JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's annually called the "Pre-Draft Luncheon" and it qualifies as that because it is before the draft and they do serve lunch. (Great potato chips and nice BBQ sliders this year).
It's mainly a chance to get the powers that be with the Jaguars on the record about their philosophy when it comes to the draft. They're not going to tell us who they're going to pick, nor are they the type of organization that is trying to send out false signals to the other 31 teams in the league.
For the last two years, it's been a chance to hear General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley give us their ideas about the process, both in and out of Jacksonville, and how they'll arrive at whatever decisions they make in the first round and beyond.
"I like it loud and busy," Caldwell said today when asked how he likes to set up the draft room. "I get antsy when it gets too quiet."
Caldwell will make the final decision if it comes down to picking one player or another, but Bradley is fine with that. "I completely trust Dave," Gus told us at today's get-together. "its kind of fun that we're preparing him and the scouts and personnel people for making the picks next Thursday. We'll have input, but he's sharp, he'll make the call."
What role has Bradley played? "This year, knowing Dave better, being more comfortable, I've been challenging him, like you guys would," the Jaguars head coach said pointing at the assembled media. "With this extra time (two weeks) I've had a chance to ask him, ‘What about this' and ‘What if this happens' over and over so he's ready when it comes time to make the pick."
Both guys on the hook for selecting what they hope are the Jaguars of the future have run through every scenario possible for the first round. With only two picks in front of them, they know somebody they like will be there. They both said they wouldn't be surprised by pretty much anything that happens at that point. Later, that's a different story.
"I've told Gus to be prepared for a good player to be available in the second round," Caldwell related when asked about surprises. "I think we might be surprised at who might still be there and what we'll have a chance to do at that point."
Bradley isn't worried about the first three rounds, saying, "They're going to be fine. It's the 4th round picks and guys like that you have to hit on. Looking at the stats of what guys in the 4th round have done in the league; gotten injured, didn't make the active roster or whatever. If we can do a little better than the average in those spots, we'll be ok."
With picks near the top of each round, the Jaguars have plenty of leverage if they're looking for more picks. Caldwell said at the owners meeting in March that ideally he'd like between 12 and 14 picks in this draft. The Jaguars currently have eleven. "That would be an ideal scenario," he reiterated today.
With strength in this class in the top 10 picks, and at defensive line, offensive line, running back and wide receiver, the Jaguars think they could get 5 or six eventual starters out of the class of 2014. That top ten is important because Caldwell said he would have to be offered a pretty special package to move any lower than that in the first round. But he's open to moving back, primarily because those guys in the top ten are all potential stars and starters and can help immediately.
So when it comes time to select in the third spot, will they make the pick right there or wait for the phone to ring?
"It depends on what happens in front of us with the first two picks, " Caldwell said with a sly grin.
Interpret that anyway you like. I think if Jadeveon Clowney is somehow there, they'll snap him up. If not, they'll listen to offers to move back to take one of the other guys they have rated in the top ten. If no offers come to them they like, they'll take Sammy Watkins or Khalil Mack. What about quarterback? They think it's the last piece to the puzzle so taking somebody in the second or third round and seeing if he can develop into a reliable starter: AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, is where they'll begin.
The first round, finally, is next Thursday.
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