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The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft Party by (Tony B)

The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft Party

Hey there sports fans, Tony B here. Brand new lead sports contributor for OOBG!  Very excited and looking forward to bringing you the best in sports news and sports entertainment every single week. So let’s jump right into it.

Over the weekend I got an invitation to catch the NFL Draft with players and staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars at their annual Draft party. The event is held in the heart of downtown Jacksonville at Everbank Field. I was immediately interested in the event due to the annual drama and historic dysfunction that comes from draft day with the Jags. Without providing complete chronological evidence of franchise draft busts (that could take all day), let’s just say this is the team that drafted a PUNTER in the third round of the 2013 draft. Each and every year Jaguar fans tune in with bated breath as the rest of football fans around the country join them awaiting the organizations next draft blunder.

Since that 2013 pick, which many still consider the worst in the history of the NFL. The Jaguars have completely overhauled their front office. Hiring David Caldwell as general manager in 2014. Then most recently completing the decision making trio in 2017 with new Head Coach Doug Marrone, and tabbing Tom Caughlin Executive Vice-President of Football Operations.

Coughlin who head coached the Jaguars in their 1995 inaugural season, makes his return to Jacksonville after winning two Super Bowl championships as head coach of the New York Giants. Under Caldwell the Jaguars have done much better in recent draft classes, gaining high praise especially in the last two which brought the team potential pro-bowlers in first round picks Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey consecutively

The Party – THIS WAS AWESOME

Upon entering the stadium you could feel it… It was electric. The Jaguars had already spent a franchise record 157 million dollars acquiring talent in free agency and only needed to have a quality draft night to complete the process of transforming the team with quality talent. The fans knew it and they showed up in numbers. In what felt like a game type atmosphere the people of Jacksonville came ready to usher in the next pieces necessary to finally make the playoffs that have been so elusive to the team. Of course Jacksonville is always ready to party and never really needs and excuse to drink. Still the Jaguars usually provide them with plenty.

The amenities in the stadium that has been renovated by owner shad khan are fantastic. There are swimming pools, cabanas, gourmet food, and a luxury club section, to accompany the world’s largest video boards on either side of the end zones. Making it a fantastic venue to watch the draft. Multiple players were on hand signing autographs for fans. The suite provided to us made for an even more enjoyable experience. All you could eat food, open bar, frequent visits by the team mascot and cheerleaders

The Results

The time had finally arrived. The moment we were all waiting for. The Jaguars were on the clock.

“With the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, The Jacksonville Jaguars select Leonard Fournette. Running Back Louisiana State University.”

“Touchdown – This is exactly who I thought the Jaguars should have taken with the pick. After the teams free agent signings to bolster the what should be an NFL top defense. The Jags needed to select a potential difference maker on offense. While I thought Dalvin Cook was the best running back in the Draft. The Jaguars do not possess the type of offensive line that can effectively block and make holes necessary for Dalvin Cook to be effective. Contrarily Leonard Fournette is a large running back that can run over and through defenders creating his own offense. He will also automatically help the Jaguars in short yardage and goal line scenarios were they more often than not settled for three points last season. Combine that with Tom Coughlin’s historic love for larger running backs, I felt the Jaguars selecting Fournette was a no brainer.  It also isn’t such a bad idea to hire the biggest back possible to act as an extra blocker for Blake Bortles, who can also tackle defenders after the quarterback’s interceptions. The Jaguars only ran for 13 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Five of those were run in by Bortles himself. So that means that in the last thirty two games, Jaguar running backs have only scored 8 touchdowns. With numbers like those its hard to imagine the jags won ANY games. In comparison Fournette had 30 touchdowns himself over his three seasons at LSU. If you type in Leonard’s name at the search bar of YouTube, you will undoubtedly find a plethora of videos consisting of the back violently running over opposing defensive backs. Something the Jaguars desperately need to extent drives and give the defense a breather every once in a while.

The only problem I see with the move at all is that the Jaguars will now have 3 high priced running backs on the roster. TJ Yeldon is moving into the third year of his rookie contract worth $5,913,774, and last year the team signed Chris Ivory to a five year 32 million dollar contract in free agency. Fournettes rookie contract will be worth around 27 million. Potentially one of the backs from last year’s team will need to be cut in order to make room for a fullback. A position the Jags did not employ last year but is classic Tom Coughlin.

