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'15 NFL Draft: Yeldon a back with burst and patience

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JACKSONVILLE – T.J. Yeldon didn't know what to expect.

He knew he liked the Jaguars, and knew things went well when he visited EverBank Field in April, but beyond that … well, this is the NFL Draft …

Who knows what can happen?

"I was very surprised," Yeldon said Friday. "I had a good visit and a good meeting with (Jaguars coaches) at the (NFL Scouting) combine. I was very excited to get picked."

Yeldon, a running back from the University of Alabama, was selected by the Jaguars with the fourth selection of the second round, the No. 36 selection overall. Some draft analysts had projected the low-key, reserved Yeldon as a first-round selection, while others projected him later in the second or third round.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said the team ranked Yeldon with Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon as the best backs available.

"I honestly had no idea where I was going to go," Yeldon said. "I was just praying and hoping that I'd get picked, so I had no idea where I was going to go."

Yeldon said he wasn't disappointed to not go late in Round 1 Thursday.

He added, "I just wanted to get picked by a team and showcase what I can do on the field, so I wasn't really disappointed at all."

Upon selecting Yeldon, Caldwell praised his size, foot quickness, instincts, run vision and hands, as well as his ability to play all three downs. He also called Yeldon a patient runner who can also break long runs. Caldwell added that Yeldon can produce behind either a zone- or gap-blocking scheme.

Yeldon said his early impression is he will fit well into the Jaguars' new offensive scheme under coordinator Greg Olson.

"I can do a lot of things; I can catch the ball, I can run the ball," he said. "I feel like I fit in very well."

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and running backs coach Kelly Skipper each talked about Yeldon's ability to run the stretch play, an area where Jaguars backs struggled at times last season.

"He can put his foot in the ground and burst and accelerate," Skipper said. "The thing about him, he comes from a pro-style offense so he utilized a lot of the run-schemes that we use. You can see the patience, he knows blocking schemes, he can read them, but the biggest thing is if there's nothing there, he can create on his own. He can make guys miss and the biggest thing, like I said, he can make plays."

Bradley said Yeldon's patience and ability to run multiple schemes "showed up repeatedly."

The Jaguars made Alabama product T.J. Yeldon the 36th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

"You really need to have a guy that knows when to hit it and have patience to let things develop in front of him," Bradley said. "That's what you saw in him."

Skipper also said Yeldon showed a high football intelligence on his pre-draft visit.

"I went through all of the protections and different things like that," Skipper said. "He's very comfortable and very smart on the board. He understands protections that we utilize, so I can see him there in protection on third-down; he can do all of that, plus he catches out of the backfield very well."

Yeldon rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of three collegiate seasons, finishing a three-year Alabama career with 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns on 576 carries. He rushed for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries this past season.

He rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns on 207 carries as a sophomore and 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries as a freshman.

"I feel like I've got excellent vision," Yeldon said. "I feel like I can see things before they're about to happen, like seeing a guy down the field or read my blocks and set my blocks up when I'm running the ball. And I can catch the ball out of the backfield excellent and I can pick up blocks pretty well, the same things that I did at Alabama."

Yeldon also had issues with ball security at Alabama. That's an area Caldwell said didn't particularly concern the Jaguars, and Caldwell said it's not something that necessarily translates from college to the NFL level or even from one season to the other.

"One thing about it is that the fumbles went down this year," Skipper said. "Most of those were early in his career. He did a really good job of locking it up and the 'points' and all of that stuff. You can see that he has good technique carrying the ball. The thing about it is, get his pad level down; you will protect the ball a bit better."

Yeldon said he improved in the area this past season.

"I worked on that," he said. "I wasn't really focused (before) and wasn't holding onto the ball."

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