Leonard Fournette 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Overview
Position: Running Back
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 235 pounds
School: LSU Tigers

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash
: 4.51 seconds
Vertical jump: 28.5 inches

Leonard Fournette 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson. These are only a few names synonymous with legendary excellence at the running back position. Players like these come only once or twice in a generation, forming the backbone of some of the most feared NFL offenses. Leonard Fournette is 2017’s best chance to add to that list. Drawing comparisons to many of those famed running backs, Fournette dominated in college. His punishing north-south style was nearly unstoppable, with a penchant for breaking tackles and trucking SEC defenders like confused toddlers.

In terms of size and skill, Fournette might be perfect. He’s 235 pounds with the expectation to run a 4.3 in the 40-yard-dash. And while he may not be the most elusive back, he can break multiple tackles without losing speed or angle. This allows Fournette to continue driving after first, second, and even third contact; letting him take massive chunks of yardage at a time. He’s only average in height, but he has a rare ability to lower his center of gravity without sacrificing velocity. This makes it much more difficult for a pursuing defender to bring Fournette down by his legs. For those brave enough to challenge Fournette directly, I’ll simply leave this:

If you think that kind of power makes Fournette full of himself, you’d be wrong. Even as a freshman, Fournette was described by his teammates and coaches as humble, with a team-first attitude. His decision to skip the Citrus Bowl was initially met with some fan criticism, but a recent interview Fournette did for NFL Live shed light on his absence being a coach’s decision rather than a personal one.

Perhaps his only real drawback is that Fournette did battle through an ankle injury that had him miss several games in 2016. However, his greatest collegiate game came during the same season. In LSU’s October matchup against Ole Miss, Fournette broke a school record with 284 rushing yards and three touchdowns on only sixteen carries – all with a bum ankle. Imagine if he was was one-hundred percent. 

Strengths

  • Instant upgrade to almost any offense and can draw attention freeing up other members of offense (especially in play-action when linebackers will be forced to focus on Fournette);
  • Compares favorably to Adrian Peterson with punishing and speedy style;
  • Unlike Peterson, Fournette is an every-down back as he can pass-protect and catch passes;
  • At home in gap-scheme run plays (largely north-south running); Fournette will take advantage of any open space given with quick acceleration;
  • Possesses a once-in-a-lifetime combination of power, speed, size and athleticism;
  • Fantastic ability to lower his center of gravity, making him far-less susceptible to lower leg/ankle tackles;
  • Trucks defenders like toddlers; can easilly break through first and secondary line of defense;
  • Though he tends to prefer to go through defenders, his films shows that he’s capable of adopting a more ellusive style of play;
  • Has a good football I.Q. and has shown a willingness to improve his overall game (he was much more featured in both pass-protection and receiving in his final season);

Weaknesses

  • Not a polished route runner;
  • Pass-protection technique needs work, but he does get the job done;
  • In zone-read plays (east-west), he tends to leave yards on the field by ignoring, or failing to observe, outside reads in favor of inside reads;
  • Loses his tackle-breaking ability when not given a chance to build up momentum (this is how he was negated when playing Alabama);
  • There may be an injury concern, Fournette missed significant playing in 2016;

NFL Comparison: Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson

Teams with Need at Position: Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers

Projection: Early first round, potentially top ten

Bottom Line

In a more run-heavy era, Fournette would be a surefire top-two pick. But with the devaluation of the position, he may slip into the early teens of the first round. Some teams may be a little skeptical of his recent injury history, but Fournette’s immense upside makes that negligible. One only needs to look at Todd Gurley‘s rookie season to see the potential Fournette has, especially since all indications are that he’s better than Gurley.

The best thing about Fournette is the instant impact he’ll bring to any offense he joins. Now, he’d be a much better fit in Minnesota, where the running style is generally north-south. Like Adrian Peterson, Fournette is at his best when he can line up deep in the backfield for that extra surge before he hits the line of scrimmage.

However, his adaptability and sheer talent would certainly lead to success in a less-traditional east-west running scheme. Especially if that system utilizes a lot of two-back sets where Fournette can follow the fullback without having to make any reads. This evens the playing field with his contemporary, Dalvin Cook, who’s largely been seen as one of the most well-rounded backs in this draft.

In either scenario, Fournette is a essentially a guarantee to be either a foundation block for a building franchise, or an exceptional addition to an already-solid offense. Do not be surprised if Fournette sees his draft stock rise in the coming months before the draft – few players come with such a promise.


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