Let’s start with the obvious: Leonard Fournette is the best running back in this draft. He’s also the best fantasy option in this draft.
The 6-foot-1, 240 pound ball carrier has been compared to every top back you can think of coming out of college. He has the same size and punishing running style as Adrian Peterson. He has the ability to make an immediate impact in the league like Ezekiel Elliott. He has the beard of Rick Ross (not a running back but equally important). Sports Illustrated compares him to Steven Jackson. NFL.com compares him to Bo Jackson. Fournette is certainly coming into the NFL with plenty of hype and he deserves it.
His 2015 campaign was the work of legends, rushing for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns. His 85 missed tackles forced led the country and only Derrick Henry had more yards after contact. While his 2016 season was marred by injury—he missed five games due to ankle injury—he still managed to put together a strong outing, gaining 843 yards on the ground and averaging 6.5 yards a touch.
However, he’s not Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott came into the NFL a final product: a threat in the passing game, a stout pass blocker and able to play in any system. Fournette is most effective when working in an under-center offense. This gives him eight yards to work up a head of steam and hit the line in full force. He doesn’t work well out of the shotgun or making zone reads. He’s also not a great pass blocker and doesn’t excel catching the football, something that hinders his value in PPR leagues.
Still, Fournette is an old school, 300 carries back and will be able to shoulder the load of any offense. He is a can’t miss when it comes to fantasy.
Fournette’s College Stats
Best Fantasy Fits
Cleveland Browns: A key to any running back is their offensive line. While Elliott is an elite talent, it helps that he was running behind the best offensive line in football. Well Cleveland went out this offseason and did just that. They now have a very impressive offensive line that could blow some holes open for Fournette. Let’s not forget that in last year’s black hole of an offense, Isaiah Crowell still managed to finish a top 15 fantasy running back in total points (164.3). And if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, Trent Richardson—yes, THE TRENT RICHARDSON—ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns his rookie season with the Browns. Hard to believe but he was the 9th best fantasy back that year, scoring 204 points.
New York Jets: If Rex Ryan still coached this team, you could bet the number 6 pick would either be used on a pass rusher or Fournette. Ryan loved himself some “pound the rock” offense. Even without Ryan at the helm, Fournette would make a lot of sense in New York. They don’t have a quarterback and Matt Forte, despite having a quietly productive year in green, only has so much tread left on his tires. Forte finished just outside of top 20 backs in total scoring (21st with 153.6 points) but we know running backs can have success in the Jets’ offense. Look no further than last year Chris Ivory, who finished 8th in total scoring among running backs with 173 points.
Carolina Panthers: For me, this is the perfect landing spot for Fournette. The Panthers both love to run the football and run the power offense that Fournette fits right into. With Jonathan Stewart missing extended time last year, the team would be wise to start looking for his replacement. Things look even better from a fantasy perspective with the news that Ron Rivera plans on running with Cam Newton less. While this is horrible for Newton owners, this is great for Fournette’s potential as Cam accounted for 90 carries, second most on the team, last year. That’s a hearty portion of carries that will be up for grabs.