RB Richard Murphy - Jacksonville Jaguars
|6-1, 215||Born: 9-18-1986||College: LSU||Drafted: ---|
Week 20: at New England Patriots
FBG says: Good matchup. Leonard Fournette hasn't been the most explosive, dynamic, or even efficient workhorse here in 2017. His per-touch productivity hasn't dazzled anyone: Fournette's 3.84 yards per carry ranks 28th among all backs with 100+ attempts. And he's struggled to generate chunk runs: only 26.8% of his rookie rushes have gone for 5+ yards, a lower rate than Lamar Miller and Ameer Abdullah posted this year. Still, he's done a fine job of spinning mediocre line play (coming against often-stacked boxes) into strong, dependable production. Fournette has topped 69 ground yards in 8 of his 15 games, and just last week he ran roughshod over a Pittsburgh defense geared up to stop him first and foremost, racking up 109 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries. It helps his value greatly, of course, that he's been among the NFL's more solid short-yardage backs as a rookie. Fournette has been given 16 carries from inside the 5-yard line and converted 9 of them (56.3%) into touchdowns, the third-best mark among all running backs with 8+ attempts from there (behind only LeVeon Bell and Mike Gillislee). All told, Fournette doesn't project to some Alvin Kamara level dynamism, but he tends to acquit his volume well and turn in productive fantasy days. His surrounding offense is hit-or-miss but is generally strong enough to provide him with 80-110 yards, and his ever-present touchdown upside is also a boon. The big worry over Fournette is the health of his ankle/foot, which has been a constant issue dating back to his LSU days. He checked out of the Steelers game before returning for the second half; this is clearly a problem that will be present this Sunday. If his pain is managed and he avoids in-game setbacks, Fournette projects to a full workload and a great shot at efficiency against the Patriots' mashable run defense. If he's limited by it, T.J. Yeldon will dominate the backfield similarly. He was far more explosive than Fournette on the whole (5.06 yards per rush), and he posted 163 yards on 20 attempts (with 1 touchdown) over Fournette's 2 missed games. Last week notwithstanding, the Patriots continue to field one of the league's worst run defenses. They held Derrick Henry to virtually nothing (28 yards on 12 attempts) on Divisional Weekend, but that was aided heavily by game flow. The fact is that the Patriots have been routinely ground down by opposing run games all year - at least, for as long as those opponents can run the ball comfortably. They're allowing the league's 2nd-most yards per rush (4.71) and 13th-most per game (111.8), and they've shown a tendency to give up maxed-out production to lead runners. We've seen that over the season's second half, as Melvin Gordon (14 carries for 132 yards and 1 touchdown), LeSean McCoy (15 for 93), Kenyan Drake (25 for 114), and LeVeon Bell (24 for 117 and 1) all turned varying degrees of volume into huge rushing days. Of course, the Patriots tend to jump to solid leads that choke the life out of opposing offenses, stripping them of the ability to run the ball with any real volume. Still, we know just what's possible against this unit: a ton of efficiency and, if the game stays relative tight, a fair amount of touchdown potential. The New England front line lacks multiple space-eaters, and the underwhelming linebackers struggle in both gap-filling and pursuit. They're especially vulnerable off the guards and tackles, where stretch plays often burst wide open onto the second level. All told, Leonard Fournette may be reliant upon game flow for his fantasy outlook, but he projects fantastically against this defense, and his path to a big stat line is short-tracked and appealing.