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Leonard Fournette: Fantasy Stud or Rookie Hype?

Leonard Fournette Jaguars
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Leonard Fournette Fantasy 2017

Most Fantasy Football owners fall victim to buying into at least a little pre-season hype. One of the players most hyped around fantasy circles so far in 2017 is Leonard Fournette.

When it comes to the discussion of where to draft the former LSU star, it seems fantasy owners are either buying too high, or too low. Fournette’s current ADP is on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Yahoo and ESPN mock draft lobbies.

According to Yahoo’s lobbies, as of May 18th, Fournette’s ADP is 54.5, while his ADP on ESPN on the same date sat at 23.4. That is a big difference when you think about the backs going higher or lower in drafts.

If you take the Jacksonville rookie at his current value on Yahoo, you take him ahead of backs such as Marshawn Lynch (63.7 ADP), Isiah Crowell (56.9 ADP) and Christian McCaffrey (65.6 ADP). Entering year one Fournette should match if not better all three backs’ stats during the 2017-2018 season depending on how involved McCaffrey is in Carolina’s aerial attack.

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On the other hand he is being drafted behind the likes of Jamaal Charles (53.6 ADP), Adrian Peterson (51.8 ADP) and LeGarrette Blount (48.5 ADP). Charles is in danger of not making the 53-man roster for the Broncos, Adrian Peterson will be competing for touches with Mark Ingram and LeGarrette Blount just signed with the Eagles, which is a good landing spot for his fantasy stock, but give me a younger Fournette in what could become a run-first offense in Jacksonville this season in an attempt to help develop the pass game.

In ESPN mock draft lobbies Fournette is in a logjam between the ending of the tier-2 running backs and the beginning of tier-3. The former Tiger is being selected just behind Todd Gurley, but one spot ahead of Lynch. This seems to be a more reasonable approach on where Fournette should fall in redraft leagues come August/September.

When it comes down to Dynasty leagues, there is no question. Fournette is an obvious number one overall pick in any format and has the potential to turn any franchise in the right direction pending Jacksonville using him properly.

The Jags have every reason to feature Fournette in a bell-cow role entering his freshman campaign. With his physical tools and size (detailed below), Fournette’s body is built for the NFL and he will make an immediate impact in Jacksonville’s struggling run game. In his sophomore year at LSU, Fournette put together the 34th best rushing season in NCAA history with 1,953 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. The 22 touchdowns tied him for the 59th best mark in NCAA history. Jacksonville invested a fourth-round pick in Fournette for a reason. After seeing unspectacular seasons from Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, the Jaguars front office is ready to move on.

Many have a man-crush on Fournette because of his size. The Louisiana bruiser registered in at 6 feet tall, 240 pounds at the NFL combine. Many NFL scouts compare Fournette’s running style and size to that of Adrian Peterson. Very high praise considering Peterson may go down as one of the greatest running backs in the league’s history. That alone has fantasy owners salivating, but another comparison will have many head over heels. Along with the Peterson connections, there are some that point to Fournette’s running style and body type and compare him to the Tecmo Bowl legend Bo Jackson. Talk about hype!

The Jaguars ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards last season. With Fournette on board Jacksonville sent a message it is looking to improve upon that ranking and in the process, help alleviates some of the pressure from struggling quarterback Blake Bortles after he finished as the 28th overall quarterback in terms of total Quarter Back Rating (QBR) last season. Both rankings are a reflection of how the Jaguars offense has failed to click, so this could be considered either a pro or a con when it comes to drafting Fournette in fantasy leagues.

As with any unproven rookie, Fournette comes with a bit of red tape. After injuring his ankle before his junior season even began, Fournette played in just seven games, but still finished his junior season with 843 yards and eight touchdowns, the lowest marks of his collegiate career. Ankle sprains are a common injury for a running back, but reoccurring ankle problems happen. Some even went as far to proclaim Fournette may need ankle surgery at some point in his career.

Football is a brutal sport and running backs take the most hits of any skill position player. The ankle doesn’t bother me when it comes to Fournette as much as the fact the Jaguars offensive line ranked 22nd among all NFL teams at the end of last season. In an effort to address this weakness, the Jags selected Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson with the 34th pick of the 2017 NFL draft. Many like the pick and it’s hard to argue considering Robinson competed against some of the toughest competition in NCAA football while at Alabama. He also is a durable lineman, not missing a snap while a member of the Crimson Tide.

One thing is for sure regardless if you are a fantasy owner buying or selling Fournette stock, the guy is built like a Mack truck and the Jaguars are ready to use him. He wasn’t drafted fourth overall to play second fiddle to Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon. At the absolute worst Fournette may be used strictly in first and second down situations with plenty of goal line work. Even if that is the scenario, somewhere around 1,078 yards and 8 touchdowns isn’t hard to imagine. While that may be the floor for Fournette, he may be able to achieve a Rookie of the Year stat line such as 1,247 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

With Jacksonville rushing for just 1,631 last season as a team to go along with eight touchdowns, the probability of Fournette going for the aforementioned ROY numbers seems a bit of a stretch. If Fournette does hit the numbers mentioned first, 1,078 rushing yards to go with 8 touchdowns, plus another 120 yards and a modest 2 scores through the air, those numbers would have made him the 12th-best fantasy running back last season, one spot behind Jay Ajayi and one ahead of Frank Gore. In ESPN leagues he is coming off the board as the 11th running back drafted.

 

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About the author

Ethan Lillard

Ethan Lillard

Ethan is a lifelong sports fan and has been involved in sports for as long as he can remember. He played football in high school and was a part of two Class 3A State Championship football teams in Illinois at Illini West High School. He is currently the sports editor at the Hancock County Journal-Pilot in Carthage, IL and is trying to get more involved in fantasy and professional sports journalism. Ethan has played fantasy football since he was 14 years old and considers himself an admitted fantasy addict, but sees no problem with this. He competes annually in fantasy football, basketball and baseball leagues with his friends and has even accomplished a three-peat in one of his football leagues, winning three-straight seasons. He nearly had another three-peat in the same span in another league, but got third in 2015. Writing about and covering sports is his passion. After entering the sports journalism field in 2015, Ethan knew covering sports was his calling and will never turn back.

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