JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For all the changes the Jaguars have made on the team and the administration for 2017, one thing remains the same: No real information from the annual pre-draft luncheon.
At least this year it was a bit of a cat-and-mouse game between Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, Head Coach Doug Marrone, General Manager Dave Caldwell and the assembled media. It was clear they had decided before they stepped into the West Club what they were, and weren’t going to say.
To emphasize that point, when Coughlin was asked what he expected from the 4th pick in next week’s draft he had a quick and clipped response.
“We feel like we’re going to get a good football player.”
So it was more of a “feel” thing being in the same room with the three men charged with running the Jaguars football organization. Being there, seeing their body language and hearing their answers showed that Shad Khan’s idea that these three could work together seems to be developing. It’s not wholly there, but it’s developing.
No question Coughlin is in charge. Marrone is splitting his time between coaching, now that the players are in town, and sitting in on draft meetings. Caldwell is still scouting and evaluating, learning as much as he can about the players available but he understands his won’t be the final vote. That belongs to TC.
“It’s been a very good exchange throughout all of the preparations,” Coughlin explained. “Lots of things have been discussed and, by in large, we’ve agreed on the assessment of the players along the way, with the exception of one or two along the way.”
“There’s a lot more dialogue,” Caldwell added. “There’s a lot more good discussion between, with Tom, being able to bounce things off of him. Doug’s involvement, Doug’s been pretty involved up until this week since the players came back. I think the process has been the same and the involvement and the discussion has been different. It’s been good dialogue, too.”
Give Caldwell credit for giving this a go. He could have up and quit but this opportunity at this point in his career looks to be a good fit. He noted that Coughlin joined a 16-month process 12-months into it, so Caldwell hasn’t had to change much.
They seem to agree that the spot they’re in gives them a lot of flexibility, so they’re trying to anticipate what might happen on draft day and what they value in each round.
“All of the different scenarios that go along with the draft,” Coughlin said about preparing for next week. “You just have to be ready for that.”
As far as trading down out of the 4th spot. They didn’t dismiss the idea.
“That depends on the year,” Caldwell explained. “We had an opportunity last year to move down and we obviously decided to take Jalen (Ramsey). It depends on who’s there and what the talent is in the top four or five picks. There may be some teams that have specific needs and are willing to come up.”
But to get up to the 4th spot is an expensive proposition that a lot of teams can’t afford. That’s why you don’t see that kind of trade on draft day happen often. Coughlin says it’s tough for teams to part with enough to move into the top five.
At the 4th spot, they Jaguars have a pretty good idea about what might happen in front of them. If they trade down, a lot of different things could happen.
“It seems like there are a lot of opportunities,” Coughlin said, drawing on his experience. “Depending on where you draft – say you are in the middle, there is more of a tendency for something to happen in front of you that you didn’t expect there, but there seems to be, from my experience, in every draft, there is something that happens that (makes you say), ‘Wow, where did that one come from?’ You have to be prepared for that.”
Early in his tenure as Head Coach and General Manager of the Jaguars, Coughlin selected quarterback Rob Johnson out of Southern Cal even though the Jaguars didn’t need a quarterback. He was simply the best player on the board and he couldn’t pass him up. That seems to still be Tom’s mantra: Take the best player available.
“I think that’s what you want,” he said. “You have to be disciplined to do that anyway. You want to take the best available player, particularly in the first three rounds. And that’s the way over the years, with consistency, rosters have been improved.”
Which is where the Jaguars find themselves right now.