The sophomore campaign for Leonard Fournette is one that I’m sure he’d prefer to forget. After finishing as the eighth-ranked running back and 13th ranked overall player in 2017, he struggled to stay on the field and contribute in 2018. He finished as the 37th ranked running back appearing in just eight games in standard leagues.
Fournette averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and 55 yards per game last season. Those rank 35th and 24th respectively out of 37 running backs with at least 125 carries. He was in and out of the lineup with a nagging hamstring injury for most of the first half of the season and never seemed to get right. Now, he heads into the 2019 season healthy and a revamped offense that should bode well for his fantasy outlook.
If Leonard Fournette can stay on the field in 2019, @NickMensio believes that he can end up as a top fantasy running back. But what's in store for the rest of the Jaguars' offense with a new signal-caller?
Highest @PFF Grade on tight-window throws (2016-18, including playoffs):
1. Nick Foles 65.8
2. Patrick Mahomes 60.8
3. Baker Mayfield 57.0
4. Aaron Rodgers 56.6
5. Andrew Luck 54.4
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) July 23, 2019
Foles is an upgrade to an offense that has had one season with over 4,000 passing yards since 2014. Now, Foles reunites with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who was the OC when Foles lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
As we saw with Todd Gurley in 2017, the change from a bottom-five quarterback to a serviceable one can make such a drastic impact on the offense as a whole.
When Jared Goff made the jump after his rookie season, Gurley saw his fantasy numbers also make a drastic jump. He went from the 20th ranked running back and 45th overall player to the 1st in both categories the next season. That was with Goff being the 12th best quarterback in fantasy that season. So Foles doesn’t even need to be a top 15 quarterback for Fournette to overachieve his fourth-round ADP (Yahoo).
With a respectable quarterback, Fournette should have much more room to work compared to last season. He faced the third-highest percentage of rushes with eight or more players in the box at 35 percent. That’s staggering, but a predictable number when Blake Bortles is your quarterback. Any defensive coordinator would happily force Bortles to beat them than Fournette, but they can’t do that as aggressively with Foles under center.
Improved Offensive Line
The Jaguars offensive line was a middle of the road unit in 2017 when Fournette experienced a very good rookie season. 2018 though was a different story as they never really got the chance to take the field as a complete healthy unit after week one. In 2017, the line paved the way for Fournette to succeed as he averaged 1.95 yards before contact, which ranked second in the NFL.
If these guys stay healthy, this is a bad-ass offensive line.
The weakness was the tackle positions as Cam Robinson went to the IR week two and the group couldn’t recover. Josh Walker and Ereck Flowers tried to fill in, but let up a combined 60 pressures lining up at tackle. Robinson will now be back, 2018 free agent signing Andrew Norwell will be in his second year in the Jaguars organization and they selected tackle Jawaan Taylor with the 35th overall pick.
Although he went in the second round, Taylor was speculated as a potential top-10 pick. According to PFF College, he allowed just 10 QB pressures as well as earning the No. 2 run-blocking grade amongst tackles in the SEC.
This team is still just a season removed from coming close to beating the Patriots in the AFC championship game in Foxborough. The Jaguars have just five matchups against top 10 defenses from a season ago and seven against bottom 10 defenses. They’ve still got an elite defense that should keep them in each matchup and the run-game relevant.
Leonard Fournette seems primed to get back to the top-10 running back status with the upgrades on the offensive line and quarterback from last season. He’s got the potential to be what Todd Gurley was for fantasy owners two years ago.
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