The NFL Scouting Combine has officially come to an end. That being said, it is now time to assess the entire 2017 rookie class from a fantasy football perspective. In doing so, individuals will begin to rise and fall in offseason rankings at various skill positions. While referencing a blend of college film and statistical production on paper, a player’s characteristics and traits can be identified. The first rookie from the upcoming 2017 draft class that was analyzed for this series is none other than Louisiana State’s Leonard Fournette, who is currently 22-years-old.
NFL Scouting Combine Overview
|Height||Weight||40 Yard Dash||Vertical Jump|
|6' 0"||240 Pounds||4.51 Seconds||28.5 Inch|
As evident from the table above, Fournette participated in two events at the NFL Scouting Combine. His forty time of 4.51 seconds ranked tenth among running backs, which is rather impressive for an athlete of his stature. On the other hand, Fournette’s 28.5-inch vertical jump is somewhat of a concern for a player of his caliber. Nonetheless, he impressed during on-field drills and remains a virtual lock to be selected in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
There’s legitimate reason behind the amount of hype surrounding Leonard Fournette, as his production at LSU is off the charts. For a closer look at his collegiate output, review the table below:
|Year||Rushing Yards||Yard Per Carry Average||Rushing Touchdowns||Receptions/Receiving Yards||Receiving Touchdowns|
As a true freshman, Fournette led the SEC in all-purpose yards due to his presence as a tailback and role on special teams. His production that season was led by a 1,034-yard rushing campaign. Fournette then proceeded to record 1,953 rushing yards and 23 total offensive touchdowns as a sophomore, which cemented his status as an elite prospect. As a junior in 2016, Fournette was plagued by a preseason ankle injury. Consequently, he failed to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career at LSU. However, he did manage to manufacture four contests with a minimum of 100 rushing yards. Fournette then put an exclamation point on his college resume with a 284-yard effort against Mississippi with three rushing touchdowns.
Due to the fact that Fournette registered a pedestrian 41 receptions across three seasons at the collegiate level, it is fair to assume that a similar trend will continue in the NFL. After all, receiving ability and pass-protection represent two areas for him to improve on. Otherwise, Fournette is arguably the most polished and explosive straight-line running back to declare for the NFL since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
An eventual landing spot in the NFL Draft will have the largest impact on Fournette’s short-term fantasy football stock, but he projects to be a reliable asset due to an aggressive rushing style with a rare combination of power and speed. According to Fantasy Guru’s Graham Barfield, Fournette ranks within the 94th percentile among running backs in weight-adjusted speed score. In other words, he possesses an elite level of straightaway speed for a running back that is listed at 6’ 0” / 240-pounds.
For redraft purposes, it is entirely possible that Fournette will make an immediate impact as a rookie in 2017. It remains to be seen if he will contribute to the level of Ezekiel Elliott or Jordan Howard circa 2016, as opportunity will ultimately dictate his fantasy value. Regardless, Fournette should be viewed as an RB2 as 2017 drafts approach. Of course, the LSU product also has the potential to surface as an RB1 provided his unique athletic profile and pedigree.
From a dynasty perspective, Fournette is firmly in the 1.01 conversation for rookie drafts. Based on ADP in actual dynasty startup drafts where a complete roster is formed, this would translate to the running back earning a late second-round valuation. This assessment may appear a bit lucrative at first glance, but very few running backs own the skill set of Fournette as an early-down threat. As a result, he offers an ideal blend of proven production and youth in dynasty formats.
The lone concern regarding Fournette’s fantasy outlook is the long-term durability of his ankle, which caused him to miss five regular season contests at LSU in 2016. If the NFL Scouting Combine was any indication, it appears that he has recovered from the ailment. If so, it will certainly bode well for his NFL Draft stock and fantasy value moving forward.