Tailback Leonard Fournette is in the final season of his rookie contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, so he’s duly motivated to have a monster year. Here are Fournette’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season.
Fournette was the No. 4 overall pick out of LSU in the 2017 NFL draft. He had trouble staying healthy at LSU and has had the same issue in the NFL. Fournette does hold LSU career records for yards per play (6.2), rushing yards per game (119.7), 200-yard rushing games (five) and consecutive 100-yard rushing games (nine).
As a rookie in 2017 with the Jags, Fournette was the player in franchise history to score a scrimmage TD in each of his first six career games. He joined former Patriot Robert Edwards (1998) as the only rookies in NFL history to score a TD in each of their team’s first six games of the season. Fournette also joined Fred Taylor (1,223) as the only rookies to record 1,000 yards rushing in Jaguars history. His 1,040 rushing yards were second-most by a rookie in franchise history, and his 268 rushing attempts were a franchise record.
Fournette helped the Jags reach the AFC title game in 2017. In a playoff upset at Pittsburgh, he rushed 25 times for 109 yards and three TDs and recorded two receptions for 10 yards. Fournette became the third rookie in the Super Bowl era to have a 100-yard rushing game against the same team in both the regular season and postseason and was the third rookie in NFL history to post three rushing TDs in a single postseason game and set the franchise record for the most TDs in a single postseason game.
Alas, Fournette was limited to eight games in 2018 and the Jags slipped to 5-11. Fournette rushed 133 times for 439 yards and five TDs.
Last year, Fournette’s biggest game was on Sept. 29 in Denver when he had a career-high 225 rushing yards on 29 attempts (7.8 avg.). His 225 rushing yards were the second-most in franchise history (Taylor, 234 on Nov. 19, 2000 at PIT) and his 245 scrimmage yards were the third-most in a single game in franchise history. Overall, Fournette 15 games and ranked fourth in the AFC and seventh in the NFL with 1,152 rushing yards on 265 carries (4.4 rushing avg.). His 1,674 yards from scrimmage ranked sixth in the NFL and third in the AFC, and are the fifth most recorded in a season in franchise history. After missing 11 games in his first two campaigns, Fournette proved last season he could stay on the field, missing only Week 17 because of an illness.
Fournette and Taylor are the only players in Jaguars history to register multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons through their first three years in the NFL. Fournette has 17 career games with at least 100 scrimmage yards, the most through 36 career games in franchise history. He is one of seven tailbacks in the NFL to post at least 1,000 rushing yards and 75 receptions in a single season over the last eight years, joining Christian McCaffrey (2018-19), Saquon Barkley (2018), Ezekiel Elliott (2018), Le’Veon Bell (2014, 2016-17), David Johnson (2016) and Matt Forte (2014).
Yet, Fournette has been a bit of a locker-room problem at times, so the Jaguars didn’t exercise his fifth-year option for 2021 and there were trade talks this offseason.
“There were just some minor discussions with that but nothing substantial throughout the draft or prior to the draft,” GM David Caldwell said. “I think the mindset is that we’re going to go forward with Leonard on the team. I had a good talk with him. I know Coach [Doug] Marrone has had some discussion with him. He seems to be in great shape and mental frame of mind, and we feel that he’ll have a great season this year.”
Jacksonville did bring in some competitor for Fournette by signing pass-catching RB Chris Thompson, who now reunites with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Thompson and Gruden were both previously with the Redskins. Fournette thus may be unlikely to see the 265 carries and 100 targets that he saw last season.
The Jaguars are 6.5-point home underdogs for Week 1 vs. Indianapolis.