With the fourth overall pick in the recent NFL Draft the Jaguars selected running back Leonard Fournette. This, after a highly disappointing 2016 campaign by the duo of TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory, who were thought of highly heading into 2016. Things went south quickly as Chris Ivory suffered a mysterious injury that held him out of the first two weeks of the season. Yeldon had a disappointing two weeks in his stead and the trajectory of the Jaguars "dynamic" duo at running back never really improved throughout the season. Both players flashed the ability that the team expected to see all year, but rarely with any consistency. Now, after they combined to rush for under 1,000 yards and both averaged under four yards per carry in 2016, their roster spots are in question.
But I'm here to tell you they both have a solid chance of being on the Jaguars roster in 2017.
TJ Yeldon enters the third year of his rookie deal. He's shown the ability to be highly effective catching the ball out of the backfield and has a good combination of agility and power. Yeldon has two big issues. The first being his inability to stay healthy - he's missed four games in his first two seasons in the league and been hampered by injury for several more that he toughed out. The other major flaw for Yeldon is his lack of top end speed. He can accelerate through the hole and past defenders in small spaces, but he won't outrun anyone on the defense, save maybe a lineman. But Yeldon costs the Jaguars only $1.6 million in 2017 and provides value as a third down back if Leonard Fournette proves ineffective as a receiver and pass blocker (highly unlikely) or suffers an injury. The Jaguars aren't in need of cap space, so it makes sense for Yeldon to stay. The Jaguars could be tempted by a trade offer, but who wants to trade for a running back with zero top end speed and a lengthy injury history?
Chris Ivory has a similar running style to the Jaguars new starter Leonard Fournette, but lacks the top end speed of Fournette. He stayed relatively healthy while playing for the Jets from 2013-2015 but he missed five games for the Jaguars in 2016 and never found his stride. The biggest reason the Jaguars will keep Ivory in 2017 is the fact that he won't save the Jaguars any money if they cut him, in fact it'll cost the team more to cut him than to keep him. He's also got very little trade value due to the fact that he's now 29, coming off an injury plagued and highly disappointing year and is one of the top five highest paid running backs in the NFL.
If the Jaguars do end up with both Ivory and Yeldon on the roster by week 1 they'll have one of the most expensive backfields in recent history - but they might also have one of the best four deep running back situations in football.
The powerhouse Leonard Fournette should touch the ball 20 times a game and rack up big time stats in 2017.
Chris Ivory can sub in from time to time and bring the hammer just as hard as Fournette.
TJ Yeldon can sub in on third down at times when the team wants to pass the ball and he has proved he can be effective in that role.
Corey Grant, if he makes the team, can be an effective kick returner in the NFL as he showed in 2015, and has speed to burn. He racked up 122 yards on only 18 carries in the Jaguars final game of 2016.
The Jaguars will have a dynamic group at running back this year if they can keep this group together.
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