3-Point Stance: Fournette to have Zeke-like flirtations in rookie campaign
As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Monday’s topic: The Jacksonville Jaguars
Wedge-driving rusher Leonard Fournette has been a hot fantasy topic since walking the stage in April. In his first season, OVER or UNDER final RB rank 12.5?
Liz – UNDER. The fourth overall pick in April’s draft, Fournette was brought into to be the Jags RB1. A power back with exceptional speed for his size, the LSU product is reportedly growing into a deft pass catcher as well. Given Chris Ivory’s disaster of a season, in which he was hampered by illness and injury, and T.J. Yeldon’s lack of efficiency, Fournette figures to feast in his freshman campaign.
Considering that Yeldon averaged nearly 15 carries per contest during the weeks in which Ivory was unavailable, it’s reasonable to expect the rookie to rack up 15 – 17 totes per game. At that baseline and provided the 6-foot and 240 pound bruiser manages at least 4.0 YPC, a 1,000+ yard rushing season is well within in reach. Throw in 2 catches per game (Ivory averaged 1.8 receptions per outing in 2016) and Fournette is in top-ten territory. Conservative FF: 286 total touches for 1,290 combined yards and 8 scores
Brad – UNDER. Thundercat, HOOOOO!!!! Fournette, like the classic 80s cartoon, is more machine than man. Though he was slowed by a foot injury during his final season at LSU, his historic sophomore campaign raised endorphin levels. That year, he forced a college high 92 missed tackles, gained 3.6 yards after contact per attempt and generally dominated. His blend of brawn and elusiveness is why many scouts compared him to generational talents Bo Jackson and Adrian Peterson entering last April’s Draft. Some express reservations about his receiving abilities, but he flashed sticky hands throughout pre-Draft workouts. Additionally adept as a pass blocker, he owns the necessary tools to command an immediate three-down workload.
For all intents and purposes, Jacksonville has largely been a cesspool for fantasy running backs since the Maurice Jones-Drew years. Philosophy changes, translucent offensive lines and inconsistent passing efforts are primarily to blame. But with the line moving in the right direction and upgrades on defense, the Jags may finally gain respectability on the ground.
You’re kidding yourself if you believe Fournette doesn’t log 300-plus touches. Chris Ivory and “Total Junk” Yeldon pose only minor threats. He isn’t Zeke revisited, but if he stays off the trainer’s table, he’ll churn out an RB1 line in 12-team leagues. Fear the unknown and you’ll stupidly circumvent a fantasy difference-maker. Load up in Round 2. FF: 272-1178-28-193-8
Someone hexed Allen Robinson in 2016. After a 14-TD, top-10 effort the year before, he rarely found the end zone and plummeted outside the position’s top-30. FADE or FOLLOW the wideout at his 28.2 ADP (WR14)?
Brad – FADE. What I am currently perplexed by: 1) The mom jeans revival, 2) The new “Twin Peaks,” 3) Ongoing love for Allen Robinson. Sacrifice a limb at the Jag’s price point and you’re Connor McGregor; the rest of your league Floyd Mayweather.
A bounce back from last year’s sophomore slump simply isn’t in the cards. Under Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone Jacksonville is shifting to a ball-control scheme. That’s why it selected Fournette at No. 4 overall, focused on fixing the offensive line and opened up the coffers during free agency to enhance its defense. If everything clicks, Robinson’s overall workload (151, 150 targets last two seasons) and red-zone presence will shrink.
Throwing another water bucket on the fire is Blake Bortles. Though not completely absolved of blame, Robinson ranked WR93 in yards per target (5.9) and WR97 in catch percentage (48.7) last season. His WR46 contest catch rate only adds additional queasiness. Kicking the dead horse, he performed atrociously versus top defensive backs (On 60 tgts, 0.76 fantay points/tgt). In fact, only Sir Drops-a lot, Darius Heyward-Bey, ranks worse versus quality corners since 2007. Yikes.
For Robinson, a repeat of 2016 (73-883-6) seems most likely.
Liz – FADE. Last year, owners chasing Robinson’s 2015 stats were sorely disappointed. Falling outside of the top-twenty-five fantasy producers at the position, Robinson struggled mightily against top CBs, managing a catch rate of under 50 percent. Additionally concerning was his diminished success in the red area of the field, hauling in just six scores over the sixteen-game season. On a team that’s worked to upgrade the defense and wants to run the ball, there’s little chance Robinson’s TDs will return to 2015 form. He’s a low-end WR2 at best.
DUMPSTER DIVING. Digging through the rubble, what overlooked Jag could emerge as a true diamond in the rough?
Liz – NEAL STERLING. A converted wideout, Sterling is expected to work as the Jaguars move TE, filling the void left by Julius Thomas’ departure. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Sterling is surprisingly athletic, earning an agility score of 11.32 from the metrics site Player Profiler. In the stead of a hobbled Thomas (back), Sterling flashed towards the end of last season. His most impressive effort came in Week 13 vs. DEN, a game in which he led all receivers in catches, posting a 5-43-0 line. I’m digging deep here, but given Bortles’ accuracy issues, an imposing and dexterous body in the red area of the field has appeal.
Brad – MARQISE LEE. As Allen Hurns faded to black, Lee attracted the spotlight. In his third season, he didn’t exactly skyrocket to Uranus, but he greatly outperformed expectations from Week 11 on. During that stretch, he tallied 20.2 percent of the team’s target share and totaled a 25-359-3 line, which ranked WR34 in 12-team standard formats.
The offense and ties to Bortles curbs much enthusiasm, but Lee is a fixture in three-wide receiver sets and arguably possesses more reliable hands than Robinson/Hurns. Essentially a freebie in early drafts (162.9 ADP, WR66), he’s an excellent bench stash who will occasionally contribute useful WR3/FLEX lines in deeper formats.