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2017 NFL Draft Reaction: Leonard Fournette Goes to the Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette was drafted fourth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, as new coach Doug Marrone will look to bring in a dominant running back to become the face of his team’s offense. At 240 pounds, Fournette is a huge back with elite speed for someone of his size who will bring a physical presence to the offense.

Fantasy wise, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory suffer the most from this draft selection. After being selected this high, Fournette should see the majority of the work out of the backfield, meaning the other two likely offer little to no fantasy value. The pick may also signal a turn towards a more run-heavy offense, which may limit the upside of players like Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marquise Lee.

We’ll get to more of that in a minute. But first, we take a comprehensive look at your new Jacksonville Jaguars RB, Leonard Fournette.

Leonard Fournette, LSU, 6-3, 240

21.9 240 4.51 7.4** 18.4 120.4 1.1 2.1 72
MS CarriesMS Rush YardsMS Rush TD

While his market share and raw numbers were down due to a nagging ankle injury, Fournette had a superb 2015 season. He was a Heisman finalist who truly dominated his competition, and this season is really what cemented him as a sure-fire first-round pick in the minds of many scouts.

From 2017 NFL Draft Prospect: Leonard Fournette:

In 2015, Fournette had a spectacular season, rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns on 300 carries (6.5 YPC). That translates to 63 percent of his team’s rushing yards and 61 percent of his team’s rushing touchdowns, for a rushing dominator rating of 0.62. There’s not many other players who have been able to put up these numbers

Now let’s see how Fournette compares to other backs using the Box Score Scout:

fournette bss

Fournette has excellent comps, including many of the top backs in the NFL. While there are a few busts on the list, overall these comps are extremely encouraging. One thing to note is that he is well over 10 pounds heavier than most of these comps, making it hard to narrow down a physical comparison for him. Let’s look at Fournette’s outlook in both the short and the long term, and the impact he’ll have on the Jaguars offense as a whole.

Fournette ranked third overall and first among running backs in the latest RotoViz Scouting Index and was ranked as the second running back among our writers. It’s rare that a running back goes in the top five of the draft, as only nine have been selected that high since 2000. Here’s how each of them fared their rookie years:

Ezekiel Elliott201621DAL1532216315.071532363
Jamal Lewis200021BAL1630913644.41627296
LaDainian Tomlinson200122SDG1633912363.651059367
Cadillac Williams200523TAM1429011784.0662081
Trent Richardson201222CLE152679503.561151367
Ronnie Brown200524MIA152079074.38432232
Reggie Bush200621NOR161555653.65688742
Darren McFadden200821OAK131134994.42429285
Cedric Benson200523CHI9672724.06013

Not too bad! Cedric Benson barely played as a rookie, while Bush and McFadden each started eight games or less. Every back that received at least 200 carries1 had a solid floor of at least 900 yards, four touchdowns, and 20 receptions.

This season, I expect Fournette to primarily serve as the Jaguars workhorse back. He may cede some third-down work to Yeldon, but he should see the majority of the carries, and most importantly, for fantasy purposes, get a bunch of red zone carries as well. It remains to be seen just how often the Jags are able to reach the red zone, which may limit his touchdown upside, but I’d expect him to easily top that four- touchdown barometer mentioned above.

In terms of how this affects the rest of the offense, I expect the Jags to run the ball more. Blake Bortles’ passing attempts should dip some, meaning fewer targets for Robinson, Hurns, and Lee. But trading tight end Julius Thomas to the Dolphins could mitigate the loss of targets for these receivers, and I don’t think their numbers are impacted all that much.

Long term, Fournette is likely in the conversation as one of the top running backs in the league. After Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson, it’s anyone’s guess as to who the next best back is. Expect for Fournette’s dynasty ADP to be that of a top five to ten running back, likely in the third round of drafts. Expect him to be taken in the top two to three picks of rookie drafts because of his high draft capital and highlights like these:

Additional Research

Running Backs – The RB Success Model – Using age, production, and combine measurables, Cole builds on earlier regression tree analysis to build a model that predicts success within the first three years of a player’s NFL career. Odds of success are given for 28 RBs from the 2017 NFL draft class, along with commentary on the more prominent names.

Find the rest of our 2017 NFL draft coverage here.

  1. Which, barring injury, Fournette should accomplish.  (back)

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