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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Big rookie RB was a value for Jags in seventh

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Running back Rashad Jennings was rated as highly as a second-rounder by some, but fell far on draft weekend, lasting until the seventh round, when Jacksonville snagged him with the 250th overall pick.

"Rashad Jennings is a big, strong, powerful running back," coach Jack Del Rio said after the draft. "We had him at the Senior Bowl, he had a good week for us. Not sure why he found himself sitting there at the bottom of the seventh round, but he was and we saw an opportunity to add a guy and we think he'll come in and compete for a spot."

Jennings, listed at 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds, impressed some observers at the Jaguars' minicamp last weekend and Maurice Jones-Drew said he already knew the big back out of Liberty from early offseason training at Perfect Competition in Miami.

"He trained at the same facility that I was training at," Jones-Drew said in a transcript from the weekend. "...I lived with him when I was down training so I know a bunch about him. He's a good guy. He's a big guy at that, and I can't call him a kid because I'm only two days older than him. He's a big man so he's definitely going to help us in the running game."

Somewhat remarkably, Jones-Drew, who's heading into his fourth season, just turned 24 on March 23 and Jennings' 24th birthday was actually three days later. While Jones-Drew left UCLA early, Jennings started off at Pitt, transferred to Liberty and played all four years. Still, that's a significant gap and Jennings comes into the league as an old rookie.

Heading into the second day of the draft, I thought Jennings might be a player headed for the AFC South, but tabbed him as a prospect for Houston, not Jacksonville. The Texans didn't draft a big running back to go with Steve Slaton, and will evaluate two rookie free agents and watch the waiver wire, perhaps for a player like Denver's Ryan Torain.

The Texans either didn't think Jennings was a good fit for Alex Gibbs' system, consistently found higher-rated players available or both.

Jacksonville let Fred Taylor go with the intent of featuring Jones-Drew. The Jaguars also plan on giving some carries to fullback Greg Jones. With Taylor and Jones on IR, the Jaguars finished 2008 with four running backs on their roster -- Jones-Drew, Chauncey Washington, Alvin Pearman and backup fullback and special teams ace Montell Owens.

Jones-Drew, Jones and Owens are locks. Jennings will compete with Pearman, who signed with the team on Dec. 11 after the injuries hit, and Washington, a 2008 seventh-rounder, as the team sorts out roster spots and roles.

Pearman seems like an insurance policy for the two youngsters. Washington played in six games as a rookie, getting just four carries he turned into 9 yards.

The Jaguars also have two undrafted fullbacks, Kyle Bell and Brock Bolen, and an undrafted running back, Mike McLendon, currently on their roster.