JACKSONVILLE – Here's What We Learned during the Jaguars' three hectic, productive days of the 2014 NFL Draft…
1. David Caldwell has a plan.Anyone following this team already knew the Jaguars' second-year general manager had a plan, but that remains readily apparent. The Jaguars are obtaining players not with the idea of winning a few games next season but winning a lot of games over the long haul. That's not to say the team doesn't want to win now, but focus remains on the foundation.
2. Caldwell is executing that plan.What's the difference between having a long-term plan and executing it? Taking Blake Bortles, that's what. Bortles, a quarterback from Central Florida and the No. 3 overall selection, likely won't start immediately and may not start until 2015. That's a significant nod to the foundation. Most quarterbacks, even ones selected in the Top 10, aren't truly ready to play immediately. It's one thing to know that and another to have your actions reflect it. It appears the Jaguars' actions will reflect it. One for the long haul.
3. Caldwell is executing that plan.Wait. Wasn't this Entry No. 2? Yes, but Exhibit B is cornerback Aaron Colvin. A fourth-round cornerback, he could start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Jaguars believe he can contribute late next season, but he likely won't be 100 percent until Year Two. At that point, the Jaguars believe he's capable of being a quality starter. Another for the long haul.
4. Caldwell can keep a secret.Caldwell for months told no one how highly he thought of Bortles. Even as the draft approached, only a select few that included Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, Owner Shad Khan and Caldwell's wife, Joelle, knew. Caldwell wanted Bortles and he figured the best way to get him was to make sure no one knew that. Mission accomplished.
5. Caldwell and Bradley have support of ownership.You don't pick a quarterback for the long haul unless ownership believes in building the right way. Owner Shad Khan understands that the foundation must be laid correctly, and he gets that it doesn't get done in one offseason or even two. There may be no better sign for the long-term prognosis for this team than that.
6. Shad Khan and the Jaguars care about fans.OK, we didn't just learn this, either, but it's worth noting a final time that not only did the Jaguars have a huge contingent at the draft (read: Bold City Brigade), but that the Jaguars picked up the tab for that group for the first hour at a New York establishment Wednesday. Credit to the Jaguars for paying for all of those lemonades, diet colas and chai teas.
7. The Jaguars love their new quarterback.Talking to Caldwell, Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch over draft weekend, it was pretty apparent that all agreed Bortles was the right choice. This wasn't about taking just any quarterback; it was about taking the right quarterback and the Jaguars believe they did that.
8. The Senior Bowl paid dividends.The Jaguars drafted four players who played in the Senior Bowl – guard Brandon Linder, linebacker Telvin Smith, defensive end Chris Smith and Colvin. The Jaguars don't want to coach the game a lot because that means they aren't winning a lot. But they wanted to take advantage of this year's opportunity and they did.
9. Caldwell read the Senior Bowl right.Caldwell said before, during and after the Senior Bowl it would probably benefit the team the most in the middle rounds. Linder went in the third, Colvin went in the fourth and the Smith's went in Round 5. Dead on.
10. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon's almost certainly not playing this season.We sort of sensed that before the draft, and to listen to Caldwell and Bradley during it, it's even clearer. Blackmon doesn't appear likely to play for the Jaguars this season, if at all. The team has been planning as if that would be the case all offseason. Now, it looks like it's closer to reality.
11. The Jaguars like their young receivers.The Jaguars took Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee early in Round 2, then traded up to get Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson later in Round 2. They liked both a lot entering the draft, and didn't dream they could get both. They didn't plan on drafting both, but when they had a chance to get Robinson it was too good an opportunity to not trade up.
12. Brandon Linder has a real chance to start.The rookie third-round guard has to earn it, but the Jaguars gave up two Day Three selections late Friday to move into the third round. You probably wouldn't do that for a guard if you weren't going to play him quickly.
13. Mike Brewster has had an impressive few months.The third-year center isn't guaranteed the starting center job next season, but he's the clear early leader in a competition that will include Patrick Lewis, Jacques McClendon and sixth-round rookie Luke Bowanko. Bradley lauded Brewster's offseason work, approach and attitude. He has added weight, and he's confident in his ability. He has the early edge. Now, he has to earn it.
14. The Jaguars got faster.That's particularly true on defense. Telvin Smith makes them faster and could be a very good coverage linebacker. You need that in today's NFL, and Bradley thinks Smith could develop into that.
15. The Jaguars got better in other ways, too. Caldwell: "We feel like we've upgraded team speed, but we've upgraded with nine guys that fit what we're looking from a cultural standpoint, in terms of passion for football, competitiveness."
16. They just got … well, better. "At the end of today," Caldwell said Saturday night, "we're a better football team." Yes.