O-Zone: Pure greatness

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …           

John from Albany, NY

"Conventional wisdom" in the NFL doesn't make sense, particularly as it relates to assigning "value." Former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is considered elite at an elite position and a much better player than Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Ramsey's value was deemed to be so great that another team gave up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for him – even without Jalen signing a new contract. Ngakoue, who is not considered elite, does not seem to possess the same draft value, since no team has offered two firsts and a fourth to acquire him. Yet if Yannick had signed the contract the Jags offered him, given his position, he likely would have been paid better than even Ramsey's presumed record-setting contract. In other words, even though most people agree that Jalen is a better player and "value" than Yannick, he will get paid less. Similarly, I don't understand how "conventional wisdom" values kickers. Teams appear loathe to pay them well or "waste" a draft pick on them. Yet, few players can negatively impact a game as much as a kicker. Plus, they tend to be more durable so even if you "pay them well" they are less likely to spend the time on injured reserve like other positions. Thoughts?

First, I don't know that we know for sure that Ngakoue's contract would have been worth more than Ramsey's. Few observers know for certain what Ngakoue was offered and how it was structured, and Ramsey's presumed contract is just that – "presumed" and therefore not yet real. As for conventional NFL wisdom, the market dictates that defensive ends and pass rushers get paid very well – perhaps overpaid in many cases. The market also dictates that kickers, even very good ones, can be acquired without spending big draft capital and can be retained without spending huge dollars. While results on the field may not always line up with the market, teams nevertheless act in accordance with the market. Those actions, I suppose, collectively contribute to what becomes "conventional wisdom." Specific to Ramsey … the trade value the Jaguars received from the Los Angeles Rams remains hard to explain. I figured the Jaguars would get a first-round selection. I was shocked when they received two first-round selections and a fourth-round selection – particularly considering the contract Ramsey likely will try to demand. If it didn't feel like quarterback compensation, it felt very close to it. Time will tell if the Rams feel good about it, conventional wisdom notwithstanding.

Daniel from Johnston, IA

"Those who liked Okudah better typically believed he was the best overall player while those who liked Henderson better believed he was the better pure coverage player." I'm sorry, there's a point you're making here but I didn't quite catch it. When you say pure coverage, you mean within a scheme versus overall athletic ability of the other player?

This refers to a recent O-Zone question discussing rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah of Ohio State (now with the Detroit Lions) and cornerback CJ Henderson of Florida (now with the Jaguars). What I wrote was the only way I know to answer it. Many NFL observers considered Okudah the best overall cornerback in the draft and Henderson the best coverage corner in the draft. Remember: There's more to playing corner than just covering. Tackling matters, too. Okudah was generally considered better than Henderson in that area while many believed that when it just came to covering receivers, Henderson was better.

RJ from Middleburg, FL

Hi Funk, Did Jalen Ramsey ever sign a new contract with the Rams or is his intense love for his new teammates such that he no longer requires earthly trappings or monetary compensation?

Ramsey has yet to sign a second contract. Fear not, though: It's all about love.

Sean from Jacksonville

In your objective opinion how do you think we will do this season? I don't think too well. We may end up drafting Trevor Lawrence.

I believe the Jaguars will win anywhere from six-to-eight games and I think they're a year's worth of experience for some young players from making the postseason. I think them having the chance to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a long shot because I think a team will have to have the worst record in the NFL to draft Lawrence and I don't think the Jaguars will have the worst record in the NFL.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL

I'm sure you've seen the updates to the Rooney Rule. I like the idea they've implemented, including assistant coaches. What I thought was ridiculous, was the idea of "rewarding" teams draft picks. I think it'd be wrong on so many levels. Your thoughts?

When I was working with the Indianapolis Colts, I talked to then-Head Coach Tony Dungy a lot about the Rooney Rule. He believed at the time it was a good rule because it ensured that minority candidates would be in the interview process, thereby raising their profiles. Once the profiles were raised, the reasoning went, the candidates would then be in circle of coaches to get interviews in the coming years – and that once they were in that circle, candidates would be part of the system that produced head coaches. Where the system appears to have failed is that owners often have preconceived ideas about who they want to hire, and they – quite reasonably on some level – believe they should be able to hire the people they want to run their teams. Where the system appears broken is in the area of producing minority candidates for coordinators and assistants. I believe the rule implemented preventing teams from blocking coaches from interviewing coordinator candidates is a good start. I also believe the change this offseason that teams must interview at least one minority candidate for coordinator positions will be perhaps the most impactful change. This is a tough issue. Owners should be able to hire who they want to hire to run their teams. It's a good sign that efforts are being made. We'll see in time if the efforts are enough.

Ryan from Reality

So John, let's assume that you're right and the Jaguars are not likely to vie for the Super Bowl or the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. What do you think is more likely this season - the Jaguars make the playoffs as a wild card? Or the Jaguars' draft pick falls in the Top 10 for the 13thtime in the past 14 years?

Because I believe the Jaguars are a six-to-eight victory team and because I don't see them as a playoff team, I would say it's more likely the Jaguars select around No. 10 or so again than to make the postseason.

Dean from Rochester, NY

Can you elaborate on the "never-to-be-used-in-journalism" comment about the oxford comma? I like it.

What you and others like is neither here nor there. Associated Press style dictates that the following use of commas is correct: Brian Sexton, John Oehser, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan. AP style dictates that the following is incorrect: Brian Sexton, John Oehser, J.P. Shadrick, and Ashlyn Sullivan. The last comma in the latter example – the comma between Shadrick and "and" – is known as the oxford comma. There are people in other forms of communication who like the oxford comma and it is not technically incorrect in all usages. It is incorrect in journalism.

Cole from Jacksonville

Thanks for the clarification, John. It's interesting you bring up the Oxford comma because I have to write multiple papers at work such as summaries, reports and recommendations. Come to find out, my editor is not a fan of the Oxford comma, either, so now I find myself confused, perplexed and even a bit angry that I was never taught about this.

I'm sorry you're angry. Anger can be … well, angering. When it comes to its use in journalism, it doesn't matter if you're a "fan" or not. It's categorically incorrect.

Armand from Jacksonville

Jags finish 8-and-8 and the Los Angeles Rams get the first pick in the draft, which the Jags get. Do you take a quarterback with potential elite status or another position?

First, we must assume there is a potentially elite quarterback worthy of the No. 1 overall selection. Most analysts believe that will be the case. In that scenario: If Gardner Minshew looks like he's developing into a franchise quarterback, I take another position. If he doesn't, then I take the potential elite quarterback.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

John, I think you have to consider Secretariat's triple crown run at the top of sports history during my lifetime. Also the series of fights between Ali and Frazier. Classics.

I have vague memories of Ali-Frazier; most of my early 70s sports fandom focused on the NFL and the Washington Redskins. Although I was seven at the time, I have no vivid memories of Secretariat – though I consider the writing of William Nack on the subject perhaps the best sportswriting of my lifetime. Google: "William Nack, Pure Heart." Chillingly good.

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