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O-Zone: Slim pickings

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Marcus from Jacksonville:
What is it about the Maurice Jones-Drew situation that makes you believe he'll be back next season? I think the Jags won't overpay to keep him (and rightly so), and history has shown there is always a team willing to pay for a veteran running back, at least for a short-term contract. It doesn't usually work out, but year after year, someone emerges to sign the veteran running back. Look at Steven Jackson last year...he got three years, $12 million from Atlanta. Couple that with the fact that Jones-Drew would probably pick a contender over Jacksonville if the money were close and I think he's as good as gone. But that's just me, and I've been wrong before...twice.
John: I'm wrong every day. And I'm fortunate enough to be married, so it's pointed out to me a lot. I well may be wrong about Jones-Drew, too, because once he goes to free agency he may well sign somewhere else. History indeed said it's very possible. At the same time, I do believe Jones-Drew when he says he likes a lot about what's going on here and would like to stay, and I believe David Caldwell when he says he's not pessimistic about Jones-Drew returning. If the market isn't as lucrative as Jones-Drew hopes, and I believe that may be the case, then he may well be back.
Ryan from Boynton Beach, FL:
Everyone keeps talking about big-name free agents and being active, but correct me if I am wrong: the Green Bay Packers have three players on their roster that they didn't draft. They seem to be pretty good each year without spending money in free agency.
John: The Packers indeed are a perfect example of the best way to build. It takes time and patience to do it that way, and it means having the fortitude to not cave to public and media pressure during the unrestricted free agency period. Lastly and most obviously, you must draft well, but if you do, you can build the sort of sustainable, competitive roster David Caldwell and the Jaguars covet.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Only TWO players out of 33 – including special teams – are guaranteed to handle the ball at least 50 percent of the time. Since we need help in both of those areas, should we address both needs within our first three picks?
John: Not necessarily. You do need to make sure the center and the quarterback can play, but you don't necessarily have to draft those positions in the top three rounds to do that.
Steve from the Bold New City of the South:
Sitting at No. 3 in the draft, in need of a quarterback … Between Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles, if they even have a chance of being a franchise quarterback, you have to take a shot on one of them right, John – you got to?
John: This is where the thinking of a general manager differs from that of a fan. A fan reasonably figures, "Hey, if you don't have a quarterback, you gotta take a shot, right?" A general manager tries to see the big picture. That can include whether or not there is a strong quarterback class the following year, whether or not you really believe in a guy and whether or not there might be a better long-term strategy. That's not to say the Jaguars won't draft a quarterback. I figure they probably will. But you can't just go into the draft saying, "Hey, let's take a shot …" It has to be more thought-out and planned than that.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
What are your thoughts on Jameis Winston? He seems to have that "it" factor, but I am unsure on how his playing style would translate to the NFL. Unless someone teaches him to slide when he runs I foresee an injury-plagued pro career.
John: Winston just completed his first year of collegiate football. When he gets to the NFL, he indeed will need to slide more to protect himself, and he may need to change how much and how he runs. Those adjustments can be made. Probably more important is that he continues to develop as a passer and that he continues to improve against pressure and elite competition. He seemed to hold the ball too long at times against Auburn and didn't seem to handle pressure as well as you might have thought early in that game. But I'll add a significant caveat to that – and that's that he improved dramatically in the fourth quarter and made plays when it counted. Winston appears to have some developing to do before he's NFL ready. But you know what? He's young. He's supposed to have some developing to do.
Andy from St. Augustine, FL:
Just because the current mock drafts have us taking either Teddy B., Blake B., Jadeveon C., or Johnny M. doesn't mean that we will take one of those four players. Last year at this time many mock drafts had us taking either Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner, Geno Smith or Damontre Moore. Those players went 17th, 24th, 39th and 81st overall in the actual draft. Fans shouldn't get worked up over who we are projected to take in January - a lot can and will happen between now and the draft - just saying....
John: Yes.
John from Cape May, NJ:
I for one do NOT believe there is a quarterback worthy of taking in the Top 3, or even Top 5. If I'm Caldwell, I'm seriously thinking about taking Watkins at No. 3, then taking a quarterback in the second round much like what the Bengals did three years ago. The Jaguars have a huge need at wide receiver contrary to what people say on this site. The combination of Watkins, Shorts, and dare I say it, Blackmon, would be a very impressive corps. Those kinds of weapons, plus Marcedes and an improved offensive line, should be all the help our young quarterback needs to succeed.
John: One NOT fer a quarterback. And you're right that wide receiver is an issue. I don't know that the Jaguars will go there in the Top 5, but in this era – and with Blackmon's situation – I don't know that having another go-to wide receiver is the worst possible scenario.
Ed from Winston-Salem, NC:
Why do people keep talking about Manziel getting hurt because of his "style of play?" When the play breaks down, he does what you expect a quarterback to do – scramble and extend the play. It's not like he's running over defenders like Luck did in college...
John: You make a good point. People didn't worry about this as much with Luck because it was easy to imagine him not running much at all and playing exclusively from the pocket. It's easy to imagine Teddy Bridgewater, for example, doing to the same. Manziel is so effective running that it's hard to imagine him not running a lot. And the reality is quarterbacks who run a lot historically put themselves in situations to sustain injury more than not.
Greg from Jacksonville:
While we are a long way away from the 2014 Draft, do you think the Jags have a decent chance at finding a franchise quarterback after the first round of the draft?
John: Yes.
George from Cranford, NJ:
Would it make sense to draft a good, pass-catching tight end in the second or third round instead of a wide receiver? This way, you can run two tight-end sets like the Patriots did. If Blackmon returns, it's icing on the cake. If he doesn't, you're covered either way.
John: I don't know that it's smart to take a pass-receiving tight end "instead of" a wide receiver, but in addition to? Yes. That would make some sense. With the Jaguars not really set at either position, I'd say wide receiver is the first priority, but at some point getting two tight ends who are consistent threats makes sense.
Daniel from Johnston, IA:
If Caldwell DOES think a second-round quarterback is The Guy, doesn't he run the risk of some other team realizing the same and taking him before the second round?
John: Yes.
Phillip from Brunswick, MD:
What quarterbacks coming out in the draft fit what the Jags are trying to do on offense? It seems to me you can draft a "great" quarterback, but if he doesn't fit your scheme, he is going to be mediocre.
John: From what I've seen, Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel have enough mobility to be effective running at times – and they're all at least functional in the pocket. In other words, they're mobile enough. I don't see Jedd Fisch wanting to run a predominately read-option offense, but I think he'd like to have a quarterback with the ability to run at times to make defenses account for the possibility. As far as your final thought, if you get a truly "great" quarterback, you can work an offense to his strengths. The greatness should show through in that situation.
Mike from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Any chance the Jaguars will trade up to the No. 1 pick in the draft?
John: There's a chance. That chance is best described as slim.

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