Leonard Fournette is proving to be one of the most pivotal players in 2019 fantasy drafts. With his third-round ADP, he’s one of the earliest “risk” players you need to make a choice on. Do you buy Fournette at his current ADP, or do you pass on him and let one of your league mates deal with the volatility?
Fournette was brutal last year. He limped his way to 439 total rushing yards on 133 attempts while once again battling injuries, leading to a 3.3 YPC that was tied for the third-worst among all RBs with at least 100 attempts last year. His -13.3 rushing points over expectation was the 11th-worst in the league, while he pitched in just 22 receptions.
However, entering 2019, there’s some newfound buzz surrounding Fournette. Local beat writers have been praising the third-year RB this offseason, and a lack of other viable backfield options means Fournette is primed for a huge role for the Jaguars.
But the question marks remain, and the sour taste from his sophomore season remains fresh. So how should you handle Fournette in 2019?
Should You Draft Leonard Fournette at His ADP?
Drafting Leonard Fournette in 2019 fantasy drafts is equivalent to buying a lotto ticket. The move could win you the league, but it could also completely sink a valuable pick.
Using the RotoViz Range of Outcomes app, we see that Fournette has an insane floor-ceiling combination for 2019:
Basically, this chart says it’s reasonable to expect Fournette to score anywhere from 8.3 PPG to 17.8 PPG in 2019. That’s a truly massive gap, and it doesn’t instill much confidence in Fournette’s outlook.
Fournette’s 2018 n+1 Comps Are All Over the Place
The reason for the extreme variance between his possible high (17.8 PPG) and low (8.3 PPG) performance is because his 2018 n+1 comps are a mixed bag.
Similar to his rookie season n+1 comps, Fournette’s 2018 n+1 comps are also all over the place. Here is the list of players that performed similarly to Fournette in 2018.1
The players at the top of this list are impressive. The players at the bottom … not so much.
Can Fournette break out like Todd Gurley did in 2017?
Three of his year n+1 comps2 averaged over 24.5 PPG — making them bonafide league-winners. One of those players was 2017 Todd Gurley, who had been largely written off after a disappointing second season. Sounds eerily similar to Fournette.
Gurley was revitalized in 2017 due to a new coach, an improved QB, and a newfound use in the passing game.3 Fournette doesn’t get a new head coach in 2019, but he does have a new offensive coordinator and an improved quarterback, and he should see plenty more action in the passing game.
Fournette is virtually guaranteed to see an uptick in receiving usage thanks to the departure of T.J. Yeldon. That leaves a clear vacancy of target opportunity which will benefit Fournette. Fournette did catch two passes for 19 yards in his only preseason action this season.
Additionally, four more of Fournette’s 2018 n+1 comps ended with a respectable 15-20 PPG. This is one reason that some in the fantasy community believe Fournette is one of the best picks at his current ADP.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, seven of Fournette’s top 20 n+1 comps averaged fewer than 10 PPG. But it’s important to note that none of his poor-performing comps were in the same situation as Fournette. None of his comps that averaged fewer than 10 PPG were bell-cow backs — and most of them weren’t even backs whose jobs were secure.
The ingredients are there for Fournette to have a breakout season.
Is Leonard Fournette worth a third-round pick?
There’s no doubt about Fournette’s potential: he is a lotto ticket that can outright win you your fantasy league in 2019.
Fournette does make Shawn Siegele’s list of RB land mines to avoid, which speaks to his downside comps and the fact that most lotto tickets earn nothing. But even Shawn acknowledged the significant upside:
Fournette sports a crazy collegiate track record with fleeting moments of greatness at the NFL level. He would be an exciting Zero RB flyer if he were going in the Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, or Miles Sanders range. After all, the breakout potential is there. Maybe Fournette is this year’s version of 2017 Gurley with Blake Bortles no longer at the helm.
His third-round ADP is not cheap, but it’s far better than gambling on a first- or second-round option. While his 2018 n+1 comps are all over the map, Fournette is not going anywhere in 2019, and the offense will largely run through him. This makes me trust his bell-cow n+1 comps more than those on the lower end of the spectrum. His ceiling is intriguing and likely enough that I’m comfortable paying for the risk that he hits his floor.