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Leonard Fournette's 2018 Fantasy Football Outlook

By Jared Smola 1:06pm EDT 6/11/18

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What You Need to Know:

  • Fournette averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and missed 3 games (2 with injury, 1 on suspension) as a rookie last year.
  • He still finished 10th among RBs in PPR points and 8th in non-PPR thanks to big volume.
  • Only Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott racked up more carries and touches per game last season.
  • Fournette will have volume on his side again this year as the feature back in a run-first offense.

2017 struggles

There are reasons to be worried about Fournette heading into 2018. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year — 30th among 47 RBs with 100+ attempts. And that came behind an offensive line that ranked 13th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards.

Football Outsiders ranked Fournette a decent 17th among 47 RBs in their DVOA. Pro Football Focus was less kind, grading him 31st out of 51 RBs in rushing. Per PFF, Fournette ranked just 37th in yards after contact per carry and 36th in tackles avoided per carry.

Injury concerns

Then there’s the durability problem. A left foot issue forced him to miss a couple of weeks in August. He sprained his ankle in Week 6 and was sidelined for the following game. And he missed Week 15 with a quad injury.

That all followed a 2016 season at LSU that saw him deal with a nagging ankle issue. Fournette aggravated it 3 separate times and missed 6 games. He later said it was a high-ankle sprain and a bone bruise.

It’s also worth noting that Fournette missed a 3rd game this past season for violating team rules. He wasn’t considered a character concern entering the league, but it’s something to monitor going forward.

Fantasy production

Of course, none of these issues stopped Fournette from producing for fantasy owners as a rookie. He finished 10th among RBs in total PPR points and 8th in non-PPR. In points per game, he climbed to 8th in PPR and 5th in non.

Volume was the big driver. Fournette’s 268 carries ranked 7th league-wide. Only Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell finished with more carries per game than Fournette’s 20.6. He reached 20 carries 7 times and dipped below 17 in just 2 of his 13 outings.

Fournette was also boosted by tying for 3rd with 9 rushing scores. He was efficient near the goal line, converting 6 of 9 carries inside the 5-yard line into TDs. His other scores came from 5, 75 and 90 yards out.

Fournette also chipped in as a receiver. He finished among the top 22 RBs in targets (48), catches (32) and receiving yards (302). His 304 total touches ranked 6th, and his 23.4 touches per game were good for 3rd.

2018 outlook

That big volume should be there again in 2018. The Jaguars invested the 4th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft in Fournette, so they’re not about to go away from him after 1 year of subpar efficiency. In fact, Jacksonville added nothing to the backfield this offseason after losing last year’s #2 RB, Chris Ivory, to Buffalo. So Fournette might see an even bigger slice of the ball-carrying pie this year.

It’s plenty possible that we also get a jump in efficiency. Fournette was a stud at LSU, ripping off 6.2 yards per carry on 616 career attempts. He’s a rocked-up 6’1, 228-pounder with 4.5 speed.

And it seems like that ankle injury curtailed his production last year. He averaged a strong 4.6 yards per carry on 130 attempts through his first 6 games. That plummeted to 3.2 yards per carry on 138 attempts over his final 7 outings.

Fournette will again benefit from running behind a strong offensive line. Jacksonville returns 4 of 5 starters from that 2017 unit that ranked 13th in Adjusted Line Yards. The new starter is big free-agent addition Andrew Norwell, who finished 8th among 77 Gs in Pro Football Focus’ 2017 run-blocking grades.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Fournette’s rookie season certainly wasn’t without flaws. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, missed 2 games with injuries and another on suspension for violating team rules.

Yet he still finished 10th among RBs in PPR points and 8th in non-PPR. That’s the power of volume in fantasy football. Only Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott racked up more carries and total touches per game last year.

Volume will be on Fournette’s side again in 2018 as the clear feature back for a run-first offense. That lays a sturdy weekly floor. And the ceiling extends beyond what we saw last year if he can improve his efficiency.

Durability is the risk here — although you can say that about most RBs. As long as he’s healthy, Fournette is a safe bet to produce RB1 numbers for your fantasy squad.

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