The 4th Down Decision: Leonard Fournette

About twelve hours before he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, I drafted Leonard Fournette in my league of record with my first of two third-round picks.

I was mocked, but I laughed in the face of my league opponents. I used data showing that in archaic leagues like ours (non-point per reception), Leonard Fournette was RB13 last year, finishing ahead of the likes of Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs, and Miles Sanders.

I reminded them he had no competition behind him, and last year he had over 1,600 yards from scrimmage. He was a “Go For It” in every sense of the word with one of the best situations from an opportunity standpoint in the NFL.

Then I woke up to the news he had been released. While I am not in dire straits just yet, there is a very uneasy feeling in the locker room among the Nashville Wampus Cats this morning.

So what do you do if you have already drafted and you got Fournette? How high should you draft the next guy up in Jacksonville? Let’s talk it out.

Go For It: Late round fliers on Jacksonville running backs

Look, don’t go crazy and think that just because Fournette is gone, now you need to be sweating a decision over whether you should draft Mark Ingram or Ryquell Armstead in the 5th round. You draft Mark Ingram.

If you already drafted Fournette, you should’ve been first in line to grab Armstead once the news hit. I was able to grab Armstead quickly this morning, much to the chagrin of recently acquired player Damien Harris.

Like most other analysts, I think Armstead is due for the bulk of the carries. Armstead was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Jaguars. That actually matters because they do have some investment and belief in him as a capable NFL back.

Investment is one thing, but what about his measurables? Is he a NFL athlete that can cary the load? Yes. He’s a 220-lb running back that ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. He describes himself as a violent runner, and I think this is something they will want to utilize to mitigate the loss of Fournette.

Just be warned: do not be the guy who overdrafts Armstead. Let him fall to you in the 10th round or later in most drafts to pick him up.

If you’re in a PPR league, most analysts are going to say target Chris Thompson, but you should’ve already been doing that. Jay Gruden loves him some Chris Thompson from their days at Washington together. Thompson was always going to see around 50 targets come his way out of the backfield.

Devine Ozigbo, a former darling of #DraftTwitter, is the odd man out, he is a UDFA for the Jaguars in 2019. However, he is not without his perks. In the final game of 2019, he forced 5 missed tackles in limited snaps. I think you should pass on Ozigbo and just pick him up off waivers, unless you wanted to take him in the 14th round or later as a handcuff for Armstead.

Punt: Panicking and trading for a running back

Relax, bro. There is no need to pull the panic alarm just yet. I will be honest I reached out to another team in my league just to kick the tires on what he would need for a trade.

It ended up being too steep for my liking. Leonard Fournette will be picked up by a team, and should still end the season as an RB2 in the worst case scenario. Sure, you would’ve liked to have two RB1s on your roster, but it’s time to make lemons out of lemonade.

Over the last few years, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to be more patient with fantasy football. This is one of those times to have steel resolve. Fournette will find his way onto a team, and he will be a fantasy player to have in some capacity.

Go For It: Make ’em panic

If you’re a team with some running back capital to spare, make those Leonard Fournette owners an offer. You should continue to make offers as much as possible until they file a cease and desist against you.

Throw whatever you can at the wall that will make your team better. Trade someone like Raheem Mostert, who has fantasy buzz, for Fournette and a wide receiver if you are needing one. If you have Ryquell Armstead, that is even more of a reason to find a trade.

There is no reason you shouldn’t be working the phones with the team that has Fournette right now. Always be trading.

Go Into Overtime: Leonard Fournette

If you’ve already drafted Leonard Fournette, you need to play the waiting game. Today, August 31st, at 3:00p CST, we will have some sort of Leonard Fournette news.

He can still be traded, according to ProFootballTalk.com. It’s doubtful, but a team that may fear a team ahead of them in the waiver process, may offer something to try and get Fournette.

If he is claimed by a team, as opposed to clearing waivers first, that team will have to pick up the $4+ million Fournette is still owed on his rookie contract. Jacksonville did not have any offset language in the deal, so if he goes unclaimed, Jacksonville will owe his salary in addition to whatever a new team offers to pay him. But if he is traded or claimed off waivers, that contract responsibility shifts to his new team.

If he clears waivers, he should see a huge market. With Jacksonville not including offset language in his rookie deal, Fournette could conceivably take less money with a new team knowing that his $4+ million is coming from Jacksonville.

No matter how you slice it, Leonard Fournette will find his way onto a team sooner rather than later. Which is a good thing for owners. The quicker he gets to a team, the better.

What teams are going to be in the services for Leonard Fournette? Here are some with weak running back depth that I think might be interested:

  • Chicago Bears
  • New York Jets
  • New England Patriots
  • Both of the Los Angeles Teams
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Washington Football Team

New England Patriots

As a Leonard Fournette owner, I am both frightened and excited at the thought of Leonard Fournette going to New England. As I wrote last week, Damien Harris was the guy I wanted to own shares of. Well, Leonard Fournette is a much better version of Harris. Think of him as a LeGarrette Blount who can catch out of the backfield.

