little surprised if Etienne is The Wide Receiver the Jaguars need, but I could see him contributing in that role in a big way.

Russell from Jacksonville

With the Hall of Fame game being the first game, who will we use to guard Davante Adams now with the Raiders?

With the Hall of Fame game being the first preseason game, I would be surprised Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams plays enough to notice – if he plays at all.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I'm watching you, Zone, and I know what you're about. Never forget that.

You're a special person. I think we all feel that.