In 2015, you had running back rookie class that was considered among the best in recent memory. It included the likes of Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, David Johnson, and Duke Johnson. Several of those running backs turned in memorable rookie seasons, with Gurley finishing as a top 5 fantasy back after placing third overall in rushing yards (1,106) behind Doug Martin and Adrian Peterson. David Johnson wasn't far behind after a strong second half of the year landed him seventh overall among fantasy running backs and catapulted him to RB1 status seemingly overnight.
Even so, there was another rookie running back who turned in an equally impressive fantasy season without overly gaudy stats, and that back was Jacksonville Jaguars T.J. Yeldon. Drafted late in the first round, Yeldon compiled over 1,000 yards combined rushing and receiving and finished with 120 fantasy points to finish 28th overall among RBs in standard scoring leagues. While his yardage numbers were there, his lack of touchdowns (just 3 combined rushing and receiving) were the main culprit in draining his potential value. Injuries also caused Yeldon to miss four games in 2015.
So to combat Yeldon's goal-line woes, the Jags brought in Chris Ivory from the New York Jets. Ivory turned in best season of his career by far in 2015, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time and scoring 7 times. The Jags signed Ivory to a five-year, $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, which makes him the seventh highest-paid RB in the NFL. The only problem is Ivory did all this as the Jets clear No. 1 running back, with only Bilal Powell seeing 70 rush attempts compared to Ivory's 247. There's no way Yeldon sees just 70 rush attempts in 2016 barring injury.
If you want Yeldon on your fantasy team this season, you're going to have to deal with Ivory stealing touches in some form given the amount Jacksonville invested in him. But despite two potential starting running backs on their roster that the franchise invested a lot of money/draft capital in, there's reason to believe Yeldon will be the more trustworthy back when it comes to consistency.
When it comes to drafting a potential RB2, you want someone who sees at least 10-12 carries a game and has a decent shot at scoring a touchdown any week of the season. Yeldon definitely fits that bill. First, he saw 182 rushes in 12 games which was good for 15 carries per game. He also saw 28 carries inside the red zone in 2015, leading all Jacksonville rushers. Despite all his chances around the goal line though, Yeldon only managed to cram the ball into the end zone two times. Historically, touchdown rate can vary greatly from year to year among running backs, so thinking Yeldon will be as ineffective as he was last season around the goal line might lead to disappointment.
If you're worried about one of the running backs getting hurt, you're not taking any more of less of a chance drafting either one. Ivory has an extensive injury season dating back to his rookie season and he also missed 10 games in 2012 after suffering a fracture in his foot.
Yeldon hasn't been a model of health either dating back to his college days at Alabama. He was consistently bothered by hamstring and ankle injuries in college that kept him from playing at 100 percent. He also missed a game midway through the 2015 NFL season with a pulled groin and missed the last three games of the year with a sprained MCL. It's safe to say you're taking a chance no matter which of these two backs you draft this season.
Can Ivory be just as effective as a receiver?
While not as elusive in the open field as Yeldon, Ivory did post a respectable 30 catches last season, which were a career-high for him. He also bested Yeldon in YAC per catch, gaining 9.5 yards to Yeldon's 8.1. At just 27 years old, Ivory is still in the prime of his career and shouldn't be discounted because Yeldon is only 22 years old.
Who's the better value?
Reports out of camp have Ivory as the back more likely to assume the starting role in Jacksonville, but that could be a blessing in disguise for Yeldon. Coaches can change their offensive philosophy at the drop of a hat if a running back is getting repeatedly stone-walled at the line of scrimmage. We saw Ivory struggle with 26 yards on 23 carries in a game last season. You have to figure Yeldon will likely see a healthy dose of carries if Ivory struggles and vice versa.
As far as their current ADP goes, Ivory is going at RB29 while Yeldon is RB36 so you might be able to get Yeldon one or even two rounds later. Given Ivory's injury history, Yeldon is the better value as of right now. He'll be able to choose his spots more and be a more efficient running back while still seeing valuable snaps and assume a crucial receiving role out of the backfield. You could argue Ivory is more valuable because he'll get the goal line work but you have to wonder if Yeldon is more effective throughout the game, he'll be the one to punch the ball into the end zone. As of now, take Yeldon in the later rounds as an RB2/flex guy and draft a running back who's a bit more upside in the earlier rounds before Ivory.