A quarterback (Blake Bortles) who they want to bring along slowly.


A pair of receivers (Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson) who can help immediately.

A cornerback (Aaron Colvin) who had knee surgery in late January and will start the year ineligible to practice and play.

A right guard (Brandon Linder) who could be the Week 1 starter.

A back (Storm Johnson) who can run, but needs to take Pass Protection 101 before he becomes a part of the game plan.

And two fifth-round players (Telvin Smith and Chris Smith) who have coverage and rush skills, respectively, to play roles.

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell struck a balance with the team’s nine draft picks, resulting in a splendid weekend for a roster in need of speed, play-making, depth and hope.

“We feel good,” Caldwell said Saturday night. “At the end of the day, we’re a better football team.”

Better at quarterback: The Jaguars made the bold move going with Bortles with the third overall pick. He’ll be better than Johnny Manziel, and the guess here is that he’ll be starting by midseason.

The strategy of having a guy sit for a year is great, but if the Jaguars start 2-6 or 3-7, why not start Bortles to get a head start on 2015?

Better at receiver: The Jaguars moved on from Justin Blackmon (unofficially, but the resignation from Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley on Friday night was obvious) and added two dynamic players in Lee and Robinson, who do something this team has lacked for years — score touchdowns.

The draft board fell perfectly so the Jaguars could take Lee at No. 39, and when Robinson was still available, the Jaguars pounced and traded up nine spots to No. 61. They’ll make Chad Henne look good early and Bortles look good in the future.

Better at right guard: The Jaguars traded up into the third round to take Linder, and it would be surprising if he isn’t the starter at Philadelphia on Sept. 7.

The Jaguars’ projected offensive line is left tackle Luke Joeckel, left guard Zane Beadles, center Mike Brewster, Linder and right tackle Austin Pasztor. None of those five started at their positions early last year for the Jaguars. The group will be more athletic, allowing offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to be creative in the screen and short passing game.

Better on defense: Chris Smith should be in the Leo rotation, and Telvin Smith could be a nickel linebacker.

Bradley always says he can never have enough pass rushers and Chris Smith’s ability to use his short-for-a-defensive-end height (6-foot-1) to his advantage by getting under the pads of offensive tackles will help him get to the quarterback. Telvin Smith can cover tight ends, which was a season-long issue last year for the Jaguars.

And better at running back: Caldwell said Johnson’s running style is similar to Toby Gerhart, which gives the Jaguars two powerful backs and two change-of-pace guys (Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson). Johnson, who played with Bortles at UCF, will need to improve his pass-blocking skills.

“As we’ve said all along, the priority was to get play-makers on both offense and defense,” Caldwell said. “We feel like we’ve done that.”

The Jaguars showed in mid-March they were committed to improving their 4-12 record.

In free agency, the Jaguars spent smartly and aggressively to improve a run defense and pass rush that were near or at the bottom of the league.

Adding Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood and Dekoda Watson on defense allowed the Jaguars to concentrate on the offense (six of the nine picks) and also take Colvin, who had a second-round grade until his knee injury.

“We kind of had an idea we would go offense with this draft, and that’s why we made it a point of signing defensive players in free agency,” Caldwell said. “It would have been hard to take two receivers if we didn’t address the defense in free agency.”

The mid-March spending improved the defense.

The early-May drafting improved the offense.


Ryan O’Halloran: (904) 359-4401

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