(Here is the debut item from Josh Ciganek, who’s another new Insider on our team. And Josh has advice for Jags and Bucs fans, when it comes to running backs in this draft.)
As the NFL Draft nears, a spotlight is shining on the running backs that are being expected to be taken in round one. LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are the three names that fans are hoping are available when their team is on the clock Thursday night.
However, Friday night leaves the door wide open for a variety of underrated backs to see their name in the night lights. More on that in a few.
Jacksonville, who is selecting fourth, has the best shot of drafting any of the big three while Tampa Bay has to wait until pick number nineteen to make a first round selection. Fournette is the name many believe is at the top of the Jacksonville Big Board and, if all is in their favor, Cook is near the top of Tampa Bay’s Big Board.
There are a few factors that can stand in the way of the Jaguars first pick. The biggest issue is a San Francisco team with just as much uncertainty at the tailback position as Jacksonville has. An unproven core of running backs led by Carlos Hyde and Mike Davis are set as the number one and two backs for the 49ers. There is a lot of talk surrounding whether or not they will use the number two pick in the draft to take Fournette, whom the Jaguars have their eye on heavily. Look for Jacksonville to keep a close watch on the 49ers and could potentially make some moves based on what San Fran does or doesn’t do.
It’s also likely that neither the 49ers or Jags take a back in the top five.
Buccaneer fans should not worry either when it comes to who the team will select with the nineteenth pick. Many fans and writers believe Tampa Bay will go away from the backfield and select either a wide receiver or even tight end with the first pick. Obviously, eighteen other picks can influence who or what the Buccaneers do with the pick. The Bucs are also having to weigh that Doug Martin is coming back from a rehab stint and neither Charles Sims or Jacquizz Rodgers provide a true number one tailback ability.
Nonetheless, Tampa Bay has a lot to look forward to on Friday night in rounds two and three if they decide to draft away from the backfield on Thursday.
The amount of depth at the running back position in this draft is impeccable. The highlight names of Fournette, McCaffrey, and Cook lead a montage of runners that have three-down potential in the NFL. Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, and USF’s Marlon Mack (above) are a few of the tailbacks who should be expected to hear their names called on Friday night.
Each runner possesses an innate ability to run in between the tackles and reach the second level with breakaway speed.
We wrote here, that the Bucs have been in contact with Oklahoma’s Samaje Perrine. So, there is reason to believe may be receiving a phone call from Tampa Bay. Jacksonville is intrigued by the likes of Mack and Kamara as both backs resemble Fournette’s running style and show signs of former Jaguars ball carrier Maurice Jones-Drew.
What route with both teams take on Thursday night? That remains to be seen, but fans should not worry about finding a reliable back to step up and solidify the ground game for both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. There will be plenty there.