So the Jaguars were off to a hot start by public opinion and the crowd on hand at Everbank Field seemed to approve the the selection. The fans went wild and the fireworks blasted after the commissioner announced that the twenty-two year old would be moving from Baton Rouge to Duval County.  It is important to note here that with this pick the Jaguars passed on Heisman trophy nominee Deshaun Watson. A quarterback that led the Clemson Tigers to back to back National Championship game appearances, eventual beating Alabama for the College Football Playoff crown in 2016. Only time will tell how Watson’s NFL career turns out, but its safe to say he would have been an instant improvement from Blake Bortles purely due to his playmaking ability alone.

The Jaguars remained hot in the second round and solidified a decent draft grade, by trading up to land Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Clearly he was a high target for Jacksonville before the draft started because the front office traded up only one spot from 35th over all to 34th to grab him. The trade was executed with the Seattle Seahawks, with Jacksonville providing in return the 35th and 187th overall selections. Great move. Robinson started every game of his three year career at left tackle for the crimson tide. Earning Freshman All American his first season. This bodes well assuming the Jaguars intend from him to start right away. The accolades never stopped pouring in for Cam. Two time All-SEC first team selections, the 2016 Outland trophy for the nations best blocker, along with three SEC championships, and the 2015 CFP National Championship for the Alabama standout. At twenty one years old Robinson is 6 ft 6 in’s tall and weights 322 lbs. A monster, who if focused can come in and play right away for the Jaguars, who as previously mentioned need all the help they can get on the offensive line blocking for Blake Bortles and the newly acquired running back Leonard Fournette. First round talent. A steal in the second round for the teal and black.

Evening Out

Third Round – For me this is where the Jaguars cooled off considerably. Even made some extremely questionable calls there after. With their third pick the Jaguars selected Duwuane Smoot, DE, Illinois (No. 68 overall). This was a puzzling pick to me. Especially because the team just spent big money this current offseason on Calais Campbell at the same defensive end position. For me the pick would have been much better spent continuing to improve on the offensive side of the ball rather than taking a gamble on a pass rusher that only had five sacks in his senior year at Illinois. A perineal NFL back up at most.

Round four was as controversial as a pick I can recall in the history of the Jags. Sure the franchise has had a plethora of draft picks turn disastrous with drug, alcohol, and legal trouble. But all of the previous have had their downward spiral begin AFTER the player was drafted and had made a home in Jacksonville. With the fourth round pick the Jaguars selected Dede Westbrook, Wide Receiver, University of Oklahoma (110th overall). In 2012, Westbrook was accused of throwing the mother of his two children to the ground. Then in 2013 he was accused of biting the same woman’s arm and punching her in the face. Charges in the first case were eventually dropped and the second case was dismissed because state prosecutors could not locate the woman to show up for court. This is an unprecedented gamble for the Jaguars, even as they are the franchise that drafted Justin Blackmon at the same wide receiver position. One can only hope the Jaguars were extremely confident in their vetting process and the no nonsense leadership style of Tom Coughlin. Why would the Jaguars give this young man an NFL career opportunity you ask? Westbrook was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2016. 1,524 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 80 receptions. High risk/reward. All I can say is this kid better not get in one ounce of trouble while in Jacksonville, because if he does the draft process of the organization will take a brutal blow reputation wise.

Rounding out the Jaguars hull were Fifth round: Blair Brown, LB, Ohio (148th overall).  Seventh Round: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota (222nd overall). Marquez Williams, FB, Miami (240 overall)

Brown totaled 226 tackles in his senior year at Ohio University. He will add depth to the Linebacker position for the Jags and is viewed as a special value player as he will also contribute on special teams.

Myrick will look to make the team and an impact at the CB position, but also returning kickoffs and punts on special teams. He ran a 4.28 forty yard dash at the NFL combine. Fastest in Big Ten history and the fastest time by any DB in 2017.

Williams will look to be the FB to lead block for Fournette. As style, as I previously mentioned..

Conclusion

The Jags started out on Fire but cooled off to an overall draft grade of B-. Two top end immediate deference makers followed by developmental players that will need coaching to fill out their roles and keep roster spots long term. The draft party however received a grade of A+. The Jaguars really do a service to their fans and the community by providing such a fun and entertaining venue to support the team during the draft and welcome its newest members. Eventually this investment into its fan base could pay of gigantic dividends for the Jaguars, with the NFL’s new policy of granting the yearly draft cash cow to smaller market teams who’s cities cant necessarily adequately support a super bowl. When the construction of the Daily’s Place Amphitheater is complete directly outside of the stadium, and a proven track record for bringing out large crowds for the draft. The city of Jacksonville should find its self-amongst the nation’s top bids for an NFL draft in the very near future.

TonyB = Email:  tonyb@oobg.com

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