T.J. Yeldon is one of the most exciting players for the Jacksonville Jaguars entering the 2015 season. In fact, you could probably make a case for Yeldon being the most exciting player for the Jaguars entering the 2015 season.
I won’t try to persuade you either way, but with first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. tearing his ACL, Yeldon enters 2015 as the highest active Jags draft pick for the year. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders, expecting to come in and bolster a rushing attack that has struggled in recent year. It’s a lot of pressure for a young running back, but I think he can take it.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be questions, however. Yeldon is still young, inexperienced, and unproven. There will be a lot of questions hanging over his head until he steps onto the football field. Unless he completely blows everyone away, more questions may come.
For now, we’ll content ourselves with a few questions for the new Jags running back.
Sep 13, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon (4) carries the ball agains the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
1) Can T.J. Yeldon be an every down back?
The days of the workhorse running back are slowly dwindling, but we still see some teams turning to one runner for the vast majority of their yards on the ground. Whether Yeldon turns out to be a workhorse or a guy who splits more time with backup Denard Robinson remains to be seen, but if Yeldon can prove himself worthy, then the Jags may be among those few teams who won’t have to rely on a committee of backs.
Aside from that being good news for you fantasy football owners (yay for you!), it would also completely justify the Jaguars taking Yeldon so early in the draft with so many other comparable running backs available. The Jags were comfortable in their guy and they went out and got him, eschewing other tempting players in the process, you have to commend them for that. Becoming a workhorse would just prove general manager Dave Caldwell right.
The conversation about Yeldon becoming an every down back came about because of a comment by new offensive coordinator Greg Olson. He said, “[Playing every down] would be asking a lot of any player. I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s another real self-starter and hard worker.” Some people, like NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling, took that comment as confidence that Yeldon could be an every down back in the NFL.
I’m not certain it is completely. I’ve stated before that I think it would be tough for Yeldon to come in and immediately become the workhorse, every down back. I think he has to prove it to the Jaguars coaches if he is to take up that role.
I also think he has to prove it against a plan that seemed to be based on splitting carries this offseason. While no such plan has been openly stated by Olson or head coach Gus Bradley, since announcing an intention to place emphasis on the running game in 2015, it seemed that Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart would be a part of that emphasis. The drafting of Yeldon is the only thing to move those thoughts out of (my) mind.
I may be wrong in that assumption, but to place the entire ground game in the hands of a rookie seems almost foolhardy, especially in light of the struggles Blake Bortles still has to prove he can overcome at the quarterback position.
Yeldon could prove to be a pleasant surprise as an every down back, but for now I see carries being split a bit more. Not 50/50, but probably not 90/10 either.
Next: Will the Jags' struggles slow Yeldon down?