Jacksonville's mediocre (at best) offensive line play and a tendency to pass the ball in the red zone more than any other team in the AFC -- the team tallied 90 red zone pass attempts -- resulted in a mere five total rushing touchdowns for the season. Rookie back T.J. Yeldon scored just two of those himself. Blake Bortles scored two and Denard Robinson scored the other.
The Jags' ranked 27th in the NFL in average rushing yards per game with 92.1. Bortles' inconsistency under center didn't help matters as he led the NFL in interceptions (18) and sacks taken (51) finishing with a 58.6 completion percentage, 31st in the league.
Jacksonville clearly felt the need to bolster the running back position in the offseason and wasted no time signing former Jets running back Chris Ivory on the first day of free agency back in March. Since then, Yeldon's ADP has tumbled from an early Round 4 pick on FantasyFootballCalculator.com to a mid-Round 8 pick. Ivory's ADP has held steady in the Round 6-7 range which feels about right given the uncertainty of how this thing is forecasted to play out.
The general consensus among Jaguars beat writers in regards to how the team's backfield will shape up this season is basically one giant shrug emoji.
O'Halloran also projected that it could be a "55-45" split between the two backs in terms of carries, pegging Ivory as the starter and Yeldon as a third-down guy.
These reports were spun out of quotes from the team's running backs coach, Kelly Skipper, who was about as vague as one could be when discussing the roles of each back with the press. So for fantasy purposes, the best we can do is make an educated guess from what we know. Despite their similar size, each back has his own unique style of play.
Coming off a career-best season with the Jets, Ivory was one of just seven backs to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2015. He notched double-digit carries in all but two of the 15 games that he played in averaging 4.3 yards per carry for the season and scoring seven rushing touchdowns. He also played a role as a pass-catcher hauling in 30 of his 37 targets for 217 receiving yards and one score.
Ivory is a bruising, violent runner who seems to welcome contact and can break tackles at a rate among some of the best running backs in the league. He averaged 2.6 yards after contact per attempt (247 total) in 2015 according to ProFootballFocus. And in one specific instance, when the Jets took on the Dolphins in London last October, Ivory racked up 166 total rushing yards, 110 of which were counted as yards after contact. That makes him a perfect candidate for the early-down and goal-line work that Yeldon seemed to struggle with last year.
The risk with Ivory is that he does tend to get banged up because of his power running style. Knee, groin, quadriceps and hamstring ailments were among those that kept him limited or put him out of games at some point during the year. Although he played in 15 of 16 contests, he left a couple of them early and was actually active in Week 3 but didn't play a single snap, to the frustration of his fantasy owners.
Ivory did have a pretty horrible three-game stretch mid-season where he rushed 55 times for just 83 yards (1.53 ypc), though he scored three times in that span. His floor is a risk but his ceiling is massive; he registered greater than 20 fantasy points three times in the Jets' first five games.
He's entering his age 28 season but since Ivory's career workload hasn't been too high-volume (883 rush attempts total over six seasons, and 2015 was the first year he received greater than 200 rush attempts) he certainly has some tread left on his tires.
Yeldon, a second-round draft selection in 2015, was commended for his ability to play through pain coming out of college and we saw him do exactly that last year. He missed the Jaguars' final three games with a knee injury but managed to play through other injuries (hand, groin, foot) throughout his rookie campaign, which statistically wasn't anything to discredit him for. Yeldon averaged 15.1 rush attempts per game and managed a 4.1 yards per carry average in his first NFL season on 182 rush attempts. He also averaged 10.0 fantasy points per game in standard scoring despite his low touchdown total (three).
The Alabama product finished the year as fantasy's RB26 in standard scoring. Had he played a full 16 games, he would have only needed 65 rush yards per contest to reach the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
But, as is the case with Ivory, Yeldon's durability is a concern which is why this decision is such a difficult one. Yeldon's strengths -- quick feet and an ability to elude defenders in space -- make him a perfect change-of-pace candidate behind Ivory to start the year. We also shouldn't forget that Ivory is learning a completely new offense after three seasons in New York. Yeldon has the upper hand in that aspect since he has a year under his belt in Greg Olsen's scheme. That's definitely not a deal breaker but it's one more thing to weigh.
All things considered, Ivory comes at a value in drafts this season as a mid-round pick who was an RB1 in fantasy last season when healthy. The Jaguars probably aren't going to run the ball as much as the Jets did, but it's clear that the offense is prioritizing a more balanced approach on offense, and Ivory should benefit from added handoffs in the red zone. For what it's worth, I included Ivory in my "must-own" running backs list due to his extremely reasonable ADP and went so fas as to dub him a red zone hero.
For owners who do end up drafting Ivory, aspirations of handcuffing him with Yeldon would be a mistake. There's no point in burning another pick on Yeldon a mere two rounds later unless you're just a Jaguars homer. Ivory has RB1 upside and comes with injury risk, while Yeldon will be more of a matchup-based flex option throughout the season with the ability to serve as a featured back if Ivory has to miss time.