The Jacksonville Jaguars are stacked at running back but their rotation couldn't crack the top 10 in USA Today's recent ranking. On the hand, they made the cut in Bleacher Report's list of the most cost-efficient backfield in 2023.
Kristopher Knox of B/R ranked the top 10 teams that are getting the most bang for the buck at running back and Jacksonville popped up at No. 4, with a total of $6.88 million allocated to the position in 2023. Knox points out that Jacksonville had plenty of balance on offense last year but believes that they could do a better job of running the ball given their depth at running back.
"The Jaguars traded James Robinson during the season and replaced him with D'Ernest Johnson in free agency. While Johnson played only 35 offensive snaps with the Cleveland Browns in 2022, he accumulated 671 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry the previous season.
Jacksonville then drafted Auburn's Tank Bigsby in Round 3, and the 6'0", 210-pound rookie should provide a hard-running complement to Etienne atop the depth chart."
Travis Etienne, a first-round pick in 2021, missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc tear but he showed last season that he could be a three-down back, totaling 1,441 yards from scrimmage. Without having to deal with the pre-draft process or rehab, he can hone his skills, which is why he's projected to be even better in 2023.
On the other hand, rookie Bigsby is a downhill runner that excels at getting yards after contact. All things considered, it wouldn't be shocking to see him take away snaps from Etienne and have an important supporting role next season. Then again, he'll need to compete for playing time with D'Ernest Johnson and JaMycal Hasty. The former showed playmaking skills in limited snaps for the Cleveland Browns and the latter was RB2 two last year.
It's telling that Snoop Conner, a fifth-round pick in last year's draft, wasn't listed but given the depth at running back, he could be a victim of the numbers game in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are getting back for the buck at RB in 2023
Running backs no longer have the impact they had in 2023, which is why their salaries have stalled the last ten years. Instead of paying a premium at the position, the Jaguars are choosing depth at the position.
Dalvin Cook (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings), Saquon Barkley (New York Giants), and Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders) are having a hard time getting a long-term deal even though they were among the most productive running backs in the league last year. While they deserve to get a multi-year extension, teams rather allocated resources to other position groups given the short shelf life of running backs.
Just recently former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette and NFL player-turned-analyst Robert Griffin III got into an exchange about the current state of the running back position in the pros.
Is it fair? Not really, but that's the reality of playing running back in today's NFL. The Jaguars know it and are operating accordingly. They could have gone after David Montgomery or Miles Sanders in free agency to pair with Etienne but they opted for the more affordable Johnson and Bigsby in the draft. All things considered, that was a smart approach.
The bottom line is that even though the Jaguars aren't committing lots of money to the running back position, they have enough talent to be one of the most efficient rushing attacks in 2023. Add the presence of Trevor Lawrence and their talented wide receiver corps and it's easy to picture Jacksonville having a top 5, maybe top 3, offense next season.