Why T.J Yeldon Will Disappoint in Jacksonville
After three seasons in the Crimson Tide backfield, T.J. Yeldon became the sixth Alabama running back selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft in the past eight years (Le'Ron McClain, Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy). All six spent three years at running back for Alabama, and all but Le'Ron McClain left after their junior year (McClain was a receiver as a freshman).
Outside of Eddie Lacy, this group has failed to live up to their expectations in the NFL.
In 13 games last season, Yeldon averaged just 5.0 yards per carry, rushed for 979 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground, all of which were a step back from his 2012 and 2013 performances. On a total of 194 carries, Yeldon's longest carry of the season was just 31 yards.
The 6’1” 226 pound running back has above average height and accelerates quickly, but showed no consistency and lacked the ability to break long runs while at Alabama. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine, and failed to rank in the top five of any of the six drills he participated in.
With that being said, the only drill that really matters is what he can do on the field for the Jaguars. Here's a look at what we can expect in Jacksonville.
Yeldon in Jacksonville
Yeldon joins an offense loaded with talented young weapons, all with potential that has yet to fully develop. Led by second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jaguars will also look to running back Denard Robinson, receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, and newly acquired Julius Thomas to improve an offense that averaged just 15.6 points per game last year, which was last in the league.
Even with those weapons (other than Thomas), the offense struggled to move the ball. According to our Net Expected Points Metric (NEP), which quantifies a team’s production in comparison to expectation-level production, the Jaguars' Rushing NEP per play adjusted for schedule ranked 21st (-0.04), which was significantly better than their production in the air, which ranked dead last by a wide margin (-0.15, while Tampa Bay ranked 31st at -0.08).
The problem that T.J. Yeldon doesn't solve for the Jaguars offense is blocking for Blake Bortles, who was sacked 55 times in 14 games a season ago. Even if Yeldon is as good as the Jaguars think he is, the struggles of the offensive line will stall any breakout potential he has. Drafting guard A.J. Cann from South Carolina should help, but it's just a start.
Expect Yeldon to struggle in Jacksonville due to his inconsistency and the holes on the offensive line. The most alarming knock on Yeldon in terms of his outlook in Jacksonville, as pointed out in an SB Nation scouting profile, is his impatience. "Can get impatient when things aren't going well and will try to create something by running laterally rather than up field." With a mediocre at best offensive live, the combination of his impatience and lack of breakaway speed could doom Yeldon before he has a chance to properly develop. Though not many are banking on this, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Denard Robinson remain the starting running back for the foreseeable future.