A quick glance at the 2014 NFL team rushing standings might lead one to believe that the Jacksonville Jaguars were a fairly effective team running the ball. After all, they finished 21st overall with 1633 total rushing yards, and their 4.5 yards per rush attempt average was good for 6th in the entire NFL.
There’s a reason you should look beyond the box score.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles 419 yards rushing on 56 attempts (good for a 7.5 yards per rush attempt average) skewed the teams’ overall rushing numbers quite a bit. Excluding Bortles’ contributions, the Jaguars only managed 1214 yards on the ground, and the yards per rush attempt average falls to 3.99.
A qualitative assessment of the Jacksonville rushing attack in 2014 isn’t really too encouraging either. Free agent signing Toby Gerhart was a huge disappointment early in the season, although some tumult along the offensive line and injuries certainly weren’t helping. Second year player Denard Robinson showed flashes, but 4 games of productivity isn’t enough to say the Jaguars have found their answer at running back.
While I think the combination of Robinson and Gerhart, with the occasional Jordan Todman, could potentially blossom into a sufficiently effective backfield, it’s easy to see why some people would consider running back a position of need for the Jaguars.
Thus enters Georgia’s star running back Todd Gurley. Originally a “lock” to be a first round pick before he tore his ACL, Gurley was and probably still is the consensus top running back in the 2015 NFL draft. Comparisons to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch have been popular given their size and physical play, but spending high picks on tailbacks hasn’t exactly paid off in recent years.
All of that taken into consideration, there’s no reason the Jaguars shouldn’t take Gurley if he falls in the draft and presents a tremendous value. Steve Meunch over at ESPN thinks that spot is in the 2nd round.
"Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 36 overall)The Jaguars actually tied for sixth in rushing yards per carry last season, and former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has shown signs of developing into a productive change-of-pace back. However, they finished 21st in rushing yards per game and 31st in time of possession. Toby Gerhart could be a cap casualty after a disappointing, injury-riddled season. Restricted free agent Jordan Todman is more of a role player than a full-time starter, and Robinson isn’t a powerful between-the-tacklers runner.Gurley is the kind of back who can wear out defenses over the course of a game and, more importantly, help quarterback Blake Bortles with his ability to set up the play-action pass. Gurley can provide a reliable safety valve as a receiver and help out in pass protection."
Adding Gurley to the equation makes for a very crowded backfield, so taking him in the second round would be curious. Ideally the Jaguars would use Robinson as the main ball carrier next year, with Gerhart and Todman rotating in for certain situations or just general fatigue. Taking Gurley in the 2nd round pretty much cements him as the primary running back, so one of the other 3 guys is going to be the odd man out. I would think Gerhart is the casualty in that case, but it’s hard to say.
I’m not completely against the Jaguars taking Gurley in the 2nd round, but I would be much more comfortable with it if they can acquire a few more picks by trading down in the first round. The Jaguars need to add youth to the defense, and spending a second round pick on a running back isn’t really a luxury the Jaguars can afford right now.