Don't Blindly Fade Leonard Fournette in Fantasy Football This Year

Leonard Fournette has had an -- um -- interesting offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While the Jags committed to quarterback Gardner Minshew (at least for 2020), they declined Fournette's fifth-year option and reportedly tried to trade their 2017 fourth overall pick.

All this comes after what was a pretty good season from Fournette in 2019. He was the RB7 in PPR formats -- boosted by a huge jump in receiving work -- and had career-high clips in rushing yards (1,152), receptions (76), targets (100), receiving yards (522), and yards from scrimmage (1,674) across 15 games. In standard leagues, he finished as the RB13, his second-highest finish behind his rookie season in 2017 (RB8).

Can Fournette be just as good in 2020?

Where Are the Touchdowns?

Fournette was clearly Jacksonville's primary offensive option a season ago, leading the team in carries, rushing yards, and receptions while seeing 100 targets. But the former LSU star had a tough time finding paydirt. Fournette amassed just three total touchdowns despite playing a career-high 15 games last year and seeing some massive volume.

While Jacksonville being a poor offense (26th in points per game in 2019) didn't help his touchdown chances, Fournette scoring just three times on 341 total touches likely comes down to bad luck and the randomness of scoring plays more than anything.

He saw eight carries inside the five, scoring all his tuds from the one and accounting for 100% of the Jags' rushing attempts inside the five. He also got 23 carries inside the 10, the 11th-most among all backs, while his 43 overall red zone rushing attempts were the sixth-most. No one else who saw at least 30 carries inside the 20 scored three or fewer touchdowns, and Fournette had 43 such carries. Fournette also got four pass-game targets inside the 10, catching three, but didn't score on any of them.

With the build of a red-zone bruiser, Fournette scored six total touchdowns in 2018 despite getting just 155 touches, 186 fewer than his 2019 workload -- serving as a great example of how random touchdowns can be.

He's had two seasons of at least 1,300 total yards to counter his lack of tuddies, and his rise in targets -- 100 targets last year after seeing just 74 combined in his first two campaigns -- helped raise his weekly floor, particularly in PPR and half-PPR formats. That level of pass-game work may not carry over into 2020, particularly with Chris Thompson now in the fold, but Fournette should continue to see heavy rushing volume as Ryquell Armstead is his lone challenger on that front, and he's shown he's more than capable as a receiver.

The Negatives

One of the big hurdles for Fournette will be overcoming what should once again be a fairly bad Jacksonville offense, but it's something he dealt with in 2019.

The lack of offensive talent around him last season proved to be a script for opponents in stopping Fournette. He faced an eight-man box 31.2% of the time (10th-most) on his 265 carries. His average number of defenders in the box, per PlayerProfiler, in 2019 was 7.1 (fourth-most). As you'd expect, he was much better without stacked boxes, recording 4.8 yards per run versus boxes of six or less, compared to 3.8 yards per carry versus eight-man boxes.

With all that said, there's a chance Minshew is actually good as his rookie-year numbers grade out pretty well compared to recent rookie quarterback seasons -- something our Josh Shepardson thoroughly broke down.

While Fournette played in all but one game in 2019, injuries have been a problem for him in his career. Fournette recorded 300-plus total touches last season for the second time in his career. The last time he did so was his rookie season in 2017. He wound up missing eight games the following year. Obviously injuries are heard to predict, but the odds of him producing his first 16-game campaign in 2020 aren't great.

Where Should You Take Him?

We know how valuable volume is in fantasy football, and Fournette got a ton of it in 2019. Despite that, he's not even being valued as an RB1 (top-12). Fournette's ADP in May was 23rd overall -- RB15 -- in BestBall10's mock drafts.

With backs like Melvin Gordon (RB17), Jonathan Taylor (RB16) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB14) -- three guys with, at least on paper, more volume concerns as of now -- going in his range, Fournette makes a lot of sense at his current cost.

Admittedly, our models aren't super high on Fournette, ranking him as the RB18, but we have his receiving totals dropping in a big way -- going from 100 targets and 76 grabs a year ago to 64 looks and 47 receptions in 2020 -- as we have Thompson and Armstead combining for roughly 60 targets. While Thompson figures to eat away at Fournette's pass-game volume, Fournette should still a plenty of touches overall -- 275.4 by our projections, which would've been the 11th-most last season.

In all, we have Fournette at 1,266 total yards and 7.2 total touchdowns. He is probably best suited as a high-end RB2 for 2020, but with so few workhorse backs out there, Fournette's volume gives him a solid floor as well as enticing upside, especially if the touchdown pendulum swings the other way for him.