The Jacksonville Jaguars made the least surprising #4 pick in the history of football Thursday, as they selected LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Nearly every single online mock drafter put Fournette on the Jags, so this is unsurprising. What, then, does this mean for Leonard Fournette in your 2017 fantasy football drafts? His draft stock and overall talent make Ezekiel Elliott an easy comparison. While Fournette will stack up results, and fantasy points, he’s no Zeke. However, even if absolutely nothing changes about the Jaguars except Fournette replaces the touches of incumbents T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, he’s already an RB2. He’ll be drafted as an RB2, but he’s going to end up a low-end RB1.
Last year’s Jaguars run game was god-awful; it was next level bad. Jacksonville’s top four RBs went for 320 rushes, 808 yards, 72 targets, 370 receiving yards and almost five touchdowns. If you do no analysis to these numbers except give two-thirds of them to one player, you end up with 213 rushes, 72 targets, 1179 total yards and five touchdowns. That’s good for 9.25 fantasy points per game and is a solid place to start.
There’s some give-and-take in this evaluation of Fournette’s final 2017 fantasy football tally. He’ll run the ball much better than Jacksonville’s flotsam and jetsam who toted the rock in 2016, but he won’t catch the ball as well. Fournette’s draft choice likely means a change in philosophy for new HC Doug Marrone. Fournette will carry the ball more, and be passed to less than 2016 Jags RBs. He doesn’t have the best hands; Rotoworld.com has him as dropping one-sixth of his catchable targets last year. That’s not very good. However, he’s a dynamic runner which means he will get far more than the 3.8 YPC the Jags runners had in 2016. He’s a better runner than anyone already on the roster and the Jaguars bolstered the offensive line in the draft.
A change in overall team focus will also give Fournette more opportunities in 2017 than the Jags had in 2016. Their stout defense should come into its own, and that means more carries for Fournette. They also likely won’t repeat the mistakes of their forbearers. The Jaguars legendarily had rookie T.J. Yeldon march them down to the one to give Toby Gerhart four futile falls towards the end zone in their 2015 London game. Those will go towards Fournette, who will convert the score, and get six fantasy football points for his trouble.
Leonard Fournette’s floor, barring injury, is a middling RB2. The wholly uninspiring hodgepodge of running backs that carried the ball for the Jags last year, in aggregate, produced about 13.9 fantasy points per game last year. The Jags are pouring the vast majority of those touches into a much more talented running back. That baseline production makes him a shoo-in for a top-fifteen RB in fantasy football drafts this year. I’m onboard with Fournette in the second-to-third rounds, and you should be too.