For the longest time, the Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the worst teams in football, and then in 2017, they not only turned that reputation around, they became one of the best teams in the NFL, even managing to make it all the way to the AFC Championship game.
Only to be stopped by the Super Bowl defending champions, the New England Patriots.
Regardless of the final result, there's no denying how drastically the Jaguars managed to turn things around, going from a 3-13 team in 2016, to a 10-6 team in 2017, and arguably the most formidable opponent the Patriots faced all year.
But was it really that sudden? Was the Jaguars' turn around really just a product of a massive spending spree? Or was there something more?
As I have been repeatedly informed, a vast majority of Jacksonville's best players were acquired in either 2016 or 2017, which means my claim on Twitter is actually false.
After making that statement, I was bombarded by tweets that stated just how wrong I was, the Jaguars became amazing instantly, there was no slow turnaround.
But, I still believe that this isn't true.
Yes, the Jaguars absolutely spent a lot of money these past two offseasons to build their roster. Marcell Dareus was traded from the Bills to Jacksonville for a 2018 sixth-round pick, Malik Jackson was signed to a huge contract in 2016, and cornerback A.J. Bouye and DT Calais Campbell were signed to their own well-paying deals in 2017.
Jacksonville definitely used the past several years of suffering to their advantage, not spending a lot and accumulating cap space so that they could overpay any free agent they desired. But there's more to it than that, Jacksonville has been accumulating young talent over the years, and that is part of the equation no matter how badly some might want to focus solely on the money spent.
Five of Jacksonville's starters were drafted in 2014, them being LB Telvin Smith, WRs Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, center Brandon Linder, and quarterback Blake Bortles (though I don't put Bortles in very high regard). They also found a depth CB in Aaron Colvin.
In 2015, the Jaguars gave a contract extension to one of their core linebackers in Paul Posluzny, and though his role was lowered in 2017, he was still an excellent role player. Jacksonville also added A.J. Cann (their current starting RG), a talented (though oft-injured) RB in T.J. Yeldon, and Dante Fowler Jr., who still may yet have something to offer the Jaguars despite his injury problems.
Then 2016 rolled around, and the Jaguars began to really piece a team together. In 2016, the Jaguars extended a stalwart of their offense since he was drafted by them in 2006 - tight end Marcedes Lewis, and added several pieces to their defense, with their first three picks eventually turning into starters and even stars, CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, and DE Yannick Ngakoue. Add safety Tashaun Gipson to the list of free agents that panned out, and all that's left is to cover the Jaguars 2017 draft class.
And they drafted instant star RB Leonard Fournette in the first, while still keeping T.J. Yeldon, and their starting left tackle Cam Robinson.
So even with the admittedly hefty spending spree the Jaguars went on, there's no denying that their draft classes of the past several seasons have contributed greatly to their success, and should Jacksonville decide to draft a new QB in the first round of the 2018 draft (perhaps a Lamar Jackson), then they could find a way to be a real powerhouse in the NFL for years to come.
There is no reason Miami cannot do the same.
I recently wrote a column detailing why the Dolphins' future was bright, despite all the negative discussion surrounding the team, now I'm going to go more in-depth as to why that is, and the reason that is because I can see Miami eventually building themselves up the same way the Jaguars did, just without the several years of being out of contention for anything other than last place.
Granted, that's a large reason as to why Jacksonville found so much top-tier talent, but as we all know, it's more about who you pick than when they're picked, and Miami has started finding a lot of players that can be built around as a core.
Their drafts prior to 2016 have been sketchy at best, only yielding a few starters and a lot of busts, but that was with the regime before Adam Gase, and since he came in, there has been an increase in effectiveness in the team's draft picks.
Just taking a look at the 2016 draft class, you can see that there's already a lot more potential in those players than in the players prior. In 2014, Miami found Ja'Wuan James, and Jarvis Landry. Everyone else either busted or was used primarily on special teams.
We can argue how much Landry is worth another time. As for James, he's good, but not irreplaceable.
In 2015, Miami found DeVante Parker - who has not lived up to his first round pedigree, Jordan Phillips - who was briefly uprooted as a starting DT by a 2017 rookie, Bobby McCain - who up until this season looked like he might also be a bust as a slot corner but has now started making plays, Jay Ajayi - who was traded to Philadelphia for a fourth round pick due to several reasons we may never truly know, and Tony Lippett - who was a WR converted to CB and is still developing as a project and might still turn out to be a decent starter at corner, or at least valuable depth.
And then Gase came in, and 2016's draft brought in a ton of players who we now know have a lot to offer.
First is Laremy Tunsil - who was shifted inside at first since Branden Albert was at left tackle, and now Tunsil is trying to get used to left tackle at NFL speed, and hopefully will by the 2018 season.
Xavien Howard - who is currently one of the team's starting cornerbacks on the boundary and has definitely found times to flash on the field, though he still has kinks that need working out.
Kenyan Drake - who barely got chances to have the ball in his hands thanks to Ajayi's insistence on not sharing the ball, and now he is projected to be the team's starting running back and has arguably proven to have more to offer than Ajayi.
And Jakeem Grant - despite his small stature, is speedy, shifty, and has amazing playmaking potential, which he has proven on more than one occasion, and is just waiting for an opportunity to get on the field more.
Then in 2017, Miami found even more talent to develop in Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Cordrea Tankersley (who now is also starting at cornerback), Davon Godchaux, and Vincent Taylor.
None of these Adam Gase era draft picks have emerged as stars (yet), but they have shown that they have the talent and the capability to be players that a team can be built around. Playoff teams find players that a core can be formed through, and Miami is doing that under Adam Gase.
Stars will emerge in time, and once they're found, the team will be able to cheer for them and enjoy watching them on the highlight reel when they make a big play. But every team usually has at least one star, and they don't always turn out to be winning teams. Winning teams have full teams, teams that have talent from top to bottom and have grown their own talent and core.
Adam Gase is doing that now, and if we are to follow the Jaguars example, then let the team build up a core of young players that can take the roles that are necessary for the team's success. Some of the pieces are already there; I suspect that this offseason, there will be a lot less holes that need filling, and we may even find that holes we thought would be holes, were never really holes to begin with.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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