Recently there has been some criticism for the fact that Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler both made this list. I wanted to take a little bit of time at the beginning of this piece to address it and explain the criteria for these rankings. For me there are three equal parts that make up my criteria.
1. What have they done in the past? Clearly Fowler and Ramsey have done nothing on an NFL field, which put them at a disadvantage in this aspect.
2. How talented are they? These two players could be the most talented on the team, which earned them major points.
3. How have they looked this offseason/ How will they perform in 2016? Fowler has been really impressive this offseason and is the Jaguars starting LEO. Ramsey has been injured this offseason and will still be a starting cornerback come September 11.
Based on the fact that they are both extremely talented and both will start for the Jaguars this season, they simply must be on the list. There are only 22 starters which means they didn’t really beat out that many deserving guys. So, now I present to you number 12!
T.J. Yeldon, despite failing to cross the 1,000 yard mark in his rookie season, did some really impressive things on the field for the Jaguars in 2015. Carrying the ball only 182 times, Yeldon averaged over four yards a carry in his first year in the league — a feat that many running backs fail to accomplish in their rookie seasons. Yeldon also showed that he is more than capable as a receiver out of the backfield and as a pass blocker. This do-it-all back has a bright future in front of him.
Unfortunately for Yeldon, he was not able to suit up for four of the Jaguars games in 2015, missing a quarter of the season. Injury issues were a problem, but the Jaguars did their part this offseason by beefing up the offensive line and adding Chris Ivory to the mix, two moves that should help Yeldon stay fresh the whole year. The only other blemish on what was an impressive rookie season was the lack of scores. Yeldon scored only three total touchdowns last season, a number that he and fans of the Jaguars cannot be happy with.
Moving forward, it is expected that T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory will be in a legitimate time share in the backfield, which should be a really good thing. Both players have split carries nearly their entire football careers. Ivory never carried the ball more than 200 times in a season until last year, when he lead the AFC in rushing. Yeldon was constantly in a crowded backfield at Alabama, sharing the load with the likes of Derrick Henry and Eddy Lacy. Both players know how to play running back by committee and both players have thrived in that situation in the past. Ivory is the yin to Yeldon’s yang. Yeldon is a patient, explosive runner with incredible feat and vision, where Ivory is a downhill mauler that looks to punish all that stand in his way.
T.J. Yeldon’s grace and fluidity on the football field will serve him well moving forward as the Jaguars now have one of the best young running backs in football and one of the best veteran running backs in football. This incarnation of the Jags running game might just jump from one of the worst in the NFL to one of the very best in short order.