Since being drafted in the first round by the Jaguars in 2017, Leonard Fournette has played in just 21 regular season games. When he’s played, he’s been productive for the most part, although 2018 was a disappointing fantasy campaign compared to his excellent rookie season. A suspension and injury highlighted a down year for Fournette, as he averaged fewer than 20 touches per game and a measly 3.3 yards per carry. However, fantasy owners should be encouraged about Fournette in 2019, largely because of presumed role, as well as current value in drafts.

In 2017, despite facing 8 or more defenders in the box nearly half of the time (48.5%), he handled the rock over 20 times per game, averaged 3.9 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns (one receiving) in just 13 games. The entire Jacksonville offense as a whole floundered in 2018, and Fournette’s production suffered as well. However, the Jaguars finally moved on from Blake Bortles and Nick Foles is under center for the black and teal. Yes, outside of Philadelphia Foles has been less than adequate, but part of that certainly could have been the coaching as well. Foles needs an effective run game to be successful, and the mentality isn’t going to chance in Jacksonville. Despite spending over 80 million dollars on their hopeful franchise quarterback, this is a running football team, and with no legitimate backup, Fournette should return to averaging over 20 carries per game, health willing.

Only LeGarrette Blount and Royce Freeman faced a stack box more often than Fournette in 2018. Since he posted such a poor elusive rating, per Pro Football Focus, he was unable to get away from defenders, affecting his overall numbers. Even in his better season (2017), his elusive rating wasn’t much better, but he ran tougher and avoided more tackles. Fournette could be described as a rhythm runner, and so long as he stays healthy, he will get plenty of opportunities to tote the rock in this offense.

Fournette is a better pass catcher than for which he gets credit. In 2017, he had the 17th-best receiving grade amongst running backs and posted two drops on 43 targets. He received a better receiving grade, per Pro Football Focus, in 2018, and actually ended the year with the 10th-best receiving grade and a quality 88 percent reception percentage. For his career, he’s averaging 2.8 receptions per game, but in 2019, expect that mark to go up. Why is that? Foles loves using his running backs. In the five games Foles started for the Eagles in 2018, the running back position received 8.4 targets per game. Benny Cunningham likely serves as the team’s designated pass-catching back, but Fournette has done well in the passing department and will still see some targets from Foles. I fully expect the third-year back to be more involved in the passing game than he ever has before, which bodes well for his fantasy outlook.

Based on our projections, Fournette is one of 12 running backs projected to rush for over 1,000 yards with at least eight touchdowns. Just two or three of those guys are being drafted after Fournette. If Fournette’s role in the passing game grows, he’s basically Dalvin Cook , who is going nearly a round and a half earlier! Yes, the injury history is a concern, but you’re hard pressed to find a running back in the middle or backend of the second round that can compare with Fournette’s expected role and presence in the offense.

Let me reiterate. Alfred Blue , Thomas Rawls and Cunningham are not stealing substantial carries from Fournette in 2019. The third-year back took a lot of heat in 2018, but that should fuel his 2019 campaign. Despite being drafted as an RB2, his steady volume and role in the offense will lend itself to an RB1 season.

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