Jags’ Rookie Leonard Fournette Ready for the Big Time
Playing at one of the most storied institutions in college football, Leonard Fournette was oft compared to some of the biggest names to come out of LSU. Fans who’d been watching the Tigers for over fifty years called him the best back in school history. The 6’1″, 232-pound back played three seasons for Louisiana State before entering the NFL draft in 2017.
As a freshman, Fournette burst onto the college scene with an incredible, 187 attempt, 1034 yard season on the ground. The following year, he came just shy of the 2,000 club, rushing for 1953 yards and 23 touchdowns on 300 carries with a 6.5 yards-per-carry average. As a junior he matched that average through a total of seven games due to a preseason ankle injury that forced him to sit out the Citrus Bowl.
Nonetheless, the Jacksonville Jaguars — now under the direction of Tom Coughlin — saw Fournette for what he was and what he could be — an elite workhorse running back in the NFL. So with the 4th overall pick in the draft, Roger Goodell called Fournette’s name.
When asked what the Jags were getting with the former Tiger, Fournette said, “”You’ve got a game-changer. You’ve got the best running back in the draft.”
No one’s doubting that. Just take a look at his highlight reel. The guy is a monster. He possesses the physical frame of a linebacker but the speed of a receiver. He plows through defenders like they’re not even there. His second gear is ridiculous. And he runs with the kind of intensity you might have seen from Jim Brown or Herschel Walker. Granted that may also be his biggest downside. In this day and age, bruisers tend to have shorter careers.
But while the going’s good, he fully plans on delivering for the Jaguars.
After suffering one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL in 2016, the Jaguars are expected to give Fournette a heavy workload in the coming year. Scouts say he’s eventually capable of taking 20-30 touches a game. For now, a heavy workload may mean averaging 15-20 touches. Jacksonville is in the midst of a major transition offensively. They’ve primarily run out of the shotgun. Chris Ivory and T. J. Yeldon comprised their backfield last year. The tandem formed the league’s 22nd best rushing offense and 29th most productive scoring backfield. Jacksonville hopes Fournette can change that, beginning with easing the workload of their starting quarterback.
In his three year career, QB Blake Bortles has averaged 37.1 pass attempts per game. Talk about pass heavy. Now, with the addition of Fournette, Coughlin and new head coach Doug Marrone believe they have the pieces necessary to build a powerful run-heavy offense.
With training camp five weeks away, the young running back has a lot of preparation to do. It’s one thing to mow down defenders on the college level. But this is the NFL — defenders are bigger and stronger than they’ve ever been. And Fournette has yet to participate in a full-contact practice.
Nonetheless, he plans on sticking around Jacksonville until camp rolls around.
“I’m going to be here for most of the time lifting weights, running, conditioning,” he said. “I know how important this month is going to be off for us to just stay in shape, the mental things, learning the playbook more and more until I have it like it’s the back of my hand.”
Do we have another Ezekiel Elliott on our hands? Or is Leonard Fournette in a league all his own? There’s no way to know quite yet. But stay tuned and we’re likely to see this young man do big things down in Florida.