Thursday, March 9, 2017

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournett, LSU
6-0, 240
Fournette was one of the most impressive backs in the nation for most of his second season at LSU, after largely having a quiet freshman season despite solid output. His junior season was a mess of injuries and conspiracy as to whether or not he was all in with this draft on the horizon.
As a freshman, he rushed for 1034 yards and 10 scores, and averaged 5.53 yards per carry. During his breakout sophomore campaign, he rushed for 1953 yards and 22 scores, while averaging 6.51 yards per carry. He fell off considerably in 2016, as a junior. He had a rash of injury issues, and never seemed fully invested in the season. He ran for a career low 843 yards in just seven games, and scored eith times. He still managed to average 6.53 yards per carry, but was far outperformed by Darrius Guice.
The Good
During parts of the 2015 season, he was the best back I have ever seen since Bo Jackson at Auburn. He ran for over 200 yards in three of the first four games of the 2015 season, but then came a game against Alabama in which he was slammed shut for just 31 yards on 19 carries, and it took him a full four games to get back to speed. He did finish that season strong with a 212 yard performance against Texas Tech that came with four rushing scores.
He runs with amazing burst from scrimmage, and is very powerful. He may be the strongest runner in the draft in terms of how much power he generates. Once he hits the hole, he blasts through it with an amazing speed gear changer that takes a fraction of a second to hit. Loves to create contact, and hits defenders with power.
He has excellent foot work, and keeps on driving through hits. Solid upper body strength allows for him to deliver rock solid straight arms. He can be a full three down back, and is powerful enough in goal line situations to score more than not. He has some ability as a receiver as well.
The Bad
He has too much excitement when it comes to creating contact. Doe snot do enough to make tacklers miss and would rather run through them. He tends to lack IQ when it comes to creativity, and runs where he is supposed to, and does not spend too much time worrying about being creative in space.
He tends to out run his blocking, and does not use his speed change ability with finesse. He just jumps from one speed to another because he thinks he should, not because he should in a particular scenario.
He is not a great blocker in the passing game. May need to be removed from the field on obvious passing plays.
BY taking too many hits, he is an injury risk, and was hurt for a considerable part of 2016. It appeared at times that he was not entirely invested at LSU, and there was some chatter that he would sit out 2016. His inury, which cost him five games was a rather interesting coincidence given that pre-season chatter. He also sat out his bowl game to prepare for the draft after the 2016 season, making me question his dedication to the larger team rather than just himself, and he had a rather lame explanation for it after the fact, claiming that he had no say in the matter, which I just do not believe.
Final Overview
Fournette is exactly what you want on paper in an NFL back, but he needs to develop some pieces to his game, which is why it was such a waste to lose five games in 2016. He will need to be coached up on being more elusive, and he needs to work himself up to being more of an asset in the passing game as both a blocker and as a top flight out of the backfield receiver.
If he is on his A game, and he is invested, there is not a better back in this draft, and he is a top five player. If he is not fully invested, he's not worth the risk. Which version of him shows up on the next level is a complete mystery right now.

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