JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - They loved him all along.
While the Jaguars and Blake Bortles haven't been linked much in the past two weeks, he's the guy the wanted all along.
"If we pick third, I know exactly who we'll pick," Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell told us at the pre-draft luncheon. Caldwell liked Bortles all along but didn't let the coaching staff or the scouts know what he was thinking. He let them come to their own conclusions, then asked them tonight what they thought.
"We were unanimous in thinking that Blake was the guy right there," Caldwell said tonight. "I didn't let on to the scouts or the coaching staff but they all said he was the guy."
"We felt really good about him all the way into the season," Caldwell said after the pick. "There was a point in time where we thought we would be picking #1 in this draft when we were 0-8. When our college staff got together and our coaching staff got together, he was a unanimous consensus of the guy we wanted."
Head Coach Gus Bradley couldn't stop gushing about Bortles, after the pick was made. "He's very clean. He's such a good guy. He's all football, he's a football player. Ultra competitive, wants to be really good and he's very talented."
When Bradley and the staff went to UCF for Bortles Pro Day, Gus couldn't help himself when he returned to Jacksonville talking about how great Bortles was. It was obvious then, that if the Jaguars were going to take a quarterback in the first round, they liked Bortles the best. In fact, they liked Bortles better than anybody.
When asked if Jadeveon Clowney had fallen to them in the #3 spot, what they would have done, Bradley didn't hesitate. "We still would have taken Bortles. He was our guy."
Interestingly, there wasn't a lot of squawking about the Jaguars pick from the "experts" on the draft coverage or from other teams. That's because they all liked Bortles as well, as evidenced by Johnny Manziel's drop in the 1st round.
"I think Johnny is the most NFL ready quarterback but we didn't project him to make much improvement from year one to year two," Caldwell explained. "We think Blake will make significant improvement after the first year."
Bortles said he wanted to be a Jaguar all along, and attended Jaguars games as a kid with his Dad. "If this was a recruiting process, I'd sign right now," Bortles told Bradley when they met. By the way, Bortles is that kind of guy, signing with UCF despite other offers (3) coming out of high school in Orlando because George O'Leary was the first to offer him a scholarship. Even Chad Henne told the coaching staff he thought Bortles would be a good fit.
So the Jaguars got their man in this draft. You can overvalue a quarterback during the draft, but it doesn't seem the Jaguars did that. They thought Bortles was the best player in the draft.
While I trust this Jaguars administration more than the last, I will say that when the Jaguars got Blaine Gabbert, Jack Del Rio and company thought he was the best player available that year. And they got him with the 10th pick.
Clearly they were wrong.
Let's hope this one is different.
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