Scouting Profile: Running Back Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Weight: 240 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
3-Cone drill: N/A
Broad jump: N/A
This is one of the profiles that was easy to get excited about. Fournette is considered to be a generational talent by some, while others remain on the fence because of his upright running style and lack of receiving skills. There’s plenty of tape to go over with him, considering he’s totaled 429 carries in 19 games over the last two seasons.
When watching Fournette, it’s easy to just sit there hoping/waiting for the next time he breaks the first line of defense, because once he’s in the open field, it’s game over. And you don’t have to wait long to see those plays, as Fournette averaged 6.5 yards per carry in those 19 games, with a massive 31 touchdowns. He’s the rare player that you just know, when the ball is in his hands, something special can happen.
His offensive line at LSU played extremely well in front of him, opening holes to run through despite the stacked boxes that seemed to be there every snap. I wouldn’t say that Fournette is an extremely elusive back, though he does have a few tricks up his sleeve, but his best attribute is his patience. He often gets to a location before his lineman has been able to block, but he shows patience by putting his hand on the lineman’s back, waiting for his opportunity to pounce. That is a rare trait of someone who is considered a power running back. His ability to cut without losing much speed is special for a player of his size. He also switches the ball to his outside hand almost immediately, something most don’t do at the college level.
Despite him being a power back, Fournette has home run speed. Some scouts thought he might get into the 4.4 range of the forty-yard dash, and while he was close, he still has his pro day ahead of him. Make no mistake, Fournette can get to the edge in a hurry. As mentioned earlier, Fournette in the open field is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re a defender in front of him as the last line of defense, he will not run out of bounds. Instead, he will run over a defender, as he did in college so many times. The best word to describe him in one-on-one situations is… punishing. His motto is to never get tackled by one man.
The downside to his game is that he isn’t a natural receiver out of the backfield. He was used in the receiving game, as evidenced by his 34 receptions the last two years, but it’s definitely a challenge for him. Because of that, I can understand why certain teams would move him down their draft board. By doing that, you’re taking the chance that he’s running over your secondary in the near future.
Potential landing spot
Looking at the teams in the front half of the draft in need of a running back, the Panthers strike me as a team where Fournette’s skill-set would fit in perfectly. They have been playing merry-go-round at the position for the last few years, between Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and Fozzy Whittaker. While some may say you need a timeshare with Fournette’s lack of receiving skills, you should know that Cam Newton and the Panthers have only targeted their running backs 150 times over the last three seasons combined, easily the lowest in the NFL. If they want Newton to take less hits, Fournette is the guy to draft.
If you watch Fournette and don’t see shades of Adrian Peterson, you need to watch again. There are many similarities between the two, starting with their build, down to their ridiculous size/speed combo. Peterson may have been shiftier, but Fournette’s patience is better. The fact that Fournette weighs 20 pounds more and can still move just as fast, it should give you an idea as to what his ceiling might be. When taking on a linebacker, both will lower their helmet and deliver a blow, but when taking on a safety, they’ll make them wish they never even tried. They move like trucks. Really, really fast trucks.
To read up on some of the other high-profile NFL Draft prospects, check out the links below:
Corey Davis – (WR, Western Michigan)
Mike Williams – (WR, Clemson)
John Ross – (WR, Washington)
Taywan Taylor – (WR, Western Kentucky)
JuJu Smith-Schuster – (WR, USC)
Chris Godwin – (WR, Penn State)
ArDarius Stewart – (WR, Alabama)
Carlos Henderson – (WR, Louisiana Tech)
Chad Hansen – (WR, California)
Zay Jones – (WR, East Carolina)
Isaiah Ford – (WR, Virginia Tech)
Cooper Kupp – (WR Eastern Washington)