View from the O-Zone: Wrapping the ‘19 draft

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JACKSONVILLE – Another draft is in the rearview.

“That’s a wrap,” Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said moments after the 2019 NFL Draft. “We feel good about it.”

That was obvious when Caldwell, Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke to the media in their post-draft availability at TIAA Bank Field early Saturday evening. Here’s why:

The Jaguars got bigger up front – and more athletic.

They got faster – which is always a goal.

And they got what they consider a couple of steals – including a big one Friday.

Mostly, by the time the draft ended Saturday afternoon, the Jaguars with their seven selections believed they took a step back toward the postseason.

Coughlin on Saturday was asked if this team could win the AFC South in 2019.

“Obviously, we have to go through a lot of work to get there,” Coughlin said. “Minds have to be right. It has to perform as one as a team. But I certainly believe that. I believe that in order to get to where you want to go, the fastest way is to win the division.

“We’ve tried to put ourselves in that position and hopefully we can.”

Quickly, the Jaguars’ 19 draft:

*Round 1: Josh Allen, linebacker/defensive end, Kentucky.

*Round 2: Jawaan Taylor, right tackle, Florida.

*Round 3: Josh Oliver, tight end, San Jose State.

*Round 3: Quincy Williams, linebacker, Murray State.

*Round 5: RyQuell Armstead, running back, Temple.

*Round 6: Gardner Minshew, quarterback, Washington State.

*Round 7: Dontavius Russell, defensive tackle, Auburn.

Scroll up to the second bullet point … Taylor in Round 2. That’s where Coughlin believes the draft turned in the Jaguars’ favor.

“You talk about something that really legitimately made the draft,” he said.

As Coughlin saw it, Taylor was the weekend’s second fortuitous circumstance for the Jaguars. The first was Allen – projected by many as a Top 3 selection – being available at No. 7 overall.

But they also wanted a right tackle – and entered the draft liking Taylor. They were linked with him at No. 7 overall and considered selecting him there.

Coughlin said the Jaguars didn’t believe Taylor would be available in Round 2. They considered trading back into Round 1 Thursday, then couldn’t get Arizona or Indianapolis to trade the first two selections of Round 2 Friday. The Jaguars traded up with the Oakland Raiders from No. 38 to No. 35 for Taylor, a move Coughlin considered critical.

“We just knew at the start of the second round we could not afford to let him get away as long as he was sitting there,” Coughlin said. “We didn’t think he would make it there, but he did.”

Coughlin said the Taylor selection essentially meant exiting the draft with two first-round draft selections – Allen and Taylor.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that,” Coughlin said.

Caldwell on Friday expressed satisfaction with accomplishing the pre-draft goal of addressing edge rusher, right tackle, tight end and linebacker with the Jaguars’ first four selections – all of which came in the crucial first two days of the draft, where premium players and starters are most often secured.

“I think we got the best scenario for all of our needs,” he said Saturday.

Caldwell also said he believed the pre-draft objectives of improving offensively around new quarterback Nick Foles was met, particularly noting the selections of Taylor, Armstead and Oliver.

“I feel like we did some nice things there,” Caldwell said.

Will the past three days indeed make the Jaguars better? Will it get them back to the postseason?

“Time will tell” is the answer – as after every draft. It almost always takes more than a season for drafted players to realize their full potential. But the excitement felt Saturday was real.

The draft in a very real sense was one for mixing value and specific need.

They needed the first four selections, and they love the value they got selecting Williams at the end of Round 3. Caldwell jabbed the media who expressed surprise at the selection of the little-known player from the small school, a selection many media members and fans criticized.

“I can’t help it if you guys didn’t do your homework,” he said with a smile.

The Jaguars felt equally good about the selection late Saturday of Minshew, the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year whose football intelligence made him too enticing for the Jaguars to pass. The Jaguars currently have four quarterbacks behind Foles. It wouldn’t be a shock if Minshew is the best of the foursome when the season begins.

As for what that season will entail, and for how much this draft will help them get where they want to go … as Coughlin said, there is work to be done toward that goal.

But the Jaguars absolutely like the work they did toward it this weekend.

That was obvious Saturday as another draft went in the rearview.

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