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Winners and losers: Jaguars ready for playoff push

The Jacksonville Jaguars will not be a "sleeper" playoff pick this year. They will be too popular for that.

Just in case the team's high-scoring offense, free agency aggression, and media-friendly approach didn't make the Jaguars trendy enough, the 2016 NFL Draft should do it. Welcome to higher expectations, coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell. Anything short of a winning record would be a disappointment.

This is how a rebuilding organization is supposed to do it. By Year 4 of the new front office's program, the organization should be cresting. While the Jaguars didn't improve last year like they wanted, the pieces are now in place for a dramatic upgrade on defense.

Ranked second to last in points allowed in 2015, the Jaguars have added the following players to the mix this offseason: The No. 1 available free agent Malik Jackson, 45-game starter Prince Amukamara, last year's No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler (ACL), and two of the best defensive players in this draft: Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

Bradley suddenly has great depth at cornerback and Jack is the prototypical 2016 versatile linebacker if he can stay healthy. The defensive value continued throughout the draft with pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and defensive tackle Sheldon Day in the middle rounds.

In a wide open AFC South, the Jaguars should absolutely expect to be a playoff team this season. Then again, the Colts and Texans should feel the same way. Caldwell has done a great job building this Jaguars roster. Now it's time they get used to playoff expectations.

So who are some other winners (and losers) during the draft?


Jaylon Smith and Dak Prescott: Smith, the newest Dallas Cowboys linebacker, has endured a brutal year since his serious knee injury. Still, the draft went better than he could have possibly imagined going into the week. The Cowboys showed real belief in Smith by taking him high in the second round and it can't hurt that the Cowboys' team doctor performed Smith's surgery. There's no telling whether the nerves will regenerate in Smith's leg, but this represents his best chance to become an NFL star. (Playing next to Sean Lee will be pretty sweet, too.)

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott fell in the draft after a postseason DUI arrest, but he's also entering an ideal situation. The fourth-round pick can learn under Tony Romo in a quarterback-friendly offense.

Browns receiver coach Al Saunders: Cleveland drafted four wide receivers and a souped up catch-first tight end over the weekend. Corey Coleman, the No. 15 pick of the draft, will be expected to be an impact starter right away. And the Browns hope that quantity at the position on Day 3 of the draft (fourth-rounder Ricardo Louis, fifth-rounder Jordan Payton, and fifth-rounder Rashard Higgins) results in quality on Sundays.

The Browns' plan to keep trading down was fascinating to watch and resulted in a monster draft class. Cleveland drafted 14 (!) players, the most Browns picks since 1979 when the draft was 12 rounds long. New VP Sashi Brown took more players this season than the Browns did in the 2013 and 2014 drafts combined.

Rex Ryan: Wherever Rex Ryan goes, defensive draft picks follow. (It's almost as if he ignores his offense and has no idea how to solve problems on that side of the ball.)

With that out of the way, the Bills' defense truly does look better after taking defensive end Shaq Lawson, thumper inside linebacker Reggie Ragland, and third-round defense tackle Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. Another Buckeye, fourth-round pick Cardale Jones, provides the team a talented signal-caller to develop behind Tyrod Taylor. The Bills need to hit on their late-round offensive picks because general manager Doug Whaley might not be allowed to take a premium offensive player for a while.

"The Raven Way": Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome loves to build a team that can push other teams around. And this was a very Raven draft. From No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley to edge-setter Kamalei Correa to a record five fourth-round picks with significant size, this was a draft intended to rebuild the middle class of this Ravens roster. Newsome would not have used 13 picks, including eight in the first four rounds, if he didn't believe this roster needed some rebuilding.

New Orleans Saints: Their draft just made sense. They badly needed a reliable defensive tackle and they took a seemingly safe pick at No. 12 in Sheldon Rankins. Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas is a needed physical pair of hands for Drew Brees, and we like safety Vonn Bell to take Jairus Byrd's spot in the secondary before long. The Saints' draft needs to hit because it lacks depth and this roster has all sorts of holes. We think these three players will all contribute right away.

Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras: Not only does Boras get the No. 1 overall draft pick in Jared Goff, the Rams added tight end Tyler Higbee, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, and two more pass catchers before the draft was done.

Ted Thompson being Ted Thompson: No general manager more reliably puts together meat and potato drafts year after year. From first-round defensive tackle Kenny Clark to second-round tackle Jason Spriggs and fourth-round inside linebacker Blake Martinez, Thomas checked some key boxes. As usual.

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler: Pittsburgh was focused on improving their weaker side of the ball. Cornerback Artie Burns, cornerback Sean Davis, and disruptive defensive tackle Javon Hargrave were the team's first three picks as Pittsburgh tries to get back to the Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger.

Future international players: If Moritz Boehringer can make the NFL from the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League based in large part off a monster Youtube tape, international players of all shapes and sizes can begin to dream more realistically. Boehringer became the first international player to go straight from a European league to the NFL.


Running backs not named Ezekiel: Three-down running backs are worth plenty, and the Cowboys showed it by drafting Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. There just weren't any other three-down running backs in this draft.

Derrick Henry was the only other running back to get taken in the first two rounds, and he's momentarily buried behind a very similar player in DeMarco Murray. Devontae Booker, a top-40 player on Daniel Jeremiah's big board, might be the next most complete back in the draft. And he landed in an ideal situation in Denver. Jeremiah believes that Booker is already the best back on the Denver roster.

Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford and Nick Foles: It was a bad weekend for veteran quarterbacks hoping to land in a better situation. Kaepernick is stuck in San Francisco. There is some thought that the 49ers could simply release him, but it's more likely that Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert battle for the team's starting job.

The Jets had no interest in paying Fitzpatrick big money, and their stance is only going to harden after taking a quarterback in the second round (Christian Hackenberg). Bradford has dug himself into a terrible spot in Philadelphia. He might be best off just caving and showing back up for work, because staying in Philadelphia is his best chance to start this season.

Anyone who loved Fred Taylor and doesn't want to feel old: Fred Taylor's son Kelvin was drafted in the sixth round. This marks the first time in my relatively short writing career that one of my favorite NFL player's offspring made it to the pros. It won't be the last.

Connor Cook: Entering Thursday night, there was still speculation that the Michigan State quarterback could get drafted in the first round. Instead he fell to Round 4, where he will at best be a long-term backup behind Derek Carr in Oakland.

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