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How Will Leonard Fournette Perform in a Contract Year?

By Kevin English 9:07am EDT 7/31/20


What You Need To Know:

  • Fournette posted 341 touches in 2019 and missed only 1 game.
  • He struggled mightily to find the end zone, scoring only 3 total TDs.
  • While trade rumors followed Fournette into the offseason, he remains Jacksonville’s lead back. Just don’t expect anything close to another 100 targets following offseason upgrades.


Big volume, underwhelming results

Had you known before the season that Fournette would handle 341 touches across 15 games, you’d assume he posted elite totals. But playing on a subpar offense, that never happened.

Now, he wasn’t exactly a bust. Fournette ultimately finished as the RB7, due largely to a stunning 76 catches. His 100 targets ranked behind only Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Tarik Cohen.

Fournette simply couldn’t buy a TD. Only 4 RBs had more red zone carries (43), yet the 228-pounder managed 3 rushing TDs (and 0 through the air).

Individually, Fournette was strong. Per Pro Football Focus, he ranked 4th in yards after contact per attempt (3.34) among 21 RBs to play at least 50% of the snaps. (As expected for a back of his size.)

Among qualifiers, only 9 RBs saw a higher rate of 8+ man boxes than Fournette (31.7%). So his 4.3 yards per carry — a career-high, actually — looks solid.

He wasn’t helped much by the O-line; he averaged 1.4 yards before contact per attempt, a bottom-3 mark among 47 qualifiers.

In terms of availability, Fournette bounced back from a rough 2018. After playing only half of a season, he missed just the season finale with an illness/neck injury.


Clock ticking in Jacksonville

Unsurprisingly, the Jags declined Fournette’s 5th-year option. He’s essentially a lock to play elsewhere in 2021. He’s survived trade rumors to this point, though, which gives him a shot at one more workhorse season.

Nevertheless, there’s no chance he sees another 100 targets —not with rookie WR Laviska Shenault around and Chris Thompson added to the backfield. Shenault’s a catch-and-run specialist; Thompson brings injury risk but a history with OC Jay Gruden and 212 career catches.

Perhaps Ryquell Armstead mixes in a bit more on early downs, but we’d bet against him significantly biting into Fournette’s workload. Armstead saw only 35 carries as a rookie, with 10 coming in Week 17 with Fournette sidelined.

Naturally, Fournette should see a TD rebound. If we apply his career TD rate from 2017-2018 to 2019, he would have scored ~9 TDs. That’d have placed him top-10 among RBs.

Now he gets a full season of Gardner Minshew as the starter. He showed well as a 6th-round rookie, but a step forward is necessary to get this unit closer to league average. The 2019 Jags ranked 26th in total points, 20th in yards and 20th in yards per play.

This O-line is at least competent and returns all 5 starters. In fact, this unit played together throughout 2019, save for 2 missed games from LT Cam Robinson.

Jacksonville added OT Ben Bartch in Round 4 of the draft, although coming from a D-III school, he’s more of a developmental prospect.


Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Fournette, only 25, projects as Jacksonville’s workhorse back once again. There’s injury risk here, but that’ll be the case for anyone with the potential for another top 5 finish in touches.

Following trade rumors, there’s a question of how much the team really wants him. Yet here we are mid- summer — and Fournette’s still a Jaguar.

He's not our favorite Round 3 RB target, and our projections won't have him popping on MVP Boards. But a healthy Fournette looks no worse than a low-end RB2.


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