Some days, this job is just, plain cool. This is one of those days.
I am writing this at 7 a.m. over Washington, D.C., about a half hour from when we are scheduled to land in New Jersey. There, I will meet Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars' first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The excitement level around Jacksonville about Blackmon is palpable. I can only imagine his is the same. I wonder if he knows what he's getting into. Probably, he doesn't, but that's OK. How he handles expectations, pressure, hype – it's part of the journey.
It's an NFL journey that began Thursday and will continue Friday. It's one that will define a lot about this franchise. Can't wait.
Let's get to it . . .
Spike from Jacksonville:
JUSTIN BLACKMON!!! JUSTIN BLACKMON!!!! YES! JUSTIN BLACKMON!
John: This is an exciting day for the franchise, no question. And there's no question the fan base is energized over this selection. This is what the fans wanted. It's what a lot of observers thought was needed. It's hard to argue it's not what the offense – and the team – needed. The only Devil's Advocate statement is the one that must be offered with any draft selection – that there's no guarantee what you scout is what you get and no guarantee college production and stardom translates to the NFL. But that's any player. That's any year. That's any team. For today, and for this off-season, and for right now, this is an exciting pick and one a lot of followers of the Jaguars have waited to see for a long time. Enjoy the moment.
Marion from Jacksonville:
What a perfect explosion of Value = Need = Fan Favorite. Gotta be your easiest column yet! I know that am I going to sleep happy tonight.
John: I'm glad for you. Gene Smith is very popular this morning – or at least a lot more popular than he was Thursday morning. And as I was driving home Thursday night, it occurred to me that this is yet another example of the reason it's difficult to be a general manager. Fans like this selection because it lined up with what they wanted, and in this case, that lined up with what Smith thought was the best move. There are some years you have to take defensive tackles and offensive tackles. If you don't, you can't build your roster, but taking them is never going to thrill the fan base. On Thursday, Smith got the chance to take a skill position player for a second consecutive season, and this season it happened to be one that fans saw play very well in a bowl game, so on Friday he's a little more popular with the fan base. Sometime soon, it will line up less perfectly and Smith will pick someone else few ever have heard of and he'll be criticized again. It's the way of the draft for a good general manager.
Carlos from Bakersfield, CA:
Interesting – been watching ESPN and NFL Network and Blackmon already has disappeared. And nothing about the great trade Gene made to get him. How funny.
John: One draft-day trade and one potential star player won't change how the national media treats the Jaguars. It's going to take time to be noticed in the fashion you seem to want. Me, I don't care what the NFL Network and ESPN say about the Jaguars. It's so not on my list of concerns that I have trouble relating, but I understand people care about it. Give it time. Winning consistently will help.
Richard from Altus, OK:
For all of the haters, can we now call him GM Genius?
John: I don't think Smith would want you to call him that, and I know he understands when people call him the opposite. He's not doing this for praise and adulation. He genuinely wants to build a championship roster, and believes the team is getting there. If I know anything about Smith it's that the reasoning he made the Blackmon move wasn't different than his reasoning for all of the other moves. The fact that this one is popular doesn't stink, but I also can't imagine it matters to him much, either.
Kevin from Starkville, MS:
I wasn't exactly sold on Blackmon, but seeing how we only lost a fourth-round selection, I can't be mad about it. I just really hope that this was a move that Gene and Company wanted to make, not just Khan.
John: Your concern is merited, because there were reports that Jaguars Owner Shad Khan was pushing for the move. I don't doubt Khan liked the idea, but in speaking with scouts and personnel officials before the draft, I know Blackmon was a guy they liked and Khan's name never came up as a reason. Their question was, "Would he fall to No. 7?" They took care of that question by ensuring he needn't fall for the Jaguars to get him.
Terrelle from Jacksonville:
O-man. So after all of the Jaguars mock drafts yours was correct. Pat yourself on the shoulder.
John: I often have a sore back from doing just that. I mocked Blackmon to the Jaguars, but I admit I didn't predict a trade up.
Buddy from Jacksonville:
Wait? Weren't you the guy worried about Blackmon not being worth a Top 10 pick?
