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The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
Last year, Leonard Fournette slid into the eighth round of fantasy football drafts. It made sense at the time. His fantastic playoff sample was small enough to ignore. Ronald Jones II remained a frustrating thorn in his side. And the acquisition of Giovani Bernard appeared to cap his upside as a pass-catcher.
Fournette finished as the RB4 in per-game PPR scoring despite all those concerns. He led all running backs in targets per game. He was third in red-zone opportunities. He played a three-down role on one of the league's most explosive offenses. Surely, fantasy managers have adjusted, and Fournette is getting drafted as a consensus first-rounder now, right?
Fournette is coming off the board in the early-third round (according to Underdog Fantasy ADP), setting him up as one of fantasy's best bargains again.
Leonard Fournette:— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) May 24, 2022
• Led RBs in targets per game
• Top-10 in carries from red-zone and 10-yard line
• 2nd-most red-zone targets among RBs
• 4th in PPR scoring per game (behind Henry, Taylor, Ekeler)
• Tampa Bay was 3rd in plays per game
• No mo' RoJo
Current ADP: RB13? pic.twitter.com/zg9hUfGcV4
Why Isn't Fournette a Consensus First-Rounder?
For whatever reason, Fournette's name causes a visceral reaction among fantasy managers. Let's address those issues and misconceptions head-on.
Fournette will be 27 this year, which is the age we typically see running backs dip in production. Here are a few other backs that will be above age 26 this year: Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, James Conner, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, and Derrick Henry. A group of elite running backs came into the league between 2016 and 2018. While it's quickly approaching, it's foolish to think that all of these backs suddenly fall off the age cliff. Next to Elliott, Fournette has the best pedigree of the bunch. After a stellar career at LSU, Fournette was selected fourth overall in his class. There's a direct correlation between draft capital and longevity, and Fournette probably has a few high-level seasons in him.
He seeks contact and thrives between the tackles. Despite his penchant for big hits, he's been more reliable than people realize. Since missing half of his Year 2 campaign, he's played a minimum of 13 games in every season since. Let's look at the durability of comparable backs drafted between 2016 and 2018.
|Games Played||Games Possible||Rate of Active Games|
While it's true that he's missed more games than average, his 85.7-percent availability since his injury-plagued 2018 campaign is very impressive. Only Dalvin Cook has shown more significant durability growth over the last three seasons. Since 2019, Fournette suited up for as many games as Kamara and Chubb, with only Elliott and Jones playing in more. With all running banks having an available 49 games since the start of 2019, here are their rates since then.
|2019-2021 Games Played||2019-2021 Rate of Active Games|
"He's a bad pass-catcher."
This point shouldn't need to be addressed, but it's a common misconception. His receiving numbers in 2021 were fantastic! Whether looking at volume, efficiency, or productivity, Fournette put up career-best receiving numbers in 2021.
Here is how he ranked among qualifying running backs:
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