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O-Zone: Privacy issues

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Artie from Orange Park, FL

Zone. The Jaguars signed four or five undrafted free agents this offseason. Who needs a draft?

I'll assume you're referencing the Jaguars this offseason re-signing cornerback Tre Herndon, or safety Andrew Wingard, or defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris. Or perhaps you're referencing the Jaguars signing running back D'Ernest Johnson, or defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux, as unrestricted free agents. Or a couple of other 2023 offseason signings/re-signings. If so, your point is correct – that good NFL players are often found via collegiate free agency. The Jaguars for that reason take collegiate free agency very seriously. But teams scout collegiate players for a reason, and players selected at the top of drafts have traits that NFL personnel officials believe give them the best chance of that year's draft-eligible pool to be special. You therefore most often find stars and core players early in the draft. It's important to be good in collegiate free agency. But it's critical over the long term to be good early in the draft.

Reagan from Melbourne, FL

Would you estimate that safety Brian Branch from Alabama is "one of the two-to-four players the team really likes in Round 1?" And if he is on the board when the Jags select, he is a likely candidate to be their choice?

Yes. And yes. That doesn't remotely make him the only choice for the Jaguars at No. 24 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, or even a favorite. I don't have that information, nor do I pretend to have it. But he makes a lot of sense considering need and value. As do some other cornerbacks and offensive linemen.

Jay from Southern California

I would go for the best player available at any position in the draft, but my focus remains on the secondary and possibly defensive line. We could use another cornerback, for sure. I bet you one S'Barros that they will pick up a cornerback in the first two rounds with these projections: Jay-SoCal -200, O-Zone +240. Like those odds? I will add in a crappy beer if that makes you feel better. Split the pizza any way you want it! Let's go Jaguars and S'Barro (plug in for residuals)!!


John from Cape May Court House

The Jags, for better or worse, made the decision to invest in the defense in last year's draft. It is up to 2022 draft class to perform in the coming years. The Jags cannot and should not continue to invest high draft equity on the side of the ball that, by the rules, are at a disadvantage. Draft offensive ... check that ... draft YOUNG offensive. I don't want to see any 23-, 24-year-old rookies on this team. That is all. As you were.

There's some truth here. The Jaguars indeed this offseason must trust last offseason's draft selections. Linebackers Chad Muma, Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd must develop in Year 2 into an impact, difference-making trio and become the core of the defensive front seven. If you're going to be a draft-and-develop team – and to build around a No. 1 overall-selected quarterback who will consume a large portion of the salary cap, that's what you must become – you must trust your draft selections will develop in Year 2. I won't go so far as to say the Jaguars shouldn't draft defensive players this year. Balance would be the ideal buzzword moving forward.

Daniel from Johnston, IA

You missed your chance to say, "I am the king of all Phunk" (including the letter "P").

Thanks for the help, Daniel.

Mike from Cartersville (AKA Trevortown), GA

In general across the league, how deep do they dig through draftees? I remember one specific team sent someone to go hang out with former Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon at the bars he frequented in Stillwater to see how he behaved. Obviously, they scout social media – as do all companies these days. How far do they go? Do they hire private investigators, too?

NFL teams research the background of draft selections very carefully and extensively, conducting security checks on all scouted prospects. They indeed do research social media, and prospects do submit to extensive background checks. Heads of team security are involved in more specific investigations when necessary, as well as scouts and coaches discussing prospects with their own contacts. How far do they go? As far as they feel is necessary to feel comfortable investing draft equity, money and time in a player.

Johnny from Jax

In many of the offseason Power Rankings the Jaguars divisional opponents are all in the bottom five. And the Jaguars are in the Top 10. This, Zone, makes me smile.


Mark from Richmond VA

It's been nice this offseason not obsessing about the draft like we have been for 20 years now. I know it is still very important, but this is normally our Super Bowl week. Having a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence changes so much. Is it okay for me not to fear a day one bust anymore? That's a real fear in full rebuild years, but that's not us anymore. Thanks!

I can't control my own many – many, many -- fears, so I'll refrain from advising on yours. But it is OK to not over-obsess about every single draft selection. While all draft selections are important – particularly the first few rounds – the reality is they are long-term stories rather than short-term ones. In the short-term, second- and third-year players improving are usually going to provide more tangible improvement.

Bruce from Saint Simons Island, GA

May the best offensive tackle, cornerback or tight end in the 2023 season land on the Jaguars after this draft!

I doubt the Jaguars will select a tight end in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. I expect they will address offensive tackle, cornerback and tight end in the first two days – i.e., the first three rounds. I doubt any of those players will be "the best at their position in the NFL in 2023." The Jaguars would love for them to be among the best in their draft class and contribute this season. Good on them if that happens.

Joe from Jacksonville

Zone: I have heard that maybe five quarterbacks will go in the first 15 picks. If that happens, why would we move from the 24thspot? Won't there be someone good that we like in the 19 players to choose from?

This depends on how much the Jaguars and General Manager Trent Baalke like a specific player or players. Remember: Fans and observers – and even some analysts – tend to think of draft-eligible players as lists on a page. They therefore think of them as sort of interchangeable. But general managers don't see prospects that way and they don't necessarily say, "Well, the No. 2 cornerback on my list just got selected, so now I'll just take the No. 3 corner and skip to my Lou." It's possible that Baalke and the Jaguars like two or three specific players enough to trade up. Or it's possible they get to No. 24 and don't love any player and therefore trade into Round 2. That said, I do agree with you that the Jaguars won't trade. It sounded last Thursday during the team's pre-draft media availability that Baalke likes two-to-four players and that he thinks the Jaguars will select a player they want at No. 24.

Al from Orange Park, FL

I keep reading that this year's draft is exceptionally weak on Day 3. Wouldn't that lend itself to using our Day 3 picks to move up to get a coveted player in rounds 1-3, more so than most years? If, of course, a trade partner can be found.

Sure, but you better find a team who wants those late-round selections in a weak draft. And you better be willing to trade your fourth-round selections. Sixth-and-seventh-round selections don't have much trade power on Day 1.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey John, would it be a real possibility to draft RB Bijan Robinson if he is available or is there no chance because it's no need for the Jaguars?

I would be surprised if the Jaguars select a running back in the first round. Robinson is so good that he could make them consider that at No 24. But I would still be surprised.

Nathan from Utah, US

Stout Draft Zone, Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 24? Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright in the second round? Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta in the 3rd? Northwestern defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore in the fourth? Louisiana State Kayshon Boutte as the sixth wide receiver. That sound about right.

I don't expect Gonzalez to be available at No. 24, and I don't particularly expect Wright to be available at No. 56. As for the others … sure. What the hell.

Marc from Oceanway

Zone, will you have an office in the Miller Electric Center or have you made a rat friend you can't bear to leave? #Willard

Who's asking?