JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's four thoughts about the Jaguars' 2018 pre-draft luncheon at EverBank Field Friday …
1.The Jaguars sounded like a team studying tight end very closely. While it's tricky to draw conclusions from a pre-draft availability, that was one thought on Friday while listening to Jaguars higher-ups discuss the 2018 NFL Draft. Many observers see tight end as a Jaguars need even after they signed unrestricted free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and a slew of mock drafts have the Jaguars taking a tight end such as Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State), Hayden Hurst (South Carolina) or Mike Gesicki (Penn State) next weekend. Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell both discussed the position Friday. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin called this year's draft-able tight ends "a good group," discussing the dilemma of finding a complete player at a position that in recent seasons increasingly is separated into receiving or blocking tight ends. "If you want to try to find THE guy who blocks and catches the ball – and can run after the catch – that's a difficult player to find," Coughlin said, emphasizing that while you commonly see teams spread defenses out with smaller tight ends, "We want to run the ball, so to run the ball, we need a little bit more power in the back pocket. … It's not easy to find, but they're out there."
2.An intriguing moment Friday came when Caldwell discussed draft strategy: While preparing to select No. 29 overall will differ from planning to execute recent Top 5 selections, he said it will be similar to planning for early second-round selections in previous years. "The way I look at it is you look at what happens in the top six picks, then you'll have an idea of maybe if some of those teams want to trade back up [from the second round into the bottom of the first]," he said. Caldwell said the team likely will monitor the next seven or eight teams in similar fashion. "We'll pay attention to those teams, because a lot of times those teams may pick early – and then around pick eight or nine, they start trying to trade back up into the first round, so you just have to be prepared," he said.
3.The thought among most observers close to the team remains that it's unlikely the Jaguars will select a quarterback in the first two rounds; Friday's luncheon didn't change that. The team's commitment to starter Blake Bortles certainly makes it unlikely the team will select quarterback No. 29 overall. Still, the position continues to be mocked to the Jaguars by some analysts, with Lamar Jackson of Louisville the quarterback perhaps most projected in Round 1 to Jacksonville. "I think he's an outstanding young man; I think he's an extremely talented athlete," Coughlin said, with Caldwell adding, "He's a rare athlete. As a quarterback, he's a good player. He has won a lot of games there at that position and I think it depends on what your scheme is, what you want to do and how you want to play in terms of the fits. I can't say he's your prototypical pocket passer, but you can win games with a guy like him."
4.One pre-draft theory among those discussing the Jaguars is this is a team with few holes. A question on the topic drew one of Coughlin's more impassioned answers Friday. "You know what? That's something I'm not going to talk about, but I question all of you in saying that …" Coughlin said. "No two teams are ever the same [from year to year] … they're not. So, you really do have to start over. And in starting over, you have to hope that not only do you hit players who belong but that they fit your team." The Jaguars after last season particularly believed special teams needed to improve, and they emphasized that area heavily during free agency by signing safeties Don Carey and Cody Davis, tight end Niles Paul and re-signing linebacker Lerentee McCray. Coughlin continued to emphasize the area on Friday when discussing the concept of the Jaguars' roster having "no holes." "In this day the special teams aspect of it is absolutely critical from a standpoint of field position," Coughlin said. Cornerbacks, linebackers, safeties … look for positions who can run and play special teams to be a heavy emphasis next week.