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O-Zone: My little secret

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Richard from Jacksonville:
Does the average fan understand how big of a deal it is that for the first time in eight or nine years we no longer have to need draft? We have a core and a little depth, young as it may be, to draft the best available player – or perhaps even more exciting things. Why do I feel like after such a nice draft class – err, I mean free-agency signing period – that Mr. Caldwell just might have an ace up his sleeve?
John: I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out what the average fan understands. I have enough trouble trying to figure out what motivates my 18-year-old son. As far as the Jaguars' draft, yes, they are significantly closer to being able to draft without worrying about pressing needs than they were two or three years ago. I still don't know that they can do whatever they want at the top of the draft; there still are some needs at running back, wide receiver, pass rusher, etc., that could sway early draft decisions. But is General Manager David Caldwell freer to select without regard to need through much of the draft? No question.
Josiah from Jacksonville:
I thought Justin Blackmon was eligible for reinstatement with the NFL on April 1. Yet, there has been no news about him applying. Will he? Isn't time a factor?
John: As has been written and said repeatedly, there will be no news of Justin Blackmon until there is news on Justin Blackmon. The league keeps these matters quiet for privacy reasons, but the Jaguars' stance remains what the Jaguars' stance has been throughout the wide receiver's indefinite suspension. They would welcome him back if reinstated, but they are not planning around the possibility either way. Therefore, time is not a factor.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, with the NFL being a quarterback league and all of the rule changes that favor the passing game, why are the Jaguars looking to run what many who follow the team have called a "run-heavy offense?" Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Bill! The Jaguars are trying to establish the running game because a strong defense and strong running game can help a young quarterback as he develops! Until a quarterback has shown that he can win with an all-throwing, all-the-time approach – a la, Manning, Brady, Rodgers, etc. – it's difficult to put everything on the passing game! Ideally, you'd have a quarterback who can win that that way! It certainly helps! The Jaguars don't yet, so they want to have as many weapons around him so that he doesn't always have to win by himself! Go Jags!
Jeff from Orange Park, FL:
Mr. 'O,' what an amazing owner we have. Talk about forward thinking and a great business mind. Making two draft pick announcements from the United Kingdom is a brilliant decision; gives our London Jags fans even more reason to back the home team Jags. What say you?
John: I say the decision to have two United Kingdom fans make draft selections is in keeping with what Shad Khan has said often. It's important for this franchise to build fans in London and Jacksonville. That's why fans in both locales will be involved with the 2015 NFL Draft.
Sam from Orlando, FL:
Why is Vic Beasley climbing so high up draft boards? Being an FSU fan I took interest in Clemson games and he typically did a lot of his damage against weaker O-lines. He reminds me of an old, undersized FSU defensive end. Everette Brown.
John: Hold, please …
Kyle from Charleston, SC:
John, I need you to relay a message to Dave that he may very well already know. Beasley is the best pass rusher in this draft class. That is all.
John: … fine, but don't tell Sam.
Dave from Jacksonville:
We don't have a fullback on the roster anymore? What happened to Will Tofu? I liked that guy.
John: Will Ta'ufo'ou was not extended a tender offer shortly before the start of the league year on March 10. Because of that, he is now a free agent.
Carl from Section 115:
Hey John, as a diehard Jaguars and Seminoles fan, I was torn two years ago when we picked Bortles because I knew it meant we would not be in the running for Winston's services when he came out. I can tell from reading your column every day you see elite talent in Winston; you can probably assume correctly how I feel about him. My question is do you really think Caldwell believes Bortles is the better option or did it have more to do with not actually knowing when Winston would declare? I find it hard to believe that ANYONE would say Bortles is a better talent than Winston. I can't wait for the annual preseason game every year!
John: I think Caldwell honestly believed Bortles was the best prospect. Remember, Caldwell upon drafting Bortles said he believed him the best prospect in the 2014 or 2015 class – and it wasn't too hard to predict at the time that Winston would be in this draft. Remember, too, that there is an element of taking a quarterback when you have an opportunity to do so. What I mean is this: even if Caldwell had believed Winston was the best prospect – and I'm not saying that's the case – you also have to be in a position to draft him. In this case, that meant finishing 2-14 and having the No. 1 selection in the draft. Even if the Jaguars hadn't taken Bortles last offseason and therefore now needed a quarterback, it's not hard to imagine they would have won three games and been selecting No. 3 overall. In that scenario, you're not getting Jameis Winston even if you thought he was the best of the bunch. Again, I think Caldwell thought Bortles was the best quarterback prospect in the 2014 or 2015 drafts, but that illustrates the difficulty of getting a quarterback and taking one when the opportunity is there.
Pradeep from Bangalore, ME:
In your response to Seth from Denver, I didn't see any take on Allen Hurns. What is your take on him? I feel he may not be a super star but I think he will be a key contributor.
John: I agree.
Aaron from Kenly, NC:
Let's say the Tampa doesn't draft Winston and picks up Mariota, then Williams goes second and leaves Winston on the board at No. 3. Do we draft him or try hard as heck to trade down?
John: I don't think you should spend too much mental energy on this scenario, but if it occurs, I don't think it would take too much effort to trade down.
Dave from Jacksonville:
"That's why 2011 is known as an unusually good draft." Who did we get that year? I'm sure we got two fantastic players in the first and second rounds; or, better yet, if we traded our second-round pick to move up in the first round, we must have wound up with a HOF-caliber player, right? Right?!?
John: The Jaguars missed in that draft. It hurt. It still does.
John from Jacksonville:
I'm confident that all of the quarterback talk for the Jaguars will go mostly silent after Bortles plays the 2015 season. Anyone watching closely last season would know he has good potential to be a franchise quarterback. He's tough, quick, smart, can make the throws and has the "it" factor. Yes, he was more careless early on and labeled as an interception machine but he corrected that over his last several games and has momentum with experience, an offseason, and an improved cast around him. His inconsistency should reduce as he gets more experience this season and I foresee some Bortles/Luck classics in the coming years similar to those of Brady/Manning. Do you want a pair of my rose-colored glasses?
John: I'm not ready to put Bortles in that category yet, but I think we saw enough last season to make optimism reasonable. He has a long way to go. The work he put in the last two months in California needs to reap benefits. He needs to make a Year One-to-Year Two jump and he needs to be more consistent. He needs to show improvement next season. If all of that happens, then we can talk about comparing Luck/Bortles to matchups of historical proportions. We're a ways from that yet.
Chris from Jacksonville:
Do you write a new column every day, or do you write two or three ahead of time and take time off over the weekend?
John: Shortly after I was hired in February 2011, I sat at the keyboard one night. As midnight drew nigh, I turned on the Clash's first album in the headphones, put on a pot of coffee and in a feverish, five-hour, caffeine-burst of mediocrity, I wrote seven O-Zone columns, laughing loonishly after every third answer and shouting, "Solidarnosc!!!!" Every O-Zone since has been one of those seven columns: word for word, no changes, same questions, same answers. I frankly can't believe no one has noticed.

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