Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
(percentile rank among all RBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.50 (65th)
20-yard shuttle: DNP
You know the name, and you’ve probably seen the highlights. But let’s get a deeper understanding of this polarizing prospect.
Fournette entered college as 1 of the most hyped players to ever come out of Louisiana. Landing at LSU, he met lofty expectations.
After a solid debut, Fournette really popped as a sophomore. His 1,953 yards ranked 3rd across all of Division I-A. His 24 rushing TDs were enough to rank 4th. And he really turned heads as a tackle-breaking machine — Pro Football Focus credited him with 85 forced missed tackles. No RB topped that number in 2015.
While Fournette remained efficient in 2016, he battled a pesky left ankle injury from preseason camp. He aggravated the ankle 3 times in-season, forcing 4 absences. A 5th arrived when he sat out the Citrus Bowl, but we later learned that was a decision made by HC Ed Orgeron.
Fournette provided clarity on the injury in January.
“My ankle is doing fine. It’s not affecting my training," he said via Bleacher Report. "I had a high- and low-ankle sprain and a bone bruise in the fall during [camp], before the season and like the doctor said, if I would have stayed out a couple more weeks following the beginning of the season, my ankle would have been healed properly in time. All it needed was time. The doc's rehab has been good, and I’m doing fine.”
Fournette exits LSU with 616 attempts for 3,830 yards and 40 TDs. He posted at least 4.8 YPC vs. 16 of the 18 teams he faced, with Alabama (57 attempts) and Kentucky (15 attempts) providing the exceptions. Fournette added a 41-526-1 career receiving line.
Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com
Games watched - Mississippi St. (2015), Syracuse (2015), Alabama (2015), Texas Tech (2015), Auburn (2015), Eastern Michigan (2015), Arkansas (2015), Western Kentucky (2015), Wisconsin, Mississippi St., Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas
Durability is perhaps Fournette’s biggest question mark going forward. This 240-pounder runs with unmistakable aggression, either on handoffs or dump-offs. And sometimes, it’s just not fair — especially for DBs. (The 2 clips below are borderline criminal.)
One note on Fournette’s receiving ability, though. While he’s proven efficient on a per catch basis, Pro Football Focus has charted him with 8 drops on 48 career “catchable” targets. Unless Fournette blossoms into an Adrian Peterson-like rusher (which might be in his range of outcomes), improving in the pass game is critical to maximizing fantasy output.
Fournette didn’t just punish DBs — he dished out the pain for LBs as well.
The clip below doesn’t have the flair of the first 3, but consider this: Fournette makes contact with DL Chris Jones — the Chiefs’ solid 2nd round pick last April and a behemoth at 310 pounds. Fournette drags him for a couple of yards before getting help from a lineman. It’s further proof of his raw power and leg strength.
Despite a massive frame, Fournette still showed breakaway speed. From 2015-2016, he posted 6 runs of 60+ yards (plus another that went for 59 yards).
As with most young RBs, vision is an area where Fournette can improve. Note the pulling lineman in the clip below. Instead of following the big fellas around the edge, Fournette rams it into a crowd for a short gain.
Fournette doesn’t have the stop-start quicks or lateral agility of fellow prospect Dalvin Cook, who’s roughly 20 pounds lighter. In the next clip, he avoids contact at the LOS but appears to stumble as he moves laterally. We also see his nasty spin move here, one that popped up in several other runs.
He’s big. He’s fast. He produced in a major college conference. Unless injuries strike, Fournette should produce at the NFL level. His pro team will certainly utilize him near the goal line, adding major fantasy appeal.
However, whether he hits his fantasy ceiling will likely come down to pass game production. He’ll need to improve his catching ability and route running. But at 240 pounds, he has the size to become a strong pass protector and perhaps blossom into a 3-down contributor.