DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys certainly don’t need him, but a handful of other teams will be looking at LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the upcoming draft. With a unique blend of size and speed, the 6’1, 235 pounds Fournette is a bruising, downhill runner poised to be a star at the pro level.
He was the No. 1 recruit out of high school, and for good reason. In three seasons with the Tigers, Fournette became a consensus All-American as a sophomore, rushing for 1,953 yards to go along with 22 touchdowns. Fournette led the NCAA in yards per game average and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Fournette does not come without concern, however.
He is prone to injury, as shown last year with LSU when a high ankle sprain sidelined him off and on all season. Fournette played in just seven games for LSU as a Junior and missed the Tigers' bowl game to prepare for the Draft.
Longevity may come into question, especially if a team is considering drafting him in the top 10.
He takes a beating running between the guards, and subjects himself to viscous hits by defensive ends and linebackers. Fournette is not a guy who will beat defenders in the open field – he’ll just run them over. Once he sees daylight, however, he has the speed to take it to the house.
And although he didn’t dazzle at the start of the NFL combine, Fournette still did enough to maintain his stock as the No. 1 running back in the 2017 NFL draft. He only posted a disappointing 28.5 inch vertical in Indianapolis last week, but did manage a time of 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash. For his size, 4.51 seconds is impressive.
The bottom line is Fournette is a power back with the ability to break away if he gets to the second level. Even with his intimidating size, Fournette is still able to get the edge and run outside the tackles. He is not just a ground and pound runner used in the red zone. Fournette is a back that changes the dynamic of offenses.
If defenders don’t get low enough, Fournette makes them pay. His tremendous lower body strength allows his legs to keep churning through arm tackles and hits above the waist.
His stiff arm is famous, too.
In summation, Fournette is a load. He’s a challenge for a majority of defenses, and presents matchup problems at every turn. It’s hard to put a linebacker on him because of his speed, and it’s even tougher to ask an undersized safety to bring him down.
Fournette isn’t without flaws – especially if injuries continue to hamper him – but he is far and away the most polished running back in the draft. There are things he will need to improve on, like picking up blitzes and pass catching, but when it’s all said and done, teams will use Fournette to wear down defenses.
Something he will have no trouble doing.
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