There aren’t many running backs who get as much hype as Leonard Fournette.
LSU coach Les Miles famously compared Fournette to Michael Jordan before Fournette ever played a game for the Tigers. Fournette had a good college career, though one that was bothered by injuries, and was the fourth overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fournette has not yet developed into an NFL star, and the point was driven home Friday when the Jaguars declined the fifth-year option on Fournette’s rookie contract according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fournette can become a free agent after the 2020 season.
Leonard Fournette hasn’t worked out for Jags
Even as the rest of the NFL was moving away from big investments into running backs, Fournette was drafted fourth overall. That was a move that fit since-fired EVP Tom Coughlin’s philosophy.
A back has to be special to be worth that kind of pick. Fournette has been OK, and definitely not special.
Fournette does have a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a high-volume option in the Jaguars offense. He has a 4-yard average on rushing attempts and has contributed in the passing game. He has 19 total touchdowns in three seasons.
Fournette hasn’t been a complete bust. He just hasn’t been worth the pick the Jaguars used on him, and he hasn’t matched the hype he had at LSU.
Fournette facing big season
The Jaguars didn’t want to keep sinking resources into Fournette. At least not yet.
The Jaguars still have Fournette for the 2020 season and can always sign him to an extension, or even use the franchise tag on him next offseason. But by declining the fifth-year option on him, they risk Fournette having a big year and hitting free agency.
That doesn’t seem likely, considering Fournette has only shown brief glimpses of greatness and the Jaguars might not be very good this season. But if Fournette was ever going to be motivated to have a huge season, this is the year.
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