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O-Zone: Grading the'96 draft

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Jeff from Knoxville, TN:
The best thing that could happen for the Jaguars now is for Geno Smith to have a lights-out Pro Day. If he builds more momentum and pre-draft buzz, do you think the Jags could get a good trade offer for the second pick?
John: Yes. Either that, or pick him themselves. That's where the news that the Chiefs were trading for Alex Smith put us. Until we hear for sure the Jaguars aren't interested in Geno Smith, the Jaguars and Geno Smith will be part of the pre-draft conversation.
Teddy from Orlando, FL:
Maybe you should tip better . . .
John: Maybe you should change your socks.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Do you see the Jaguars pursuing a free agent/trade for a wide receiver to complement Blackmon and Shorts? With Harvin, Bowe, Welker, Wallace and Amendola all available it would seem the time is right to acquire a third talented wide receiver. I understand it is too early to prognosticate, but I am interested in your thoughts on this position.
John: I don't see the Jaguars using free agency or trade to build the roster this first season. People get on me a bit about repeating that thought, but it seems to bear repeating. There may be a free-agent signing or two, but there are no indications from David Caldwell that bringing in high-priced free agents or giving up draft picks in trades for veterans is going to be part of the game plan.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
Did the free food stop on Sunday, John? Is that why you and Shadrick hit the road?
John: It's frightening how close to correct you are on this matter.
Clay from Section 214:
Did you really just name a benched quarterback, two (count them, two) special team players, a blocking tight end and an underachieving defensive tackle as part of our "core"? The truth hurts, I suppose, and I hope David Caldwell can pull some real rabbits from his hat.
John: This answer from Thursday morning got quite a bit of feedback, so I suppose I should clarify. I didn't mean to say the players mentioned were the core in terms of how Gus Bradley and David Caldwell see the Jaguars' best players over the next five years. I meant to say they're guys who will be on the roster and perhaps starting over the next couple of years as Bradley and Caldwell reshape the roster. That's on me, and the question should have been answered with more detail. My guess is the core of this roster going forward will be more of players who aren't here than those who are.
Justin from Jacksonville:
Only a month and half of draft-related questions to go before we get back to Tebow talk. Yes.
John: Even if he's released.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Maybe I haven't noticed it in the past, but there seems to be a lot more contract restructuring going on this offseason than in other years. Is there a reason for that?
John: Yes.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
Mind telling me the reason?
John: Sure. As you alluded to, contracts get restructured each season. The Jaguars did this a lot in the late 1990s when they were having salary-cap issues. There's a lot of it this season because until the new television deals kick in, the league is experiencing a relatively "flat cap," which means teams are expecting limited cap room at the start of the 2013 league year March 12. Teams are restructuring in an effort to create space.
codian from albert town:
John: there's really nothing TO SAY TO THIS.
Brian from Jacksonville:
What's your take on Bloggers? More specifically: those who think they're real media and just steal others work?
John: This is a gray area, and for someone in my profession a much-discussed issue. As such, I have thoughts on the matter that would bore a lot of people. My overarching thought on it is that media has changed dramatically in the last five, 10 and 15 years – enough that a lot of old definitions such as "real media" don't really make sense. In general, I have no problem with bloggers or anyone else writing material online, although an effort should be made to give credit where it's due. Even the last point is a bit vague, though, because there is so much out there that sometimes people take an idea and write it without actually meaning to. To keep the answer as short as possible, I guess there's no real hard, fast answer on this one. I try to do as much good, original, well-thought-out work as I can on a daily basis, and not worry too much about what other people are or aren't doing.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
John, one thing I haven't heard mentioned about Caldwell's talk of not being active in free agency this year is he stands to gain late-round draft picks for next year's draft by not being active in free agency this year. If Cox, Mathis and maybe Ross (not sure when his contract expires) leave this year, we would be eligible for compensatory draft picks by whatever "standard" the NFL uses to determine that kind of thing.
John: That is indeed one of the perks of not being active in free agency – that you stand to gain compensatory selections the following season. It's not the main perk, but it's a plus. One clarification, though: Ross wouldn't have anything to do with compensatory selections next offseason. Only players who are unrestricted free agents figure into the equation. If Ross is free this offseason, it would be because the Jaguars released him before his contract expires.
Houston from Aiken, SC:
John, you seem like a hip dude, up to speed on things, but are there times when you have to call in your 16-year-old son and say, "What is this person talking about?" (Meaning us who ask questions) OK, mostly me.
John: I could try to call my 16-year-old son, but unless I blocked my number, I doubt he'd answer.
Jesse from Jacksonville:
You said on JTW that Geno Smith looked inconsistent. I can't think of a single college quarterback entering the draft (even guys like Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford) outside of Andrew Luck and maybe RG3 that hasn't looked inconsistent. It seems now if a quarterback isn't on their level they shouldn't be taken early in the first round. Those expectations are too high. This team has a lot of needs but the greatest need will continue to be quarterback until we find one. If I am Caldwell, I'd take a serious look at drafting a quarterback who has a legitimate chance to supplant Gabbert as the starting QB.
John: You make a lot of good points, and your approach is something a lot of teams with quarterback questions must work through in the coming weeks. You can't necessarily wait around for the next Andrew Luck or RGIII to enter the draft. Sometimes, you have to pick a guy with inconsistencies and questions and believe in what you project that player to be. That it is the yearly dilemma for teams with quarterback issues when it's not a unique year featuring players such as RGIII and Luck.
Trey from Jacksonville:
Alualu part of the core? That is a funny joke. You get funnier and funnier every day I read this column.
John: To some people, the truth is funny.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
College Free Agency as the new GM says or Undrafted Free Agency as the old GM said. What's the difference? Now we act like it is a new thing and going to be a big part of the rebuilding process? The Jaguars have been known for having "undrafted" players on the team for a long time. We still sucked last year. If we "blew up" the senior staff why talk like we are not going to "blow up" the roster. Stop keeping players for sentiment and because they "might" be good. In the NFL there are no second chances so to paraphrase, 'There is no follow the same tactics as before, rebuild or rebuild not.'
John: I followed you for the first few sentences, and you lost me after that. You are correct that college free agency and undrafted free agency are the same thing. I'm trying to remember when anyone around the Jaguars said they were different. Caldwell's mission is not to paint for the public some clear philosophical break from the past. He doesn't care about that, nor should he. His job is to build the Jaguars' roster in the best way he knows how, and his experience is if you start out building young through the draft and college free agency you can create the sort of competition Gus Bradley covets and find players to help you build. As far as blowing up the roster and players for sentiment and those topics, Caldwell has been pretty clear that he's going to try to build around the good players under contract on the Jaguars and do so with young players.
Jim from Meridian, ID:
John: Since there has been a lot of draft talk, where do you rank the '96 Jaguars draft class?
John: Up there.

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