PHILADELPHIA – With the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Leonard Fournette, a running back from LSU.
It was pretty clear that Fournette was going to be a star in college after he dominated at the high school level in New Orleans. The No. 1 overall recruit and USA Today National High School Offensive Player of the Year chose to stay in-state, and he made his mark in his three years at LSU. Fournette led the SEC in all-purpose yards as a true freshman (137.4 per game, including 1,034 rushing yards, 625 on kickoff returns). He followed that up with by nearly clearing the 2,000-yard mark (1,953) and scoring 22 rushing touchdowns in a consensus All-American sophomore campaign. Unfortunately, his junior season did not go as planned, as a pre-season ankle injury was aggravated multiple times during the year, limiting his playing time to just seven games (he chose not to play in the team's bowl game to prepare himself for the pre-draft evaluation process). That seventh game shouldn't have happened, but a pre-game brawl against Florida pushed him to play hurt. Regardless of the injury, he received second-team All-SEC honors with five 100-yard games and a 287-yard, three-touchdown effort against Ole Miss.
Full-on, grown man with outstanding definition throughout his body. Built like a linebacker with speed like a receiver. Long, powerful strides get speedy turnover. Click and go runner who hits his second gear faster than most big backs you'll ever see. Able to accelerate and scream around the corner for chunk runs against linebackers lacking speed or urgency to the edge. Powerful hips and thighs shake defenders right off. Tacklers better bring full force and technique. Always the hammer and never the nail. Violent finisher looking to intimidate run-support safeties with crushing blows behind lower pads. Runs feet through any and all contact. Has balance and power to plow through tackle attempts on an angle. Punishing stiff arms go viral. Has experience running from two-back, single-back and off-set looks. Hands are adequate in passing game. Can create for himself with power and speed. Wins in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Doesn't make many defenders miss with open field shake. Aggressive, take-on style could lead to shortened career. Struggles to elude sudden traffic at line of scrimmage. Lacks looseness of hips to jump-cut from gap to gap. Struggled with a bad ankle for most of the season. Plays through a straw. Excitable runner in need of more patience. Too quick to hit the accelerator and slam into defenders when there are still cuts and yards left in the play. Runs to obvious daylight but needs to learn to anticipate and finesse the crease in traffic. Doesn't see cutback lanes developing as outside zone runner and prefers to keep runs play-side. Throws half-hearted, grazing shoulder as chip blocker. Pass protection and routes need extensive work.
Draft projection: Round 1
NFL comparison: Bo Jackson
High-end talent with rare blend of size, speed and power. Comparisons to Adrian Peterson feel lofty, but from a physical standpoint, he's there. Fournette doesn't have the wiggle to make defenders miss and his vision can be iffy. However, if your run fits and tackling aren't sound, he can take it the distance in an instant. May have durability concerns due to physical running style, but has All-Pro potential.
-- Lance Zierlein