Jacksonville Jaguars Quickly Becoming the NFL's Most Exciting Young Team

Luke Easterling@@LukeEasterlingCorrespondent IApril 30, 2016

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Jalen Ramsey of the Florida State Seminoles holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #5 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguarsduring the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images

It's been a long time since Mark Brunell was tossing enough touchdowns to Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell to fill the St. John's River. Instead of tearing through opposing defenses with speed and power, Fred Taylor was on stage announcing draft picks.

But fear not, Bold City Brigade. The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be on the verge of something special once again.

The Jags kicked off their 2016 draft class with Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, a versatile playmaker who some considered the best overall player in the draft. Getting him with the fifth overall pick already looks like quite a steal for general manager David Caldwell and his crew.

One athletic defender the Jags already have in the building—linebacker Telvin Smith—was thrilled to hear his former Seminole teammate would be joining him, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com:

That’s somebody that I trust. His mindset. We talk about toughness. We talk about grit. We talk about that relentless effort. That’s what he has. That’s not me talking about it. I’ve seen it, and that’s the biggest thing. That’s why I’m so excited. When I say, ‘I know him,’ that’s what I mean. It’s not saying, ‘I know he’s going to make plays.’ I know he’s not going to give up.

But if Ramsey was a steal, Jacksonville's second-round pick was pure highway robbery. Another player whose talent had him firmly planted in the top-five conversation throughout the draft process, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack fell out of the first round due to concerns about the health of his knee. While Jacksonville certainly took a risk by taking him, he's easily one of the most talented prospects in the entire draft class.

Even after all the waiting, Jack ended up where he's wanted to be since working out for the Jaguars earlier in the predraft process, per Oehser:

Words can’t put describe how I exactly felt, I definitely wanted to go to Jacksonville. It’s just the ideal place I really wanted to go. I’m just excited to be part of a defense like that. ...

That was the workout I was very excited for. I woke up that morning and I was ready to rock. I put on my best foot and I did some things I didn’t think I could do. It was one of my best workouts. I knew I left Jacksonville with a great feeling. I knew if I was there in the second round there was no way they could pass on me. I put on a show.

Jack and Smith will give Jacksonville one of the most athletic, dynamic linebacker tandems in the league, should the former be able to stay healthy and avoid significant complications with his knee.

In the third round, the Jags moved to the front of the defense, taking a promising edge-rusher in Maryland's Yannick Ngakoue, who set a new school record for the Terrapins with 13.5 sacks in 2015.

Ramsey took notice of his new team's picks on Day 2 and made his feelings known:

Head coach Gus Bradley has won just 12 games during his three seasons at the helm, and the franchise hasn't had a winning season since 2007. Multiple seasons of picking in the top 10 of the NFL draft hasn't led to any sustained success, but the tide looks to be turning for Duval Nation.

Last year's Jaguars team might not have gotten the job done in the win column, but they proved to be one of the most exciting young offenses in the NFL, led by second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. The third overall pick in 2014, Bortles threw for nearly 4,500 yards last season, tying for second in the NFL with 35 touchdown passes.

Bortles is helped by the stocked quiver of weapons he has at his disposal. Young pass-catchers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns combined for nearly 2,500 yards receiving and 24 touchdowns, while rookie running back T.J. Yeldon racked up over 1,000 total yards.

Starting to sound familiar, Jags fans?

Blake Bortles tied for second in the NFL last season with 35 touchdown passes.
Blake Bortles tied for second in the NFL last season with 35 touchdown passes.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Heading into this offseason, Caldwell and Bradley knew they had to make serious upgrades on defense. They did just that in free agency, spending big money on the likes of defensive lineman Malik Jackson, cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Tashaun Gipson.

The Jags basically ended up with two first-round picks this year after landing both Ramsey and Jack, but they also get the equivalent of another first-rounder with the return of defensive end Dante Fowler. The team's third overall pick in the 2015 draft, Fowler missed his entire rookie season after suffering a knee injury in camp.

The last couple of years have been about building up the offense with a promising young quarterback and surrounding him with playmakers. This year, the Jags added veteran experience and dynamic youth to the roster at every level of the defense.

Ramsey isn't the only Jaguar thrilled with the team's early draft picks:

It's easy to try to crown winners at this time of year, and many things never turn out the way they seem when it comes to free agency and the draft. But when combined with the promise and growth the team showed last season, the moves the Jags made to improve the defense this year could be just what they need to begin challenging for division titles again.

The free-agent class was impressive. The draft class is looking equally so. At the very least, this should be one of the most entertaining teams on both sides of the ball in 2016 and beyond.

Don't be surprised if this is the year the tide turns teal in the AFC South.

Luke Easterling is a featured columnist covering the NFL Draft for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Scout. Follow him on Twitter @LukeEasterling.

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