Two years into his career, Leonard Fournette has missed 11 games and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Still, there's far too much upside here to let the former top-four pick slide past the early third round. The Jaguars will have a new quarterback and offense in 2019 and they let T.J. Yeldon walk without replacing him with an equally talented option. The should give Fournette an opportunity for 320-plus touches in an offense that should be improved. He just has to stay healthy and in the good graces of the coaching staff.
Fournette reported to mandatory minicamp in good shape and looked comfortable catching passes, John Reid of The Florida Times-Union reports. Fournette joined the Jaguars for the early portion of their offseason program but then skipped some voluntary OTA sessions in May. His conditioning became a major issue last season when he put on weight while recovering from a hamstring injury. In addition to helping with stamina, Fournette's slimmer physique should make him more useful as a pass catcher. He isn't typically thought of as a three-down back, but it's reasonable that Fournette could have a chance to handle that role given the unimpressive depth chart behind him -- Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls and fifth-round rookie Ryquell Armstead (hamstring). Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles recently discussed how new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo puts a heavy emphasis on using running backs in the passing game.
Coach Doug Marrone said Fournette won't face any team discipline for his recent arrest, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports. Given that he was arrested for an unpaid speeding ticket, Fournette never figured to face discipline from the Jaguars or the NFL. Still, it isn't the best look for a player who seems to be on thin ice after a tumultuous 2018 campaign marked by injuries, weight gain, inefficient running (3.3 YPC) and a one-game suspension for an on-field brawl. The Jaguars used the suspension as justification to void the remaining guarantees in Fournette's rookie contract, but they've also made it a point to say he still has a future with the team. Jacksonville's offseason moves support that notion, as the depth chart behind Fournette contains Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Dave Williams and Thomas Rawls -- not the most inspiring group. Of course, the Fournette trade rumors would regain steam in a hurry if the Jaguars were to use an early pick on a running back in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 24-year-old reportedly dropped some weight in the offseason and should be back around 220-230 pounds ahead of his third NFL campaign.
Fournette was arrested Thursday in Jacksonville in the aftermath of a traffic violation, Vic Micolucci of WJXT 4 reports. The arrest reportedly stems from an unpaid ticket from an incident dating back to last November, when Fournette was cited for driving 12 mph over the speed limit, per Justin Barney of WJXT 4. It's not certain if the running back will face discipline from the NFL.
Fournette appears to have the support of Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin, who expects the running back to rebound in 2019, ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco reports. "I have full confidence in him," Coughlin said. "He does have some things he's got to prove when he comes back about his preparation, but he's a young player, he loves football, had an outstanding year, had a very disappointing year. We want him to be a great player and I think he's in the same mindset." Despite showing up for training camp at a svelte 223 pounds, Fournette struggled through a tumultuous sophomore campaign, putting on weight while he missed six games with a hamstring injury. He finished the year with just 3.3 yards per carry in eight games, missing Week 13 due to a suspension and Week 17 due to an ankle injury. His suspension prompted the Jaguars to void the guarantees in his contract, while his obvious disinterest in watching the season finale was met with harsh public criticism from Coughlin. The 24-year-old is filing an appeal to regain his contractual guarantees, but at the same time, he's reportedly making an honest effort to repair his relationship with the Jacksonville organization. Fournette met with Coughlin to clear the air shortly after the season and later traveled to Wyoming to work with his former strength and conditioning coach from LSU. With their former running backs Carlos Hyde (Chiefs) and T.J. Yeldon (free agent) headed elsewhere, the Jaguars seem confident in Fournette to serve as the top weapon in an offense quarterbacked by Nick Foles.
Fournette is spending the offseason working out in Wyoming with Ben Iannacchione, his former strength and conditioning coach from LSU, Phillip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union reports. "The Leonard I see now -- and, again, I wasn't around Leonard last year, still followed his career, noticed he missed some games last year -- but the Leonard that's here in Wyoming right now is very similar to the Leonard that I had at LSU," Iannacchione said. "If he continues with this mindset and this work ethic, I think everyone in Jacksonville is going to be pleasantly surprised." Following the turbulent disappointment of a season that was the Jaguars' 2018 campaign, Iannacchione said Fournette reached out to him so the running back could "get back to really training the way [Fournette] did when he felt he was at his best." Setting up at Iannocchione's new employer, the University of Wyoming, Fournette is probably serving himself well by isolating himself in a distraction-free environment. Considering Fournette entered the 2018 season 15 pounds lighter than he was in 2017 -- but then somehow proceeded to seem as sluggish as ever en route to a career-low 3.3 yards per carry -- reports of Fournette getting in shape probably won't hold much weight with fantasy owners any longer, but the value here, in any case, is the fact that Fournette appears focused on turning things around.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/08||Kansas City Chiefs||31||23.78|
|6||10/13||New Orleans Saints||3||12.44|
|8||10/27||New York Jets||18||17.75|
|13||12/01||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||28||21.25|
|14||12/08||Los Angeles Chargers||24||20.00|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||200||740||7||29||244||1||146|