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O-Zone: Numbers game

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tom from Jacksonville:
Ahhh, when you're a Jaguars fan … if only May could last forever.
John: You know what, Tom? I sense your sarcasm, cynicism and maybe even another "ism" I can't quite identify. I get it … I do. And in one sense you indeed make a valid point: if all you're doing is looking at records and ignoring the quality of the young players being added to the roster in recent years, then you absolutely would be on point. I do understand Jaguars fans have been burned by offseason talk in recent years. I do understand this sort of happy May has happened … often. If you notice, I haven't spent much time in the O-Zone in recent days talking about how the 2016 NFL Draft automatically makes the Jaguars a playoff team in 2016. I haven't done that because I don't yet have a good feel for if these players will make that sort of immediate impact. I have gotten some eye rolls this week when I have said that because people assume Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey will be impact players as soon as you unwrap the present. That may not be the case because rookies develop at their own paces. What I have spent a lot of time discussing this week is the long-term impact the last three draft classes could have on this organization. Through that lens, you can see that the Jaguars have added Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Telvin Smith, Brandon Linder, Aaron Colvin, Dante Fowler Jr., T.J. Yeldon, Rashad Greene, A.J. Cann, Ramsey, Jack, Yannick Ngakoue and Sheldon Day through the draft in the last three years – and that's leaving a few players out I think could still make an impact. That's not to say all of the players I listed will be going to the Hall of Fame, but you build long-term success by drafting well – and at these various stages of the aforementioned players' young careers an argument sure could be made that the Jaguars have been drafting well lately.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
With Luke Joeckel's option year being declined is it safe to say 2016 is going to be his last season in a Jags uniform?
John: No. The Jaguars opted to not pick up Joeckel's option year because there was no reason to pick up the option year. Joeckel hasn't played as poorly as fans believe, but neither did the team want to guarantee him the $11 million or so he would have been guaranteed in 2017 with the option. If he wins the left-tackle position – which he very well might – and plays well in 2016, they could re-sign him to a long-term contract late in the season. If he does not, they would be free of the contract after the season – or he could still be re-signed before free agency begins in 2017.
Chris from The Swick, GA:
Yes, you managed to get both #takeittothelimit and #stealtheshow into the O-Zone Tuesday. You're strong, sir ... even when you're playing by the rules.
John: #beachhouse
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
In all seriousness O-Zone, when it is all said and done, which recent Dave Caldwell draft class will have more Hall of Famers in it, 2014 or 2016? I say 2014 (Bortles, Robinson, Linder, Smith) vs 2016 (Ramsey, Jack, Ngakoue, Day) with Hurns being the tiebreaker to get the class of 2014 to five – although should that count, since Hurns is technically undrafted?
John: Your question asked which draft class will have more Hall of Famers in it, and the question pertained to players who will be third-year veterans and rookies next season. You also led your question with "in all seriousness." I would urge you to give that some thought.
Mark from High Springs:
It seems Shad Khan just purchased the real estate 10 feet and above of EverBank Field with the Jalen Ramsey pick. We already knew A-Rob could out-'high point' the ball from anyone in the NFL. Now, I can't wait to see film from our practice field with these two battling it out in the air. There's only one guy who could turn 75-25 back into 50-50 – and that guy plays for us! What do you think O-man? Is this the best case of iron sharpening iron on our team?
John: I'm not going to say Ramsey is the best anything in the NFL until he actually takes a few snaps in the NFL, but I will say I'll be a little more interested in certain drills in training camp when Ramsey and Allen Robinson are on the field at the same time.
Daniel from Jax since Day One:
Seven out of eight picks used on defense, but who's counting!
John: It was six of out of seven selections, and I know because I was counting.
Bob from Jacksonville:
My question is how the rookie players get their numbers. Is it according to where they are drafted that they get to select the numbers or are they just assigned?
John: It depends. New players can have their choice of numbers if they are available – with exceptions around the Jaguars including Nos. 71, 8, 28 and 82. Those were the numbers worn by Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith, respectively. The tricky part comes when a new player wants a number worn by a current player. A player such as Sen'Derrick Marks is going to get to keep No. 99; a practice squad guy might be asked to relinquish his number. The fun starts when a new player wants a number worn by a player without a whole lot of seniority. Then, the player might try to purchase that number from the existing player. That can get expensive – like, expensive on a level that senior writers can't quite grasp.
Igor from Jacksonville:
Mr. O ... please tell me that Ramsey and Jack won't be wearing those hideous numbers when the season kicks off in September? A tall lean "shutdown" corner in the NFL needs a sexier number than that ... that's a backup safety's number! And 44 ... that's a three-yard-and-a cloud-of-dust fullback. We finally got the players that we wanted; now, let's have them look the part on field, please, because I'm confident they will play the part. This is also a business right! Some numbers are just better sellers.
John: Patience, Igor … patience.
Holger from London, England:
Looking at the excitement we have now and how well people say we draft now … how was it so difficult all of those years? Just draft well, don't outsmart everyone with the Matt Joneses, Reggie Williamses etc. Stick with the consensus, that's what I would do.
John: That does seem easy during a year like this, but remember: Justin Blackmon was a very popular selection at the time, and Bortles was not so popular. You can't always draft the chalk. A general manager has to evaluate and target based on his beliefs and the information scouts and the organization have gathered. If it was easy there would be a simple formula for the Super Bowl. And aside from Get a Great Quarterback And Get Good Around Him, no one's come up with one yet.
Brett from Canton, MS:
Given all of our acquisitions these last few years, which player on each side of the ball is the one that must develop into a star (aside from Bortles, obviously) in order for us to have long-term success?
John: Dante Fowler Jr. on defense and Allen Robinson on offense.
MrPadre from Kingsland, GA:
If all plays out as we hope it's a good thing we didn't sign Josh Norman. I wasn't worried about having the cap space to pay Bortles, Robinson, Hurns and Linder but if you factor in a couple years later needing to re-sign Ramsey, Jack, Fowler and maybe Ngakoue ... yikes! There's a long time until then, I realize, and a lot can happen – and it's a good "problem" to have. But not paying Norman now likes like a genius move instead of just a fiscally-responsible one. #DTWD
John: Norman never was as much of an issue in-house as it was in the media and among the fan base. The Jaguars didn't sign him because what he wanted far more than they wanted to pay, and I never got the feeling it was close to happening. That had something to do with being able to re-sign the players you mention, but more specifically it's about correctly and wisely managing your cap in a way in which you're paying impact players their true worth.
Kevin from Section 214:
I have a problem, O-Man. A friend showed me Myles Jack is trying to usurp my jersey number. I have been with this team far longer and had the jersey custom made with MY NUMBER. No. 44 is sacred to me. Any way you tell this newbie to back off?
John: I'll get on it. After all, you can't have newcomers coming in here trying to steal the … numbers.

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