Leonard Fournette saw his first action of the 2019 preseason Thursday night, rushing seven times for 27 yards against the Dolphins. The 6-foot, 228-pound power back only participated in eight games last season due to injuries and a 1-game suspension in November.
Overall, he rushed for 439 yards on 133 carries (3.3 yards a pop), scoring five touchdowns. This was less than half of his production from his rookie season, where he tallied 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns en route to the AFC Championship Game.
One of the storylines entering this season for Fournette is if he’ll be in the best playing shape by Week One. He missed seven games due to hamstring issues, and he didn’t maintain his body during his recovery.
“I could be in better shape,” Fournette said in November, according to CBS Sports. “But I’m fine, though.”
In addition, he sat an additional game without pay for leaving the sideline, running across the field and throwing punches at Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson. His third season will indicate if that was a sophomore slump or the reality for the former first-round pick.
Even his first season had its week points. Fournette did eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, but only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. As CBS Sports points out, his peers from the 2017 draft class are outshining him.
Christian McCaffrey, taken eighth overall by the Panthers, ranks fourth in yards from scrimmage this season. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Bengals running back Joe Mixon, both taken in the second round, have both been more efficient than Fournette, though they have had their own injury issues. Alvin Kamara was drafted in the third round by the Saints, and he won Offensive Rookie of the Year.
With a capable quarterback in Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles, the pressure won’t be on Fournette to grind out yards on 30-plus totes. This should allow him to maintain his health.
Leonard Fournette Fantasy Rankings & Value
Liz Loza of Yahoo Sports calls Fournette an “All-Upside” option in fantasy this season. Since he’s the only proven starter in the backfield for Jacksonville, his usage will still be high. He also should thrive in the redzone with his size and elite strength.
Heading into 2019, Fournette’s workload figures to remain robust. Like parents in couples’ therapy, the organization appears committed to making things work for the betterment of their favorite child. After letting T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde walk in free agency, Jacksonville did little to beef up their backfield. Adding perennial back-up Alfred Blue (who has averaged under 4.0 YPC in four of his five seasons as a pro) from the Texans and using a fifth-round pick to add Temple product Ryquell Armstead, Fournette’s role as the team’s workhorse remains unchallenged.
CBS Sports says he shouldn’t slide past the third round, also arguing that high usage will boost his numbers.
(This) should give Fournette an opportunity for 320-plus touches in an offense that should be improved. He just has to stay healthy and in the good graces of the coaching staff.
When he played, he scored double digits half of the time, including a 22-point outbursts against Buffalo and Indianapolis. Even if he averages 60-70 yards a game, his ability to reach the endzone should boost his value.