The expectations are high for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, but he will have to beat out his rookie peers if he wants NFL honors.
In looking a the 2017 NFL Draft, there are a handful of running backs that could put up a fight against Leonard Fournette’s potential dominance. Not least of which are Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and Joe Mixon.
While the Jacksonville Jaguars simply want Fournette to balance the offense, those of us watching the broader NFL know that all four of those running backs will be compared against each other going forward. Fournette could be the generational talent among them, but that doesn’t mean he will beat them out immediately (or that there are any guarantees in the NFL).
Even if Fournette really is that good, he will have to work hard to prove it. In ESPN’s Dan Graziano’s recent post on the 99 people to shape the NFL’s 2017 season, Fournette is paired against McCaffrey, Mixon, and Cook as potential offensive rookie of the year candidates. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is thrown in there for a good mix.
All five of those players will be relied upon by their respective teams. Yet Fournette continues to rise to the top in the discussions. Nothing is proven right now and it is all friendly speculation in the offseason, but there’s a reason he’s considered the top talent. Turning to Erik Lambert of NFL Mocks, in writing that Fournette will be the best rookie at his position, he notes:
"More from Black and TealJacksonville Jaguars keep QB room together, re-sign CJ BeathardJaguars fortify OL with Jaelyn Duncan in CBS Sports’ 2023 NFL Mock DraftThe Jacksonville Jaguars are the best team in Florida nowJaguars: Trevor Lawrence can become one of the best in the worldJacksonville Jaguars RT Jawaan Taylor projected to sign with Broncos in 2023 NFL free agencyFournette is ready to play right away and doesn’t have a lot of competition to deal with. Best of all the Jaguars have done a smart job preparing for his arrival. They added veteran left tackle Branden Albert via trade and then secured big Alabama blocker Cam Robinson in the 2nd round of the draft. Both should be a big help opening lanes on the ground. If Jacksonville commits to handing him the football and the receivers remain the threats they are, then Fournette should excel."
A pairing of opportunities and ability make Fournette a logical option as someone who can take away some awards at the end of 2017. That could well include offensive rookie of the year honors.
Don’t write off his competition just yet, but don’t be shocked if we se Fournette start to rise early and put in a consistent season that draws eyes to Jacksonville.