Fournette-cation; what to make of the polarizing Leonard Fournette

Fournette-cation; what to make of the polarizing Leonard Fournette
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Leonard Fournette is one of the most polarizing players within the dynasty community (along with Corey Davis).


Scroll through twitter feeds / polls and you will see his stock is hurting badly. No longer is there the hype and anticipation that followed him after being drafted number 4 overall by the Jaguars in 2017. Instead Fournette has a stigma of being made of glass and terribly inefficient. A career average of 3.7 yards per carry will do that to you. And as for the glass part, missing 11 games in 2 seasons will do the trick on giving you the injury prone tag.

This article will tell the story of Leonard Fournette. Where he was, where he is and where I believe he is going. Is he worth drafting this year? Should we be selling in dynasty?

High School Career and No 1 Prospect

Fournette came into college with near unprecedented hype. He already possessed a stellar reputation as a 2 x USA today High School All American (2012,2013). This resulted in Fournette being named the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2014 class according to not only ESPN but also 247Sports.com and CBS sports.

Fournette was a beast in high school as seen above

College Career

Rookie year and hype

Fournette ultimately committed to LSU and the expectations and hype were high due to his amazing size/speed combination and his aggressive, violent running style. Fournette would become a star of college football although he started slow.

In his college Debut against a dogged Wisconsisn Badgers defense he managed a mere 18 yards on eight carries This lead to then LSU head coach Les Miles to downplay all the Fournette hype and expectations. He would go on to lead LSU in rushing yards in his rookie season with 1,034 yard. He had 5.5 YPC along with 127 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The following season, his sophomore year would simply be breathtaking.

Stellar Sophomore season

He set the single season records at LSU with 1,953 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. He led the country with 162.8 rushing yards per game. This resulted in accolades such as being a Consensus All-American in 2015, winning the NCAA rushing title, First team all SEC and finishing 6th in Heisman voting.

Fournette was hard to handle his sophomore year above

Injury plagued Junior season

Entering his junior season he was expected to contend for the Heisman Trophy. Fournette would go on to suffer an ankle injury prior to the start of the 2016 season that would go on to hinder him for most of the season.

He reinjured his ankle in the season opener against Wisconsin and went on to miss the next two games. Against fellow powerhouse and SEC rival Auburn he had a stellar 101 rushing yard performance but again reinjured his ankle, causing him to miss a further two games.

On his return from injury against Ole Miss, he set a single game school record for rushing yards, 284. He had three touchdowns in the game to go with the yards.

His ankle would trouble him for the rest of the season and caused him to miss even more games. When he did suit up he was still visibly debilitated by the ankle injury. His junior season of 129 rushes for 843 yard and eight touchdowns in a mere seven games would prove to be his last.

Fournette announced for the 2017 draft and he sat out the Citrus Bowl under his coaches instruction to avoid injury. Fournette finished his LSU career as the schools 4th all time rusher with 3,830 yards. His 40 rushing touchdowns are tied for third in the school’s history.

Fournette setting the LSU single game rushing record above. This record would fall a year later by 1 yard, to another talented but injury plagued running back, Derrius Guice.

NFL Combine / Draft

Much like coming out of high school, Fournette’s arrival into the NFL was greatly anticipated. He was highly touted as a top pick in the upcoming draft, he was ranked the third best prospect heading into the combine.

After entering the combine five pounds heavier than his playing weight, Fournette was very selective in his workouts. He chose to only participate in the 40 yard dash, running an impressive 4.51 at 240 lb. There was conjecture heading into the draft whether Fournette or Florida States Dalvin Cook was the number one running back in the class.

Fournette would be the first running back taken in the draft, at pick 4 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Alongside Ezekiel Elliot, they were, at the time, the highest drafted running backs since 2013.

Fournette running a blistering 4.51 at the combine above

Fournette’s Rookie Season

In his first NFL game he lived up to the hype, rushing for 100 yards on 26 carries, with a touchdown as the Jaguars beat the Texans. This endeared him to the fans from the get go. Week 5 saw Fournette stamp his authority on the NFL with an impressive 181 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns against the Steelers. This was followed up by another mighty performance against the Rams. In the Jaguars first possession of the game he took it 75 meters into the end zone. He finished the game with 130 yards on 21 carries, but also an ankle injury.

This recurring ankle injury from college led him to miss week 7. The Jags would have the bye in week 8. Controversy occurred in week 9, Fournette violated team rules and as a result he was declared inactive against the Bengals. This lead to speculation he has an attitude problem.

In total, Fournette had an impressive rookie campaign. Jacksonville made a surprising run to the to the playoffs and the AFC championship game. Thanks, in largely to the presence of a punishing defense and the production of Fournette. He finished with 1,040 rushing yards, 302 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns in 13 games. Fournette would be voted by his peers into NFL top 100 players of 2018, at number 58.

The ankle injury that Fournette had in college resurfaced in the NFL above

Fournette’s ankle injury has continued to linger above

Fournette made a mark when he was on the field his rookie year above

Sophomore Slump

Fournette would injure his hamstring against the Giants in the season opener. This caused him to miss two games. Upon his return in week 4 against the Jets he aggravated his hamstring and was ruled out indefinitely much to the displeasure of Jacksonville fans and his fantasy owners.

