Could Leonard Fournette take a step back in his sophomore season with the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a rare breed on offense in today’s game. Contrary to the “passing league” that the NFL has been branded as, the Jaguars stick to their guns with a physical run-first mentality.
That was evident when the team chose running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, to be the workhorse, featured back in Jacksonville’s offense. And in that 2017 rookie campaign, Fournette’s opening chapter was a strong one, as he surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground and scored 13 touchdowns, despite missing three games.
It would appear that the course has been set for the running back to become a franchise great, but could the now second-year star actually have a less than desirable year in 2018?
Michael Beller, of Sports Illustrated’s ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’, went through three categories pertaining to fantasy football: Breakouts, Sleepers, and Busts for the upcoming season. For players in the busts section, the first player Beller lists is, in fact, Leonard Fournette:
"LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB, JAGUARSFootball Outsiders tracks a stat it calls success rate. A play is considered a success for a running back if he gains 40% of the yards needed to move the chains on first down, 60% of the needed yards on second down and 100% on third and fourth down. Among the 47 backs with at least 100 carries, Fournette ranked 37th in success rate. He offers as little value as a receiver as possible for a workhorse back, and he has missed significant time in both of the last two years—one with the Jaguars and one at LSU—due to injury."
Though I’m not nearly concerned as others, whether it’s fair or not, because of the consecutive seasons with multiple games missed due to injury, the cloud of doubt about Fournette’s durability will hover until proven not an issue.
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If you watched the Jaguars at all last season, that success rate stat is actually not entirely a surprise, though not solely Fournette’s fault. Despite Jacksonville leading the league in rushing yards per game in 2017, far too many runs between the tackles went for little or no gain, and the Jaguars offense faced a significant amount of eight man fronts.
But the front office made a crucial move this offseason in reducing minimal yardage run plays with the signing of Andrew Norwell. Norwell will play at left guard, and should immediately improve the power run game for the Jaguars.
Expectations are high for Leonard Fournette in year two. But Fournette is poised to continue to produce for the offense, and I would be shocked if the running back doesn’t at the bare minimum reach his output of last season.