Leonard Joseph Fournette III is 25 years old and was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Fournette grew up in the seventh ward, a known troubled area affected by violence and gang activity, especially after Hurricane Katrina.
Fournette credited Katrina as jumpstarting his football career after he moved to Houston and then back again within one year because of the hurricane evacuation. He played football at Saint Augustine high school and also competed in track and field.
Fournette started since his freshman year in high school and compiled 7,619 rushing yards and 88 touchdowns over his four-year career. He was the first-ever freshman to earn a scholarship offer from LSU after he ran for 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns in his freshman season in high school. Beast!
He won the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior in high school and participated in the Under Armour All-American game. He was considered the best running back prospect of his class, and ESPN ranked him number one in 2014.
He chose to attend Louisiana State University (LSU), and hyped as “the next Adrian Peterson.” In 13 games as a freshman, Fournette rushed 187 times for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns, catching 7 passes for 127 yards.
In his sophomore season, he rushed for 271 times for 1,953 yards, impressive 6.4 yards per carry and 22 touchdowns, chipping in 18 receptions for 209 yards and one touchdown, despite only playing in 11 games.
In his final year at LSU, Fournette struggled with injuries, suffering a grade 2 ankle sprain in August that caused him to miss a total of six games throughout the season. Less than a month later, he suffered a knee bruise, which held him out of another game.
In total, he rushed 129 times for 843 yards, 6.5 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns, chipping in 15 receptions for 146 yards. Fournette finished his college career rushing for 3,830 yards, the fourth most by an LSU player, in only three years.
Coming out of college, Fournette was expected to be a top 10 pick and eventually measured 6’ ½” tall and 240 pounds, running 4.51-second 40-yard dash. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fournette’s rookie season in the NFL did not start according to plan. Reportedly someone stepped on his left foot, causing him to miss the final three preseason games but managed to start in week one. Then in mid-October, he missed a game with an ankle sprain. Finally, in December, he was out a second game after suffering a quadriceps bruise.
Fournette finished the season playing 13 games rushing 168 times, 1,040 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes for 302 yards and another score.
In 2018, Fournette injured his hamstring in week one. Unfortunately, he did not allow this injury to heal correctly, and after attempting to return only two weeks later, he re-aggravated the injury and was ruled out indefinitely.
He ended up missing 4 more games and finally returned in Week 10 after the Week 9 bye. He missed essentially 8 games because of an injury that should have only cost him four. Fournette only averaged 3.3 yards per carry over 133 carries, rushing 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 185 yards and one score—a disappointing second NFL season.
There were mixed expectations for Fournette entering the 2019 season as people didn’t know what to expect after missing most of the 2018 season with injury. He was expecting to bounce back after struggling with the hamstring injury throughout the majority of his 2018 season. Fournette did just that, playing in 15 games, rushing 165 times for 1,152 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, but he only managed 3 touchdowns. He did catch 76 passes for 522 yards. He missed the final game of the season with a neck strain.
Let’s review Fournette’s injuries. He seems to be plagued with lower leg injuries over his career. I (Dr. Morse) was unable to track down any injury information regarding his 2015 season (he only played 11 games). Fournette struggled in his junior year at LSU (seven contests). Between a grade 2 ankle sprain that cost him 6 games and a knee bruise, missing half of the team’s games is less than ideal.
Adding insult to injury, before he even played in his first NFL game, he had already suffered a new foot injury. Less than two months later, he struggled with another ankle sprain that cost him a game.
Then Fournette suffered another soft tissue injury, this time a quadriceps bruise causing him another contest.
His most concerning injury to date was another soft tissue injury, a hamstring strain that he returned too quickly from. I extensively covered this in my 2019 Injury Draftguide as I was concerned that Fournette might struggle with another soft tissue injury, video here.
Thankfully he learned from his mistakes and properly trained his hamstrings and did not suffer a new one in 2019. Unfortunately, it appears that Fournette has struggled with lower leg injuries that are predominately soft tissue-based since college, hopefully those are now in the rear-view.
His neck strain is a fluke injury and likely as a result of a big hit that probably wouldn’t have cost him the game if the Jaguars were competitive. While I (Dr. Morse) was concerned about his health heading into the 2019 season, he was able to restore my faith, and I am less concerned about him heading into 2020.
It was an unexpecting season from Leonard Fournette in 2019, rushing for 1,152 yards (7th), and averaging just 4.3 yards per carry (28th). Now the surprising stats. Seventy-six receptions (100 targets) and only three total touchdowns (T-33rd).
Quite a reversal in production that we have seen in his prior two seasons. He did score 259.4 points while averaging 17.3 per game. The question is, can he boost his scores while keeping those receiving numbers up?
During the offseason, there were rumors Fournette was on the trade block or possibly cut. However, he is still on the team and ready to go. He will be the focal point on the offense. Fournette was active in 88% of the snaps, handling 87% of the carries, and 19% of the targets.