This new injury, coupled with last season’s ankle injury and his junior season at LSU lead many to label Fournette as the “glass man”. He went on to miss four games. Two games back from injury, Fournette was having his best game of the season, 95 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns against the Bills. During the third quarter Fournette was ejected from the game after having a fight with the Bills defender Shaq Lawson. The Jaguars went on to lose the match. He was slapped with a one game suspension and questions about his attitude and temperament again rose.

This suspension lead to the Jaguars voiding the remaining guarantees on his contract.

Fournette’s fight with Lawson above

Controversy again came Fournette’s way. In the side’s week 17 loss to the Texans where he was again inactive due to injury, he appeared disinterested on the sidelines. Jaguars executive Tom Coughlin released a statement calling Fournette ‘sefish and disrespectful’. This lead to speculation he was being put on the trading block.

He finished his disappointing sophomore season having missed as many games as he played for 439 rushing yards at a paltry 3.3 YPC, 185 receiving yards and 6 total touchdowns.

Following the injuries, the 3 incidents and the mediocre yards per carry (YPC), many are labelling Fournette a bust considering his lofty draft price (4th overall pick). There is no doubt the Jaguars regressed in his second season, leading to fewer opportunities.

Future Outlook

Fournette holds the NFL record as the youngest player with a rushing touchdown over 90 yards. The record is set at 22 years, 263 days. He is still only 24 years of age and has time to change the narrative of his bust label.

The hope is that with the free agent signing of Nick Foles, opponents won’t have the ability to stack the box and in turn see an increase in his rushing efficiency.

New offensive coorindator John DeFilippo prefers to pass the football than run it, leading to further speculation and hits on Fournette’s name. This would be a shift in the mentality of the Jaguars recent run first offense. It is worth considering that DeFilippo lost his last job (in Minnesota) for failing to run the football. I suspect DeFilippo has learned from this.

Jaguars still have the same head coach (Doug Marrone) that has fed Fournette the ball whenever he has been fit. Fournette is a capable pass catcher and should benefit from the new OC. With T.J Yeldon’s departure to Buffalo, there is no out and out pass catching back on the roster. Ryquell Armstead is an unproven 5th round pick, Alfred Blue was a flop in Texas and Thomas Rawls hasn’t been productive since 2015 with the Seahawks.

He is easily the best backs on the Jags roster. He will likely be on the field for a lot of third downs. Fournette should have the most receptions of his career this season. Fournette could realistically see 300 + touches in an improved offence. He must just stay injury free and not have any more off field issues. What will 2019 hold for this oft injured but talented player

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What will 2019 hold for this oft injured but talented player

Number Crunch

So, will we see more of the 2017 Leonard Fournette or the 2018 version?

Despite missing 3 games and averaging 3.9 YPC in his rookie season, Fournette still managed to finish as RB 7 in standard scoring leagues.

He has always been a high volume running back in a run first offense. While the 3.9 YPC (2017) and 3.3 YPC (2018) are concerning, they have been offset by a high volume. He has missed games in both seasons with injury so the safest assumption would be that he will not play in all 16 games.

Fournette finished as RB 37 in 2018, behind backs such as Dion Lewis, and Doug freaking Martin. Fournette did play half the games though so this statistic means as much as a grain of salt. If you look at a per game basis, Fournette’s sophomore season isn’t as dire as people and the dynasty community are making it out to be.

On a per game average he came in at running back 13, alongside David Johnson with 12.3 points per game in standard scoring leagues. This puts him ahead of the likes of Kerryon Johnson (10.7) and Dalvin Cook (10.2). That got your attention now didn’t it.

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Leonard Fournette outperformed Kerryon Johnson in fantasy on a per game basis in 2018

ADP

Dalvin Cook current ADP on fantasy pros is 19, RB 12. Fournette’s ADP is 10 spots later at 29, RB 15! Fournette is looking to be far greater value than Cook if solely going off 2018 points per game. If you factor in Fournette’s superior rookie season it’s a slam dunk decision! You don’t even need to mention that Fournette’s ankle and hamstring issues are less concerning than Cooks history of knee issues.

Yes, the injury concerns are real, I don’t think he will play a full season. I can however see the upside; no running back is bullet proof. Of the top 10 running backs last year in fantasy, only 3 managed a full 16 game season, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t believe I would be saying this prior to researching and writing this article, but I am targeting Leonard Fournette. It’s the NFL, injuries happen. I still place it as being unlucky as opposed to a predisposition to injury. That being said, fingers crossed to no more soft tissue injuries for him.

Whilst capable, he is not often seen as a pass catching back. Given the unimpressive depth the Jaguars have at running back, I believe he will be handling the third down role this season. This is another reason to get on board.

I won’t be avoiding Leonard Fournette and I believe you shouldn’t either. Hold in dynasty, just remember him running over everything in the SEC and his rookie season.

The risk is there, but every running back carries risk. Fournette will currently cost you a third-round pick in redraft. If he stays on the field you will have an RB 1, just like in his rookie season. Don’t be scared off and embrace the risk, the reward could be a championship.


Thanks for reading my article (turned out to be more of a tale lol) on Leonard Fournette, I hope you enjoyed the read. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @dynastyboyd and Instagram @boydkillingworth and you can find my other articles here.