Did you know that Leonard Fournette rushed for 100 or more yards in five different games last season? He also scored a rushing touchdown in eight different games. Fournette has the potential to finish 2018 as a top-three fantasy running back in 2018.
EXPLOSIVE ROOKIE SEASON
Fournette finished last season as the RB8 in PPR formats, averaging 17.7 fantasy points per game. Neil Dutton did an excellent job providing our readers with some historical comparables for Fournette’s rookie season.
Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Mark Ingram, Jordan Howard, and Melvin Gordon were the only RBs to rush for more yards than Fournette in 2017. This group averaged 15.7 games played. Fournette played in 13 games last season and had a rushing attempt on 48 percent of his 564 snaps. The only other RB who played 500 or more snaps with this high of a rush percentage was Howard (48 percent).
Fournette was also more active and more successful as a receiver than many expected.
He was targeted on nine percent of the passing plays, and although T.J. Yeldon really came on as a receiver down the stretch, the more efficient Fournette (7.1 reFPOE) has room to expand his receiving volume. Even with an elite defense and strong running game, the Jaguars placed in the top 10 for RB targets.
They won’t be the Saints any time soon, but there’s enough volume in this passing game for Fournette to thrive as a hybrid player.1
THE JAGUARS NEW OFFENSIVE IDENTITY
The Jaguars’ offensive identity changed once they drafted Fournette in the 2017. Jacksonville led the NFL in rushing attempts by RBs (29 per game) and finished a close second to the hyper-efficient Saints in RB rushing yards (120.5). The signing of offensive guard Andrew Norwell should help continue this trend. He helped the Panthers rank in the top 10 in rushing yards the last four seasons and graded out very well last season as a run blocker and pass protector according to Pro Football Focus.
THE JAGUARS STOUT DEFENSE
The Jaguars defense allowed the third-fewest yards per game (301.6), third-fewest points per game (17.7), and tied the Steelers and Vikings for third-fewest first downs per game (17.2).
A stout defense creates additional possessions for the Jaguars offense. It also places them in an envious position of not having to abandon their offensive identity. Fournette should continue to see positive game flow this season. The Jaguars ranked fifth in average time of possession (31:31) in 2017.
The Jaguars defense has most of their key players returning in 2018. They also have numerous picks in the NFL draft to fill any additional potential defensive gaps. This unit will be in a great position to repeat their dominance from last season.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
It’s easy to underestimate the growth rookies make between their first and second seasons. Fournette will be more adjusted to the speed of the NFL and have an offseason of NFL conditioning under his belt. Improved durability would be a big deal for Fournette who was considered a medium injury risk according to Sports Injury Predictor heading into 2017.
All of these RBs are currently being drafted ahead of Fournette in 12-team PPR leagues according to Fantasy Football Calculator. He is currently being drafted as the RB8. Imagine being able to draft Fournette late in the first round and then follow that up with Julio Jones or Michael Thomas in the second. He is in a great position to outperform his current ADP.
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- The Jaguars had more RB targets than the Cardinals (David Johnson), the Steelers (Le’Veon Bell), or the Rams (Todd Gurley). Fournette should finish well below all of these runners in receiving points, but the team volume is there for a mini-breakout. (back)