Fournette did not finish any lower than seventh among running backs when it comes down to carries, targets, receptions, touches, yards and fantasy points. The floor is there.
The big bruiser continued to create yards after contact and had a total of 792 yards after the first touch, third-best in the NFL. The purpose of being able to absorb a hit and keep going demonstrates he can be successful with a bad offensive line.
The line for Jacksonville isn't bad, and all five return, but it's mid-grade at best. They run a gap-power scheme with left guard Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann paving the way. Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor will play tackle while Brandon Linder is back at center. The Jaguars also drafted Ben Bartch in the fourth round as a left tackle.
Now in 2020, Fournette will have a lighter load. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden brought in pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson from Washington. The new acquisition will hurt Fournette’s production in the receiving game.
There is serious concern about Fournette’s lack of touchdown production. He has never hit double-digits unless you add his total touchdowns. In 2017, he scored a total of ten (one through the air). Over the last three seasons, Leonard has witnessed a continuous decline in touchdowns. A trend that he needs to buck going into 2020.
Fournette has been a yardage monster. He has over 1,000 yards in the two seasons he has 13 or more games registered. The receiving yards have also increased but now are in danger with Thompson. Crossing the goal-line is the main obstacle preventing him from becoming a top-tier running back.
Gruden utilizes the west coast offense, and this should help more explosive runs from Fournette. Gruden’s running backs averaged 22.5 carries, and a 17 percent carry rate would put Fournette almost at 17 attempts a contest.
The offense is young, D.J. Chark was a surprise while Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook continued to be below average. Jacksonville drafted Laviska Shenault in the second round, and Collin Johnson in the fifth. Gardner Minshew is at the helm, but he is unproven, lost his job, but regained it by the end of the season.
Fournette’s floor will come into play in how many targets Thompson will steal and his injuries. Fournette has missed 12 games out of a possible 48 (25%) and has not played a full season yet.
The addition of Thompson won’t prevent Fournette from being a bell-cow in an offense that emphasizes the run. A double-digit touchdown season could leapfrog him into a top-five finish.
Choosing Fournette should come with an insurance policy. Unfortunately, those do not exist, and his hand-cuff is a combination of Chris Thompson, a free agent from Washington, Ryquell Armstead, and UDFA’s Tavien Feaster and James Robinson. Not a lot of help.
Fournette’s ceiling comes with maintaining his receptions but also adding touchdowns. He was able to score ten total scores in 2017; It can be done. Also, if the unproven offense can be highly functional, then his arrow will be on the upward swing.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Fournette has a 56.8% chance of injury in 2020, and this translates to him missing over two games in the upcoming season, not unreasonable. For reference, this is the 11th highest risk score for running backs.
The other concern heading into the 2020 season is his contract (will he get traded?), and how mediocre the Jaguars team is. I’m (Dr. Morse) personally concerned about Chris Thompson, who is an elite receiving back, and there is a good chance that Fournette will lose several targets in 2020.
Without these receptions, Fournette becomes much more of a one-dimensional player. If his targets drop from 100 (in 2019) to 50 this upcoming season, and he maintains his catch rate of 76%, that would translate to 38 catches for Fournette. It would kill his value as a potential RB1 unless he manages to score 12-15 TDs, which is unlikely.
My risk score for Fournette heading into 2020 is 5 out of 10. A significant improvement from my score of 9 out of 10 heading into the 2019 season.
As of late June, Fournette is currently being chosen as the 16th running back off the board in PPR leagues, in the same area as Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. I think this is the correct spot for him if he gets some positive regression with touchdowns, and if he can manage to stay healthy while rushing over 250 carries.
Fournette is an exciting player to own. He could take his RB14 and move up to a top-five running back or entirely fall out of RB2 range into RB4 if the offense stalls, and he isn’t catching as many passes. It is weird to consider Fournette as a PPR dependent back, but he is. The later you can wait on Fournette, the better off you will be. He is priced well as the 14th running back off the board.
The talent is there, without question. You could do worse than Fournette as your RB2.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 5/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Jan 1, 2020||Cervical Neck Strain||Leonard Fournette missed the season finale against the Colts as he was listed as a limited participant on practice report due to a neck injury.|
|Sep 30, 2018||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Fournette re-injured his right hamstring in his return against the Jets and missed the following 4 games. He returned after the Week 9 bye.|
|Sep 9, 2018||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Fournette strained his right hamstring in the 2nd quarter against the Giants and missed the following 2 games.|
|Dec 10, 2017||Leg Quad Bruise||Fournette missed 1 game after taking a hard hit from Earl Thomas.|
|Oct 15, 2017||Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Fournette missed 1 game.|
|Aug 12, 2017||Pedal Foot||Fournette said someone stepped on his left foot. The rookie missed the final 3 preseason games but returned for Week 1.|
|Sep 3, 2016||Knee Bruise||Fournette was held out of 1 game.|
|Aug 13, 2016||Pedal Ankle Sprain Grade 2||Fournette couldn't shake an ankle injury that popped up in August. He missed 6 total games spread across the 2016 season.|