Many of the mock drafts you see for the Jacksonville Jaguars have the team picking a running back with the No. 4 overall pick, predominantly with LSU's Leonard Fournette being the pick. While I'm firmly against picking a running back with the No. 4 overall pick, especially a back like Fournette (which I'll explain in another article), it shouldn't be a surprise the Jaguars could be looking for an upgrade in the run game. One thing to consider however when drafting in the Top 5 is the value of the new rookie contracts.
The rookie contracts were supposed to shift the contract money from rookies to free agents, and it's done that for the most part on the top end, it still can cause some issues with what's picked at the top of the first round. For instance, if the Jaguars pick a running back with the No. 4 overall pick, they'd instantly have the fourth highest paid running back in the NFL, which the majority of that contract fully guaranteed. I tweeted about this a few weeks ago, applying the thought to both running back and safety, but Hays Carlyon of 1010XL spelled it out a lot better than I did in 140 character chunks.
Fournette's contract would come in slightly higher than the one Dallas gave Ezekiel Elliott last year as the fourth pick in the draft. Elliott has a four-year contract worth $25 million, with $24.5 million guaranteed. That's the most guaranteed money any running back currently has in the NFL by $6 million.
Hays points out further, which is something I keep bringing up as well, the team has a big contract invested in Chris Ivory as well. Ivory signed a five-year, $32 million deal with $10 million guaranteed that was essentially a two-year deal and we're entering year two of that deal. Ivory was underwhelming last season with just over 600 yards of rushing, but his season was also derailed early on by injury and he just never seemed to get going.
Many people say "Well, just cut Ivory!" but it's not that simple. The Jaguars actually take a bigger cap hit releasing Ivory than keeping him, so at this point it's better off just to keep him in the hopes he's healthy in 2017. So if you keep Ivory and draft a back with the No. 4 overall pick, you suddenly have the fourth and sixth highest paid running backs in the NFL. That's just not feasible or responsible, regardless of how much cap room the team has. You then have to also factor in the issue of if the back ends up being underwhelming or a bust, then you're carrying a massive contract for a rookie that is essentially fully guaranteed.
Sure, that is something to consider with every player you pick at the No. 4 spot, but not every player you pick there is going to be paid like a Top 5 player at the position like running back will be.
Again, this shouldn't be a deciding factor with the No. 4 overall pick, but it's something you have to consider against the depth of the class and the drop off at the position groups. The difference in a pick at No. 4 and No. 35 is about $15 million guaranteed.