The Jacksonville Jaguars made waves on Monday, releasing running back Leonard Fournette. This leaves several fantasy owners wondering what to do with Fournette, and it puts Ryquell Armstead and Chris Thompson atop the Jacksonville backfield. Let’s break down what to do with Fournette, and what fantasy football owners can expect from the remaining parts of Jacksonville’s backfield.
It’s also worth noting that former undrafted free agent Devine Ozigbo could also steal the starting job, although it would be an uphill battle for him.
Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson Fantasy Football Outlook
Nobody should have been drafting Fournette at his old ADP, but what’s done is done. Now, fantasy owners everywhere need to find out what to do with their running back. Fournette was the RB7 last season and had some positive touchdown regression coming his way. However, the biggest reason for his third-round ADP was the complete lack of competition. In 2019, Fournette played in a staggering 82.9% of the offensive snaps, far more than enough to offset his terrible rushing and receiving efficiency.
No matter where he lands, that opportunity isn’t going to be around any longer. As an actual player, Fournette hasn’t done anything to prove that he’s a starting-caliber running back since entering the league. The Jaguars reportedly couldn’t even get a seventh-round pick for his services, so he’s staring down a backup job.
That said, there are a few landing spots that could lead to fantasy relevance. The Philadelphia Eagles currently have Miles Sanders slated to be the workhorse back, but that could change with Fournette available. Philadelphia flirted with Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde in free agency, and Doug Pederson has a history of using a committee approach in his backfield. If Fournette lands here, he could be a decent flex play. Ditto for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team with Ronald Jones and not much else.
Fournette has no value right now in any format. While it’s not great news to hear, Fournette owners should hold for now and make a decision once he has a new team.
With Fournette out of town, Ryqell Armstead should be the primary early-down running back. The former seventh-round pick played in just 13.8% of the offensive snaps last year, so it’s hard to know exactly how he’ll perform at the NFL level. That said, the Jaguars wouldn’t have released Fournette if they weren’t confident that Armstead could adequately do the job.
Coming out of college, Armstead projected as a solid between-the-tackles runner that won’t make much of a difference in the passing game. The Draft Network said his worst trait was pass-blocking, and the folks at PFF tend to agree. According to their grading, Armstead ended the season with an atrocious 43.0 pass blocking grade on an admittedly small sample of 11 snaps.
Armstead is going to see a high percentage of the early-down work, and that will make him a flex-worthy play. However, this will be a low-scoring offense. Touchdowns are going to be hard to come across, and Jacksonville’s terrible defense means that Gardner Minshew and company should be throwing a lot. You’re going to want the pass-catching running back, which means…
Say what you will about Chris Thompson’s talent, but he is in the perfect situation to thrive. The biggest reason for Fournette’s RB7 finish was the unexpected increase in passing volume. Last year, the running back received a staggering 100 targets. He was horribly inefficient with said targets, but that didn’t matter since the volume was so high.
Thompson thrives as a receiving back and would’ve stolen this job from Fournette, even if he was still in town. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Thompson have a long history together, and Jacksonville’s lack of receiving options combined with Minshew’s penchant for checkdowns means that he should be a featured part of the offense as long as he’s on the field.
However, staying on the field is an issue for Thompson. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016 and averages just 10.3 games played per season since 2017. He’ll probably get hurt at some point, but he should be a solid flex play when on the field.
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