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Still about the money

Let's get to it . . . Blake from Jacksonville:
I remember when Eben Britton got drafted, and the first thing he said was that he was going to be the most dominant tackle in the NFL. Man, he was awfully high on himself. Now it appears he actually should have gone in the fifth or sixth round as an OK guard. Right when I heard him say that I knew he was going to be a bust. Guy Whimper, a free agent, is a better tackle than him. Do you think having that mentality coming right out of college contributed to his lack of growth? Once realized the talent level of the NFL it had to kind of put him in check, right?
John: I think his "lack of growth" can be largely traced to missing nine games in his second season because of a shoulder injury and missing most of this season with a back injury. What did you want Britton to say on draft day, "I should have been a fifth or sixth round pick and should be playing guard? I stink?" He had a desire to be great. Don't fault him for saying it. He was a kid with high aspirations. It hasn't happened for him yet because of injury. It's not too much more complex than that.
Tony from Jacksonville:
Obviously, you don't agree with the BAP approach. You mention that we will almost definitely take a receiver in the early rounds, and then you say that we will take an offensive lineman "sometime after Round 3." What if an offensive tackle is the highest player on their board when they pick in Round 1? You're talking picking for need, not BAP. The round shouldn't matter as long as you got the best guy when you picked.
John: I do agree with BAP. I also believe that when the Jaguars saw that Blaine Gabbert was available in Round 1 this past year they traded up to get him, so there's more to the draft than simply waiting for a player to fall to you. You grade players and if you have a chance to get a player who stands out, you take him.
Brandon from New York, NY:
It seems like the picks Gene Smith makes come along a little slower than other rookies, and then a couple years later, everyone can see the upside and potential he drafted – Knighton and Jennings last year, Alualu this offseason, Monroe and Cox this season. Do you think Gabbert and Cecil Shorts might follow this trend, with tremendous upside that might not show up immediately?
John: I do. Most rookies do not play at a level nearly as high as they will play at as a second and even third-year player. There are exceptions, but they are relatively rare.
Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
I am currently in the Marine Corps and stationed in Hawaii. I have come across many great men in excellent physical shape to include cardio. What always seems to amaze me is the ones who can still run like the wind and perform at a high level involving carrying 150 pounds of weight for miles at a time. What makes this amazing is that they also smoke cigarettes. So, my odd question for the day is: Do you know of any NFL players that smoke regularly? Or is it prohibited in their contract? Just curious.
John: I don't know of any and never have come across one in my years of covering the NFL. I have heard many stories about players who smoked in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is my understanding many teams had ash trays built into lockers during that time. But that was a different era. Now, cigarette smoking is just not part of the culture of the NFL.
Julian from Fernandina Beach, FL:
With all due respect to Mr. Lewis, the Jags didn't pay him all that money to be just a dominant blocker.
John: No, they didn't.
Eric from Boone, NC:
The thing about resting players for the playoffs is it usually never works. How many Super Bowl winners rested their players at the end of the season?
John: It's a hard statistic to measure, because it's hard to go back and truly see who rested players and who didn't. Some teams pulled starters early and others played players sparingly who had injuries. The Colts rested players and got to the Super Bowl after 2009 but lost to the Saints. Other seasons they rested players with different results. There is a school of thought that says it's better to play hard and maintain momentum, but there are plenty around the league who believe momentum is basically being rested, healthy and playing fast in your first playoff game.
Tim from Jacksonville:
Do the scouts maintain a best-available-player list of all practice-squad players in the league, just like they do for the draft? If so, how do they get their information on those players? Or is it based entirely on the old scouting information that was done in the past for the draft?
John: The personnel department keeps a file on every player. The foundation of the information the Jaguars have in that file is based on their evaluation of that player coming out of college, and the performance of the player in the NFL is added to that.
Steve from Woodbine, GA:
This week the Jets and Broncos play a game on Thursday. Don't you think that the league is cheating the fans of top-quality play when they force teams to play on four days rest? Wouldn't it be better if the Thursday games followed a bye week for a team? This is a very physical game and I am sure it takes at least three or four days just to start to feel normal again.
John: The Thursday games are scheduled at the end of the season, largely after the byes have been scheduled, so the idea of scheduling byes around Thursday games wouldn't work. As far as cheating fans from top-quality play, there's little question playing on four days rest is very difficult on the players. I believe someone who previously sat in my chair liked to say that in the NFL it's about the money. In this case, that's what it is.
Chris from Tuscaloosa, AL:
How many good years does MJD have left in the tank? I'm worried that once our passing game gets straightened out MJD will be past his prime because of how much we rely on him now. I see our passing game being much improved next year but I think we are two years away from being consistently effective through the air and that MJD's play will have declined a good bit by then.
John: It's impossible to tell when an individual back will decline. It varies from player to player. Jones-Drew is clearly a special player and special players often can play at a higher level than other players because they work harder, are smarter and are gifted physically. Still, Jones-Drew is in his sixth season and it stands to reason his peak years won't last too much longer. As far as worrying about it, don't. Once the passing offense begins reaching a high level, the need for an elite-level running back is far less than otherwise. Quick, name the Packers' running back: You might be able to, but a Packers fans also probably wouldn't sweat much if it was someone else.
Matt from Jacksonville:
How do Fred Taylor's career numbers compare to L. Tomlinson? Other than the Pro Bowl appearances I wonder if Freddy T has numbers just as good if not better. Sad that Fred probably has zero shot at the Hall of Fame.
John: Taylor does not have numbers as good or better than Tomlinson's, though I think he has a better than zero chance at the Hall of Fame. Tomlinson had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, and had 10 or more touchdowns rushing in nine consecutive seasons to start his career. He also had seven consecutive 1,200-yard seasons and six consecutive 1,300-yard seasons. He has 13,571 yards and 145 touchdowns rushing while Taylor had 11,695 and 66 touchdowns. Taylor was a great player, but Tomlinson is a guaranteed Hall of Famer.
Paul from Arlington, VA:
I think Rashean Mathis's story is a good one for fans to look at if they don't agree with or understand player holdouts. A week ago, Mathis was a guy looking like he had a good shot at securing a decent contract this offseason. Now he's a 31-year-old cornerback facing knee reconstruction. I think fans, in general, need to be a little bit more understanding when players hold out for new contracts when they can because it can all change very quickly.
John: Fans won't be more understanding. But within the NFL, the reasoning you noted is why teams and players approach contracts as they do. Players understand full well the risks and therefore take each contract very seriously. Teams negotiate with players as tough as they can, but more often than not once a negotiation is over there are no hard feelings. Everyone involved knows this is a brutal sport in which careers can end at any time.

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