After taking two days off, our 2015 preview of Alabama players in the NFL continues with a look at the Crimson Tide’s 2014 starting backfield. TJ Yeldon and Jalston Fowler played together for three years. Yeldon may owe much of his success to Fowler and his blocking ability. Fowler might owe Yeldon for much of his stats while defenses focused on Yeldon while Fowler slipped into the flat to catch a touchdown pass. These two were a terrific duo in Tuscaloosa and they are now trying to make a name for themselves in their rookie seasons.
TJ Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars, Running Back
6’1″, 226 pounds
T.J. Yeldon had a fantastic career at Alabama, setting records for rushing yards and touchdowns by a freshman. He was always splitting time with other Crimson Tide runners like Eddie Lacy, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry but that never slowed Yeldon down. He had plenty of critics through his three seasons but in the end, his play on the field spoke for itself. He finished his time in Tuscaloosa with 3,322 rushing yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and 37 rushing touchdowns. He added two receiving touchdowns, the most famous one coming in Baton Rouge in 2012. The former Mr. Football in Alabama was selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jaguars with the 36th overall pick.
Yeldon has already made a become a big name in Jacksonville and is listed as the top running back on the team’s preseason depth chart. Yeldon has some high expectations set for him. The Jaguars want to see production that they used to get from former running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. On top of that, the Jaguars first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. got hurt and will likely miss the entire season. With the rebuilding process going on, many fans will want to see big things out of their young players. Blake Bortles will always be the first guy people attack but major production from Yeldon is expected.
Yeldon has yet to see in-game action after suffering a finger injury back on August 8. The former Tide star has been in a non-contact jersey since the injury and missed the Jaguars’ preseason opener last weekend. Yeldon was officially counted out against the Giants for Saturday night’s game just before kickoff but he is expected to see playing time after a full week of practice.
Jalston Fowler, Tennessee Titans, Fullback
5’11”, 254 pounds
4 years, $2.8 million
The fullback position seems to be less and less used as the game of football evolves. However, Jalston Fowler is such a perfect fit for the position that it was impossible to pass up on his talent. Fowler started his college career as a running back but really started playing the fullback position in his last two seasons. His abilities as a blocker and a receiver in the flats became vital for the Crimson Tide’s offense. Fowler finished his career with 755 rushing yards and scored 12 total touchdowns on 132 touches. His impact was much bigger than what the statistics showed and many people will discover that in his rookie season.
Fowler, also known as “Noodie,” was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in April with the 108th overall pick. The rookie will be often used as a lead blocker but his expectations are sky high. Fowler’s variety of skills can set up mismatches across the field for the Titans’ offense. Three major things that caught the eye of Tennessee’s running backs coach Sylvester Croom was Fowler’s ability to catch the football, block and play special teams. Many college offenses run the spread offense now and players like Noodie don’t come around very often.
Fowler played in 10 of Tennessee’s 57 offensive snaps in the preseason opener but never got a target or carry. The Titans face the St. Louis Rams in Nashville on Sunday night.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter,@CalebTurrentine.