Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch 2015
Rookie Watch - T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Just how bad was the state of the Jaguars’ rushing attack last year?? Well, the team’s top rusher was a converted college quarterback (Denard Robinson) and their second-leading rusher was 6-foot-5 rookie signal caller Blake Bortles.
To inject a little life (e.g. talent, new blood, fresh legs… pick your cliché) the team used the No. 36 pick on Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, a back whose stock has dropped (slightly) each year since reaching superstardom in the Crimson Tide’s national championship win over Notre Dame in January 2013. As a sophomore his yardage numbers were up but his average per carry dropped from 6.3 to 6.0 and he did not meet full expectations. Last year, as a junior, Yeldon’s yards per carry total again dropped (5.0) and he shared time in the lineup.
Still, this is Jacksonville, where anything is an upgrade to what’s already in place.
Dissecting the depth chart: Robinson had 127 yards against Cleveland and 108 against Miami last year. Those were the highlights in his 582-yard campaign. He led the team with 135 carries – 30th among NFL rushers. The team’s expected “stud,” Toby Gerhart, managed just 3.2 yards per carry and logged just one run of 20-plus yards. Yeldon will have little difficulty navigating to the top of this depth chart.
Just the stats: Yeldon’s 3,322 rushing yards at Alabama were evenly spread among his three seasons, his best year likely being his first (2012). That season he destroyed Georgia in the SEC Championship with 153 yards and gained 108 in the title game win over Notre Dame, all while splitting time with backfield mate Eddie Lacy. As a sophomore he again found fame in the SEC title game (141 yards in a losing effort) but stumbled in that same game last fall against Missouri, and was a near no-show in the Crimson Tide’s 2014-15 playoff loss to Ohio State (47 yards). He caught a total of 46 passes in three seasons (two touchdowns).
2015 Projection: 182 carries, 713 yards, 4 TDs; 14 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD
2014 rookie comparison: Terrance West, Browns
West had three games of 90-plus yards last season (interestingly, the games came against each of the Browns’ three divisional foes) and was consistent for much of the year. He found the end zone five times and averaged 13 touches in his 14 appearances.
Interesting fact that won’t help you: Yeldon edged Jameis Winston for the 2011 crown of Alabama’s Mr. Football. That season he gained 2,193 yards and scored 31 touchdowns for Daphne High School.
What he’s worth: If you believe West is a fair comparison then you should recognize Yeldon is a No. 3 running back, at best. He will win the Jaguars’ starting job, but the team’s lackluster attack will limit rushing opportunities (think: playing from behind, throwing a ton).
Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom
By Mike Beacom