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O-Zone: Looking forward to the draft

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Damon from Hollywood, CA:
I was all for drafting Geno Smith at No. 2, but now that I think about it, wouldn't it be better to draft Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher and let one of them duke it out with Eugene Monroe for the left tackle position? Whoever loses can be moved to right tackle and that doesn't seem like such a terrible option. Plus, Geno doesn't seem like a "can't-miss" prospect like Joeckel or Fisher and he comes from a spread offense, so it's most likely going to take him time to develop anyway.
John: We're 17 days from the draft, and it seems like it can't get here fast enough – and at the same time, like it's coming up too fast. Or maybe that's just me. Whatever. We are getting to that point at which the scenarios are getting talked out and re-talked out and fleshed out over and over again. But we're also at that point at which it's time to reevaluate some things. Now that we're past the Pro Days, teams have a much clearer idea of what they want to do and how they may approach the draft. David Caldwell indicated last week that the Jaguars have narrowed their choices and that they would be able to pick now if necessary. I still believe the Jaguars' ideal scenario would be to trade down. With the emphasis being on competition and building a foundation, the more young, draftable players you can have in training camp, the better. We'll discuss the whole offensive tackle scenario a bit later, but we'll use this opportunity to address quarterback: right now, two and a half weeks out, I'd say it would be a surprise if the Jaguars went quarterback – Geno Smith or otherwise – in the first round. There doesn't seem to be a mammoth difference between the top guy – if that's indeed Smith – and the next few, and the Jaguars have scouted the class pretty extensively. Now, as far as taking a tackle . . .
Matt from Jacksonville:
In '95 our first pick (second overall) was a stud tackle (Tony Boselli). Now, in what is basically starting over again, we have the No. 2 overall pick and there's going to be a stud tackle there (Fisher or Joeckel). Coincidence? Who knows if Monroe is even going to re-sign, and is he even worth the huge amount he's going to command? I say that while it is not a sexy pick we pull the trigger on the surest thing, and worst case our new right tackle has to switch to left tackle in 2014.
John: Well, I'm glad you asked . . . There are days I like your scenario and days I don't. One thing I like about David Caldwell is that I go back and forth on whether I think he likes your scenario or not. I like that because he's keeping things tight and leaving his options open. That's what you're supposed to do as the draft approaches. My gut feeling is the Jaguars won't take a left tackle. Monroe is a premium talent and the Jaguars don't have a great deal of players like that. Plus, it's going to be tough to keep Monroe and a No. 2-drafted left tackle because it's tough to pay two left tackles premium money. That's today's gut, anyway, but right now, my gut is sort of hurting.
Donovan from Danville, IL:
Here's a thought the "Draft-QB-early" people don't think about. If we do draft quarterback in the first or second round and Gabbert beats them out, then what? We wasted a pick we could have used on cornerback, defensive end, offensive line or linebacker for a guy who is a backup. It doesn't work: third round for a quarterback the earliest. The team has too many holes around the quarterback to fill.
John: I agree to a point. There are many holes, but while it's true you can't have too many good football players, it's even truer that you can't have too many good quarterbacks. If Gabbert and another quarterback are both playing so well that everyone's saying, "Gee, what a great situation those Jaguars have at quarterback," there not only will be a lot of happy people around EverBank Field, there will be people willing to trade for the backup. The reason not to take a quarterback early is if you don't see one that you believe is a franchise-changing player, or one you don't believe can be an NFL starter. If you think there's a guy like that, particularly in the Jaguars' situation, you take him.
Cheesed from Orlando, FL:
Don't ya just love the verbose questions, and your verbose answers?!
John: I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really do.
Sonny from Melbourne, FL:
You do know that Boselli is bigger than you and probably faster, too.
John: He is bigger. There was a time he was faster, but he has had two hips replaced. I've had no hips replaced, but I've got a bad knee, so the more I think about it, we're probably about the same speed. That means I'm good – as long I have a head start.
Tim from Seffner, FL:
Matt Barkley would not be the answer in the second round at quarterback, especially not with a rebuilding team around him. I'd almost rather see any quarterback but him. Many think Blaine's the biggest issue with the team; he's not, and with basically emptying the roster of most experienced players we should get other positions in first three rounds and worry about quarterback later. What all the "Draft-quarterback-early-Gabbert's-a-bust" people are missing is next year's quarterback class is stronger at the top. Barkley would be a waste at Round 2 because we'll have to wait another two years to fully write him off. There is a reason you don't draft quarterbacks in first three rounds two years after taking one in the first, because if the round 2-3 guy doesn't work you're constantly pushing your team's success back missing on the most important position in football (quarterback), and not acquiring talent at other positions necessary for the quarterback to have success. That's why you get a veteran (which Blaine actually is now with 2 years starting) or Henne or stopgap to keep team competitive until a franchise quarterback is around.
John: So, let me get this straight: Do you or do you not want the Jaguars to draft Matt Barkley?
Dick from Jacksonville:
Hey John, the fans want the Oklahoma Drill. Part of building a brand is having a tradition. My family went to see it every year. Is Gus going to bring back our Oklahoma tradition?
John: I can't imagine a scenario where that would take place. The Oklahoma Drill, while entertaining, is a dangerous drill, especially in the salary cap era with limited rosters. The Jaguars will be about competition, but that competition almost certainly won't involve the Oklahoma Drill.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
John, are you a "Best Available Question" kinda guy, or do you select the ones to answer based on need?
John: It depends. During the season, it's best available. During the offseason, particularly in the slow times, it's sort of based on need. Right now, I think I need a cup of coffee.
Tim from St. Petersburg, FL:
A lot of people are ready to write off Gabbert as a bust. Alex Smith was a No. 1 pick and deemed a bust. The 49ers spent years trying to replace him and then, all of a sudden, he had a really good year and a half until replaced by Kaepernick. What do you think and are there any analogies to Gabbert?
John: There are – if Gabbert develops into a playoff quarterback. What the 49ers faced with Smith and what the Jaguars face with Gabbert is the ultimate dilemma. An NFL team must find a franchise quarterback, and as a result, they often take them in the first round. A guy taken in the first round almost always possesses the physical tools to be very, very good. At that point, many factors play into success. Some of those factors are about the quarterback – i.e., maturity, ability to study film, ability to adjust to the NFL, etc. A lot of other factors are about the team – i.e., coaching, offensive system, stability, talent surrounding the quarterback. A team taking a quarterback in the Top 10 often lacks some of the "team" factors," which makes it very difficult to judge the quarterback. That was the case for a long time with Smith. He struggled and then succeeded, but to be honest, that's a rare occurrence. Gabbert has struggled. There are things that make you think he can be a rarity and develop into a solid starter. There are other things that happened that make you wonder. That's why he's in the position he's in – competing for a starting position and trying to show he's the guy for the job long-term.
Brian from Atlanta, GA:
It's getting close... I can almost read the questions about all the players the Jaguars should have taken instead.
John: Yes, well . . . I think we're all looking forward to that.

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