Despite having the #1 rushing offense in the NFL last season, the Jaguars running back group doesn’t crack the top 10 according to Mike Clay of ESPN.
Leonard Fournette made an immediate impact on the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie in 2017, helping the team establish a much needed identity on offense. The Jaguars finally had confidence in the running game, bringing balance to a team that desperately needed it in order to ride their elite defense to the playoffs.
Fournette didn’t play every game however thanks to injuries and a suspension. The Jaguars had to lean on T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant at times and both players delivered when they needed to. Overall, the Jaguars had a damn good set of running backs in 2017 and should be in a good place heading into 2018.
Mike Clay ranked all the backfields in the NFL and even included statistical projections for 2018 in a recent piece. According to him, the backfield in Jacksonville is barely in the top half of the league.
"13. Jacksonville JaguarsTop three backs: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey GrantProjected unit stats: 425 carries, 1,688 yards, 14 TDs; 89 receptions, 723 yards, 2 TDsOutlook: Jacksonville committed to a run-heavy offense last season, and the new game plan led to a league-high 464 rushing attempts. Only Saints backs exceeded the Jags’ 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. The backfield was led by Fournette, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, who had the sixth-most touches in the league (304) despite missing three games. Fournette’s rushing efficiency was not particularly good (3.9 YPC, 1.6 YAC), and he averaged an ugly 3.3 YPC over his final 200 carries of the season. Fournette remains the team’s feature back with Yeldon (30-plus receptions each of the past three seasons) and Grant (6.1 career YPC) mixing in."
The entire list is kind of a mess. The top 5 makes sense – the Saints with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Rams with Todd Gurley, the Steelers with Le’Veon Bell, the Falcons with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott – but it’s a comical after that.
Clay has the Cardinals sixth, despite David Johnson still recovering from a serious injury. He has the Titans at 7, presumably because they signed Dion Lewis, but it’s foolish to count on a New England castoff to be a big contributor.
Leonard Fournette was an instant star and put up huge numbers last year, arguably while being somewhat inefficient. Clay touches on this but he also completely discounts how well Yeldon and Grant played towards the end of the season and the playoffs.
Ranking the Browns and the Giants ahead of the Jaguars is a total joke. Clay is making some serious projections here for rookies to make big splashes on teams that are objectively bad.
Yeldon and Grant aren’t exactly All Pros but they’re terrific complements to Fournette’s playing style and both made tangible contributions last year.
I’d have the Jaguars closer to the 6-7 range here.