On Monday, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced they were releasing Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Some are calling this a surprising move. However, given the numerous times that Jaguars management and Fournette have... shall we say been on "different pages," this is not that surprising. The team already declined his fifth-year option and is trying to get out of the $4 million in guarantees it owes him. If anything, the divorce is just happening a little earlier than expected.
Fournette has not exactly dominated on the field lately. As I mentioned earlier in the offseason, Fournette surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone this past season due to pure volume, not effectiveness. And despite 265 carries, he only had three touchdowns.
The interesting part is that Fournette averaged a career-best 4.3 yards per carry in 2019. That is basically replacement level, so he wasn't horrible. I do expect him to sign somewhere else — potentially with a contender — so if you have already drafted Fournette, do not drop him! The fantasy football community is abuzz with speculation. I've heard at least half a dozen teams that do seem like viable spots, as there are plenty of teams whose starting back looks a little gimpy right now.
Sizing up Jaguars' new-look backfield
As far as what the Fournette release means for Jacksonville? I do expect the Jaguars offense to feature slightly more pass attempts than what might have originally been in the game plan. Therefore, DJ Chark Jr. and the other pass catchers certainly go up in value, as does quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
Chris Thompson should see a slight uptick, but he was already expected to be the pass-catching, third-down back. His role won't necessarily change. Whatever you projected him for, assume maybe one or two more touchdowns and perhaps an additional single-digit number of carries. The biggest beneficiary might be Ryquell Armstead, who was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Aug. 20. Armstead is worthy of an add, but he's not worthy of a huge FAAB bid. Devine Ozigbo was drawing rave reviews before Armstead was activated.
I would not draft either in the first 50 picks but I would draft either long before I drafted players like Jordan Howard or Marlon Mack. For those risk-averse, that probably means around the 9th round. Those willing to gamble on the upside will be happy to get them with a late sixth-round pick.
A word of caution, however. Don't be surprised if Ozigbo and Armstead split the bulk of carries. And as the bigger back, Ozigbo could see more goal-line carries. I still like James Robinson — one of my under-the-radar running back picks — more going into the 2021 season. However, for 2020, Ozigbo and Armstead would be my focus to fill the huge void suddenly left by Fournette. Just realize that game script is unlikely to favor either. You're not going to find a bell-cow 1,000-yard back in Jacksonville this season.
Ideally, Fournette will sign before your draft (unless he is claimed by a team before 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday he'll clear waivers and become a free agent), but you may not get that luxury. Until he signs, I would treat him like I would any other free-agent RB. For example, I personally have no intention of drafting Devonta Freeman, who is still on the market. I would put Fournette in the same category if you are considering taking a chance on him before he signs with a new team.
For dynasty leagues, Fournette's value is obviously at an all-time low. He is definitely not someone I would try to acquire. The Jaguars tried to trade him previously and were unable to do so. That does not bode well for his future outlook. However, should you own him, he remains a "HOLD" because he just might flourish with the right team in the right system with the right coach at the right time. Is that enough "rights" for you? The upside is there to at least hold onto him, but treat him as a taxi squad player until his situation becomes clearer. The same approach goes for keeper leagues, don’t drop him just yet but if you are really worried or fed up, you can always try and sell (really) low on him in a trade.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.