John: No question. I like the excitement generated by Blackmon. I do. And no question it was a need position. I also don't doubt that his presence will help the receiving corps. If there is a concern with the selection it's that Blackmon isn't perceived by some to be a go-to receiver along the lines of a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. That's usually what you want from a Top 5-drafted wide receiver. I also have a concern that the fan expectations about what Blackmon can bring immediately may be too high. This is not likely an immediate 1,200-yard-guy. That's not an insult. Those guys only exist in extremely rare circumstances. There, now that I've reiterated what I said before the draft and owned up to my words, that's out of the way. Every pick has concerns. Overall, there's a lot to like about the pick. The Jaguars got great value, made a smart trade and on the field, I particularly like that he plays big in big games. The offense has gotten better since the end of the season. That was the idea.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Regarding Steve from Jacksonville. I DO remember. We SHOULD have taken Brady Quinn. No one knew at the time he would be a bust. We needed a quarterback and were in the process of neglecting the position. We opted for "Superbust" Reggie Nelson and I didn't renew my tickets, because it was clear that the front office was as it still is, inept, and the team was not going to improve. And it hasn't.
John: Actually, there were many around the league who believed the first round was too high to select Quinn during that draft. That was pretty obvious by his first-round slide. I'm not going to get into an argument over whether or not passing on Quinn was the right move. It's a busy enough weekend without wasting time.
Steve from Jacksonville:
So is your social media blowing up happy or angry now that the draft is over?
John: First, the draft isn't over. Far from it. Second, it's a little of both, and that's to be expected. There is a lot of happy and a little angry, but it's a lot less anger than usual. I will say that.
William from Jacksonville:
What are the reasons that drafting is the best way to fill a team's core?
John: It's the least-expensive way to procure talent, and the only way to get a player in a situation where you can't be outbid or have the player talked out of it for some reason. It's also the time to get a player when there is the highest chance that he is healthy, and the time you can develop him in your system. Getting them any other way means bringing in players who weren't wanted by someone else enough to make them their core players.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
The move was a total shock and a very smart move. Justin Blackmon is ready to go out of the box. Big-time receiver. I knew there would be no chance to get him at No. 7. You got to hand it to Gene Smith. That was a slick move! Everything from here out will be the gravy! Everyone seems to be onboard with this pick! Sweet! Go Jags!
John: I like gravy!
Bill from Jacksonville:
What do you think of players having input into a team's draft plans/free-agent signings? Recently Larry Fitzgerald said he would like to see Arizona draft Michael Floyd. The Denver Broncos have signed former Colts who played with and are comfortable with Peyton Manning. Do players - and should players - of their stature and the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Maurice Jones-Drew, Calvin Johnson – etc. have input into the moves their team makes either during the draft or free agency? For what it's worth, I think they should.
John: There's a difference in the examples you cite. Fitzgerald saying he would like to see the Cardinals select Floyd is nice, and they did end up taking Floyd Thursday, but the opinions of players can only be taken so seriously by a front office when acquiring players. As for the Broncos signing players who are comfortable with Manning, those are moves made with the idea of putting players around a quarterback who has operated in a certain offensive system for a long time. That's different than listening to players' input in free agency and the draft.
Erich from "Treasure" Valley, ID:
Why did the Browns trade up one spot with the Vikings to take Richardson? It's not like there was a chance the Vikings were gonna take him.
John: The Browns moved up a spot because they were concerned someone would jump them and trade with the Vikings to get to No. 3.
Marjorie from Jacksonville:
Good grief! Can't we get noticeable jaguars on the jerseys? Blackmon holds up the jersey and it looks like a blank piece of teal fabric with a number...no cat in sight! I want the old uniforms back! Bring back the cats that show we are Jaguars! Sorry, I've wanted to make this complaint a long time but it really got me when I saw Blackmon hold up the draft jersey and saw only teal fabric and no jaguar in sight!
John: Sorry, Marjorie. I'll voice your complaint, but I don't share it. I've never been huge on the animals on the jersey. But I'm a clean, old-school jersey guy. Some may feel differently.
Andrew from Section 232:
What was Justin Blackmon's response when you asked him, 'Sup?'