Bill Belichick is known for taking cast-offs with attitude problems and rejuvenating their careers. Sure, it’s a crowded backfield with James White and Sony Michel (and Lamar Miller, who came off PUP today), but I would rather have Leonard Fournette than any of those guys up in New England.

Washington Football Team

Another team I am bullish on is the Washington Football Team. I reached for Antonio Gibson last night because I am a true believer in his talent. However, if the Football Team signs Leonard Fournette, that’s huge for me as a Fournette owner.

Antonio Gibson was always going to see the field in some way or the other. They have a bleak wide receiving group in Washington, and I think they will find creative ways to get him the ball. Think of Gibson like Percy Harvin without the headaches, or Tavon Austin but with talent.

What this would do is end the likelihood of Peyton Barber seeing any snaps, and possibly relegate Adrian Peterson to a pure mentorship role as an insurance-policy kind of guy. Peterson was still somehow fantasy relevant last year, but he can no longer perform at the level, currently, that Leonard Fournette can.

Also, Leonard Fournette can catch, whereas that’s always been the one hole in Adrian Peterson’s game. This would make the running back situation in Washington pretty clear cut, in my opinion.

The Los Angeles teams

Both of the Los Angeles teams have very shaken depth behind their starters. Looking at the Chargers’ depth behind Austin Ekeler, it’s Justin Jackson, who is currently battling through injuries, and Joshua Kelley, who has done nothing to really of note.

Neither of those guys inspire much confidence, and really, I love Ekeler, but you have to be wary if you’re the Chargers of if he can handle a full season’s workload. From training camp reports, it looks like they are.

I continue to see reports that either Jackson or Kelley is getting ample reps with the first team offense. They want to ease Ekeler’s workload to keep him explosive all year long. Fournette would provide that without a major drop off in production on the field.

Speaking of reports, a report just hit the wire as I was writing this article. It is from Cameron DaSilva who states that, according to the Rams’ running backs coach, no running back has yet to make an impact in camp.

On a recent episode of The Flex, Justin Graver mentioned the lack of Cam Aker’s film time on Hard Knocks. I kind of shrugged it off, and was still looking to draft Cam Akers often in my fantasy drafts. That ship has sailed.

In fact I am selling all stock in Cam Akers at his current ADP. I am very lucky that last night someone sniped him right before me in our draft, because I would be a little more concerned about my depth at running back with this news and the Fournette news.

I think the Rams are a good possibility for Fournette. They have former Jaguars teammate Jalen Ramsey and a clear need for someone to be “the” guy in that backfield. Ramsey and Fournette are essentially best friends, and I think this is a dark horse candidate landing spot for Fournette.

Pittsburgh Steelers/Chicago Bears

I am lumping these two together. I think both are fits for Fournette based on the style of offense these teams play, but man would that muddy the water for everyone in these backfields.

David Montgomery is battling a groin injury, and a lot of times those tend to linger. Montgomery was unspectacular as a rookie, and I think his camp, while good, has been unremarkable. There is nothing to his game that is exciting.

Leonard Fournette would be an upgrade, but signing him would also signal that David Montgomery is in the dog house and/or will have a longer timetable for recovery.

Pittsburgh is interesting. James Conner is good when healthy, but he’s hardly ever healthy. He missed six games last year and three the year before that. They also drafted Anthony McFarland and have Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels on the roster.

Pittsburgh would somehow be a scarier place for Fournette to land for my fantasy team than New England in my opinion, but that offensive line has proven time and time again it will create some holes for the run game.

New York Jets

The Jets just tried to trade for Kalen Ballage, but the perennial scrub could not pass his physical so the deal fell through. Recently, it has been reported that Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell are disagreeing about his usage in training camp.

Despite that, according to reports, all is well. Frank Gore and Bell are the only two healthy running backs on the Jets roster. Adam Gase knows the depth there is weak, and he’s a crazy guy.

If the Jets were to sign Fournette, they could cut Bell and save a little over $2 million in cap space. As crazy as that sounds, this is the New York Jets we’re talking about; it really wouldn’t shock me.

If this were to happen, Fournette would be the starter and could fight off Frank Gore for carries easily.

Wrap it up

No matter how you slice it, this morning was a blow for the Leonard Fournette truthers out there. However, keep these positive thoughts in mind:

  • Grab Ryquell Armstead off waivers or draft him late
  • Do NOT “panic trade” if you’ve already drafted Fournette
  • DO try and incite panic-trading with Fournette owners in your leagues
  • Remember there are a few good landing spots for Fournette to stay fantasy relevant

Finally, if Leonard Fournette is signed by a team that is not ideal, stay calm. Roster cuts are coming Saturday and that will give you a better idea of that team’s backfield situation. If the situation still sucks after Saturday’s cuts, feel free to panic.


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