2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Leonard Fournette
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: There are many star recruits in college football who never live up the hype, but that was not the case when it came to Fournette. Before he even took his first carry at LSU, there were comparisons being made to Adrian Peterson. Those are huge expectations for any player, but Fournette ended up validating the hype.
Fournette had a strong freshman season in 2014, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 187 rushes for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns. But as a sophomore, he showed why the hype was justified with a terrific season. Fournette was in the running as the best player in the country as he carried LSU's team. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry for 1,953 yards with 22 touchdowns in 2015, plus he caught 19 passes for 253 yards with a touchdown. Fournette had a number of long gains called back as well.
Fournette's junior season never took off as he had a preseason ankle injury that lingered all year. The LSU training staff had Fournette in a boot, and the program went out of its way to ask NFL scouts to not let that information leak prior to the season opener against Wisconsin. Fournette played in the opener and a number of games, but never was 100 percent. In fact, he looked like was playing at 75 percent all year. He didn't have the same power, explosion or speed. Still, the junior set a school record of 284 rushing yards on 16 carries against Ole Miss with touchdown runs of 59, 76 and 78 yards in an epic performance. Entering the bowl game in which he didn't play, Fournette had averaged 6.5 yards per carry for 843 yards with eight touchdowns. He had 15 receptions for 146 yards as well. While it was a subdued regular season, NFL sources aren't soured at all on Fournette.
As a player, Fournette is the real deal. I think, as a prospect, he is slightly better than Todd Gurley entering the NFL, and I know scouts who have graded Fournette higher than Gurley.
Fournette is very fast with a burst to hole and a second gear in the open field to take the ball the distance. He has rare acceleration and takes away angles from defenders with speed. While Fournette is a fast back, he also is a power back who can run through tackles and bulldoze defenders trying to tackle him. Fournette is very tough to stop in short-yardage situations and on the goal line. He has a perfect combination of speed and power.
On top of having a great combination of size, power and speed, Fournette is elusive in the open field. He has excellent feet, vision, patience and balance. Fournette uses that combination of all those to spin away from defenders, weave around them, and cut through small openings to pick up more yards. Fournette has a superb ability to run while bending at the knee, which allows him to run behind his pads and helps him to bounce off tacklers. Many backs his size have a tendency to run too upright, but Fournette is very good to bend until he gets in the open field and turns on the afterburners.
Fournette also has flashed some nice hands and route-running as a receiver. He is a willing blocker, and he should quickly turn into a three-down starter once he learns NFL blitz schemes and pass protection. Fournette was a weapon to return kickoffs in college, but in the NFL, his team will want to protect him from injury and not use him in the return game.
The only real concerns regarding Fournette are durability after an injury-plagued junior year and some other minor injuries in the previous seasons. Some teams have concerns about Fournette's ankle and fear it could be prone to re-injury. At the combine, Fournette was heavier than expected, so some could feel that his weight will need to be monitored closely in the NFL.
For the NFL, Fournette looks like he has the ability to be a franchise player like Peterson. Dominant running backs can make a big difference in the win/loss column, and Fournette could make any offense difficult regardless of the quarterback. Fournette is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He looks like a future franchise player and Pro Bowl running back - if he can stay healthy. His play thus far has made him worthy of those Peterson comparisons.
Player Comparison: Adrian Peterson. In terms of running style, Fournette's closest comparison is Peterson. Both have the power to run through defenders, the speed to run away from them, and the elusiveness to dodge them in the open field. Peterson is a devastating runner capable of putting his team on his back and carrying the team to wins. Fournette has similar potential for the NFL. I think Fournette could end up being a dominant runner of Peterson's caliber.
NFL Matches: San Francisco, Jacksonville, New York Jets, Carolina and Cincinnati
There are a lot of teams that could take Fournette even though they don't have a need at the position because he is an electric play-maker who could have a huge impact at providing wins for his team. At the top of the 2017 NFL Draft, Fournette could be a turnaround piece for depressed franchises.
San Francisco was hoping for a breakout year from Carlos Hyde, but it didn't happen. Hyde has had durability problems in his first three seasons and will be entering the final year of his contract. Fournette would be an instant upgrade for the 49ers' offense.
The Jaguars could consider taking Fournette because he is such a special talent. Tom Coughlin isn't tied to the drafting of T.J. Yeldon or the signing of Chris Ivory. Additionally, having a weapon like Fournette could help the Jaguars' attempt to salvage Blake Bortles before he goes bust.
With the sixth pick, the Jets are a great fit for Fournette. General manager Mike Maccagnan is strict with taking the best player available, and Fournette would certainly be that if gets to New York's pick. Fournette could make a big difference for whomever is the Jets' starting quarterback, especially if it is a youngster like Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty.
Adding Fournette to Cam Newton could be an insane combination of running ability for the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart turns 30 prior to the 2017 NFL Draft and didn't have a strong 2016 season for Carolina. Additionally, Stewart has had durability issues throughout his career. If Fournette gets to the Panthers' pick, he could be too good to pass up. Adding Fournette could instantly put the Panthers back in Super Bowl contention.
Many think the Bengals wouldn't pass on Fournette if he gets to their selection at ninth-overall. Fournette would be an upgrade over Jeremy Hill, who had a disappointing 2016 season and is in a contract year.
2017 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie's | Walt's
2017 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
2017 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
2023 NFL Mock Draft - March 23
2024 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 19
NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 17
NFL Picks - Feb. 14
Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 7
© 1999-2023 Walter Cherepinsky : all rights reserved
2 5 9
2 5 9