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How Melvin Gordon and Leonard Fournette are Changing the NFL

Melvin Gordon is a 6-1, 215-pound bruiser who ranks third in the NFL with eight total touchdowns. He's the first running back to score four on the ground and four through the air since Marshall Faulk in 2000.

Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette is a dynamic 6-0, 228-pound rookie who ranks sixth in the NFL with 596 yards despite missing two games.  He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry with six TDs, including a 90-yarder and a 75-yarder.

"He's having a good rookie season so far," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said.  "He sat last week out and is still sixth in the league in rushing. He's got long speed. He's gone short. He's gone long. It's everything I saw while he was at LSU. He's a prototype NFL runner."

Thus, fans at EverBank Field are in for a treat Sunday when two of the game's top backs both take the field.  They'll see first-hand why each was taken in the first round in the NFL Draft.

It was only a few years ago that taking a running back in the first-round was considered taboo. However, the success of both players has helped break a previously held misconception, showing the value of taking a game-breaking, bell-cow back early.

"Some of those guys are too daggum good to pass up," said Lynn. "They have the skill sets. If you want to get them, you have to get them early. And people are starting to realize that. People are running the football more now, so yes, get a good running back early."

Gordon was one of two running backs along with Todd Gurley selected in the first round, going 15th overall to the Bolts.  It marked the first time in three seasons that a rusher went in the first round.

Their success helped pave the way for Ezekiel Elliot to go fourth overall to Dallas in 2016 and Fournette third overall to the Jaguars this past season.

"We're difference makers," Gordon summed up.  "We're game changers.  You can't sleep on the game changers, and you got to pick them up when you can whether you're a running back or not.  Fournette is another reason why you should grab a good running back in the first round!"

Gordon and Fournette have proven that in spades, emerging as two of the game's preeminent bell-cow backs.  Their impact on their respective offenses is part of the reason why draft pundits believe Penn State's Saquon Barkley could even be the first overall pick next year, even though we are six months away from the 2018 NFL Draft.

"Saquon Barkley will be the number one pick!" Gordon proudly predicted.

"Things go in cycles," Lynn added.  "The NFL is a passing league, now it's a running league, and you devalue certain positions. Some things just don't change. If you don't play good defensive football, you're not going to be there in the end. A lot of people went to the tandem back (recently) so now you don't have the one back. You use tandem backs, and you can get those guys in later rounds. That's some of the reasons why (less running backs go in the first round)."

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