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View from the O-Zone: A good mood, a happy mood


JACKSONVILLE – One by one, they rolled in.

And one by one, the stories played out … not once, not twice …

Let's face it: at one point Saturday afternoon we got to the point where the stories of the Jaguars'  '15 draft were kinda, sorta running together:

Scene 1: Player slides a bit in draft to the surprise of many analysts …

Scene 2: Jaguars select said player …

Scene 3 involved analysts rejoicing, praising and telling – er, Tweeting – the draft/NFL world how good the selection was and how well the Jaguars were faring in the 2015 NFL Draft. That story started being told Thursday night, and by the time Saturday's seventh-round ended, the analysts weren't the only ones pleased with what happened inside EverBank Field.

The guys inside the 'Bank? The ones engineering the draft?

Yeah, they liked the scenes playing out, too.

"Overall, mood is good… scouts are happy, coaches are happy," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said late Saturday afternoon.

We'll get to the entire 2015 NFL Draft weekend soon, but first, Saturday's events:

The Jaguars early in Round 4 selected Louisville safety James Sample, a player ESPN Analyst Louis Riddick said could end up as the draft's best safety. The Jaguars selected Sample at the risk of losing another player they liked a lot – Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene – and then were as surprised as they were ecstatic that they were able to select Greene early in Round 5.

Jaguars Director of College Scouting Kyle O'Brien already felt good about the draft after the Greene selection.

"I'm an Irishman, so some people rub my head (for luck); maybe that's part of it," O'Brien said, laughing. "We feel very fortunate this year, and not only some good football players, but some good football traits to help embrace and cultivate the culture that Dave and (Jaguars Head Coach) Gus (Bradley) have been creating here."

That feel became a flat-out buzz a short while later when Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett – projected by at least one publication as a Top 32 player – was available at the top of Round 6.

"Obviously, you'd like to hit your needs in every draft," assistant director of college scouting Paul Roell said. "Sometimes it's possible and sometimes it's not. What I know is from the beginning of this weekend to now and throughout the draft process we have gotten better and it's exciting.

"It's been (a) long (process) and today the proof is in the pudding. It's paying off."

That was the feeling of pretty much all the Jaguars officials who spoke to the media Saturday, from Caldwell to Roell to O'Brien to Bradley.

"I think it's been very good," Bradley said. "I'm pleased. If you put in a combination of free agency and the draft, and I felt like we added very good players. I'm pleased with that. … We have some good players in that locker room. The additions of free agency and the draft are only going to make us better."

There's no sense of a task being completed, and there's an awareness that going from 3-13 to contention remains long process. But there is a feeling that the Jaguars are significantly further along in that process than they were three months ago.

Three months ago ... remember?

At that point, the Jaguars hadn't yet signed a free-agent class that included tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick and right tackle Jermey Parnell along with three other starters. When they signed that class, Caldwell said he fully expected to enter the next significant phase of the offseason – the draft phase – with far fewer needs than in in his first two drafts.

Caldwell on Saturday said it indeed played out that way – and that, yes, the 2015 had a different feel than his first two drafts. Whereas those two drafts were often about picking players who needed to start immediately, Caldwell said he was more often able to let the draft board fall to him.

"(Third-round guard) A.J. Cann, James Sample and even Rashad Greene we liked," Caldwell said. "We had a little bit of need there but we didn't have to go surge somebody so they would come start. Those guys will offer great competition at their position groups.

"If some of them have to sit on the bench for a year until they're ready then that's a good problem to have."

Hear that? That's the sound of a general manager who didn't have to reach for need. It's the sound of a GM close to having a competitive roster – and who feels confident that not only does the roster contain 22 starting-caliber players, but more than a few others capable of playing at a high level.

Those sounds make for a good feeling. Yes, there's a lot that must play out. And yes, there are now significantly higher expectations in terms of victories than in the first two years of this regime. The time has come for happy Aprils to become happy Septembers and Octobers.

But that's a story for later.

For now, what mattered around the 'Bank was a lot of scenes played out a lot better over the weekend than they dared imagine, and that made for a lot of happy sights and sounds on Saturday night.

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