Despite posting an unsustainably low touchdown rate, the 2019 season was a renaissance for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Forunette. He set a career-high in games played (15) and rushing yards (1,152), but his progression and usage as a pass-catcher was the most encouraging aspect from a fantasy perspective.
After catching just 58 passes in his first 21 NFL games, Fournette caught 76 balls on 100 targets last season, obviously setting a new career-high in receiving yards (522) in the process. He finished as the RB6 in total PPR points and the RB9 in average fantasy points per game. He returned significantly more than his draft-day value as a player going around the Round 2-3 turn.
In a strange twist, Fournette’s ADP is actually lower this year (25.8) than it was last season (23.2). He’s coming off draft boards as the RB14 compared to last year’s RB12. Given all the trade rumors surrounding the 25-year-old running back, some apprehension is understandable. However, if he plays out the season in Jacksonville he’s going to be highly productive.
With all due respect to second-year running back Ryquell Armstead, there isn’t anyone in Jacksonville who’s a major threat to eat into Fournette’s touches when active. Plus, even a trade might not cut into his workload because any team trading for Fournette at this point would likely be dealing with an injury to its starting running back. Volume is incredibly important and with the pass-catching quantity we saw in the Gardner Minshew III era, Fournette is finally the dual-threat back fantasy managers covet in PPR formats.
Also, positive touchdown regression is coming. In his first two seasons, Fournette averaged .76 total touchdowns per game. Last season that plummeted to just .2 per game. If he returns somewhere close to the one touchdown per 30 touch rate he had in 2017 and 2018, his touchdown total should be in the double-digits.
So is Fournette being fairly drafted?
His current ADP sandwiches him in the same Round 3 tier as Kansas City Chiefs rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, new Atlanta Falcon Todd Gurley, New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell, and new Denver Bronco Melvin Gordon. Aside from Edwards-Helaire, the other three backs are former top-five fantasy picks that have either fallen off (Bell, Gurley), joined a new team (Gordon), or both (Gurley). Given Gurley’s injury—and Dirk Koetter—concerns, Bell’s relationship with head coach Adam Gase, and Gordon having to split carries with Phillip Lindsay, Fournette is clearly the best option of this group. Even Edwards-Helaire, who is flying up fantasy draft boards, can’t be considered a safer pick given Damien Williams’ presence in Kansas City.
Fournette is essentially the last of the upper-tier running backs. He’s not quite an RB1 in the traditional sense, but he’s the last player you’d be comfortable with as your fantasy team’s top back.
On a per-game basis, he’s finished inside the top 12 running backs every year of his career—RB8, RB12, and RB9 respectively. He’s averaging 16.93 PPR points per game since coming into the NFL (Weeks 1-16). Only nine running backs have averaged more points per game in that time frame. He hasn’t quite shed the injury label yet, but when Fournette plays—keep in mind this is a contract year—he provides RB1 production at a Round 3 price tag.