JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned about the Jaguars from the 2016 NFL Draft …
1.The Jaguars are better than they were.Yes, this is a postscript to the giddy, heady, wild weekend that was the Jaguars' 2016 NFL Draft, but this first entry pertains to the entire offseason – because the additions the Jaguars have made have been significant. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Safety Tashaun Gipson. Cornerback Prince Amukamara. Running back Chris Ivory. Guard/center Mackenzy Bernadeau. Punter Brad Nortman. Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum. That's perhaps five or six new starters; however you count it, it's seven players who will contribute significantly. That's not even counting the draft: Safety Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive tackle Sheldon Day … That's four more players who could contribute immediately. How will those roles shake out? Stay tuned, but for a second consecutive offseason the talent base has increased in a big way. "We still have holes," Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said. "We still have needs but we're narrowing the list."
2.It's good to be lucky …Good fortune played a part of this draft. The Jaguars needed a couple of teams to really covet quarterbacks at the top of the draft – and they needed the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers to veer different directions – to get Ramsey. Caldwell said Thursday he didn't realistically think all of that would happen when this process began in January. He was wrong.
3. … but you must be bold, too.History may remember Jack sliding to Jaguars. If so, history only is partially right. He slipped from the first round, but the Jaguars had to get a bit aggressive to trade up with the Ravens to take him at No. 36. You trade up if you'll feel sick over not getting a player. Caldwell would have felt sick enough missing on Jack that the fifth-round selection was worth the price.
*4.Defense really was a priority. *We knew it would be a huge defensive draft. That was obvious even before Caldwell made it clear all offseason. The prediction here was six out of eight selections on that side of the ball. The actual count was six out of seven with the first five selections going defense for the first time in franchise history. "We said on defense, we really had to get young," he said. "We really had to improve there."
5.Pass rush was a particular priority.The thought here entering the draft was the Jaguars would go heavy linebacker. That thought was wrong. Instead, the Jaguars focused on building numbers and competition in what will be a crowded, talented defensive line room. Ramsey and Jack should help the pass defense, but Ngakoue and Day? Those second two selections were about pressuring the passer. "Our goal was to affect the passing game," Caldwell said. "We did that."
6.The Jaguars like their offensive line.This was considered a pre-draft area of need, but Caldwell didn't consider the area nearly as urgent as many observers. Caldwell addressed the line with the signing of Bernadeau and Beachum in free agency. "I clearly stated that we did things in free agency so we could focus on [other areas in] the draft and that was Kelvin Beachum and Mackenzy Bernadeau," Caldwell said. "It's not like we haven't addressed that. That added depth and a probable starter." Caldwell didn't believe any offensive lineman in this draft after about the second round would make the team markedly better, so he didn't take one.
7.The Jaguars got faster.This was something the Jaguars absolutely had to do in this draft, It's hard to win in the modern NFL is you're not fast enough on defense to matchup with spread offenses. Enter Jack and Ramsey. Those guys alone make you faster.
8. … and deeper.Ramsey and Jack make you better, but they also make you deeper. The secondary now has four really good options at cornerback in Ramsey, Aaron Colvin, Amukamara and Davon House. That's up from about two last season. Linebacker doesn't appear as deep as would be ideal, but Jack gives you a lot more options and versatility there.
9.Caldwell will gamble.Make no mistake: selecting Jack is a gamble. His knee is a concern, and while the Jaguars and Jack are confident about the situation, it may well be a long-term issue. But Caldwell believed that closing the talent gap on the rest of the NFL required risk, and he believed Jack's talent made him a worthwhile gamble.
10.The energy is real.The cheer that went up in EverBank Field Thursday night for Ramsey seemed to echo through the 'Bank and the entire town all weekend. There's a lot of excitement over this team right now. Ramsey alone would have made that true, and Jack was an unexpected, fortuitous bonus. Confidence is high within the team and people nationally believe this franchise is on the cusp. We'll see, but we do know this is a more talented team than last week and last week it was a more talented team than last month and so on. That talent means a chance for real improvement. Stay tuned.
11.The Jaguars believe in collegiate production.That's especially true if picking smaller-school players. Seventh-round selection Jonathan Woodard of Central Arkansas had 25 sacks in three seasons and sixth-round selection Tyrone Holmes of Montana had 18 sacks as a senior. Caldwell believes smaller school guys must have measurables and production. "If they check off those two boxes, you feel a little bit better drafting a guy at a small level of competition," he said. Check. Check.
12.Caldwell has perspective.Caldwell wasn't giddy after the draft because he understands draft reality: "Everybody feels good today and tomorrow, but the truth of the matter is, it's all on paper." Caldwell's right about that, but deep down he also knew: this draft has potential to be special.