Written by Mikey Ostrowski
Let me start by saying this: you’re nuts if you’re taking anyone over Christian McCaffrey in dynasty. You’d also be nuts if you took Leonard Fournette from the 1.02 spot… but there’s a world where that would have been the standard procedure.
Fournette finally found himself in a fully healthy season, allowing us to look at what he was supposed to be when he entered the league in 2017, and his stats were pretty impressive.
There is realistically only one thing that is holding Fournette back from being a top-three dynasty pick: his future is a mystery. Think there’s more to it than just that? Well, let’s look at the numbers.
Fournette finished sixth in rushing yards for the year, while having the eighth-most rushing attempts on average per game. If you have the eighth-most attempts per game, finishing in the top six is a good sign. Not to mention that volume is king (Fournette had more attempts per game than Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara and Joe Mixon).
Fournette was also top four (running backs) in targets per game, only finishing behind McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and James White, while being in the top five for receiving yards on the season. If you combine his rushing and receiving work, he had the fourth-most yards per game in 2019, behind only McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry.
As I had mentioned before, volume is the absolute king for running back production, and Fournette is only one spot away from being THE volume king. If you combine his rush attempts and targets, he has more volume than every single player not named CMC in the entire league. Let’s take a look at how volume translates to fantasy production:
#1 in volume: Christian McCaffrey (#1 in fantasy points per game)
#2 in volume: Leonard Fournette (#8 in fantasy points per game)
#3 in volume: Ezekiel Elliott (#5 in fantasy points per game)
#4 in volume: Dalvin Cook (#2 in fantasy points per game)
#5 in volume: Saquon Barkley (#7 in fantasy points per game)
#6 in volume: Derrick Henry (#4 in fantasy points per game)
#7 in volume: Nick Chubb (#11 in fantasy points per game)
#8 in volume: Chris Carson (#12 in fantasy points per game)
Sure, you could argue that finishing at No. 8 with the second-most volume is a bad thing, but there is an untold story here: Fournette is the ONLY player on this list that is guaranteed for some positive touchdown regression.
Fournette finished 2019 with only three TOTAL touchdowns, which given his volume, is absurd. The smallest total amount that any of the other guys had was eight touchdowns, making Fournette the outlier here.
So what happens if we give him five extra touchdowns (which even eight touchdowns barely matches the expected output for the production)? He’d become No. 5 in the league for fantasy points per game. I know this is hypothetical, and you can argue that if he couldn’t score with the total touches this year, what makes me think he’ll score next year. The reality is that the law of averages would suggest that Fournette is guaranteed to see an uptick in touchdowns, and if he keeps the elite number he has for total touches/attempts per game, he’s an easy top-five running back for fantasy football.
Fournette is widely disrespected in fantasy football and it really doesn’t make much sense. I can understand selling him in dynasty if you’re in a rebuild due to his hazy future, but at the very least, he’s got a chance to be a top-three running back for fantasy in 2020.
Think about it: he’s not returning to Jacksonville in 2021 and he’s not going to hold out in 2020, which means that Jacksonville will not be slowing down his volume. In fact, I’d be shocked if they didn’t run him into the ground this year. What do they care if he takes a beating this year? He’s not their problem next year.
If you’re a contender, you HAVE to at least do your due diligence and make some sort of offer on Fournette. Chances are, you can get him very cheap due to his perceived value and could take advantage of, at the very least, a one-year rental player to help you get to the championship.
In redraft leagues, he absolutely has to be in consideration to be a top-five pick… but he won’t be. In fact, I won’t be surprised to see Fournette falling out of the first round entirely in redraft leagues. He is currently the No. 28 overall player in the redraft consensus rankings, and while I do think that will trend upwards, most will not consider him to be a top-20 fantasy player for 2020. Barring injury, the absolute worst-case scenario for Fournette this year is finishing as a low-end RB1, so having him ranked as the consensus No. 14 running back in PPR for 2020 makes absolutely zero sense.
My recent projection model has him realistically finishing as the No. 8 overall running back, but he also has the most short-term upside given how cheap he can be acquired for. The projected stats for Fournette in 2020 are currently:
294 rushing attempts, 1,205 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns, 66 receptions, 442 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown: for a total of 272.7 Fantasy Points.
You don’t have to take my word for it when I say that Fournette could (and should) legitimately be a top-five running back in 2020. However, you should strongly consider the numbers because these numbers don’t lie. Having a running back that should stay in the top five in terms of usage should be a priority on everyone’s list. Even if he doesn’t have positive touchdown regression, and his production falls, the volume he has will always make up for it.
This article was mostly to dispel the narrative that Fournette isn’t good and is an absolute “must avoid” in dynasty leagues. He should absolutely not be avoided; he should be coveted by every contender out there. I’m not going to lie to you, there is a big risk that 2020 could be Fournette’s last year of true fantasy relevance, but he’ll definitely find a team before the 2021 season starts and he should more than likely find himself in a featured role (or at least the 1A of a timeshare somewhere). If I had to guess, Fournette will be a fantastic value RB1 in 2020 and should be a mid-to-high-end RB2 once he finds a new team.
In the end, if Fournette received a big extension from Jacksonville this offseason, he would very likely be a top-five pick in dynasty startups and would shoot up the redraft fantasy rankings as well. Given his volume and efficiency (that is constantly downplayed by fantasy players everywhere), there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll finish, once again, as an RB1, and I seriously think that the narrative around him, even if redraft leagues, would be so much more positive if he received an extension.
So, should Fournette actually be the 1.02 on draft day? Absolutely not. Would he be in consideration for the 1.02 had he received an extension? I think so.
Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we BS about the NFL and fantasy football with questions and topics provided by listeners!