While SEC running backs tend to steal the show in college, it does not always translate to success in the NFL. Leonard Fournette will try to break that trend this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
There have been 16 SEC backs drafted in the first round between 1994 (when the draft was trimmed to seven rounds) and 2016, but only six managed to rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie: Todd Gurley (2015), Joseph Addai (2006), Carnell Williams (2006), Jamal Lewis (2000), Fred Taylor (1998), and Robert Edwards (1998).
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing in 2011. While TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory are on the current roster, Fournette is most likely to grab the lion share of carries this season.
Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, wrote a story on the lack of success of SEC running backs as it pertains to Fournette, and said the Jaguars want a feature back who touches the ball 18-plus times a game, so Fournette is going to get every opportunity to succeed.
Also, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone told the media last week that Fournette will be given every opportunity to win the starting job in camp, but has not been anointed the instant starter.
“Obviously when we made the pick we were thinking about [how] he can be someone like that,” Marrone said after the second day of the team’s three-day rookie minicamp. “Obviously, he’s shown that ability, but at the same sense, when you have the team, the one thing about a team is you have to earn that. So he’s going to have to go and show that he has to do that.”
This year, the Jaguars are going to install a fullback in the offense, something that could help open more holes for Fournette and other runners to run through.
Fournette ran for 3,830 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons at LSU. The 6-foot, 228-pounder averaged 6.2 yards per carry and 19.3 carries per game in his career, and his physical running style is a perfect match for the ball-control offense the Jaguars want to run in 2017. Yet he agrees with his coach’s approach that he needs to prove he should be the Jaguars’ top ball carrier.
“My role is to do whatever the team needs or coach asks me to do,” Fournette said. “My role right now is going out there and competing and getting better right now.”
Tom Coughlin, the Executive Vice President of the Jacksonville Jaguars told Fournette the night he was drafted he needed to come in and score touchdowns, something this team has lacked from the position. Fournette’s size and speed is a welcomed addition. While Yeldon was drafted in the second round three years ago, he has not given the team the productivity expected of him when he came from Alabama.
Ivory led the AFC in rushing two seasons ago 1,070 in 2015, he only ran for 439 last year in an injury plagued season.