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O-Zone: Train in Vain

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Adam from Bryan, TX:
Hey, John, what position do you see the Jaguars addressing in the second round of the draft if the top two running backs are taken already? Do you see us taking a free safety or do they still go running back or do you think they go a whole other direction? Thanks.
John: I think the Jaguars will take the best player available in your scenario, but it's very likely they will do that anyway. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has spent the past two years – three free-agency periods and two drafts – trying to build the roster to a point that he doesn't have to draft for need. After this past free-agency period he believes he's very, very close to that point and he might already be there. So whether Todd Gurley of Georgia and/or Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin are still there at the top of the second round, look for Caldwell to take the player he thinks has a chance to be the best NFL player, and look for him to be happy while doing it.
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
I know the Jaguars signed Sergio Brown and the safety class is quite thin in this year's draft, but do you think the Jaguars consider drafting a free safety on Day Two (maybe Damarious Randall from Arizona State)? Or they are OK at the position with Brown, Josh Evans and Craig Loston?
John: I think they'll take a free safety in the draft, though I'd expect it to be Day Three rather than Day Two.
Jason from Da'Hass:
Is there a draft scenario in which we select Marcus Mariota to force a team to trade for him, or is the risk of being stuck with him too great? I mean Dave DID say he's open to trading back.
John: If I were the Jaguars' general manager – a laughable concept to David Caldwell, no doubt – I'd be really worried about the risk in your scenario. In theory, you would think there would be a team willing to trade for him. But if your theory is incorrect, then you're stuck with a spread offense quarterback you don't need or want.
Henry from Florahome:
Do the Jags have the same special teams coach this year? I saw very few highlights last year and a lot of terrible plays that are usually taken for granted to be successful. I felt Scobee was bad, and Anger's main goal seems to be to punt into the end zone. I know the Jaguars have a lot of needs, but with so many fourth downs and at least one kickoff every game, this phase needs a lot of improvement in talent and coaching.
John: The Jaguars' special teams coach was Mike Mallory last season and he is the coach this season. To my understanding, there was no angst or indecision on that front following last season. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said during the season he believed Mallory had been in a difficult situation because of the number of core special teams players who were released or moved off special teams throughout the course of last season. Bottom line on this one: coaches often get blamed for the mistakes of players and coaches are an easy target when things go bad. Sometimes, it's not coaching; sometimes it's the mistakes of players.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
What's the scuttlebutt about why the Jaguars didn't see Jordan Todman as a player worth keeping? Seems to me he played well enough when on the field and is a versatile role player. That touchdown run versus the Titans on Thursday night football was a beauty. He is FAST! Just don't understand why Dave would let an inexpensive young player like Todman go. Help me understand O Wise One!
John: The Jaguars thought the running backs still on the roster and the ones that they will be able to get in the draft are better than Todman. I'm not sure how to explain it beyond that.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
What is it about the NFL that discourages player-based trades? In the three other major sports in the US, you see player trades all the time.
John: One reason is that NFL teams value draft picks more than they value players. The league uses up a player's talent and time very quickly, which makes draft picks more valuable and current players less so. It also can be difficult for a team to visualize a player from another team fitting into its system. But it's also a salary cap issue. When a team trades a player, the part of the bonus that remains on the cap – a part that might be spread out at, say, $2 million over three years – immediately counts against the current year. That makes the prospect of a trade very, very difficult – and thus, very rare.
Vashon from San Antonio, TX:
On quite a few occasions, people have asked questions about Dave Caldwell and you mention how forthcoming he is. I will say he has done a great job infusing talent and the team is on the verge of something good, if not great. So, at what point last year did you think we'd draft Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick of the draft? Why wouldn't he take a wide receiver at No. 3 or a running back in the second round? He mentioned being able to take the best player available; does that mean Williams at No. 3 if he's there even though you just paid Odrick? Don't they play the same position and have a similar style of play?
John: I said David Caldwell was forthcoming; I didn't say he was dumb enough to give away his draft plan before the draft. Therefore, I – like everyone except pretty much Caldwell – had no idea of his plan to draft Bortles last April. On to your next points … regarding the No. 3 selection, few analysts believe a wide receiver worthy of being selected there … regarding the second round, I do believe Caldwell may well take a running back in the second round, though it wouldn't be ridiculous to wait on that position until later in the draft. As for your final question, Jared Odrick and Leonard Williams could co-exist on the same defensive front. Each is versatile and each is good and you'd be amazed how teams find ways to use versatile, good defensive linemen at the same time.
Mark from Green Bay, WI:
John, I just saw a report that blasted the Jaguars, saying we spend too much for what we got. What gives with these guys, are they just haters?
John: I can't think of another way to say it other than I just don't care about what "haters" or even too many national analysts/writers/bloggers/tweeters/trollers say about the Jaguars. I was a fan once, so believe me when I say I understand that fans care about such things – and I understand that national opinions and perceptions bother a lot of the people who read the O-Zone. But they truly don't matter, and I spend almost no time analyzing the motivations of people who write them. That's particularly true if it's a writer or analyst I don't know from a publication with which I am unfamiliar. There are a handful or writers and analysts with a sniff of a clue about what's going on in the NFL; they are the handful of people who make telephone calls and talk to people within the league and truly watch film with enough experience and knowledge to have a sliver of a sense of what they're talking about. Anyone's entitled to an opinion, but I'm also entitled not to care about and you can be so entitled, too.
Cory from Madison, WI:
I disagree somewhat with the notion that the running back position doesn't need to really be addressed until everything else is in place. A good offensive line and strong running game are a young quarterback's best friends. Certainly, you would like to have an improved running game this year to help take the pressure off Blake. If they were willing to pay DeMarco Murray around $6-7 million, then they clearly feel running back is a need. That's why I'd expect them to find a guy somewhere in Round 2.
John: OK.
Paul from Temecula, CA:
Cooper visit = smoke screen to generate possible trade interest?
John: Advice: don't overthink this one. Don't overanalyze it, either. Amari Cooper visit = one of 30 allowed pre-draft visits. Players of all shapes, sizes and draft statuses visit every team in the NFL every year. There's nothing to read into it. It just is.
Shon from San Antonio, TX:
If we can't get Leonard Williams and the GM wants more weapons for Blake, take Kevin White. He will be a difference maker. Just a bigger target than Cooper. If we don't go defense, these two would both be great if not unnecessary additions. Is wide receiver in play at No. 3?
John: Maybe, maybe, maybe, but I really, really doubt it.
J Strummer from London:
Nice reference to The Clash!!!!
John: You don't understand my point of view. I suppose there's nothing I can do.

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