This piece of writing is going to hurt my soul and hurl my remaining brain cells right down a metaphorical volcano. Perhaps it’s the thin Colorado air at over 9,000 feet above altitude or the activities that are legal here, but I am starting to see myself drafting Leonard Fournette this season. If you read my preseason stuff or listened to the podcast last season, you know that I faded Fournette and made fun of his YPC and lack of production every week that the yards weren’t there. Every time he was listed as questionable or was ruled out Sunday Morning, I was thankful that it wasn’t my problem. The thing is there were not a lot of owners who were upset by the results when it was all said and done. He also looked like a pretty serviceable work horse in the playoffs. There were things to not like last year when it came to Fournette, but damnit, there is some promise for fantasy owners going into 2018.
The Jaguars offense is not going to change much. There weren’t personnel changes in the off season that told me that the Jaguars were going to become more of a passing team or a split backfield. After all, Blake Bortles will almost certainly return under center this season. The Jags didn’t draft one of the highly talented available running backs in the later rounds and they also let Chris Ivory walk. The Jaguars also let Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns walk and replaced them with DJ Chark from LSU in the second round of the NFL draft. A little side note, the Jags have quietly built a decent receiving corps by adding Chark, Donte Moncrief, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the already rostered Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole. There are not stand out superstars lining up on the outside yet, but there is definitely depth to be proud of.
The simple fact is, the Jaguars don’t have to throw the ball 35-40 times a game to win. Jacksonville arguably has the best defense in the league that will keep them in games and that will allow Blake Bortles to manage series. On a majority of weeks, that’s probably all that he will have to do. Should the Jaguars take more chances through the air on first down? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that they will.
Volume is the name of the game. Fournette carried the ball 268 times last year making him the definition of a work horse. During the regular season he only caught 9 balls, but if you take a look at the playoff box scores, he caught 7 balls in the three games that the Jaguars played. It was definitely not all roses. I mentioned earlier that Fournette’s YPC wasn’t up to snuff and he averaged just 3.9 per tote. Fournette did rush for over 1,000 yards, but a large chunk of that total came from big carries of 90 and 75 yards. According to Warren Sharp, 50% of his carries went for two or less yards ranking him 25th among 28 qualifying running backs with 175 carries or more. With all of that said, Fournette still finished as RB8 and scored nine touchdowns.
The touchdown total is absolutely repeatable. In the 14 games that Fournette played, he touched the ball 44 times in the red zone with 17 of those carries coming inside of the 5 yard line. According to Fantasy Pros, Fournette will have the 7th easiest schedule for running backs in the NFL in 2018. That is very promising knowledge to have in the bag when looking into a player who should only improve as he goes into his 2nd season. Fantasy players should also be thrilled that the Jaguars also added Andrew Norwell from the Panthers to play guard in 2018. That is a great addition for the interior and the man who will be running behind it.
With this high of a floor, Fournette is the 8th running back coming off of the board and 10th overall according to current ADP data. Keep in mind when drafting Fournette, it is a good idea to handcuff him with Corey Grant, but I digress. The biggest part of the Jaguars offense is being drafted behind Alvin Kamara, who has a slim chance of repeating what he did last season and Saquon Barkley who hasn’t played a down in the pros. I’m thrilled to get a workload like Fournette will receive in the back half of the first round. Leonard Fournette was tied for 3rd with Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard with 5 games of at least 100 rushing yards last season. So why Fournette instead of Howard a round later? The Bears offense is changing and Tarik Cohen will be in the mix. Leonard Fournette has another chance to write his own success story.