Leonard Fournette's impact on the Jaguars offense in 2017 can't be overstated. The rookie, who was the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, has been reliable for the Jaguars and allowed the team to do much more on offense. To this point in the season, defenses have loaded up the box with eight and nine man fronts -- they've done this for two reasons: 1.) To slow down Fournette, aka the "Duval Destroyer" 2.) Because they don't think the Jaguars will test them downfield. In the second half of the Jaguars week two loss to the Titans that plan worked. But for the 10 other quarters the Jaguars have played this season, the team has been effective moving the ball, in large part due to the presence of Leonard Fournette.
What's my point?
Even when Fournette doesn't have a huge statistical impact, he impacts the game simply by being lined up in the backfield for the Jaguars, as evidenced by the Jaguars league best point differential of 38.
More good news?
Fournette is having a HUGE statistical impact. Sure, his yards per carry is under four on the year, but that's due to several factors - 1.) Defenses are loading the box against Fournette 2.) He's used in many third and short/goal line situations, which negatively impact the yards per carry statistic 3.) The offensive line has gotten called for penalties on several of his runs of 10+ yards 4.) He's been inches away from breaking "the big one" several times, but still hasn't had a carry longer than 17 yards.
Even with all those factors stacked against him Fournette is having a big statistical impact! He's currently on pace to score 16 TDs -- he's scored one in each contest so far, and with his heavy usage rate close to the goal line that number could be even higher by seasons end. Fournette is also on pace to rack up 1,413 yards from scrimmage (1,061 yards on the ground and 352 yards receiving). He's been a highly effective receiver out of the backfield (I told you he would be) and been tough in short yardage situations. He's allowed the Jaguars to become a real threat to score every time they cross the 50 yard line and has worn defenses down throughout games.
Even more good news?
Fournette hasn't reached his full potential in a game yet. Like I said before, he's been inches away from breaking several big runs. It's only a matter of time before he starts to break some of those. He also hasn't had a dominant run blocking performance from his offensive line yet. The O-line has been much improved as a run blocking unit, but they still have a ways to go. If they get better throughout the season then Fournette's efficiency could rise greatly.
Even if Fournette's stats don't improve over the course of the season, he'll still have one the best statistical rookie seasons by a running back of all time. At 16 rushing TDs Fournette would have the second must rushing TDs by a rookie all time.
The Jaguars were scrutinized for taking a running back with the fourth overall pick, but it's hard to imagine them selecting anyone that would have a bigger immediate impact -- so far, he's been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Jaguars.
One storyline to keep an eye on as the season moves forward is Fournette's total touches. He's on pace for 347 total touches in 2017. The Jaguars need to be careful about just how much they feed Fournette the rock. They'll want him healthy for a potential playoff run and will want him to be sustainable long term.
Are you happy with how Leonard Fournette has performed for the Jaguars so far? Let us know in the comments below!
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