The 2017 NFL draft is less than 100 days away and the Jacksonville Jaguars have the fourth overall pick. There’s no telling what they’ll do with the fourth pick, but it’s a safe bet to assume that the Jaguars will address the running back position at some point in the draft. There are some names such as Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook on the board this year that have the talent worthy of a first round selection, the running back position is deep in this years class and there is talent to be had in the later rounds. So, will the Jaguars fill their need early in the draft with a player that they can plug in and play almost instantly or will they wait and take a developmental player in the later rounds? Only time will tell, and in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the Running Backs that could land in Jacksonville.
Dalvin Cook. FSU: Buy
This one is a no-brainer, Dalvin Cook might be the top Running Back prospect in this year’s draft. After becoming the starting running back for the Florida State Seminoles in 2014 Cook never failed to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and after just three years holds the school’s career rushing record with 4,464 yards. In 2016 alone he rushed the ball 288 times for 1,765 yards and 19 touch downs. Cook’s stats are impressive, there’s no denying it, but what really makes him such an intriguing prospect are the things that aren’t necessarily recorded on the stat sheet, such as his intense running style and big play ability. Every time Cook has the ball in his hands it’s possible that he finds the end zone. The only reason Cook may not make sense the Jaguars is that if they don’t take him with their first pick then he will not still be on the board when the Jags are on the clock again in the second round.
Leonard Fournette. LSU: Buy
Another prospect who might not make it out of the first round of the draft is Leonard Fournette. Coming into the 2016 season Fournette was a heavy favorite to compete for the Heisman but he suffered a high ankle sprain in a scrimmage prior to LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin that plagued him all year. Despite his injury and only playing in seven games Fournette still racked up 843 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2016, including an impressive game against Ole Miss where he went off for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fournette didn’t play in LSU’s final game of the year against Texas A&M or in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville and so his ankle injury shouldn’t be something that concerns scouts when considering taking Fournette in the draft. It’s widely believed that Fournette will make an impact quickly on whichever team he lands on and I tend to agree.
Samaje Perine. OU: Sell
Standing at 5’10” and weighing 235 lbs. Perine is a no-nonsense power runner coming out of Oklahoma, and I think that’s his downfall. He doesn’t have an elusive running style, nor does he have breakaway speed or acceleration used to make defenders miss. Instead Perine relies on his strength to run through first contact and shed tackles. This strategy worked for him at Oklahoma where he ran the ball 196 times for 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns but simply being strong isn’t enough in the NFL. Another thing that he needs to work on is his receiving. In 2016 he caught just 10 balls for 106 yards and a touchdown, and in the NFL to be a successful back you need to be able to catch out of the backfield.
Christian McCaffrey. Stanford: Buy
McCaffrey is the swiss army knife of the Running Back position. He can run, catch, and even get the ball in his hands via the return game. In 2016 he ran the ball 253 times for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns, but what’s even more impressive is that he failed to rush for 100 yards in just three games. Similar to Le’Veon Bell, McCaffrey shows off an extremely patient style of running where he lets the play develop in front of him, hitting the second and third levels of the defense quickly. The area where McCaffrey struggles the most is in pass protection, but unlike speed or strength that’s something he can be taught.
Wayne Gallman. Clemson: Sell
At first glance Gallman’s stats; 232 carries, 1,133 yards, and 17 touchdowns seem on par with what it takes to get NFL scouts to notice you. However, if you dive a little deeper and look closely at Gallman’s 2016 season you’ll see that he failed to rush for 100 yards in 10 games, and hit the mark in just five. Also, in 2016 he caught the ball just 20 times for 152 yards and zero touchdowns. Standing at 6’0” and weighing 210 lbs. he does have the speed of an NFL back but he needs to get a bit stronger and learn to lower his pad level. Also, Gallman needs some coaching on how to be a better pass protector. I think overall, he’ll make an NFL roster, but he’s too much of a project for the Jaguars who need someone who can come in and contribute right away.
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