RB Leonard Fournette | Jacksonville Jaguars | 2nd Year
2017 Stats: 268 carries, 1,040 yds, 9 TD, 36 rec., 302 yds, 1 TD
After being drafted fourth overall in 2017, Leonard Fournette arrived pretty much as advertised with a 100-yard game in Week 1 against the Houston Texans. He followed with two more 100-yard games on the ground through Week 6, with a touchdown in five of those six games while averaging 2.5 catches per game over that span.
But Fournette missed Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts with a right ankle issue, which bothered him the rest of the season. After Jacksonville’s Week 8 bye he was suspended for Week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals, then a quad issue kept him out Week 15 against the Houston Texans.
Fournette was hampered by foot and ankle issues at LSU, and his pre and post-ankle injury splits as a rookie were pretty drastic.
Over those first six games, Fournette averaged 4.6 yards per carry, while forcing a missed tackle on 19.2 percent of his carries (6th-best in the league over that span, via Pro Football Focus). After that, in the seven games he played, he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and forced a missed tackle on just six percent of his carries (last in the league over that span, via Pro Football Focus). Opposing defenses did not fear Blake Bortles, as Fournette faced eight or more defenders in the box on 49 percent of his carries last year (third-most in the league among running backs with at least 150 carries; per Next Gen Stats)
Fournett’e ability as a pass catcher was a question coming out of college, with just 41 receptions over his three seasons at LSU. But he proved to be plenty capable in that area as a rookie, with a 75 percent catch rate (36, on 48 targets) and at least three catches in eight games.
Projecting his 20.6 carries per game last year over a full 16 games, Fournette would have led the league in carries. Add in 3.7 targets per game, and even with three missed games he finished as RB9 last year in ESPN standard PPR scoring.
After weighing in at 240 pounds the 2017 NFL Combine, Fournette reported to Jaguars’ OTAs slimmer and followed that up by saying he wants to play at his college weight this year (223, 224 pounds). That should help him stay on the field, and bring back some explosiveness after averaging 3.9 yards per carry last season.
An already solid run-blocking offensive line in Jacksonville got better with the signing of guard Andrew Norwell. It also showed the commitment to a run-focused offense will continue, with Fournette as the centerpiece.
This side of Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell, Fournette looks like the surest bet among fantasy running backs this year. His workload will be robust and stable, and three missed games along with being hampered physically for half a season couldn’t prevent him from being a top-10 fantasy back last year.
With a fully healthy 16-game slate, Fournette could finish as the top-scoring fantasy running back this year. Even building a missed game into a projection, as I have, a top-10 finish in line with 2017 feels like the floor here.