Throughout the course of the 2012 season, five different running backs started a game for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Maurice Jones-Drew injured for most of the season, Rashad Jennings, Jalen Parmele, Montell Owens and Keith Toston all got a chance to carry the load due to various injuries.
Without knowing how Jones-Drew will rebound from surgery, and with Rashad Jennings set to hit free agency, the Jaguars have some questions to answer at the running back position this offseason. Parmele, Owens and Toston all showed flashes, but it's tough to have confidence in any of them sustaining success in a prominent role throughout the course of a season.
Jones-Drew is far from finished. With one year left on his contract, he should come into camp even more motivated. But with the tread on his tires and his injury history, the Jaguars could use a capable second option to take some of the heat off of the franchise player.
Jennings showed a ton of promise during the preseason, leading fans to believe he could step in for Jones-Drew if needed. But ultimately, he lacked explosiveness coming out the backfield and ended the season on injured reserve with a concussion. The Jaguars have more questions than answers about his ability to complement Jones-Drew.
If Jacksonville is looking for a complementary back, or eventual successor to Jones-Drew, the 2013 NFL Draft is the place to find that player. While some question whether or not there is a running back in this class that deserves to be drafted in the first round, nobody should question the talent this class has as a whole.
The Jaguars shouldn't be looking at running backs on the first or second day of the draft. With so many needs and a complete lack of talent on the roster, the Jaguars have more to worry about than a non-premium position such as running back. The Jaguars also don't have such a pressing need at the position that an early round pick needs to be used. The team should, however, sniff around on day three of the draft to see what's left of the running back pool. They just might like what they find.
Names to look out for
The Jaguars won't have a crack at Giovani Bernard or North Carolina, Alabama's Eddie Lacy or even Andre Ellington of Clemson. The second and third rounds will likely be littered with quality running back prospects, but there is enough talent to go around, which should encourage the Jaguars to be patient and see which players are left on day three.
Jonathan Franklin, UCLA, Projected Round: 3-4
Jonathan Franklin burst onto the scene for the upstart Bruins this season, posting excellent production and playing his way up draft boards. He's a speedy back with good vision who can make people miss in the open field. Franklin flashes pass-catching ability but will need to work on his pass protection. If the Jaguars take a running back on the early side, Franklin is a name to look out for.
Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook, Projected Round: 6-7
Many will cringe at the notion of drafting a small school player after Gene Smith's tenure, but Miguel Maysonet is the real deal. He is a decisive runner who makes powerful cuts and runs behind his pads. Maysonet runs with a purpose and really punishes would-be tacklers. The combine will be huge for Maysonet, but he's the type of player that could be an ideal fit for the Jaguars given his draft range, skill set and work ethic.
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State, Projected Round: 4-5
Robbie Rouse is one of my favorite running backs in the 2013 draft, because there isn't much he can't do for an offense. The biggest knock on Rouse is his size, and where have we heard that before? In all seriousness, Rouse can play and would be an intriguing weapon for an offense that could use all the talent it can get.
Other names to look out for