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View from the O-Zone: Names to remember


JACKSONVILLE – Yannick Ngakoue couldn't have put it more simply.

In so doing, Ngakoue summed up much about the Jaguars' 2016 draft class – especially two of the more underrated, important guys.

We're talking about Ngakoue and Sheldon Day, who were the first two Jaguars 2016 draft selections not names Myles Jack or Jalen Ramsey. Day and Ngakoue have been a touch overlooked in the giddiness following the 2016 NFL Draft.

They're not discussed as much as Jack and Ramsey.

They weren't mentioned as much in the post-draft analysis.

But Ngakoue and Day are big parts of the class and big parts of the Jaguars' future. A big reason that's true was summed up by Ngakoue this past Saturday.

"I like getting to the quarterback," Ngakoue said.

OK, liking getting to the quarterback and getting to the quarterback are two different things, but make no mistake:

The Jaguars' 2016 draft class absolutely, positively is about effecting the quarterback – and along with that, increasing overall defensive speed to be a lot better on third downs.

Jack and Ramsey are big in that equation. They figure to make the back seven faster and better in coverage, particularly against tight ends. They figure to impact offensive game plans because of their elite speed and athleticism. They figure to need some time to develop, but even as rookies they figure to have impact – maybe later rather than sooner, but before season's end. Considering their pedigrees, they're as close to sure things as is possible considering there are no sure things in the NFL Draft.

Ngakoue and Day are not nearly as sure, but they are important.

Ngakoue, a third-round selection from Maryland, was drafted to be an edge rusher. He has skill that could translate to playing the run well and he said he absolutely wants to develop into an every-down player.

Images from the second day of Jaguars rookie orientation.

"I definitely want to be a three-down guy," he said. "I want to be a person who can contribute on special teams – everything – because all of those teams help you to win."

Still, what the Jaguars need from Ngakoue in the short- and long-term is pressure on the quarterback. He appears to have the potential to play immediately as a reserve Leo behind second-year end Dante Fowler Jr. He also has the ability to bend and get low while getting around the tackle – key for an edge rusher. If he can turn that early opportunity and natural talent into real pressure early … well, if the Jaguars can't count on that immediately, it would sure be a boost.

"I'm comfortable with whatever they want to do right now, because I just want to contribute and help the team win," he said.

Day's short-term development is perhaps not as critical to the Jaguars. They're strong at Day's three-technique position, with Malik Jackson expected to start and Sen'Derrick Marks expected to be heavily involved in the rotation. Michael Bennett, who flashed as a rookie last season, also could play a role.

But the Jaguars' defensive front isn't about depth-chart slots and singular roles. The goal is to have a deep, athletic front that goes eight players deep – and maybe deeper.

Day has the early look of a player who not only can be in a rotation long-term, but who can be a draft-day find. He has All-America talent, and was part of one of the deepest defensive tackle classes in recent draft memory. He's also versatile enough and athletic enough …

Well, to look at him and think that he could eventually be a key player – and that he could eventually help this pass rush – is not a ridiculous thought.

"They said I could play multiple positions, and they could move me around to different positions to get me to find a spot," Day said.

Day was asked where he is most comfortable right now.

"Probably three-technique," he said.

Where Day will end up is an unknown, but that's sure where the Jaguars see him -- as another big, athletic player who can disrupt from the interior. The development of a player such as Day – a fourth-round selection with ability to eventually start – is the sort of thing around which contending franchises are built. The same is true of Ngakoue.

If your roster is going to be elite, players beyond the first round must develop. Ngakoue and Day have the resumes of players who could do that, and they pass the first-glance eye test, too.

How much Ngakoue and Day contribute immediately remains to be seen. It's difficult enough for players such as Jack and Ramsey to make immediate impact. The further into the draft you go, the more difficult.

But if the reports and early indications are correct and these guys can develop into contributing players and make an increasingly talented line an increasingly deep, rotating one …

Well, if that happens, Jack and Ramsey may not be the only reasons to remember this class.

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