Jaguars trade up to draft UCLA standout Jack in 2nd round
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars got ''three good looks'' at Myles Jack's injured right knee and were satisfied with the results.
Still, it took an emotional tug for general manager Dave Caldwell to get Jack to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars traded up two spots to grab the UCLA linebacker out of UCLA in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night, landing a speedy player with huge upside. If Jack returns to form, the Jaguars could have the steal of the draft.
''Man, it's been long, a little big embarrassing, but I'm definitely excited,'' Jack said. ''It was just a sigh of relief. Words can't put it into how I exactly felt, but it was just a relief.''
The Jaguars continued to overhaul their defense by selecting Maryland defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in the third round (69th overall). Caldwell considered taking Ngakoue in the second round, but that was before Jack fell.
Jack had been widely projected to go early in the first round Thursday. Instead, he slipped to the second day. Surprised he was still on the board and worried some teams were about to make a move for him, Jacksonville traded the 38th and 146th (fifth round) overall picks to Baltimore to draft Jack at No. 36.
''The sentimental part of me, it broke my heart seeing him on the TV last night because he is such a good kid and such a dominant player that it just wasn't right,'' Caldwell said. ''The more I thought about it overnight and we talked - we deliberated a lot with our medical staff and with (coach) Gus (Bradley) and our coaching staff - it was the right move for us.''
Jack tore the meniscus in his right knee on Sept. 23 and missed the remainder of his junior season. He left school in early October to rehab in Phoenix.
The Jaguars checked his knee at the NFL combine, again during a visit to Jacksonville and a third time during a re-check for NFL teams a few weeks before the draft.
''He had a great workout for us and you'd never know there was anything wrong with him,'' Caldwell said. ''As far as we're concerned, there's not (any concern) right now. There's no plan for surgeries. There's no plan for any additional treatment. I think we're good to go.''
Jack said earlier this week that he could possibly need micro-fracture surgery down the road. The Jaguars, though, didn't have enough concerns to pass on him.
''We've had three good looks at it and plenty of MRIs and different scans,'' Caldwell said. ''With any player there's risk.''
Jack started 28 of 29 games in three years at UCLA, finishing with 178 tackles, four interceptions and a sack. He also ran for 401 yards and 11 touchdowns, making him one of college football most versatile players.
In Jacksonville, he will compete with veteran Dan Skuta for a starting spot at outside linebacker. He should immediately improve Jacksonville's pass coverage. The Jags ranked last in the league in getting off the field on third downs in 2015.
''It's been crazy, but bottom line is, man, I'm, ready to go,'' Jack said. ''I'm 100 percent healthy. I'm cleared. The knee shouldn't be a concern anymore. I definitely proved that with my play. There's nothing else to talk about. I'm ready to play ball.''
Caldwell has spent the offseason revamping the team's defense, signing defensive tackle Malik Jackson, free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara in free agency and then drafting Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the fifth overall pick Thursday.
Throw in pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. who missed his entire rookie season following a knee injury, and the Jaguars expect to have a handful of new defensive starters in 2016.
Getting the defense turned around is the key for a franchise that went 12-36 the last three years. And taking a chance on Jack might help get it done.
''We want to be great,'' Caldwell said. ''We've got to take chances. We've been pretty conservative in our time here and in our philosophy in drafting and in some of our free-agent acquisitions. There comes a point in time where we've got to close the talent gap, and you're not going to do that without taking risks. This is one that we just felt (was a) calculated risk.
''He's going to play out this contract and hopefully he's here for 10, 12 years and we'll look back at it as a good thing for the Jaguars.''
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