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View from the O-Zone: Caldwell misdirection part of pre-draft fun


JACKSONVILLE – He ate, smiled and chatted a little draft.

Actually, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell chatted a whole lot of draft early Friday afternoon at EverBank Field. This being the Jaguars' 2015 pre-draft luncheon, we expected nothing else.

Whether Caldwell said anything real …

Whether while he was talking about this he was actually meaning that

Whether just about everything he said was misdirection, misinformation or – gasp! – sorta, kinda like a lie …

All of that we don't know until next Thursday, and you know what?

That's OK. In fact, if you're a Jaguars fan it's more than OK. It's terrific and it's par for the course, and if you think about it, it really adds to the fun.

Quickly, before we get to The Big Takeaway portion of this View from the O-Zone, here are a few things we did learn from Friday's get-together:

*Caldwell likes the wide receiver class in this draft. A lot.

*He likes the running back class. A lot.

*He and the rest of the Jaguars' personnel and coaching staff like three-to-five players a lot – enough for those players to shape their thinking in the draft.

All of that stuff is real. All of that you can pretty much take as absolute truth heading into next week's Draft Week, which leads to Draft Night, which is the end of the longest, most-drawn-out, most interminable portion of the NFL Year.

As far as what else we absolutely, positively know about Caldwell's pre-draft thinking –and therefore that of the Jaguars … well, there ain't much. And Caldwell absolutely likes it that way.

Like any general manager, Caldwell is intentionally vague heading into the draft. That was even true of the aforementioned Big Takeaway from Friday's event – that the Jaguars like three-to-five players at the top of this draft very much. Caldwell said he covets a true difference-making player over a couple of solid players, which meant a team wanting to trade for the Jaguars' No. 3 selection will have to pay a substantial price to do so.

That's solid thinking, and the Jaguars absolutely need such a player. At the same time, Caldwell also added that a couple of those coveted players could be available "relatively late," meaning a trade isn't absolutely, positively out of the question.

None of which is unusual, and if we know anything after Caldwell's two drafts as general manager it's that with five days remaining before the draft we probably don't really know much at all.

This, after all, is the general manager who pulled off the remarkable feat last offseason of attending just about every meaningful quarterback pro day – Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater – and having everyone believe he wasn't thinking quarterback at No. 3 overall. That's a poker face on a pretty grand scale.

But the simpler, more-pertinent reason the Jaguars' draft is so tough to read is that there simply are so many theories that make sense.

There's the Pass Rusher Theory, the one based on Caldwell saying early in his tenure that there are three building-block positions tough to find later in the draft: quarterback, left tackle and pass rusher. Left tackle came in 2013 and quarterback came in 2014, so 2015 …

Well, you get the idea.

There's also the Leonard Williams Theory, which is basically that the Southern California defensive end/tackle is simply too much the Best Available Player in this draft to pass.

There's also the Help Blake Bortles Theory, which is that when you have a Top 5-draft quarterback you better have elite skill players around him. That begets the Take a Wide Receiver Theory, which makes Amari Cooper and Kevin White logical and intriguing selections.

All those are legitimate theories, and the Trade Back Theory is, too.

The guess here is the Jaguars stay at No. 3 and take Williams if he's there. If not, the guess is they stay and take a pass rusher. If you believe there's a difference-maker there, stay and get him. Take no chances.

Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley meet with the media during a luncheon ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft.

All of the above were topics Friday, and Caldwell addressed several. Yes, he said, he likes the idea of selecting pass rusher/quarterback/left tackle at the top of drafts, though he said adaptability is crucial. He said there were offensive and defensive players among the aforementioned three-to-five players of interest. And he said, too, while Williams isn't technically an edge rusher he absolutely is flexible enough to have a role on the Jaguars' defensive line.

And after he'd finished eating and talking and chatting, you really did realize that beyond a few topics, you really didn't know how much was real, and how much was misdirection. And if you've paid attention to Caldwell's drafts, you realized that there's a very real possibility that all of these topics and of this conjecture and speculation could be for naught, because Caldwell absolutely, positively could do something no one's considering.

And you probably realize that all of that's OK. It's the draft time, after all. The misdirection, the unknowns – even the kinda, sorta lies …

They're all part of the fun.



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