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Sam Kouvaris: Jaguars cagy on NFL draft picks

Team holds annual media pre-draft luncheon Friday afternoon

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last year at the annual Jaguars pre-draft luncheon, Kouvaris asked General Manager Dave Caldwell if he knew who the best player in the draft was.

"I do," he responded quickly. "And if he's there, we'll take him."

With the third pick, Blake Bortles was available and Caldwell asked the assembled personnel staff and coaching contingent if they wanted Bortles and WR Alan Robinson in the first two rounds or WR Sammy Watkins and QB Jimmy Garappolo in this draft.

"It was unanimous, Bortles," Caldwell said.

So Bortles, the best player in the draft according to the Jaguars personnel department, was the pick. In retrospect, he was still the right pick as the Jaguars were able to get Alan Robinson AND Marqise Lee with their next two picks to help the offense.

USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams runs the 40-yard dash at theNFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis in February.
USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams runs the 40-yard dash at theNFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis in February.

This year, Caldwell also answered "Yes" to the question about the best player in the draft. And he said if he's there, the Jaguars will take him. More than likely, that player is Leonard Williams, the defensive lineman at Southern Cal who is from Daytona Beach.

But Coach Gus Bradley had a different answer than Caldwell, saying there were, "Five or six guys we're looking at. We'll narrow it down next week."

Nonetheless, it's what happens in front of them that will determine what the Jaguars do at number three. Caldwell agrees that he's in a better position to trade for more picks this year than at any other time in his tenure as the Jaguars GM.

"We'll see what happens. We'll be prepared for whatever scenario. With the Julius Jones trade (while he was with Atlanta) Cleveland was able to look at a lot of different possibilities knowing that was a real possibility. We'll know what we're doing if we stay or trade down to six or 12 or 19 or whatever."

Bradley likes to make sure everybody is convinced about what they want to do on draft day. In their meetings he'll bring up different scenarios to see where it takes his staff.

"I like to challenge people's convictions," Gus said after Friday's luncheon. "What happens if this guy shows up? How can he help us in the red zone?"

It's that thoroughness that the Jaguars hope prepares them for their 10 minutes on the clock on Thursday.

"We don't want to over think this," Caldwell reiterated. "We don't want to talk ourselves out of something," which is a common theme among all NFL teams.

Players are so over-analyzed but staffs and the media that their flaws are sometimes overblown.

But there are the players the Jaguars have on their "no go" list because of character or injury issues. Last year Caldwell said there were nine guys they wouldn't take because of their problems.

"If I said nine last year, the number would be higher this year," Caldwell noted when asked if there were some guys they wouldn't draft.

"You look for guys who are a good fit," Bradley explained. "We have a good core of guys in that locker room and you want to respect what they have and bring in the right people."

"Is there a sliding scale where if a guy is so good you let him slide a little on the other issues?" I asked. "Of course," Bradley said. "But we know what we're looking for and we stick to that."

It's a little different for the Jaguars than other teams with the personnel department and the coaching staffs meeting on a regular basis to discuss the talent available.

"It's been good for me, for the draft and throughout the year," Caldwell confirmed

It's a waiting game at this point, waiting to see what happens in front of them and seeing if the phone rings with an intriguing offer.

"Not yet," Caldwell said when asked if any teams had contacted him. "But that's not unusual. It'll be next week if at all."

Bradley likes to be involved in the discussions and likes this year because it's a little more open ended.

"It was our intent all along to get the staffs involved but our needs were so specific the first couple of years we couldn't do that. We've opened it up more this year to all the offense and all the defense."

They'll be working right up until the draft and then they'll really get to work. It's not just the first round (completed on Thursday from Chicago) that they're concentrating on.

"We're working on the fifth, sixth and seventh round too," Bradley said. "It's different only having seven picks this year."

"For now," I said.

"That's right," he said with a laugh, "For now."