Leonard Fournette, A Reason To Worry?
Jacksonville’s first round rookie running back was a big question mark entering the 2017 season, but fantasy owners bet on the raw skill and opportunity. A final stat line of 268 carries for 1,040 yards and 36 catches for 302 yards (10 combined TDs) shows that the confidence was not misplaced. Despite missing 3 games due to minor injuries, Fournette finished as the RB9 in PPR leagues, and even higher in standard scoring.
Interestingly enough, the narrative this off season has been surrounding his sub par yard per carry numbers. The 3.9 may seem hardly worth talking about, but under the surface is hiding a more difficult monster to qualify. Aside from two big runs in week 5 and week 6, Fournette actually averaged a 3.2 yard per carry mark in 2017.
Now, one must ask, is this issue systemic? Can Blake Bortles perform like he did over the last 6 or so weeks of the season or will Fournette have to deal with stacked boxes every game? Can the new Jacksonville receiving corps of Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins help enough to draw attention?
In the end it may not even matter. It’s very likely that Fournette’s volume will overcome any inefficiencies he’ll have on the ground. If he averages 18 rushes a game, even a sub 4 yard per carry mark isn’t enough to dissuade me from drafting him. If his quest to become a better back this off season does help him improve the bottom line, he could be a top 3 back.
While I may not be willing to draft him before guys like Bell or Gurley, Fournette is a very safe back to select at the end of the first round. I personally expect a better year from the workhorse, and when you consider he was already an RB1, the potential is scary.