The 2018 season has been a rough one for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. Taken in the first or second round of most fantasy drafts, the second-year running back has been on the shelf for the grand majority of 2018. On the season, Fournette has played in just two games, recording a grand total of 90 yards from scrimmage, and has been one of the biggest fantasy football disappointments of the season.
However, Fournette is supposedly healthy and ready to play in Week 10 against the Indianapolis Colts. Some fantasy owners are ecstatic to finally have the star rusher back in their lineup, while other owners are nervous about the risk of re-injury and his share in the Jaguars backfield. Quite frankly, both views are completely justified and easily defendable.
The Leonard Fournette conundrum has put fantasy football owners in a dangerous situation. With his value finally back, fantasy football owners could actually net a good return in a trade. However, they could also risk losing top 10-production for the rest of the season. Let’s break down every aspect of Leonard Fournette’s return to see what one could realistically expect for the remainder of the season.
Fantasy Football: The Leonard Fournette Breakdown
The best news is obviously that Leonard Fournette has the potential to be a true workforce back in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. The Jaguars took Fournette with the fourth-overall pick in 2017 and used him as much as humanly possible in 2017. Despite only playing in 13 games, Fournette still played in 49.9% of the offensive snaps as a rookie.
It’s only natural to expect his role to continue to grow in his sophomore season. The Jaguars openly announced their plans to run the offense through Fournette, and he’s finally in a position to be the bell-cow. Head coach Doug Marrone said that Fournette will be going “full-bore” once he’s back in the lineup.
“You’re asking me if he is able to play…once a guy is ready to play, that has to be our expectation,” Marrone said leading up to Week 10. Everyone expects Fournette to be active, and there were even whispers that he could have played in Week Eight, but the coaching staff chose to be cautious. These extra two weeks of rest should ensure Fournette will play with little to no setbacks.
Everyone knows about what Fournette can bring to the table when everything’s going right, so let’s not waste time breaking down his potential. If you’re a Leonard Fournette owner, you should feel good knowing the second-year running back should be 100% when he hits the field. In a perfect world, Fournette is returning at the perfect time to carry your team to a fantasy championship.
Even though Fournette will be treated as though he’s 100%, there’s no guarantee he’ll get his old role back. While Fournette has been productive when on the field, he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his short career. Injuries have obviously plagued his 2018, but he also missed three games in 2017 due to injury. If given his old workload, there’s a very real chance that his body breaks down yet again and he misses even more time.
Instead of running Fournette into the ground until he breaks, the Jaguars may try to limit his carries to keep him healthy throughout the season. T.J. Yeldon has been a serviceable starter for the Jaguars and Jacksonville gave up a fifth-round pick to acquire Carlos Hyde. While neither player is as good as Fournette, each could eat into his snap count. While this would theoretically keep Fournette healthier for a longer period of time, it would drastically lower his game-by-game ceiling. Fournette is still talented enough to put up decent fantasy outings with limited snaps, but he won’t be able to singlehandedly win fantasy matchups if he’s part of a running back by committee.
Even if he is completely healthy, the typical Jacksonville game script won’t play to Fournette’s strengths. The 2017 Jaguars went into every game trying to take an early lead while relying on Fournette and their defense to win tough, physical matchups. That formula worked in 2017, as the Jaguars made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game. However, this formula probably won’t work in 2018.
The Jaguars defense has regressed in a major way this season. After allowing just 16.8 points per game in 2017, this year’s Jaguars are allowing 21.3 points per game. While that number isn’t terrible on its’ own, the defense has played its’ worst defense of late. Over the past four games, Jacksonville is allowing an average of 28.5 points per game.
With the Jaguars defense playing this poorly, Jacksonville won’t be run the ball as much as they’d like. Instead of trying to run out the clock, Jacksonville will need to throw the ball to keep up. This is going to be a major hit to Fournette’s fantasy production, as he’s far more dangerous as a runner than as a receiver.
Last Word on Leonard Fournette
After waiting basically the entire fantasy season, Leonard Fournette is finally back in the lineup. While he obviously carries an immense ceiling, he comes with his own risks. On the one hand, Fournette was touted as the workhorse back entering the season and Doug Marrone said that he expects Fournette to be ready for a full workload in Week 10. Fournette is one of the most talented backs in the league and could provide top-10 production in a perfect world.
On the other hand, Fournette has struggled to stay healthy throughout his NFL career. The Jaguars may try to conserve the running back in an attempt to keep him upright for the remainder of the season. T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde are both capable runners who could eat into Fournette’s work.
Additionally, the 2018 Jaguars aren’t as good as their 2019 counterparts, so they have to throw the ball more to stay in the games. This will opportunities away from Fournette, even when he is on the field. While Fournette can still provide starting production on a limited snap count, he may not be a guy you can count on to pick up double-digit fantasy points on a weekly basis.
Fournette is obviously better than anyone on the waiver wire and is probably better than anyone on your bench. You shouldn’t sit him, but you could try shopping him. See what you can get in return for Fournette’s services, and if the price is right, make the trade. If not, you can feel comfortable starting him, although you probably won’t get the production you were hoping for when you first drafted him.
Embed from Getty Images