JACKSONVILLE – For the Jaguars, a runner ruled the day.
With the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Jaguars opted against defense and quarterback, using the selection on what many analysts believe could be a franchise-altering player.
Leonard Fournette, a running back from Louisiana State widely considered the best player at his positon in this year's draft class, on Thursday evening became the No. 4 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fournette (6-feet-0, 240 pounds) became the earliest-drafted running back in the franchise's 23-year history. The team selected James Stewart from Tennessee No. 19 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft and Fred Taylor from Florida No. 9 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. Those are the only backs the franchise has selected in the first round.
Fournette's selection came after the top three selections occurred with a touch of/comparatively little drama.
The Cleveland Browns as expected selected defensive end Myles Garrett of Texas A&M No. 1 overall, with the Chicago Bears selecting North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall. The Bears had traded three selections to San Francisco to move from No. 3 to No. 2 overall.
The 49ers then stayed at No. 3 and selected Stanford defensive lineman SolomonThomas.
That left the Jaguars with a slew of available players at No. 4, including Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen, Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, Fournette, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
All but Garrett had been linked with the Jaguars by rumors, reports and mock drafts in recent days, with Garrett generally considered to be going No. 1 overall.
Fournette this year led a running-back class considered one of the strongest at the position in recent memory. Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford also have been projected to be selected in Round 1.
Fournette's selection marked the first time since 2014 the Jaguars had selected an offensive player with their first-round selection. They selected defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida No. 3 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Florida State No. 5 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
They had selected offensive players in the Top 5 of the two drafts before that, selecting quarterback Blake Bortles of Central Florida No. 3 overall in 2014 and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M No. 2 overall in 2013.
Fournette, who forewent his senior season to declare for the draft, rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns on 616 carries in three collegiate seasons. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry for his career.
He rushed for 1,953 yards and 20 touchdowns on 300 carries as a sophomore, then rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns this past season while playing through a preseason ankle injury.
Fournette was a consensus All-America selection as a sophomore, leading the SEC and the nation in rushing with 162.8 yards per game. He rushed for more than 100 yards in 19 of 32 games, setting or tying 23 school records in his career.