The Jaguars have several offensive needs heading into the 2019 season. Fortunately, finding a starting running back isn’t one of them. After a supremely frustrating second season in the NFL for former fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars and their young running back decided to “move forward together” into 2019.
While Fournette appears to be locked in as the team’s starter, the rest of the position group is less certain. Corey Grant and TJ Yeldon, two mainstays the backfield over the last several years, are set to hit free agency and are unlikely to return. Carlos Hyde, a player the Jaguars traded for midseason, was highly disappointing in Jacksonville and will likely be a cap casualty. The rest of the guys on the roster, David Williams, Dimitri Flowers, and Thomas Rawls, have done little to suggest they can be relied upon in 2019.
With Fournette’s injury history, the Jaguars will need to address the position, either via free agency or the draft, in some capacity this offseason. The Jags are in a sticky salary cap situation, so paying another veteran RB might not be an ideal situation.
This leads us to the draft. The Jaguars, for obvious reasons, should not consider a running back in round one, but in the rounds thereafter an RB could be an option.
Let’s look at five running backs that should be on the Jaguars radar after the first day of the draft.
1. Devin Singletary
FAU’s all-time leading rusher blends an enticing set of skills that make him likely to be drafted in either the second or third round of the draft. Coming from a small school Singletary hasn’t faced power five competition as often as I’d like, but his tape shows he’s ready to be an impact runner in the NFL sooner rather than later. The first thing that jumps out to me is hit cutting ability. He can cut, cut, cut and then cut some more. Making effortless cuts allows him to evade defenders with ease. But that’s far from the only trait that stands out. As a runner, he displays contact balance, wiggle, and great escapability. Singletary is well versed as a blocker, so unlike many young running backs pass pro shouldn’t be an issue early on. He only caught six passes in 2018 but showed the ability to be an effective pass catcher earlier on in his career. If I was running the Jaguars draft (I’m not) I probably wouldn’t select a runner in the second round. The team has too many other offensive needs and there will be talented runners available later on in the draft. But if Singletary is available in round three, I would run to the podium with the pic. The reason I like him so much with Jacksonville is that I think his running style will complement Fournette well and should Fournette miss any time with an injury, Singletary is more than capable of taking over as the lead back. At 5’9’’ and 200 lbs. Singletary won’t be the bulkiest back in the draft, but he appears to have more than enough size and toughness to last in the NFL.
2. Elijah Holyfield
As more scouts and teams get a full grasp on what Holyfield is, I think he will rise up draft boards. He was in a crowded backfield at Georgia but emerged in 2018 as a legit NFL prospect. He possesses everything you want from a starting RB in the NFL outside of long speed. He’s unproven as a pass catcher with only seven career catches but should get the opportunity to show off his pass-catching skills at the combine. Regularly asked to pass block, that won’t be an issue at the next level. Holyfield has great change of direction and stop-start ability. He finishes runs with power and often delivers blows instead of receiving them. At 5’10’’ and 215 lbs. Holyfield appears to have a frame that can survive the rigors of a full NFL season. It’s unclear where he’ll land in the draft, but at this point, it seems he could likely be had in the fourth round.
3. Jordan Scarlett
A lot of folks know about this runner from Florida, but his draft hype is non-existent. In Matt Miller’s latest seven-round mock draft Scarlett went undrafted, but I doubt that will happen come April. He ran an eye-popping 4.38 40 yard dash in high school. But Scarlett is much more than just a speedster. He makes strong lateral cuts thanks to his quick feet and rarely goes down on first contact. He’s got hands and has blocking ability. This is a deep RB class, but the lack of attention that Scarlett is receiving is somewhat baffling to me. The only real explanation for his lack of attention is that he was in a crowded backfield his entire career at Florida and is already 23. With his balance, quickness, and ability to make the first guy miss, I believe Scarlett will be an effective runner at the next level. The Jaguars could nab him on the final day of the draft.
4. Rodney Anderson
Anderson has suffered from some horrific injuries, including a season-ending ACL tear in 2018. But for his lengthy injury history, Anderson would be considered one of the top backs in this class. He’s got everything you want. Speed, power, balance, pass catching ability. You name it, Anderson’s got it. But he comes with a huge injury risk. Anderson’s going to get draft and IF he can stay healthy, whichever team lands him will be getting a major steal. He’s not likely to come off the board until the final day of the draft. He’s the ultimate high risk, high reward prospect in this year’s RB class.
5. James Williams
The quintessential third down back, Williams caught over 200 PASSES in college. No, that’s not a typo. He’s well versed as a receiver out of the backfield and has excellent hands. He displays good contact balance, wiggle, and speed. If the Jaguars want someone to take over TJ Yeldon’s role as a third down back, Williams could be their guy. He doesn’t have great size and has limited reps actually running the football, but he could end up being a swiss army knife for whichever team takes a flyer on him. In today’s modern NFL I could see this guy getting drafted on the final day of the draft, despite his lack of work as a true running back.
There are a number of other runners that should be considered after round one, but these are the one's who stood out to me as great potential values. Other names to consider are David Montgomery (Round 2-3), Darrell Henderson (Round 2-3), Miles Sanders (Rounds3-5), and Darwin Thompson (late rounds).
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