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O-Zone: Perfect number

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jon from Trinidad and Tobago:
Are Randy Gregory and Dante Fowler, Jr., the Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles respectively of this year? Both Teddy and Gregory were consensus top dogs of their position before combine performances and measurables became a factor for Blake – and now Dante – and now they're being pushed above the others. Thoughts?
John: My thoughts are that I don't know that your details are exactly right, but I get the idea. And there are versions of this every year – players rising and falling based on combine and Pro Day performances – though indeed it was certainly pronounced and high-profile last offseason. That's always true of the quarterback position come draft time – or anytime, actually. But I don't know that it applies quite as much to Gregory and Fowler as it did to Bridgewater and Bortles. Fowler was rated very highly after the season, although he sure didn't hurt himself in Indianapolis; Gregory's strength raised questions at the combine, but I doubt he falls nearly as far as Bridgewater.
Charlie from Jacksonville:
Hey John, I can't remember if I've been heard.
John: You haven't.
Kent from Jacksonville:
When the Jags released Will Blackmon on Thursday, my mom (who is a super fan) texted me in all caps. Personally, I'm not surprised. He is a decent player and a heck of a good guy but the first time I saw Aaron Colvin play I knew that the "other" Blackmon's days were numbered. Even if Colvin didn't crack the starting lineup until next year he's a huge upgrade at nickel.
John: There comes a time when teams move on from older players. That time for the Jaguars and Blackmon came Thursday partly because the Jaguars have three young corners they like very much – Demetrius McCray, Dwayne Gratz and Aaron Colvin. With Blackmon gone, they likely will either try to re-sign Alan Ball or sign another veteran in free agency. Blackmon was indeed a solid player for the Jaguars and a good guy in the community, but I don't suspect it will be a negative next season or beyond.
Doug from Duval:
Hey O: the Eagles need a No. 3 draft pick and we need a right tackle. Swap picks and we get Lane Johnson. Sounds fair to me. What do you think?
John: I think giving up 17 positions in the draft is a bit much – even for a starting right tackle.
Wayne from Jacksonville:
John, I'm a bit lost on something you and others keep talking about: We drafted Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee second and third round last year, Ace Sanders the previous year, and we may have our first-round wide receiver coming back (condition uncertain)... Why are we trying to get a veteran wide receiver in? Are Lee and Hurns not cutting it? It seems that the money we could pay another wide receiver could be used in getting Suh or several of the establish tight ends and offensive line. I really wish we would pay for a lot for PROVEN talent, so we can see what we have in our young guys.
John: Well, the Jaguars drafted Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in the second round last offseason, and they signed Allen Hurns as a rookie free agent … they also have made it quite clear that while they would welcome Justin Blackmon back they are not making roster moves based on anything to do with him. I don't know how much Sanders figures into the equation, but as to your question, I don't completely disagree with you: while the Jaguars could benefit from a proven veteran, I think there's enough at the position that it won't be a disaster if they don't sign a high-profile receiver in the early days of free agency next month.
Jon from Nijmegen, Netherlands:
Would like your opinion on the chances of the Jaguars being able to jockey position for Williams by allowing the Eagles to trade up and then packaging their first and whatever they get from the Eagles to move up to No. 2 to get Williams. To me, Williams seems the hands-down lowest risk and highest reward pick in this year's draft. Add on top of it is that defensive line is a position of need (looking out three years) for the Jaguars.
John: I'm fine with the idea of the Jaguars selecting Leonard Williams at No. 3 if he's there. In fact, it's very hard to argue with that selection. But I'm a little confused by your scenario because it sounds as if you're proposing that the Jaguars trade down with the Eagles then trade back up to No. 2 with a team from their own division – the Titans – to get the No. 2 selection and Williams. That ain't happening.
Jordan from Clovis, CA:
I see some drafts having us trade down and pick up Vic Beasley. Do you think that could happen? I see him like Bruce Irvin but better (hopefully).
John: Sure, that makes sense. It also makes sense to trade down and take a look at Shane Ray. I don't spend a lot of time predicting trade-down scenarios. Any number of things could happen and the Jaguars could draft any number of players if they move down. The ones we've discussed make sense; so do many others.
Randy from #DTWD:
I noticed a lot of the young free agents made less than $1 million last year (Bulaga the exception being drafted under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement). Even his contract was under $3 million a year. Since Justin Houston made under $3 million for four years, and Julius Thomas made under $2 million for four years, wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and wiser to build through the draft?
John: Of course.
Chance from Windsor, Ontario:
Assuming Doug Marrone comes in and does a great job with the offensive line and assuming the Jags make a couple moves to upgrade the line, who do you see as the Jags starting running back come September? Are Toby's days numbered?
John: I do assume Marrone will do a good job with the line, just as I assume the Jaguars will make moves to upgrade the area. There's no reason to think both won't happen. What I don't quite get is why people continue to want the Jaguars to release Gerhart – or believe that's a given. Gerhart didn't fare well at all as a starter last season. That's obvious. But he did show potential as a third-down back later in the season. I think there's a good chance the starting running back next season isn't currently on the roster, but that doesn't mean Gerhart will be released.
Shepherd from St. Augustine, FL:
I must admit I'm just now diving back into the O-Zone after a lengthy absence, so forgive me if someone has asked this recently, but why is nobody – including you when speaking on local sports radio – talking about the Jags taking Cooper at No. 3? If Cobb isn't available as a free agent, why not?
John: You have been away a while. Welcome back. We've talked about Amari Cooper. Plenty. I think the Jaguars are going defensive front at No. 3, and I think that's the wise decision because the talent at that spot at the top of the draft is considered very, very good this offseason. I think the Jaguars could use a veteran wide receiver; I'm a little less enthusiastic about a highly drafted player at the position. Not that Cooper's not good. Not that he couldn't help. But so could a pass rusher.
Mike from Section 238:
Whoa, O! Back up the bus! You said that professionals like Polian/Dungy know more about the draft process than at least one great sports beat writer? Next you'll tell us that they have access to better information and spend more time evaluating talent than the fans also.
John: Let's not go overboard.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
Do you think Dave will pursue Red Bryant's replacement in this draft? If so, who do you think they will go after and at what pick?
John: If the draft falls in such a way that the Jaguars draft Leonard Williams, he could well be Bryant's eventual replacement – not next year, perhaps, but at some point. If not, then that may not be a position the Jaguars address in the early rounds next year.
Vincent from Bristol, CT:
Hey, John … I think Telvin Smith is the perfect player for the Otto position. That being said, if we resolve right tackle and tight end in free agency, couldn't we just go linebacker heavy in early rounds and use undrafted prospects to fill holes.
John: Telvin Smith is a very talented player and figures to be a key part of the defense going forward. But he's very much a weak-side linebacker, and while the Jaguars are still looking for an ideal Otto linebacker there's little question that the position needs more of a strong-side skill set.
Louie from Naples, FL:
We have a Leo and an Otto .... Don't you think we need more Vitos?
John: We have one. That's more than enough.

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