Now that the NFL Draft Combine has wrapped up, we now have the fullest view we can get of most of the draft’s prospects. This allows us to finalize rankings, or our so called “big boards,” and determine who us experts have ranked in order based on talent. There are plenty of talented prospects across all possible rounds of the draft, and there will surely be steals and busts labeled everywhere. Players will be knocked for random things, and we’ll hear plenty from “an anonymous scout” until the Draft rolls around in late April. One player that may be mentioned in the conversations is Leonard Fournette, who is the top running back in this year’s draft. Fournette was a star for LSU’s run-first offense since his freshman year, and he has succeeded for three straight years and will now head to the NFL to be a great player. There are virtually zero scenarios in which Fournette is not picked within the top 10 of the draft. The goal of Describe in Five is to try to get the best picture of a prospect in just five .gifs, with an explanation behind each one. After talking about Deshaun Watson yesterday, we can move on to someone who is considered the best running back in Fournette.
1. vs. Alabama (2016)
This is a solid example of Fournette’s balance and running ability. Alabama’s defense beat up on the Tigers’ offensive line all night long, and general held the running back to a small amount of yardage. On this play he’s able to pick up just about 9 yards and show off his short jump cuts, vision, and ability to stay on his feet when a defender comes in contact with him. This game was full of bad plays from the offensive line and at times, Fournette himself, but there were points in the game that showcased his abilities and why he is considered such a good running back.
2. vs. Wisconsin (2016)
In the season opener for the Tigers, Wisconsin’s defense was able to key in Fournette’s run for most of the game.There were points at which he was able to break off some big runs, though, like the one shown above. This play shows Fournette’s vision when reading blocks and running lanes, and his ability to move to the open lane as fast as possible and get outside. After a slow start when the Badgers’ defense was on to him, Fournette was able to collect six yards a carry and finished with almost 140 yards. This is a good example of him being able to make some yards for himself.
3. vs. Mississippi State (2016)
This shows a time where Fournette misses a chance to create a couple yards for himself and settles for getting stopped just after the line of scrimmage. He tries to lower his shoulder to beat the safety coming down, but the SAM linebacker is able to read the run and help secure the tackle. Fournette has the opportunity to make a cut outside, where there is just a cornerback waiting for him with a receiver able to offer blocking. This is an issue that could possibly be fixed, but vision issues have plagued top running backs before (hey, Trent Richardson).
4. vs. Mississippi State (2016)
People looking at the stat sheet for Fournette’s game vs. Miss State would probably be impressed: he rushed for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. What they won’t see is that he also lost the ball twice, and one came on a fourth down play that could’ve been important to the game. This is ball security that you don’t want to see. A running back should be able to hold onto the ball through a rip, especially when he already has two hands on. In 2016, Fournette fumbled 3 times on 129 carries. That turns out to be an average of one fumble every 43 carries. If Fournette ends up being your primary back, that means that he’s going to fumble once every game or two, which is not ideal with a “star” back.
5. vs. Ole Miss (2016)
This was an interesting play that shows a few things. First, Fournette is lined up as the offset fullback on this play, and he runs a flare to the flat to catch a pass. Fournette is normally targeted about 2 or 3 times a game as a receiver, so it was good to see him catch the ball and make it work after the catch. The play also shows Fournette’s ability to turn his speed into power, when he crushes a defensive back that tries to tackle low on him. While the DB was using the correct technique, Fournette’s ability to lower himself to that level and deliver a blow like this is impressive. Power backs are important in the NFL, and Fournette has that sort of element to his game while keeping speed in as an option as well.
Leonard Fournette has been called a generational talent since stepping into Death Valley. I do not believe he is one of those that will be considered an all-time great, but I believe that Fournette will be very successful in his career and end up a Hall of Fame candidate. He is a strong runner and is able to create for himself when he can lower his shoulder on smaller targets. Fournette spends too much time dancing in the backfield at times, and that will lead to issues if he does not have a strong offensive line playing in front of him. He also needs to improve a bit on his ball security, as it could end up being a problem like former LSU back Stevan Ridley. If he has a group of road graders that can create holes for him, he will have an Ezekiel Elliott-type rookie year. If he goes to a team like the New York Jets that is rebuilding their offensive line, he will need time to develop his creation skills. For now he is a great talent that needs to be put in the right place to succeed in the NFL.