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O-Zone: Trouble getting through

INDIANAPOLIS – Let's get to it... Dane from Jacksonville:
I have an idea I think you should seriously consider running by Dave Caldwell. We should strongly consider building through the draft. As a rebuilding team, we should avoid overspending in free agency. Just a thought.
John: I laughed out loud at this – and all of the other emails along these lines. There is, perhaps, a chance we overemphasized this topic on Thursday. There also is an equal chance come March 12 the outcry will indicate that the topic can't in fact be overemphasized.
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
Gene Smith also said he wanted to build through the draft. Each year we were told the Jaguars wouldn't be extremely active on the first day of free agency, but probably look to find some stop gaps in the 'second round' of the period. We still ended up with some 'big name' players. Torry Holt, Aaron Kampman, Kirk Morrison, Paul Posluszny, Clint Session and Laurent Robinson all come to mind. Obviously not huge names, but people are used to bringing in one or two or three guys that come in and play significant roles. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again this year.
John: This is why I overemphasized this point in our NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday. There are a lot of question that essentially read, "I know the Jaguars aren't going to be active, BUT . . ." It's the "BUT" that doesn't fit. If any free-agent signings happen, I'd expect it closer to or maybe even after the draft. Players such as Kampman, Morrison, Posluszny, Session and Robinson were all huge salary cap investments. I don't expect a free agent such as that this offseason.
Shaun from Gainesville, FL:
I hear analysts like Mike Mayock say things like, "I have a third-round grade on him." Besides the most basic meaning that he would draft him in the third round, what other implications can be made about these players when statements like that are made?
John: That he wouldn't take him in the first or second round, and would be glad to take him in the fourth.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
I've never understood the rationale behind quarterbacks not throwing at the combine and waiting until their pro day. To me it just says they're trying to hide a weakness behind a receiver who they're familiar with. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. But it seems to be a decision often times based in fear. Anytime a player backs away from competition is a red flag to me.
John: I agree that quarterbacks should throw and players should participate, and most general managers believe that, too. They like to see players who will compete. At the same time, a quarterback or any player who is locked in the top of the draft often is wise to just work out at their Pro Days. They have little to gain and a lot to lose in the combine situation, and throwing in a situation in which they're comfortable is a good way to protect that status. It's not ideal for the evaluation process, but it's hard to say it's not in the player's best interest.
Colin from Orlando, FL:
I agree it was time for GM Gene to go, but honestly, wasn't his departure 95 percent based on his inability to find a franchise quarterback? I mean, is there any difference really between him and a guy like Bill Polian other than Peyton Manning?
John: I wouldn't put it at quite 95 percent, but yes, Smith's demise with the Jaguars had very much to do with not finding a quarterback. That can be said of most ex-general managers. If you find a franchise guy, you're probably winning; if you don't, it's tough. As for Polian, you're talking about one of the better personnel officials of all time. It's easy to say his success was dependent on Manning, and that was a lot of it in Indianapolis. At the same time, he built the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s and the Carolina Panthers later that decade. The Bills made four Super Bowls and the Panthers made an NFC Championship game, so it's hard to say it's all dependent on just Manning.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
Are you implying that $14 million can compensate for being on a poor team?
John: Are you implying that it wouldn't?
Dudderz from Sloth City:
I am nominating you to become a member of the Sloth Lords brOesher. You have demonstrated the exact characteristics a Sloth Lord must possess to be considered for the position. If you win you get a free beer, every hour, free the rest of your life. Let me know if you are interested and I will make my nomination official at the next Sloth council.
John: I'm in.
Andrew from St. Augustine, FL:
My assumption is many of the combine numbers help put everyone on the same level. For instance, a running back in Conference USA may have looked very fast. However, his 40 time at the combine may bring him back to average status. Do I have the right outlook, in your opinion?
John: Pretty close, but the best way to look at the combine is as one piece of a fairly large puzzle. Teams have an idea of a player's status on the draft board coming to the combine, and they have a picture of the player. They ask questions at the combine, and gather hard, physical data to confirm thoughts. A player can move up a bit, and potentially plummet, but probably not soar up a draft board.
Chris from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
What do I do with all of my Jaguar gear now that it is obsolete?
John: Do you really want me to tell you?
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436:
I just hope Caldwell and Gus realize if they totally eschew free agency for the draft (which is fine), they need to hit on EVERY draft pick. Fans are probably giving them 2013 as a grace period, but they're gonna want playoffs no later than 2014-2015. If they make any mistakes in the draft, they're not gonna be around long.
John: You're wrong on this one, Keith. They don't need to hit on every draft pick. They need to hit in the first round and once or twice somewhere else in each draft. They also need to figure out the quarterback situation. Your argument also missed something that Caldwell clearly said – that eschewing free agency was the plan for this year, the first year. After that, free agency will be used to supplement. It's what the Colts did when he was there and essentially what Atlanta did, too. As for your final thought, that if they make any mistakes in the draft, they won't be around long – then they won't be around long. The best drafters make mistakes and the best drafters look to hit about 60 percent. Anything above that is phenomenal and rare.
Madison from Jacksonville:
Should the Jags get Tim Tebow to sell jerseys, tickets, and be on every episode of ESPN SportsCenter? Then, when we're filthy rich, we can just buy the Patriots or something...
John: I get emails like this sometimes.
Josh from Waunakee, WI:
What do you feel of the Jaguars maybe making one big splash in free agency, say Osi Umenyiora? He has been consistently good, would bring a veteran presence to our defensive line, and would hopefully help flip last year's awful pass rush. This would also give us more flexibility in using our first-rounder this year to address another problem area instantly. Thoughts?
John: Yeah, BUT...
Connell from Jacksonville:
I'm of the belief that in the first round – especially in the Top 10 – it is best to draft an offensive weapon that can make an immediate impact for the long term. Offensive weapon being a tight end, quarterback, wide receiver. And with the lack of solid play at the tight position am I crazy to think the Jags will draft tight end? Should they?
John: Not in the Top 10, they shouldn't. You only get so many chances to select in the Top 10, and you need to get a premium player there. With rare exceptions, tight end isn't that.
Robert from Bartram Springs, FL:
I know the Jags haven't made any cuts yet, but have they made any notifications that they won't be renewing anyone's contract?
John: Not publicly. That probably won't happen until after the combine.
Colin from Tallahassee, FL:
What's your opinion of Geno Smith?
John: I think Geno Smith is like a lot of quarterbacks in this draft – a lot of potential, and perhaps too many flaws to consider in the Top 10. He's still being talked about as a possibility at No. 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs, but most scouts and analysts you talk to don't believe he's a clear-cut, can't miss guy.

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