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View from the O-Zone: That's a wrap – a really optimistic wrap


JACKSONVILLE – So, that's it. That's a wrap.

And how do you do it? How do you summarize three days so whirlwind, so eventful, so huge they quite possibly could change – or at least really solidify – a franchise's very foundation?

You breathe deep, is what you do. You reflect, and when reflecting on a Jaguars 2016 NFL Draft that saw six defensive players and one offensive player added to an improving roster you realize …

This one may be a game-changer.

"Yeah, we got better – we did," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said early Saturday night. "Like I said to our coaches, 'We're not going to be able to fill all of our holes and our needs in one draft,' and that's no different than the 31 other teams in the league.

"We still have holes. We still have needs, but we're narrowing the list."

Caldwell wasn't effusive Saturday. In fact, the man who engineered the draft was kind of subdued. He did say the Jaguars had a pre-draft scenario where they took pass rusher, corner and linebacker early. It played out that way with the highlights being Jalen Ramsey falling to them at No. 5 – a great big bonus in the form of Myles Jack.

"We felt really good and that's the way it happened," Caldwell said.

Caldwell's draft-wrap cool is expected. Post-draft giddiness is not his way. Still, if he allowed himself a heel click behind closed doors late Saturday he could be forgiven.

These three days were that big.

"I don't know if it could have played out much better than it has for us," Jaguars Assistant Director of College Scouting Paul Roell said late Saturday afternoon. "We got a whole lot better."

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley agreed.

"We've really improved our roster, through free agency and the draft – especially on the defensive side," Bradley said. "We made really good leaps and bounds here the last couple of months."

The selections:

*Ramsey, cornerback, Florida State (Round 1, No. 5 overall).

*Jack, linebacker, UCLA (Round 2, No. 36 overall).

*Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end, Maryland (Round 3, No. 69 overall).

*Sheldon Day, defensive tackle, Notre Dame (Round 4, No. 103 overall).

*Tyrone Holmes, defensive end, Montana (Round 6, No. 181 overall).

*Brandon Allen, quarterback, Arkansas (Round 6, No. 201 overall).

*Jonathan Woodard, defensive end, Central Arkansas (Round 7, No. 226 overall).

We'll get the obvious out of the way: this draft was about defense. The Jaguars used their first five selections there, the first time in franchise history that had happened.

They got faster. They got deeper. They drafted players they think can rush the passer, and they drafted at least two players in Jack and Ramsey who are best-on-the-planet-at-what-he-does types of talents.

You wanted defense addressed? You got it.

 "This was always the plan – that this was a defense-heavy draft," Caldwell said.

There's no deep analysis needed about Ramsey and Jack. They are the reason for the excitement around the franchise right now, and they're good reasons. Many believed Ramsey the best player in the draft; any others believed it was Jack.

If you combine Jack, Ramsey and 2015 No. 3 overall selection Dante Fowler Jr. the Jaguars have three of the top five or six defensive players in the last two drafts on the roster. That's potential upper-end defensive talent unlike this team has had in years. Perhaps ever.

"There are only so many times you get to take rare athletes at any draft," Roell said. "To get two of them with Jalen and Myles … it is [an opportunity] I do not know we will have again. It is extremely rare."

Not that Jack and Ramsey were the whole draft. The Jaguars addressed edge rusher with Ngakoue and Holmes – fast, athletic players who were productive in college. Day is a pass-rushing defensive tackle with All-America credentials. Ngakoue and Day in particular have the feel of players who could impact sooner rather than later.

So, where are the Jaguars now?

That must be asked as the draft ends, because the draft signifies the end of the major-acquisition phase of the offseason. And what an offseason it has been:

Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara on defense, Chris Ivory and Kelvin Beachum on offense, the return of Fowler, the return of Marks, the addition of Jack, Ramsey and so on and so on …

That's a lot of adding in not a lot of time. And it's a lot of real reason for real optimism.

Caldwell issued some caution Saturday and he's right. He said every team feels great about its draft on Saturday night, and he said, too, that despite all that was added – and the defensive talent added has bene significant – talent is not everything.

This group must come together. They must learn to play together. There must be chemistry, and injuries must be avoided.

It's all true, but for now what we know is the Jaguars accomplished what they wanted in the draft – and indeed in the entire offseason. They wanted to accelerate the building process on defense to increase the talent level there.

Mission accomplished? Well, the offseason exceeded expectations and this draft combined with this offseason has given this team a legitimate chance to be better. So, yeah – mission accomplished and then some.

And that's it. That's a happier, more optimistic wrap than has been seen in these parts for a while.

These three days indeed were that big.

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