A stark example of the limits to NFL player scouting is the Jaguars’ backfield, which recently swapped out a former No. 4 overall pick for an undrafted rookie running back from an FCS school.
Jacksonville has actually improved running the ball since James Robinson took over duties from high-profile LSU product Leonard Fournette. Robinson is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season, while Fournette averaged just 4 yards per tote in his three-year stint with the franchise.
Robinson is finding success despite being paid less than $1 million annually. Fournette earned almost $23 million from the Jaguars and will make $2 million this year from the Buccaneers.
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Fournette is young enough to resurrect his career in Tampa Bay (or elsewhere), but it’s still surprising to see the team he left behind not missing his presence whatsoever. It’s perhaps even more surprising for his replacement to be someone even hardcore football fans hadn’t heard about until the past couple of weeks.
Robinson can further legitimize his hot start Thursday night against the Dolphins, who at 0-2 and on short rest are seemingly ripe for a subpar defensive display.
Here’s a guide to the wild journey Robinson has taken to the NFL:
Where did James Robinson go to college?
Robinson attended Illinois State, where he demolished FCS opponents in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. He racked up 1,917 of his 4,462 career yards at Illinois State during his college career.
Illinois reached the FCS quarterfinals last season, losing in that round to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. Robinson ran for 94 yards in the defeat.
Here’s a look at some of his college highlights:
Where is James Robinson from?
Robinson is from Rockford, Illinois, which is a little more than a two hour drive from his hometown.
When did the Jaguars sign running back James Robinson?
On a hunch from Jaguars scout Marty Miller’s wife, who was helping him phone potential undrafted running backs to sign in April, Miller checked in with Robinson to see if the Illinois State product remained available. Sure enough, Robinson was without a team.
So, Jacksonville snapped Robinson up and eventually gave him a roster spot and starting job.
Why did Jacksonville cut Leonard Fournette?
Fournette was part of a larger purge of starters from the roster that last brought the Jaguars to the playoffs. It was an attempt from the team to build a squad that doesn’t detest its front office and might usher in a more positive era of football following a rough couple of seasons.
While Fournette did not take his vocal criticism of Jacksonville to the absurd level of former teammates Yannick Ngakoue or Jalen Ramsey, he certainly didn’t see eye-to-eye with the organization.
For both parties, it was time to move on.
But the Jaguars’ initial plan probably wasn’t to immediately push Robinson into a feature back role after they waived Fournette. Robinson rose up the depth chart when Devine Ozigbo and Ryquell Armstead were sidelined. His on-field play (164 yards in two games) cemented his first-choice status.
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