Is Leonard Fournette a bust?
The logical answer is, of course not. Definitely not yet. He’s not even two seasons into his NFL career. When he has played, the results have been fine. There are times we can see the talent that made him the fourth overall pick of the 2017 draft. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he has a fantastic third (fourth, fifth, etc.) NFL season.
Yet, to this point Fournette has to be considered a disappointment, considering how high he was drafted.
As Fournette returns from a one-game suspension for fighting, as his Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Tennessee Titans, a game that can be livestreamed on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android), we’re looking at a résumé that has been marked with injury disappointment more than anything else.
Leonard Fournette has been held back by injuries
Fournette was an elite prospect coming out of LSU, but maybe not enough attention was given to an ankle injury that limited his final college season.
An ankle injury as a rookie caused him to miss three games and limited his effectiveness. This season, a hamstring injury limited him to 20 carries and 71 yards in September and October as the Jaguars quickly fell out of the playoff race. Then Fournette got himself suspended for one game for coming off the bench to fight Buffalo Bills linebacker Shaq Lawson. When you’ve already missed most of the season with injuries, that’s not a great look.
Fournette has played 18 of 28 possible games in his NFL career. He has 1,354 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, with a 3.8-yard average (take out one 90-yard run against the Steelers and that average sinks to 3.5), with 436 receiving yards and a couple more receiving touchdowns.
That’s certainly not bad, obviously not Trent Richardson territory. But it’s not as much impact as a couple other recent top-five backs, Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley. Fournette hasn’t been nearly as good as some other 2017 rookie backs, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara or the now-disgraced Kareem Hunt. It’s arguable if he has been as good as some other second-year backs like James Conner, Aaron Jones or Joe Mixon.
Fournette hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been the superstar the Jaguars thought they were drafting fourth overall, either.
Fournette hasn’t been the fourth overall pick, yet
Generally it’s a bad idea to draft a running back in the top five. It’s too easy to find value at the position later in the draft.
Because of where Fournette was drafted, he ranks eighth in annual salary among running backs even on his rookie contract, according to OverTheCap. There was also an opportunity cost, passing on not only future superstar quarterbacks Mahomes and Watson but other players like safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who are already established, elite players.
Fournette has been good but definitely not great. He ranked 17th among running backs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric and 26th in success rate last season, and he’d rank tied for 12th this season in DVOA if he had enough carries to qualify. He’s solid. Had the Jaguars found a running back in the middle rounds who produced what Fournette has, they would be thrilled and rightfully so.
Maybe Fournette finishes the last four games of this lost season for the Jaguars very strong and we have a whole new outlook on him heading into 2019. But to this point, his NFL career has been underwhelming.
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