Is the NFL really ‘really easy’ after playing in the SEC?

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Running back Leonard Fournette got his first taste of NFL action in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ preseason opener last week, and he found the transition from LSU to the pros “really easy.”

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft entered the Jaguars’ 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots on Jacksonville’s second offensive series. He got the football on his first four snaps, converting a fourth-and-1 with an 8-yard run.

Fournette was on the field for 12 snaps in the game. He ran for 31 yards on nine carries, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:57 left in the first half.

“It’s a lot slower than I really thought,” Fournette said after the game. “That’s how I’ve been since I first got into the NFL. A lot of people were like, ‘It’s going to be fast.’ But by me playing in the SEC, that kind of helped me a lot. I think to me it was really easy.”

While Fournette’s introduction to the NFL came in a preseason game in which the opponent didn’t play any of its defensive starters, some of his teammates who also were standouts in the SEC told ESPN’s Michael DiRocco that they agreed with Fournette’s assertion about being well-prepared for the NFL by their collegiate experience.

“I feel like he was kind of right,” running back T.J. Yeldon said. “Playing in the SEC, the game speeds up. It’s faster. It’s kind of like the NFL. The NFL is a tad bit faster. I get where he’s coming from with that comment.”


At LSU, Fournette ran for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns on 616 carries in 32 games. At Alabama, Yeldon ran for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns on 576 carries in 39 games.

Since joining the Jaguars as a second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Yeldon has run for 1,205 yards and three touchdowns on 312 carries and caught 86 passes for 591 yards and two TDs in 27 games.

Yeldon had two carries – one for a 4-yard gain and the other for a 4-yard loss – and caught a 4-yard pass against the Patriots on Thursday night.


Corey Grant, another former SEC running back with Jacksonville, ran for 120 yards on eight carries, including a 79-touchdown dash against New England.

 “I kind of feel the same way (as Fournette),” said Grant, who played at Auburn. “Coming from the SEC, it’s really a hard-nosed league. Pac-10, all those others conferences and stuff, they’re good and they’re physical and everything, but it’s just something about coming out of the SEC. You see a lot of guys who come out of the SEC, when they get into the league they kind of have success. I’m not going to say more success, but the majority are successful.”

Grant has run for 166 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries in 17 NFL games since earning a spot on the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie in 2015. He’s also returned 21 kickoffs for a 23.2-yard average.

While Fournette came in after Chris Ivory in Jacksonville’s backfield, the Jaguars’ second-round pick in April, offensive tackle Cam Robinson of Alabama, started and stayed on the field for 39 snaps – the second-most among Jacksonville’s offensive players – on Thursday night.

“I feel like what he was trying to say was the speed of the game we played in college, just the talent game in and game out that you’re going against, is so elite that the game is played at a fast pace,” Robinson told DiRocco. “So I think he was just meaning that when it came to the actual pace of the game that what we faced at college did a good job preparing us for what we see at this level right now.”

The Jaguars continue their preseason schedule on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ESPN will televise the game at 7 p.m. CDT.

Fournette has a foot injury that kept him out of practice on Sunday and Monday and “probably” won’t play against the Buccaneers, Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said.

“Obviously, we’re going to be smart with him,” Marrone said.

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