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View from the O-Zone: Wrapping up the Jaguars' 2017 NFL Draft


JACKSONVILLE – The picks are in – all of them. At last.

That means the draft is over, which means Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin has had his first opportunity to put his draft-day mark on his second tenure with the organization.

That's the best way to see the Jaguars' 2017 NFL Draft, after all – through the lens of how Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone see this organization moving forward.

And through that lens, this draft makes a lot of sense.

"I think the theme of the day is our commitment to physicality," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said early Saturday evening moments after the draft.

Indeed, there were multiple themes throughout the past three days. Chief among them was the idea that none of this "offseason-improvement" stuff means squat if the team doesn't win. Still, the physicality theme without question continued to run through the Jaguars' offseason.

The Jaguars want to be faster, and they want to be deeper and better in every area – but above all else, they want to be tougher and more will-imposing.

Marrone was asked if he believed the team had accomplished that.

He said it was possible, but emphasized that he won't truly know the physical nature of the draft class – or the team in general – until he sees it on the field.

"You have to do it at this level, and there's a difference," he said, adding, "but to answer your question, that's one of the things that we talk about at every position, the makeup of the physicality, both from a standpoint of how he plays the game, but also the mental toughness of it, too."

Are the Jaguars indeed tougher? More importantly, are they better?

Time will tell, and Coughlin echoed the notion that offseason talk means nothing compared to the work that begins now – and the games that begin in September.

"There's more work to be done," Coughlin said. "We've made progress, but until we go on the field and we get something done that's what it is – it's progress."

The Jaguars' '17 draft – like any draft in any year – is at this point all projection, but the team darned sure needs contributions of significant scale from first-round running back Leonard Fournette and second-round tackle Cam Robinson.

Fournette, in particular, must be what the team has lacked: a playmaker capable of dictating play on game day and worrying defensive coordinators in game week. Top 5 running backs must be stars immediately. That's Fournette's task.

Then there's Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook, the team's fourth-round selection Saturday …

This is a controversial selection. The character concerns that dropped him from a second-or-third-round selection are loud enough to be un-ignorable, and criticism will come if further trouble looms.

Still, he's a big-time talent. The 2016 Biletnikoff winner. A 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist. A playmaking wide receiver who can separate and make plays.

The Jaguars haven't had enough playmakers in recent seasons. They haven't had enough players who scare opposing offenses – and yes, that includes a receiving corps that has been productive but that isn't near elite.

Fournette is a playmaker. Westbrook is, too. They can help. Now.

That's it for the high-profile portion of the class, but it's not it for players expected to contribute. This group is expected to make this team faster and more physical – and it is especially expected to contribute on special teams in a big, big way.

Quickly, the Jaguars' draft:

*Round 1: Fournette, LSU.

*Round 2: Robinson, Alabama.

*Round 3: Duwuane Smoot, linebacker, Illinois.

*Round 4: Westbrook, Oklahoma.

*Round 5: Blair Brown, linebacker, Ohio.

*Round 7: Jalen Myrick, cornerback, Minnesota.

*Round 7: Marquez Williams, fullback, Miami.

So, what did this draft give the Jaguars? At first glance, this:

*Better playmaking with Fournette and Westbrook.

*A better running game with Fournette and Williams – and very possibly Robinson.

*A deeper pass rush with Smoot.

*A faster team with Westbrook and Myrick.

*A better, deeper special teams with players such as Brown, Westbrook and Myrick expected to contribute there and fast.

"That was a primary objective," Coughlin said of the special teams.

Yes, it was – and this draft and indeed the entire offseason sent that message: Special teams matter, and they were addressed in a big way over the past three days. In that vein, the whole Coughlin-Marrone approach was addressed in a big way over the past three days, too.

Marrone and Coughlin have talked toughness since their arrival, and they talked it big-time throughout the weekend. They want to be able to run when they want to run. They want to score more, and they want to be bigger and stronger up front. They want a deeper pass rush, and they sure want anyone watching – and any player playing – to know all of the aforementioned are true.

So, yes, as the '17 draft closes, no doubt:

Message sent and message received. The picks are in, and as was the case before the draft started, it's pretty clear the direction this organization is headed.

And seen through that lens, this draft makes a lot of sense.

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