In 2015 the Jacksonville Jaguars had the best wide receiver duo in the NFL in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. In 2016 those two players along with starting quarterback Blake Bortles suffered dramatic drop-offs in their individual performances. The Jags’ leading rusher the past two seasons has been the underwhelming former Alabama man T.J. Yeldon. In comes rookie running back Leonard Fournette, four-year guaranteed contract signed and he’s ready to put the Jaguars offense back on the map.
#Jaguars No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette has signed his 4-year, fully guaranteed contract, source said.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 17, 2017
Heading into the draft, did the Jaguars have more dire needs than the running back position? Absolutely. Offensive and defensive lines were areas the Jags had to address if Bortles and company were going to improve on their 3-win season. The Jaguars took left tackle Cam Robinson in the second round and defensive end Dawuane Smoot in the third round to address those concerns. The Jaguars believe Fournette and all of his power and pace could emerge as an Adrian Peterson, wrecking ball type of power back.
Allen Robinson’s 90-yard touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints in 2015 was his personal career highlight and the highlight for what was a 5-11 Jacksonville Jaguars team. Robinson went to the Pro Bowl that year and came back in 2016 with an underwhelming encore performance. His receiving yardage dropped from 1,400 yards to under 900 yards and his touchdown catches dropped from 14 to six in just one year.
Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Blake Bortles performances suffered in large part because the Jaguars were horrendous at running the football. Only one team (New York Giants) had fewer rushing touchdowns than the Jaguars did in 2016. T.J. Yeldon’s rushing average was below four yards-per-carry, a sign this team struggled to control football games.
Leonard Fournette is physically more imposing than Yeldon and if Fournette makes an instant impact as he’s expected to (he will leapfrog Yeldon on the depth chart in no time), opposing teams will be forced to load the box giving Bortles’ receivers more time to get open downfield. A consistent running game makes life easier for the quarterback and receivers, while defensive secondaries have a hard time deciding which threat they should key in on stopping.
Michael Berns is Editor in Chief of Endzonescore.com. He also contributes to college football writing: particularly covering the Illinois Fighting Illini and all things BigTen. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter –@MichaelBerms.