Jalen Ramsey

As soon as the Jaguars' No. 1 pick, Jalen Ramsey, sat down for his 2016 NFL Draft press conference, he spoke about bringing "Jacksonville back to the top."

Such talk may have sounded like typical bluster from a brash top draft pick who had gotten caught up in the day's excitement.

But Ramsey's words may end up being prophetic.

Yes, the Jaguars have become something of a punch line of late. They last made the playoffs in 2007. (Fred Taylor, the starting running back on that 2007 team, just had his son, Kelvin, drafted by the 49ers.) Since reaching the playoffs that year, Jacksonville is 39-89.

Jalen Ramsey

The Jaguars, though, have quietly been assembling a potent offense. Blake Bortles finished seventh in the league with 4,428 passing yards and tied for second with 35 touchdowns last season.

The Jaguars may have the league's best young receiving corps. In his second year, Allen Robinson had 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Allen Hurns also chipped in with 1,031 and 10 during his second year. Talented Marqise Lee is just 24, and Rashad Greene, a former college teammate of Ramsey's, is entering his second NFL campaign.

At tight end they have Marcedes Lewis, a former Pro Bowler, and Julius Thomas, who was one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets in Denver.

T.J. Yeldon rushed for 740 yards as a rookie last year, and Jacksonville has added running back Chris Ivory, who was fifth in the league with 1,070 rushing yards last season, to the mix. Kelvin Beachum, a starting left tackle on a stout Steelers unit last year, will open holes for them.

Myles Jack

The major problem in 2015 was a pass defense that ranked 29th in the league and couldn't get off the field. The unit was second worst in the NFL on third down, allowing offenses to convert 46.3 percent of the time.

But help is on the way.

On top of spending a major chunk of their $70-plus million in offseason salary cap space on defense, they are adding three players who many considered the best defensive players of the past two drafts.

That trio may finally turn around the franchise.

"Where the program is heading, I felt like it was a great place to be a part of," said UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, their 2016 second-round pick.


Jacksonville was so enamored with Ramsey that less than a minute after the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott, the Jaguars phoned the 6-1, 209-pound defensive back from Florida State with 4.38 speed in the 40.

Jalen Ramsey

"We didn't think he'd get to us," said Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell. "He's got some rare athleticism, speed, combined with size and range."

The most glaring negative with Ramsey was that he only produced three interceptions in his three years with the Seminoles. But the Jaguars felt that was because college offenses were afraid to go his direction and that he was almost bored by the few challenges that came his way.

Caldwell thinks he will be an even better pro than college player -- and that is saying something.

Ramsey was the first true freshman to start at cornerback at Florida State since Deion Sanders in 1985. During that 2013 national championship campaign, Ramsey started the first three games of the year at cornerback and the final 11 at free safety. The following year he played the "Star" position, a hybrid safety/linebacker, before moving back to starting cornerback in 2015.

Jalen Ramsey

Thus, Ramsey provides Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash with a talented weapon he can deploy anywhere in the secondary.

"I think they're going to play me at corner," Ramsey said. "But at the end of the day, wherever they put me is where I'll play."

After allowing 4,291 passing yards last year, Jacksonville has added Ramsey and free-agent acquisitions, Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara and Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, to a secondary that had Davon House and Aaron Colvin at corner.

"We have a really good stable of cornerbacks," Caldwell said.

An improved pass rush should further help the back end.

They signed defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who started for the Super Bowl-champion Broncos last year. And just as Ramsey was considered the best defensive player in the 2016 NFL Draft, many viewed Dante Fowler Jr. as the best in 2015.

But the No. 3 overall pick tore up his knee on the very first day of rookie minicamp and missed the entire season.

Jalen Ramsey

At 6-3, 261 pounds with 4.59 speed, the tough, physical pass rusher had 15 tackles for loss during his senior year at Florida, including 8.5 sacks. That’s why the Jaguars were so excited to employ him at their "LEO" position, a hybrid rush end/linebacker position, before his ACL injury.

Fowler is slated to be ready for the first day of training camp practice this year.

A knee injury -- specifically a season-ending meniscus tear -- caused Jack, a top 10 talent, to fall to the Jaguars with the 36th overall pick.

"I've said my knee is fine for months," Jack said. "I'm healthy. I'm good."

NFL teams weren't worried about Jack's availability for the coming year but that his cartilage issue would prevent a long-term career and require microfracture surgery.

The Jaguars worked him out extensively, and Wash noticed no ill effects.

As a result they selected a dynamic 6-1, 245-pound athlete who played running back and linebacker at UCLA. Like Ramsey, Jack can play multiple defensive positions, including middle linebacker, outside linebacker or even covering a tight end.

Myles Jack

"He gives us great versatility," head coach Gus Bradley said.

Jack's skill set is so diverse and his coverage ability so adept that during the 2014 rivalry game against USC, he defended Nelson Agholor, the Trojans' No. 1 wide receiver -- and a starter with the NFL’s Eagles last year -- one-on-one for much of the game.

Agholor didn't catch any balls against him.

"I was on his hip," Jack said.

Jack did such a proficient job on Agholor in part because of his extensive preparation. He even broke down high school footage of him.

That work ethic is another reason the Jaguars wanted Jack on their team. And they had insider knowledge about his character.

Bradley was the defensive coordinator for Seahawks head coach Jim Mora, Jack's college coach at UCLA, during the 2009 NFL season. Bradley remained with Seattle while Jack starred nearby at Bellevue High.


A wave of talent is on its way to Jacksonville.

Ramsey is excited about reuniting with Greene and linebacker Telvin Smith, who started with him on Florida State's last national championship team.

Jack is champing at the bit to return to the football field. Last season was the first time since he was 6 that he wasn’t playing football in the fall.

The Jaguars' top two picks from the 2016 NFL Draft already formed a bond while filming nationally televised ads with actor John C. McGinley for Speed Stick deodorant:

"Me and Jalen are real good," Jack said. "Not only is he a great football player, but he’s a great person."

Myles Jack

Jack also has bonded with Maurice Jones-Drew. The former UCLA star who played eight years for the Jaguars was at the draft in Chicago as an analyst for the NFL Network. They've been texting and DM-ing each other.

"There's a nice UCLA connection," Jack said.

Jacksonville drafted Jones-Drew in 2006, the year before the Jaguars last made the playoffs.

It's a skid another Bruins player looks to end.

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