Either Or: Fournette or Marlon Mack?

fournetteWhen it comes to making a decision in a big spot, I generally feel that “going with your gut” is an easy way to avoid overthinking a pick. If you’re drafting late in the third, though, you may want to stop and think for a moment before making your pick.

This particular “Either Or?” Article came about during my research into Leonard Fournette. There has been no shortage of rumblings about the much-maligned former first round pick, and it seems that my opinion on the player is ever changing. With this in mind, I found myself mocking the first four rounds to see how many draft positions would be impacted by Fournette, and I found myself questioning my early fade on the Jacksonville Jaguars running back.

For the sake of argument, I drafted from the 7th spot, and went wide receiver heavy in the first two rounds. This was in part to set up the conversation we’re about to have; who do I target as my RB2 in the fourth round.

I went D. Adams and J. Jones at 1.07 and 2.04, leaving me with a pretty easy decision in the 3rd round to take Kansas City starting RB Damien Williams as my top RB option. I understand there are questions there, but the opportunity he has to be the top back in one of the leagues best offenses makes him a much safer play here than it may seem otherwise.

In the fourth round, I’m presented with the question of the day. Do we take Fournette as our RB2? These are the backs available to me at this point in the draft (4.04):

  • Marlon Mack (RB 14)
  • Leonard Fournette (RB15)
  • Devonta Freeman (RB17)
  • Kerryon Johnson (RB 19)

Considering what I’m trying to do with this draft strategy, I have a pretty good group of backs here to fill out my core. I’ll remove Kerryon from consideration, and this despite my love for the player… his comments about not being a workhorse back and the Lions insistence involving less talented backs in both the rushing game and through the air make me think his ceiling is moderate compared to the others here.

Devonta Freeman

There’s few backs that illicit the kind of love/hate reaction that Devonta Freeman seems to be receiving lately, and that’s simply because of his injury history. Some point to the departure of Tevin Coleman to suggest that Freeman will resume his three down workload, but there’s no evidence that the team is expecting Freeman to carry a huge workload. Ito Smith filled in admirably last year and should be used to spell the aging Freeman in an attempt to keep him healthy. Couple that with the history Dirk Koetters’ offenses have of burying their running backs, and you can see how I’m not convinced that Freeman can bounce back in any capacity in 2019.

That leaves the real decision; Marlon Mack or Leonard Fournette?

Mack, of course, is an interesting case. After being selected in the fourth round in 2017 NFL draft by the Colts, he missed significant portions of his rookie year due to injuries, and continued that trend only playing in 12 games last year (starting 10). Still, he profiled as an above average NFL starter, and his workout metrics painted a picture of a solid running back who’s only knock was his lack of usage in the passing game at UCF. That trend has continued into his NFL career as he’s taken a back seat on passing downs to Nyeim Hines, but that didn’t keep him from rushing for 908 yards on only 195 touches in 2018.

I expect his usage to increase on the ground in 2019, and a rushing total of 250 is a good start. Even slight regression in efficiency leaves me projecting 1,100 yards a 9-11 TDs. He’ll be a valuable fantasy asset despite a low receiving total (think in the 20 reception range), which makes this decision difficult.

Fournette on the other hand, has shown a decided lack of durability since being selected fourth overall in the same 2017 draft. Considered at the time more of a generational talent, Fournette was considered a can’t-miss fantasy prospect, and while he started off strong, he finished with disappointing results. His 3.9 yards per carry number and inability to fight off a lingering injury were the tip of the iceberg.

Off the field issues crept into the picture, and his 2018 was a mess of bad publicity and worse play on the field. He regressed to 3.3 yards per carry, and missed 8 games for a litany of reasons. Still, the pedigree that saw him drafted that high is lurking, and despite having major question marks, feels like a value in the fourth round in 2019.

The Decision: Leonard Fournette

Marlon Mack is a fine player, and we’d be happy with him here if that’s how the draft shook out, but in the fourth round, a player like Leonard Fournette could win you your league. Despite T.J. Yeldon being the primary pass catcher, Fournette managed nearly 3.5 targets per game. Already we’re hearing Jaguars beat writers suggesting that Fournette may be more involved in the passing game in 2019. Even if he has a modest uptick in targets, you’re talking 60-70 targets in a full season. That’s a ceiling that even Mack can’t match. If the reports are true and a motivated Fournette is looking for make up for lost time, he may be an absolute steal at his current ADP, and if you’re trying to fill out your starting RB group after going WR heavy early on, Fournette may be worth a gamble.

Posted on June 18, 2019, in draft strategy, Fantasy Football, Player Articles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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