Fantasy Fallout from the Leonard Fournette Newsby Mike Fanelli August 31, 2020 1 comment
Yesterday, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings. After months of public frustration, the team was finally able to work out a trade. However, they weren’t as lucky when it came to Leonard Fournette. After trying to trade him away all offseason long, the Jaguars released Fournette this morning.
Reportedly the team couldn’t even get a conditional seventh-round pick for Fournette. For comparison, the Miami Dolphins recently got a conditional seventh-round pick for Kalen Ballage before a failed physical voided the trade. Head coach Doug Marrone said the release had to do with the other running backs on the team and not the issues Fournette has had with the front office and coaching staff. However, given the fact that the team couldn’t get anything in return for Fournette, this sounds more like coach speak than the truth. So what should fantasy owners do with the Fournette news?
The Remaining Jaguar Running Backs
With Fournette off the roster, the Jaguars are left with Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson, Devine Ozigbo, and James Robinson. At first glance, this backfield is ugly from a fantasy perspective, and that first glance is correct. If you own any of these guys in dynasty, now is the time to trade them away as their value will never be higher. However, in redraft leagues, which of these guys should you want on your roster?
Armstead was Fournette’s backup last season, but he wasn’t very good with his limited carries. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 35 rushing attempts last season. Armstead averaged 3.2 fantasy points per game in PPR scoring last season. Furthermore, Armstead only had three games last season with more than four fantasy points. Maybe with a bigger role, he can turn into a flex option in non PPR, but in PPR leagues, Armstead shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a long shot RB5.
In PPR, Thompson is the guy to target. If he is taken before the 10th round in 12 team leagues, he was a reach. The Jaguars will be chasing points most of the season, and Thompson is now clearly the third down and pass-catching back. He has a history with offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, from their time in Washington, but Thompson has struggled with injuries. During his seven-year career, Thompson has played more than 13 games just once. His role is the most secure, even if the Jaguars add a free agent, but his injury history is a major red flag.
The two unknowns on the roster are Ozigbo and Robinson. Both offer upside as the “unknown guy”, but given the situation they are in, fantasy owners shouldn’t draft either in a standard size redraft league. However, in dynasty or super deep redraft leagues, Robinson is a guy to draft/add off the waiver wire. Reportedly, the coaching staff has been impressed with Robinson, and his play in training camp help led to Fournette’s release. That could mean something, or it could be coach speak. Either way, Robinson worth a look in deeper redraft leagues and dynasty leagues.
Possible Free Agent/Trade Options
It seems like every time we get some sort of running back news, Freeman’s name is mentioned. However, this might be the best spot for him from a fantasy perspective this season. Despite playing on an Atlanta Falcons team that struggled to run the ball last season, Freeman still averaged 3.6 yards per carry and 14.1 fantasy points per game. He had just two rushing touchdowns but 70 targets. If the Jaguars signed Freeman, he would step into a featured role and would have a strong impact on third down. With his signing, all of the running backs currently on the Jaguars’ roster would become undraftable except for Thompson in deeper PPR leagues. Meanwhile, Freeman would become a low-end RB2/high-end flex option based on volume alone.
As much as Jonathan Taylor owners would love to see Mack traded (myself included), those odds are slim, especially to a division rival. However, if the Indianapolis Colts and Jaguars can work out a deal for Mack, not only would Taylor become a first-round pick in redraft leagues, but Mack would become a mid RB2. Similarly to Freeman, Mack would have value based on his expected volume role. However, unlike Freeman, Mack has never had a season with more than 33 targets, and that was during his rookie season. With Mack in the fold, he would get the early-down work and allow Thompson to play on third downs. Again, this is more of a dream for Taylor owners but never say never.
Best Fantasy Landing Spots for Leonard Fournette
No matter where Fournette signs, he won’t be the featured back. The only way that happens is if a team’s featured running back goes down for the season, and the backup is awful. However, removing that scenario, where is the best fantasy landing spot for Fournette? The answer is more so where will he least impact an already solid fantasy backfield. Below are the three best fantasy landing spots in terms of Fournette’s fantasy value and not making a running back by committee situation headache for the running backs on the roster.
Washington Football Team
After Derrius Guice‘s release, the Washington backfield became a guessing game. Opinions on the veteran Adrian Peterson, rookie Antonio Gibson, and second-year unknown Bryce Love are all over the place. The truth is, this backfield is one to avoid. However, if Fournette is signed, it would likely mean Peterson would be released or traded, leaving Love and Gibson behind Fournette on the depth chart. With Fournette in Washington, he would become a low-end RB2 in PPR as he would get most of the early-down work and even some on third down depending on how the team wants to use Gibson.
The duo of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida is solid, but neither are weekly fantasy starters. With Fournette on the Dolphins, he would get the majority of the early-down work. If Howard isn’t released or traded, he would split time with Fournette. Breida would be the third-down back for as long as he can stay healthy. After catching 76 passes last season, Fournette could also be used on third down to limit Breida’s workload. If the Dolphins signed Fournette and moved on from Howard, Fournette should be viewed as a low-end RB2. However, if the Dolphins signed Fournette and kept Howard, Fournette is nothing more than a flex option with upside should Howard or Breida miss time with an injury.
Los Angeles Chargers
This landing spot will upset Austin Ekeler truthers, but it shouldn’t. Aside from the first four games of last season, Ekeler has never been a featured running back. Are the Chargers sure he can hold up with a 300 plus touch workload? Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley are the backups, and Fournette would be a clear upgrade. Ekeler would remain the starter and get all the third-down work while Fournette would get some of the early-down work and most of the short-yardage situation carries. This isn’t an ideal situation for Fournette, as he might be a touchdown or bust candidate. If he landed with the Chargers, he should be viewed as a mid RB3 with boom or bust potential depending on game flow.
For Ekeler owners, the likelihood Fournette signs with the Chargers is very slim, but if he does, Ekeler remains a top 15 running back in PPR scoring. Last season, in the 12 games he played with Melvin Gordon, the Chargers split the snaps almost a perfect 50-50. In those 12 games, Ekeler averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game. Over a full time 16 span, Ekeler would have finished the year as the RB7 with that average. Furthermore, in 2018, when he was clearly the change of pace running back behind Gordon, Ekeler averaged 12.1 fantasy points per game. Over a 16 game span, that average would have made Ekeler the RB18 that season.
The Fantasy Advice
In conclusion, what should fantasy owners do with the Fournette news? For dynasty leagues, sell high on all of the running backs on the Jaguars’ roster as their value will likely never be higher than it is right now. In redraft, avoid drafting any Jaguars running back in the first 10 rounds of your drafts. With Fournette, you should try to buy low in dynasty. While Fournette isn’t an elite running back, he is still a solid player. If the current owner is panicking, try trading a third-round rookie pick or two lower-level bench players for him. In redraft leagues, you shouldn’t trade or draft for Fournette till we know where he lands.
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