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Where we stand

Let's get to it . . . Ron from Asheville, NC:
Now that the draft and free agency is over, any areas still need upgrading? I heard mention over the weekend of returner still being a need.
John: Maybe the most intriguing thing about the selection of punter Bryan Anger in the third round is it says the Jaguars feel good about their starters and pretty good about their depth in most areas. Taking a punter in the third round is controversial, and it's suspect if your lineup isn't pretty good overall. If the team is healthy, it's easy to see how the Jaguars feel good about their situation. Running back, quarterback and receiver are deep if healthy, and so is tight end. The Jaguars didn't take a tackle in the draft, which shows they're either convinced Eben Britton will be healthy or that Cameron Bradfield or Guy Whimper can do the job if he's not (Whimper received a lot of criticism last season, but he was hurt much of the year). They added depth in the draft at linebacker and corner and they're pretty deep at the tackle position – again, if Terrance Knighton and D'Anthony Smith are healthy. Pass rusher was a major need entering the off-season, and I'm skeptical that that has been addressed adequately, but that's only because history shows second-round ends – which Andre Branch is – take time to develop. Still, there didn't seem to be a quick-impact pass rusher in the draft, so it made sense to address receiver early. That's a long explanation to get to this answer: if the Jaguars are healthy, they seem pretty solid and deep – on paper, at least. To me, the season depends on the obvious – can Blaine Gabbert improve and can the receivers and passing offense improve with him? If they do, and if the Jaguars stay healthy, this is a contending team. Oh – and yeah, they do still need a return specialist to emerge.
Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA:
I am a season-ticket holder from Day One, but it remains very difficult to remain a fan. The Jags refuse to part with their third-round draft pick to get Tebow. They then draft a punter with their third-round pick. They then mention they will try the wildcat out sometime this year. Does any of this make sense? The team consistently gets a "C" (sometimes lower, and sometimes a "B") rating for their drafts – from ALL of the media. Are the media experts always wrong? "C" ratings = "C" results?
John: I've stayed away from Tebow questions for a while, but now that some time has passed, let's reiterate the bottom line here. Tebow was available for ALL NFL teams – not just the Jaguars. NO team offered a third-round selection. NO team. It's discussed in some circles that the Jaguars made a franchise-defining mistake by not trading for Tebow and yet he received only moderate interest from a league in which everyone running teams is paid very well to give their teams the best chance to win. As far as the wildcat, Mike Mularkey was pretty clear it was an experimental thing, and never implied it was a major part of the philosophy. I'll close with media grades by saying that while they're not always wrong, they're the most meaningless, ill-informed, must-ignore thing NFL writers do each year. I know it's been difficult lately, Bruce. No one will tell you 5-11 is easy, and I won't tell you a punter in the third-round is an easy selection to love. I will tell you that it means the Jaguars feel good about their roster, and if the receivers and Gabbert improve, my guess is a lot of fans will, too.
Michael from Houston, TX:
I'm not thrilled at the Anger pick so early, but I'll respect it and give him the chance to earn that pick. I think we should all get behind this kid and hope he is as good as Gene advertised. Punters can play a big role, especially with a stout defense.
John: There has been debate about the selection. There's nothing wrong with debate. As for Jaguars fans supporting Anger, I don't worry about that. This fan base supports its players pretty well – even ones that come under criticism at times. I don't doubt Anger will be supported and if he's as good as the Jaguars believe, I have no doubt the fans will love him.
Sean from San Bernardino, CA:
Gene's last five third-round picks: Rackley, Smith, Terrance Knighton, Cox, Anger – three starters, including Anger, and two solid backups at least. I think it's time fans show some faith in Gene.
John: Actually, Rackley, Cox and Knighton are starters. Yes, clearly Smith values third-round selections. The Jaguars also have gotten value from those selections. He and the Jaguars believe Anger is worth that selection, and believes the fans and everyone else will soon see why. That's where we stand.
Ron from Jacksonville:
If you get three "starters" in three days, you did your job as a general manager. I believe the Jags should have traded back a bit on the Anger pick unless they knew he was going in the next 10 spots. Maybe they knew of a team that was targeting him that was going to pull the trigger soon, but from the outside looking in, we lost some value with that selection. In all reality, we could have used a third-rounder to trade up for Blackmon and spent our fourth-rounder on the punter and everyone would have a much different outlook right now with the same result.
John: You're right about getting three starters, and here's the reality of this draft: if Blackmon and Branch turn out to be productive players worthy of re-signing after their first contract – and if Anger is a perennial Pro Bowl candidate – then this draft goes down as one of the best in franchise history. It also almost certainly will go down as one that drastically improves the team. The interesting part of your email was the part about "from the outside looking in," and that's where the draft becomes such an emotional, intriguing time of year for fans. The information you get from the outside is by definition far different than what the Jaguars have on the inside. There is no benefit to the Jaguars or other teams to sharing that information, and if they do share it, outsiders rarely believe what they are told. What you get, then, is drafts being executed by people who spend all year in the process and being judged by people with far less information. Therefore, the process will always be judged incorrectly in the short term, and because of that, teams and general managers simply can't worry about how selections will be graded and how fans will feel about the selections. It's a frustrating process for all involved, and an impossible one to resolve from my position. As a result, we are left with the age-old end game of the draft: Check back in three or four years; then, we can grade it.
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
Gene Smith: "You want to take advantage of the system the NFL employs based on your record, so draft the best available player. And you hope when you're able to do that you have a few players within range and you take your greatest need." I don't see how he could spell it out more clearly for all the people that can't seem to grasp what BAP means, or doubt that this team has that philosophy and adheres to it.
John: There does seem to be a misconception. To hear many fans who write, they somehow believe that Best Available Player means having a huge list of players from 1,000, then you go down that list, checking players off with callous disregard for anything else. It doesn't work that way. You rank players and when you get beyond the first round, the players are often in clusters with very similar grades. At that point, you take players based on your team needs and how you think they'll help the team. The sooner we grasp that, the sooner we can get a better grip on this whole thing.
Vinny from Saratoga, NY:
I don't get it O-man. The Jaguars were ranked 32nd in the league in total offense and they only pick one offensive player in this year's draft (Justin Blackmon). Why did the Jaguars select so many more defensive players when our defense really wasn't the problem last year (ranked 6th in the league in total defensive)? Does management truly believe that our offensive needs were addressed in free agency?
John: The Jaguars picked three players in the first three rounds they believe will have immediate impact. That's typically where you get players who can help right away. They selected players in the final three rounds who should provide depth. What I'm getting at is the Jaguars weren't concerned about filling needs in the last three rounds and they addressed what was a pretty big need with Blackmon.
Larry from Section 216:
I am very excited about the new leadership and the direction of this franchise. But it seems as if the fans are more of the same. Whining, nitpicking cry babies who are never satisfied. What gives?
John: The whining will stop when the winning begins. That's where we are right now.

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