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The '20 Draft: "We need to hit on all 12…"


JACKSONVILLE – This is a unique draft – and a very challenging one.

That is true for all 32 teams in what will be a "virtual" 2020 NFL Draft because of COVID-19 regulations. But as Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell sees it, what's most notable is the draft's importance to the organization.

"It's huge," he said.

The Jaguars, thanks to a series of trades over the last 18 months, enter the April 23-25 draft with 12 selections – six of their own and six acquired through the trades of players such as defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive end Calais Campbell and quarterback Nick Foles.

Those selections include two Round 1 selections – their own selection at No. 9 and the No. 20 selection obtained from the Los Angeles Rams in the Ramsey trade. They also have the No. 42 selection in Round 2, giving them three of the top 50 selections in a draft that seems likely to signal a significant change in organizational direction.

"This is the most draft capital we've had here," Caldwell said during a Thursday pre-draft video conference with Head Coach Doug Marrone and local media. "We need to hit on all 12; that's our philosophy."

Marrone said pre-draft conversations between coaches and personnel officials – and between he and Caldwell – have been productive.

"We're good," Marrone said. "We've had great conversations. We're all in agreement. We feel real strong about whoever becomes available to us on the top. The later end, we've had some great conversations and we've got some people targeted in a lot of those areas.

"From the amount of discussions we've had, and the amount of exercises we've gone through, I feel really confident. I'm really excited. Obviously, a lot depends on what the other teams do, who they pick and what they go with. There are going to be some surprises somewhere. We all know that. There will be some trades.

"It will be interesting to see how it works out. That's what makes it so exciting. That's why all the people tune in."

Not that the final number necessarily will be 12 selections. Caldwell on Thursday left open the possibility of trading either up or down from multiple locations during the draft.

"Our process is we want to make every one of them count," Caldwell said. "If we can use one of those to maybe trade up and get a guy that we want in a select round, we'll do that, too.

"You never know: We may acquire some more throughout the draft."

Caldwell in seven previous drafts as Jaguars general manager never has traded up or down in Round 1. He said Thursday the large number of selections "gives you a lot of flexibility" to trade either up or down in the first round.

"It really depends on the player or players who are there when you're about ready to pick," he said. "If a certain player falls to you, you're going to exercise that pick regardless and it's kind of a no-trade player. But if we're sitting there at nine or 20 and we do like four or five different players and they're still on the board … well, yeah, then that gives you an option to trade back.

"Conversely, if you're sitting there at nine or 20 and there's only one guy left and you're at Pick No. 5, then you may have to use some of that ammo to go up and get the guy you want. I think you have to see what's happening in front of you and when you get to your pick, who is there for you to trade back for."

Caldwell was asked on Thursday how many players would fall into a category at No. 9 of absolutely taking him without thinking twice.

"I would say four," he said.

Asked which four, Caldwell laughed and did not reply.

Caldwell did reply when asked about how COVID-19 might affect the draft, notably when discussing what might happen in a scenario with unresponsive internet with a team on the clock.

"Pony Express," he joked, adding: "I think you just call it in."

Caldwell, who said he will have a better feel for the process once the team's IT department sets up the team's virtual "War Room" in the coming days, on a serious note did express legitimate concerns about executing trades in a "virtual" draft.

"In talking to some GMs across the league, we have started some potential scenarios of potential trading up and trading back," Caldwell said. "Right now, that's probably the one thing that gives me a little bit of angst of how the process is going to go on.

"I feel good about being able to exercise a trade in the first round with the time limit. I think as you get into the third, fourth and the later rounds, where the time is shorter … it's going to be interesting to see if I can use my left hand as well as I can use my right hand in terms of making calls and making trades and trying to figure out the value of that.

"That's probably the one thing I have a little concern about – executing a trade in the later rounds."

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