The last decade has been abysmal for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since they lost in New England in the 2007-08 playoffs, they have not seen a return to the playoffs with a combined record of 42-102. This past season, the Jaguars finished 3-13, the third time they’ve finished with three or less wins in the decade. GM David Caldwell and HC Doug Marrone were given a choice with their fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. Jacksonville could keep the pick and draft the best player available, or they could trade down and expand the amount of young talent they could add. They chose the former.
With the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Leonard Fournette RB, LSU. Fournette had an incredible career with the LSU Tigers, rushing for over 3,800 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons. He was being compared to the likes of Adrian Peterson and other NFL greats after his Sophomore season.
At the combine, Fournette ran a 4.51 which is right around the average mark for running backs around his size. He’s really strong and can break tackles after bursting through the hole, but his quickness is not there yet. Making a guy miss instead of breaking the tackle may be something he picks up in the NFL, but it seems like his game is a power back right now.
I’m not hating on the player. He’s a talented kid. My problem stems from the Jaguars philosophy. It’s clear to anybody that over the last few years the Jaguars have put a premium on the running back position. In 2015, they drafted T.J. Yeldon in the second round out of Alabama. In 2016, they paid Chris Ivory $32 million over five seasons. Neither of these moves have worked out.
The reason these moves have yielded mediocre results is the offensive line. Jacksonville has not solidified their offensive line. They brought in Brandon Albert in a trade with Miami this off-season, and they drafted Cam Robinson out of Alabama this off-season, and that will help. However, there are still holes there. Rotoworld has Robinson listed as a guard, which is a bit of a change from his normal tackle position. Their center and right-guard spot are still in question.
It is so difficult to succeed without an offensive line, and that has been one of their problems for a few years. You want to take the pressure off Bortles, not only do you need a RB, but there needs to be a solid offensive line like in Dallas. Look what they did for Dak and Zeke. This gave them both the opportunity to thrive. Dak had time to learn and progress, and Zeke didn’t get touched behind the line all too often. That is when teams turn around. It starts in the trenches. Especially if you want to run the ball.
Selecting running backs high in the draft hasn’t worked out all to well for most teams. Just look back at the last few top 10 picks used on running backs.
2008: Darren McFadden (4th)
2010: C.J. Spiller (10th)
2012: Trent Richardson (3rd)
2015: Todd Gurley (10th)
2016: Ezekiel Elliot (4th)
2017: Leonard Fournette (4th)
2017: Christian McCaffrey (8th)
McFadden, Spiller, and Richardson never lived up to their draft position. Gurley had a tremendous rookie year and then fell off last season. Then there is Zeke, and we have yet to see what a season does to him. The only thing that I have faith in is the fact that it takes a solid offensive line to be a dominant running back, and the Jaguars don’t have that.