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View from the O-Zone: "Strictly a quarterback"


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – They're strong, they're impressive and they stand tall.

They are confident – and in fact, one quarterback prospect's quote from the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine Friday might well define the thoughts of more than a few of the quarterback prospects at this year's combine.

"I think I'm the best quarterback here," Josh Rosen said from behind a podium surrounded by reporters at the Indiana Convention Center. "I think every one of the quarterbacks here should have the same belief I do."

Rosen needn't have worried.

The UCLA quarterback was far from alone – and the fact that he's not alone sort of defines this year's combine and could define the first round of next month's 2018 NFL Draft.

Indeed, the unique thing about the '18 draft has a couple of different wrinkles. One wrinkle is that there are a ton of quarterbacks – six, actually – who could go in the first round of the draft.

The second wrinkle involves all of those quarterbacks who rightfully think they're the best quarterback here, and what it mainly involves is no one has much of an idea which one's right.

Now, before we go on, know this:

This View from the O-Zone doesn't have a hard-core Jaguars feel because the topic of quarterbacks and the '18 draft doesn't have a hard-core Jaguars feel. That feel ended when the Jaguars extended quarterback Blake Bortles' contract this past Saturday.

While some fans likely will cling to the idea of the team drafting a quarterback at No. 29 overall, they probably shouldn't cling too tightly. General Manager David Caldwell made that clear Wednesday when he said that Bortles wasn't a "place-holder" at the position and that signing Bortles "wasn't a decision where he's going to be here for a year and we'll be keeping our eyes out …"

That means that not only are the draft's top four quarterbacks – Sam Darnold of Southern California, Rosen, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Josh Allen of Wyoming – out of play for the Jaguars barring a slide of embarrassing proportion, but that players such of Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State almost certainly aren't going to be selected at No. 29 with the idea of developing into a long-term starter.

Where could quarterback come into play for the Jaguars?

The guess here is third round at the earliest, most likely later. The Jaguars, after all, are about winning now. You can find starters in the first three rounds – and with needs at wide receiver, offensive line and tight end it seems unlikely the Jaguars would go quarterback there.

No, the Jaguars instead very likely will spend much of the draft's first night waiting to select and watching what many believe will be one of the most intriguing, hard-to-predict first rounds in recent NFL memory.

New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman, whose team is one of a slew of early-drafting teams who could be looking quarterback, called this an "interesting" quarterback class with "all shapes and sizes" and all "flavors."

"This is like Howard Johnson's back in the day," Gettleman said. "It's a really interesting, eclectic group."

While it's fair to wonder if Gettleman meant Baskin-Robbins and its 31 flavors, he's right that this quarterback class is interesting, eclectic and darned hard to project.

Those hard to project will have their on-field day to impress coaches and personnel types at the combine Saturday. They had their day to impress the media on Friday, and the storylines were pretty much as those who have followed the pre-combine buildup might expect.

Darnold was asked about his decision to not throw at the combine, and was asked about hand size. Rosen was asked about potentially being the No. 1 overall selection, and Jackson was asked about NFL teams reportedly asking him to work out at wide receiver this week.

"No team has asked me to try out at wide receiver," Jackson said. "I don't know where that came from. I'm strictly a quarterback."

If Jackson's press conference won the day, Mayfield's wasn't far behind. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner showed the confidence many expected from him, saying of the No. 1-overall-selection-holding Cleveland Browns "If anybody was going to turn that franchise around, it'd be me."

And so it went Friday, with quarterbacks around crowded podiums dropping Twitter-inflaming quotes a day before they hope to have a similar effect on NFL scouts.

Who will go first? Will all six go in the first round? Those questions won't be answered for a couple of months, and the draft-day fate of hot-button quarterbacks such as Jackson and Mayfield will be debated ad nauseam during that time.

The answers will set the tone for the most-quarterback centric draft in recent memory.

Even though the Jaguars won't be directly involved in a lot of the high-profile conversation, it's going to be an interesting – and eclectic – couple of months.

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