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O-Zone: On notice

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, is there any value to drafting hometown favorites from local colleges? Given that one's loyalty to one's college team runs far deeper than it does to one's NFL team, wouldn't it make good business sense for the Jaguars to draft local players with built-in local fan bases? On that note, what are your thoughts on taking a back like Matt Jones, a center like Max Garcia, or a guard like Trent Brown somewhere in the later rounds, and picking up a return specialist like Andre Debose or a punter like Kyle Christy as undrafted free agents? And lest they say I am not fair and balanced, what are your thoughts on drafting Nick O'Leary, especially now that the team is talking about carrying an extra tight end?
John: This is a question I get from time to time. First, you assume that loyalty to a college team is greater than that to a professional team; while that is often the case I don't know that it holds up as an across-the-board, blanket truth. Second, of course, is that your approach just isn't workable. An NFL team absolutely can't draft based on a college's proximity; the NFL is too competitive and talent is at too much of a premium to draft a lesser player because he has hometown connections. Now, can it be beneficial if it happens to work out that way? Sure. Fred Taylor went to Florida and his relationship with Jaguars fans is one of the best stories in franchise history. At the same time, Tony Boselli went to Southern California, and my personal feelings about him aside, he has made Jacksonville his home and his relationship with Jaguars fans is also a great story in the franchise's history. But neither one of those players would have mattered much to the franchise if they hadn't been good on the field. Draft good players. Win games. The fan loyalty will take care of itself. As far as the FSU/Florida players you mentioned … sure, if they're the right players at the spot and they're available, draft them … but do so because you think they can help you, not because of where they went to school.
Bryan from the Tent behind your house:
John, on a scale of 1 to 10, is six good or bad?
John: Yes.
Nate from Visalia, CA :
Melvin Gordon ...THE Melvin Gordon. Gurley is getting a lot of hype, but I'm still on the Gordon train. Jump on O-Man, there's room.
John: If you're looking for a running back, which the Jaguars may well be, you probably can't go too, too wrong with either player. Gordon and Todd Gurley each likely will be selected in the first round – and if you know anything at all about recent NFL drafts, you know you have to be a really good running back to be selected in the first round. Now, as for whether or not either player will be around when the Jaguars select in the second round … well, that's a different issue.
Joe from Jacksonville:
Zone, any chance the Jaguars address what is in my opinion their biggest need of free safety in the first round? Could a guy like Landon Collins be a fit? Bucky Brooks called him the crown jewel of this year's draft class because he is THAT much better than the next guy. I do know third overall is a bit high for a free safety but if we trade down could he be one of Dave's targets? What say you, O?
John: I say Landon Collins is considered more of a strong safety than free, and from what I understand he was more comfortable there in college. As you say, No. 3 overall would be too high anyway. That's the dilemma with free safety right now in the NFL. There's a lot more need than there are good players at the position.
John from Jacksonville:
Secrets. I think the Jaguars need to get Marcus Mariota with that pick and deal with the Eagles and get Sproles and maybe a couple receivers from them in a trade. What do you think, John?
John: I think you're awesome.
Jim from Palm Bay, FL:
Hey, Mr. O … real-world scenario for the 2015 Draft. Take Marcus Mariota with the third pick. Then trade him to the Eagles for all their 2015 draft picks – a la Mike Ditka/Ricky Williams and throw in DeMarco Murray just for good measure. You know Chip will do it, and if not the Browns or Jets will probably give all theirs for the next two years. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO.
John: This of course isn't very "real-world" at all, and perhaps you get that; it's hard to tell. I sometimes miss it when readers write sarcastic, "out-there" e-mails because tongue-in-cheek sometimes doesn't translate in emails. When it comes to your scenario, I absolutely don't "know that Chip will do it," and in fact I highly doubt Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly would trade his entire draft for Marcus Mariota. The reason a team won't do what you're suggesting is there's too big of a risk. If you take Mariota and no team wants to give you what you think is fair value, then you're stuck with him. If a deal isn't made before the draft, it's unlikely there will be a deal.
Richard from Jacksonville:
Print the same O-Zone or some of the same questions again. See if they notice, lol.
John: They haven't yet.
Bill from Atlanta, GA:
Any thought to drafting Kevin White and then trading Blackmon's rights for a second rounder? That would give us some ammo to move up to the bottom of the first for someone we liked.
John: Why in the world would a team give up a second-rounder for a player on or coming off an indefinite suspension? The Jaguars would welcome back Blackmon if he is reinstated, but they also have made clear that they are not counting on him or making roster plans based on him. That's the only sensible approach considering his history. No team is going to give up a second-round draft choice to inherit that situation.
Cole from Philadelphia, PA:
I didn't know you were funny.
John: Neither did anyone else.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, do you think Blake knows how many people's future employment and success he holds in his hands? I know it isn't completely up to him and there are things no one can control, but am I oversimplifying this? If Bortles gets better a lot of people will still be here in two years; if he doesn't, they won't? Kind of like the Matrix "so you're supposed to save the world....what do you say to something like that?"
John: I don't think you're oversimplifying anything, and in fact, you have it about right. If Bortles develops, then the core of what's going on here probably stays intact because the Jaguars probably will be winning games. If he doesn't develop, winning becomes a lot more unlikely. If teams don't win, cores don't stay together. That's NFL reality. Does Bortles realize this? Sure, on some level he almost certainly does. But he doesn't need to worry about that. He has enough to worry about improving because if he doesn't develop; then he won't have a job in the NFL in a few years, either. That's not being mean; it's just how the NFL works.
Trey from Lovely Fruit Cove:
I'm glad the Culligan girl made the Roar again. Could you just check and see if she likes to drink anything other than water? Thanks.
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
The Jaguars finished sixth in sacks last season. So why is there so much talk about needing an elite pass rusher? I would think the linebackers and secondary would be more pressing needs with all the huge passing plays the Jaguars gave up, both to tight ends over the middle and receivers who were WAY too open.
John: The Jaguars did indeed have a good pass rush last season. They would like that to continue being the case and to perhaps improve in the future; to do that you need to keep adding young, good pass rushers. In the NFL, you can never have too many. That's particularly true in this scheme, which is best when it can send pass rushers and disruptive linemen in waves. The other factor this offseason is it's a very good draft for pass rushers. At the positions you're discussing, non-pass-rushing linebackers and secondary … it's not a bad draft, but there aren't players generally considered Top 5 selections.
Bryan from Woodbridge, GA:
Adrian Peterson is 30?! That's like, um, 82 in running back years...buyer beware.
John: Peterson indeed is older than is ideal. He's sort of significantly older than is ideal if you're giving up draft choices and facing the possibility of assuming long-term responsibility for his contract.
Richard from Jacksonville:
Print the same O-Zone or some of the same questions again. See if they notice, lol.
John: They haven't yet.

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