What We Learned: 2021 Preseason
Check back here every week to listen to Tim: analyze what we saw, discuss who's trending up or down, and jump to some wild conclusions.
The unthinkable happened on Monday morning Aug. 31 as the Jacksonville Jaguars released workhorse RB Leonard Fournette.
Okay, so after seeing the way the Jaguars have handled their best players over the past three seasons, maybe this wasn’t the most unthinkable thing that could have happened.
Since Jacksonville lost the 2017 AFC Championship, they have released, traded or not re-signed seven players that made a pro-bowl appearance for them. The list includes huge names like Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Allen Robinson and Calais Campbell.
They've made it clear they don't like having good players on their team, but this Fournette news is still shocking nonetheless.
We knew the Jags had plans to move on from Fournette after they declined the fifth-year option on his contract, but most would have never guessed it’d happen so soon and so suddenly, just two weeks away from the beginning of the 2020 season.
So, as I’m sure many of you are wondering, what is the Fantasy Fallout? Well, if you already drafted Fournette, obviously you can’t use him right now. The way I see it, your best bet is to wait and see where he lands, and just pray it’s somewhere favorable.
Either way, now is no time to be feeling sorry for yourself solider! The season is still young! You’re just going to have to work with what you’ve got, play the waiver-wire and facilitate some trades damn it!
Those who drafted Antonio Brown last season should be no stranger to this situation.
Fournette’s top landing spots, in my opinion, would be (in order) New England, Tampa Bay, or Washington.
Either way you scratch it, he’ll have competition for touches and likely isn’t going to receive the workload he deserves. Barring an injury to a lead back somewhere, Fournette probably won’t be returning RB1 numbers. But here is why I like the teams mentioned above.
New England Patriots:
If Fournette signed with the Pats right now, he is instantly the best back on the roster. Between James White, Lamar Miller, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, it is definitely crowded over there. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pats cut the newly signed Miller in favor of the younger, more bulky Fournette.
He would likely take over for Michel as the perfect goal-line hammer, and push for double-digit TD’s on the ground. However, with White’s role as the pass catching specialist unlikely to change, Fournette wouldn’t be in line for the receiving workload he proved he is capable of with 76 receptions last season. Best-case scenario, he is an RB2 with TD upside.
The Ronald Jones believers aren’t going to like this one. Yes, RoJo is a talented player, but with Fournette in town, they'd be all but guaranteed to split carries. The signing wouldn’t make the most sense considering the team just drafted Keyshawn Vaughn, and signed Shady McCoy this offseason. But, of all 32 NFL teams, the Bucs are one of a handful that don’t have a clear cut bell-cow RB.
As a Fournette owner, Jones would likely have a larger role than you’d like in this situation. But, if Lenny can pull away with the hot-hand, Arians could let him run wild. It also is worth noting that, since 2018, Tom Brady is third amongst QB’s in passing TD’s to RB’s (14).
Currently, 35-year old Adrian Peterson sits atop Washington’s RB depth chart. While the wiley veteran is still capable of delivering solid performances (seven games with 70+ rush yards in 2019, including three over 95+), he has certainly looked much less explosive in the past few years than we are used to.
If Fournette were to come in, he would be an immediate upgrade and the Football Team (so weird to say) would likely cut the veteran Peterson, and I trust Ron Rivera would make the call to feed Fournette.
Many are high on Antonio Gibson this season (for good reason) but one look at his most recent collegiate season, you will see he’s more of a receiving back than anything else.
Don't get me wrong, the guy has an elite combination of size, speed, receiving ability, vision and elusiveness to be a great NFL back. But for the majority of his career, he didn't play running back. There is a lot to learn, pass protection wise, that Gibson will need to work on as he is less experienced than the average RB in that department. He would no doubt steal a large receiving workload from Fournette, but Lenny could still end up delivering mid-range RB2 numbers.
Photo Courtesy of NJ.com
Former Jacksonville RB, Leonard Fournette, avoids a tackle from a Falcon on his way to 100 total yards.
This news is tough for fantasy football players everywhere, especially considering how shallow the RB position is already, but what can you do to pick up the pieces if Fournette doesn’t land somewhere favorable/anywhere at all?
Ryquell Armstead seems to be the back to own in Jacksonville but, let’s be honest, he’s no Fournette. He’s probably not going to score you the type of points you were hoping for when you picked Leonard, but Armstead is in fact a lead back. Albeit a lead back with the seventh-worst graded O-line (according to ProFootballFocus) but a lead back nonetheless. Armstead is a middle-of-the-pack RB3 for me, but could push for RB2 numbers if he finds the end zone enough.
Devin Ozigbo is also an interesting prospect, but he’s going to begin the season third on the depth chart. He’s not currently worth a roster spot in standard-sized leagues.
For me, Chris Thompson is the guy you’re going to want to scoop. Thompson will be reuniting with Jay Gruden in Jacksonville, and is a favorite to take on the pass catching role out of the backfield. Thompson has shown flashes and has proven to be a good (PPR) fantasy option in the past. If he can stay healthy, he is certainly going to be in the flex/RB3 conversation.
So, my advice? Be patient. There’s still two weeks until the season starts, hang on to Fournette for now. Unless of course you can find a trade you like, in which case, by all means save yourself the stress. Just know this: there’s still time to recover.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to a one-year deal with Leonard Fournette.
This moves Fournette up in my rankings, but not enough to get him back into the top-25. Like I eluded to before the team signed him, he’ll likely split the load with Ronald Jones, at least in some capacity.
After talking RoJo up all off season, it seems unlikely they will simply give his job away, at least right off the bat. If Fournette can impress enough to run away with the feature back role, then it is a different story entirely.
I for one wholeheartedly believe Fournette is the superior back but, unlike in Jacksonville, he'll share the backfield with someone who is an actual legitimate threat to earn at least 30 percent of the touches each week.
We also can't forget that LeSean McCoy is still there... And rookie Keyshawn Vaughn. Fournette is not guarenteed a ton of volume by any means.
At best, Fournette is now a mid-range RB3 with the opportunity to be enter the RB2 conversation if he can make a case for himself to handle the bulk of the backfield work.
Tim Brosnan, Fantasy Sports Analyst/Freelance Journalist
Tim Brosnan is a college-educated sports journalist from the New Haven, Connecticut area.
Brosnan earned his Bachelor's Degree from Castleton University where he majored in Media & Communication, with a focus in Journalism.
During his tenure as the sports editor of the Castleton Spartan newspaper, Brosnan created the segment 'Tim's Fantasy Tips'. It began as a simple weekly start/sit column, but since then, the idea has grown into so much more.
Brosnan has taken his experience/passion for fantasy football and combined it with his journalistic know-how in order to bring you a completely original, well-informed, multi-layered fantasy football advice experience.
We hope you enjoy.