JACKSONVILLE – This was a matter of need and value.
That's an ideal draft-day scenario, and Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said it was absolutely the case when selecting T.J. Yeldon in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Yeldon, a running back from the University of Alabama, was the fourth selection of the second round, the No. 36 selection overall. He's a runner with strong ability and burst, with the ability to get to the perimeter.
Caldwell without question said it was a case of the best player available player at a position of need.
"That's really what it was," Caldwell said Friday shortly after the Jaguars made Yeldon the first running back selected in Round 2 and the third in this year's draft.
Many analysts expected a run on the position in the second round.
Caldwell said he anticipated the possibility of a trade at the position, and received some calls about the selection Friday. But he said the interest primarily appeared to be in Alabama safety Landon Collins, who was selected No. 33 overall by the New York Giants after a trade with Tennessee.
"Once he went, that kind of dried up," Caldwell said.
Caldwell and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley each said Yeldon is capable of playing all three downs, and Caldwell said the Jaguars had Yeldon, Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon as the top players at the position.
"We had three guys we felt could be really good backs for us," Caldwell said, adding that he believed there was a drop-off at the position after that.
Caldwell praised Yeldon's instincts, run vision, hands, pass protection and route-running ability. While Yeldon had a reputation for fumbling in college, Caldwell said that wasn't a concern.
"It's a coaching point we emphasize here, and two, it's not a stat that translates from college to the NFL – or from year to year, for that matter," Caldwell said, adding that Yeldon's experience in the SEC made him appealing.
Yeldon rushed for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns on 576 carries in three seasons at Alabama, rushing for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries as a junior. 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.
Caldwell said Yeldon can be equally effective in a zone- or gap-blocking offense.
"He can be a one-cut back who can turn it up, and he's also got a little stutter and go where he can be patient in the hole," Caldwell said, with Bradley adding, "He can make spontaneous decisions in the heat of the moment. That's the instincts. A lot of really good teams in our league have that."
Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart started at running back for the Jaguars last season, with rookie Storm Johnson also getting a start. The team claimed Bernard Pierce off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason.
"You can never have enough good backs," Caldwell said, adding that Robinson likely will play a role as a kick returner and have a role in the offense.
Caldwell said the Jaguars potentially could carry five running backs because the team won't have a fullback on the roster this season.
"We won't be using one in our offensive sets, so there's no sense in carrying one if we're not going to use him," Caldwell said.