Aaron It Out: No More Draft-ma

Happy Monday! If you are in the Jacksonville area, the rainy conditions are such that you feel just a little guilty when clicking on that Panera delivery order for lunch because you let your wife take the good leftovers.  For everyone else, I hope you are having a great day and not letting the fact it is Monday get you too down.

Welcome back to Aaron It Out, the NFL column that’s been on a Jaguars-shouldn’t-have-lost-the-AFC-Championship depression hiatus.  Yes, this column occasionally tries to hide its Jacksonville Jaguars bias, and tries to cover the NFL in total, but last season was so different and special that when the Jags lost, I lost the desire to write much about the NFL.  Every once in a while I would get the inkling of an idea, but not much.  But spring has sprung, the team has new uniforms, they’re better than Tennessee’s new uniforms, and it’s a new league year.

We have all the drama of will the Giants get rid of their diva receiver (they didn’t), will the Cowboys get rid of their diva receiver who shouldn’t be a diva anymore because he’s run out of gas (they did, and oh, look, he’s still unsigned), will Antonio Cromartie have another kid (can’t tell ’em apart without a program), and which shiny new quarterback will replace the old quarterback (Eli’s starting), or alternately, which shiny new quarterback can save the franchise (say it with me… #lolBrowns).

Also Avengers 3 comes out Friday and I am excited for that. I am an unapologetic nerd.

So, the draft. Man, this is weird… the draft isn’t as anticipated for me as it has been in previous years.  I don’t care that much about it.  Why?  Oh, that’s right, it’s because my team is good again.  This must be the feeling that New England has every year, minus the ingrained stuffiness.

Free agency played out and there weren’t many huge moves to be made.  Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings, whoop de doo.  They should’ve given Keenum the money.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke discovered that those green things in his wallet are collectively known as “money,” and the Rams dealed and traded and basically spent themselves up to the salary cap so they can win ASAP (L.A. only likes winners).  The Jaguars… well, they beefed up the offensive line so Fournette can do his thing, and then they signed some questionable depth talent and Donte Moncrief.  Okay, sure.  He’s tall and strong, so they probably think that he can run-block or help with the run-pass option (get ready to sit down in front of your TV after a long Sunday and hear Cris Collinsworth say “RPO” until you’re ready to scream).

The Jaguars, instead of needing to draft immediate playmakers, have seen their previously successful drafts bear fruit.  Blake Bortles is now, whether you want to admit it or not, a quarterback that helped guide his team to an AFC Championship game and out-passed Ben Roethlisberger in the Divisional round.  Jalen Ramsey is the best corner in the league.  Leonard Fournette is one of the league’s top rushers.  Yannick Ngakoue is a hugely successful defensive player.  Telvin Smith and Myles Jack have transformed the Jags’ linebacker position into speedy, hard-hitting powerhouses.  Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook proved that they can extend plays downfield.  Brandon Linder is arguably the team’s most successful o-line draft pick since Tony Boselli.  Supplement that with free agents, and here we are.

The Jaguars will only have 4-5 players make this roster from the 2018 draft, if that.  When you have a metric crap-ton of talent on your team, that is what happens.  Also, of those 4-5 players, half will be on defense.  Why?  Because the Jaguars spent a lot of money on defense, and after the 2018 season most of the contracts can be jettisoned to create cap room and sign rookies to new deals and/or extensions of their current deals.  One of the following individuals will not be a Jaguar in 2019: A.J. Bouye, Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, or Marcell Dareus.  I am thinking that the team will let Church, Gipson, and Jackson walk or have them take a way more team-friendly deal, and keep the others, so they can create room to give Ramsey and Ngakoue their money.  I also think Marcell Dareus restructures his deal to be more team-friendly and perhaps takes a signing bonus to offset any smaller salary that he might have.

Those hoping that Lamar Jackson will make it to the Jags, or that Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is taken, don’t get your hopes up.  Bortles signed an extremely team-friendly deal and is the team’s quarterback for the foreseeable future.  You see the flashes of greatness he can bring and he trimmed his interception numbers in 2017 exceptionally well.  I think that the Jags were smart in trading for Cody Kessler as a cheap backup and they will probably pick up an undrafted free agent or two to serve as camp arms this summer, and possibly keep someone around on the practice squad for insurance.

The quarterback frenzy at the top of the draft is ridiculous to me; despite the fact that the Browns, Jets, Bills, and Broncos all have signed or dealt for QBs this year, and we all know that the days of a first-round pick riding the bench for multiple seasons is practically over, apparently there will be a run on QBs.

Personally, I’m hoping Derwin James falls to the Jags (I doubt he will).  I think the Giants wind up taking Saquon Barkley.  Also, I think it would be funny to see the Patriots package a bunch of picks and move up to take a QB, and go into a slight rebuild.  It would be fun to see the Fins or someone take the AFC East this year.

