JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars selected LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who some scouts compared to Adrian Peterson, with the No. 4 pick Thursday night in the first round of the NFL draft in Philadelphia.
The Jaguars picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft for the 10th consecutive year and could have addressed either side of the ball.
"We had four guys right there, and we thought he (Fournette) was the right guy there," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said.
Last season, Jacksonville ran for 1,631 yards, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. Only the New York Giants had fewer rushing scores (6) than the Jaguars (8) last season, and three of Jacksonville’s rushing touchdowns came from quarterback Blake Bortles.
Jaguars executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin said Fournette is the special playmaker the Jaguars need.
“We need to put the ball in the end zone,” Coughlin said. “This guy (Fournette) will put the ball in the end zone for us.”
Fournette said that he is aware of the expectations in Jacksonville, thanks to fellow LSU Tigers star Odell Beckham Jr., who played for Coughlin in New York.
"I know Coach Coughlin doesn't play any games," Fournette said. "Odell told me that."
Coughlin said that selecting Fournette will make the Jaguars a tougher and more physical team right away.
"The idea that you're going to run it because of what you have invested, the offensive line knows it," Coughlin said. "When you make this kind of investment, you're going to see 9 on 7, 11 on 11 running drills."
Having a consistent running game would also make Bortles’ job easier. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said that adding Fournette will also help the guys responsible for opening holes for their new running back.
“This puts more of a spotlight on our O-Line,” said Marrone. “We are looking for them to balance each other.”
It was the second straight year a running back was drafted No. 4 after the Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott at that spot. Fournette is also the second running back Coughlin has drafted in the top 10. The other one was Fred Taylor, who was taken No. 9 overall in 1998 and is now in the Pride of the Jaguars after a record-setting career in Jacksonville.
More on new Jags RB Fournette
Fournette was the No. 1 high school player in the country as a senior. He was one of the best running backs in college, if not the best, during his entire career at LSU. At 6-0, 240 pounds, Fournette is both a power back and has breakaway potential (he ran 4.51 at the combine, good for a player of his size). After leading the SEC in all-purpose yards as a freshman, Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards as a sophomore. Injuries interrupted his junior year as an ankle injury limited his playing time to just seven games. He sat out LSU's bowl game to prepare for the draft.
How the Jaguars will use him
Fournette’s addition immediately puts pressure on Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, who combined for just four touchdowns last year. While Fournette may not be a 20 carry-per-game back (only Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell averaged more than 20 carries per game last season), he should be a major difference maker in the running game for the Jaguars.