So for me, no mock draft this year, unfortunately – I don’t have the time and others do a much better job than I do.  I’ll link to one, though; here’s a fun one from a Big 10 site: https://www.landof10.com/big-ten/2018-nfl-mock-draft-first-round-projections-top-players-order-2018-nfl-draft-april-23

I’ll have more on the Jags’ schedule with predictions for that schedule in a week or two.

Have fun watching the draft, and thanks for reading!

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Aaron It Ouch: The Sting of Elimination

When you have something to write that is too big for Facebook or Twitter, you become thankful that you have a sports blog.

The Jaguars’ season ended last evening in a game they seem to have been destined to lose – not because the team isn’t talented enough, but because it seemed like everything that could have negatively affected the Jags, did.  Okay, I’m talking about the bogus calls the refs made on the Jaguars.  The Bouye PI that wasn’t even a catchable ball.  The Jack fumble ruling.  The delay of game that was called only after the play was complete and a first down made, coming out of a time out.

And then there’s this:

And this…

I saw the above tweet, by the way, because Josh Scobee, former NFL player, retweeted it.  I mean, if that doesn’t tell you something, what does?

So I’m in a state of sports-fan-sadness right now, and I am also in a little bit of a funk, and I blame the Pats and the refs.  I tell myself I won’t watch the Super Bowl and I know I’m lying to myself, because I am a huge football fan.  But man, the magical Jaguars season is over. I can’t believe it.  I don’t want to believe it.  It’s surreal almost.  I am hurting, man.  I am invested in this team.  This is my team and they have played their butts off this year and brought their fans more success this year than has been seen in Jacksonville for a decade or more.  I mean, there have been 18 years between AFC Championship appearances for the Jaguars.  That is so cool, that the Jags made it that far.  But it could have been farther.

There’s really no one to blame here.  The defense played their butts off and many of the top D players were playing through a lot of pain.  The offense did the best it could, and Blake literally carried the team on his back.  Special teams pretty much nailed everything they could; Josh Lambo is THE kicker of the future for Jacksonville.

And yet it sucks, because MY team is home today, and later they will probably head to the stadium and pack up for the offseason, because of a few bullcrap calls during a game they led for three and a half quarters.  I want to be so upset.

But think about where Jags fans were a year ago.  Wondering who the new coach would be, wondering if Coach Coughlin would come back to town, trying to figure out who would be drafted in May, wishing we were one of the playoff teams, and looking at the dang Senior Bowl as the next point of excitement.

This year we were one win away from a Super Bowl appearance.

The Jaguars have a new and deserved swagger.  The Jaguars are on the precipice of truly being respected nationally again.  The Jaguars are in for a huge 2018.

And there’s change on the horizon too, but nothing major.  The team needs to address the offensive line, probably take a long look at receiver, and maybe free safety.  We’ll see new uniforms, as well.  That should be fun.

Before we know it, January 2019 will be upon us.  A new year of playoff football.  A new time to make an impact.  There are two new head coaches in the division now, which may eventually bring competition but for now leaves the AFC South wide open.

This really, really stings.  But going from 3-13 to 10-6 and the playoffs, that’s amazing.  Once the “I can’t believe we lost to the stupid Patriots” wears off, we’ll appreciate this season.  It wouldn’t hurt if the Eagles curb-stomp the Pats, either, I guess.

Go Jaguars.

#DTWD

Aaron It Out: Wild (card) and Crazy Guys

Welcome to a wild card, mini edition of AIO. I’m still on vacation and largely in denial of the real world, so I will have a longer column next week. Now, a few quick thoughts and your Wild Card picks.

The coaching changes we thought would happen did, except maybe for Jack Del Rio getting hosed by the Raiders for Jon Gruden, a man who hasn’t had a successful coaching year since before Del Rio started his first coaching job in Jacksonville.

Looking forward to seeing what happens especially in Indy, New York, and Arizona. The Cardinals are a solid QB away from rocking back to the playoffs and they have great experience carrying thru veteran QBs, so a Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins, or Eli Manning signing makes a load of sense.

Here’s the picks:

TITANS AT CHIEFS – The Chiefs are not who you want to play in January – they are playing very well and look formidable. The Titans still pretty much stink and may be looking for a head coach soon. Chiefs win.

FALCONS AT RAMS – I don’t see a situation where the Falcons win. It’s a long trip to Los Angeles and the Rams are young and hungry. It should be a great offensive game. Rams win.

BILLS AT JAGUARS – This game should be over pretty quickly if the right Jags team shows up. If the one from the last couple of weeks comes, it could be interesting. However, if you ask me, the Jags are ready to make a postseason impression. Jaguars win.

PANTHERS AT SAINTS – This game should be fun and another shootout, but I will take the home team. Saints win.

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