Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and covering how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are fantasy performance to date, rest of 2017 fantasy potential and long term fantasy upside.
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Leonard Fournette, RB JAC
Week 16 Stats: 18 carries, 48 rushing yards, one touchdown, three receptions, 22 yards (three targets)
Because I try to cover the biggest rookie performers each week in the rookie report card, its surprising Fournette hasn’t been covered – particularly due to the consistency he’s shown throughout his rookie year.
Nonetheless, we’ll finally cover the former LSU Tiger.
Fournette was dominant in college, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 40 rushing touchdowns in his time in Baton Rouge. Considering his large frame (6’-0”, 240 pounds) it was impressive watching him streak through college defenses, hitting full-speed in just a few long steps and consistently running through most tacklers that got in his way. He showed an impressive combination of speed and a violent running style that was sure to translate smoothly to the NFL. Few should have been surprised when he was selected fourth overall by the Jaguars in the draft despite his apparent lack comfort in all phases of the passing game.
Since entering the league, Fournette has continued to run with an incredible balance of speed and power – and has proven to be the workhorse that most thought he’d be coming out of college. Through his first 12 games as a rookie he’s reached 20 carries in seven of them and has averaged more than 23 touches per contest. He’s turned those opportunities into 100.5 yards from scrimmage per game and ten total touchdowns. That’s translated into a top-eight fantasy season in total points at the position (and top-six in points per game among running backs.)
In Jacksonville’s week 16 loss to the 49ers, Fournette carried 18 times for just 48 yards (2.7 YPC) and a one-yard touchdown plunge while also chipping in 22 receiving yards on three catches. His performance was among his least impressive of the year – despite scoring 16 fantasy points in PPR leagues. He was bottled up for the most part and outside of a couple broken tackles that he forced at the line of scrimmage due to his strong running style, he displayed very little of his enormous upside. In fact, the most noteworthy play he made in the game may have been the drop he had at the goal line late in the second quarter where the ball caromed off his hands and right to wide receiver Jaelen Strong for a touchdown – displaying some of the lack of comfort in the passing game he showed in college that I mentioned earlier.
Despite his “subpar” outing on Sunday, Fournette still showed exactly why he has elite upside. Even when the Jaguars are down on the scoreboard, even when he hasn’t really gotten going, the Jacksonville coaching staff is committed to making him a big part of their offense which makes his fantasy floor quite high – and allows him to still put up 16 fantasy points on an “off” day.
Fournette still needs a little work as a pass catcher and has a tendency to run into his blockers from time to time. But his elite combination of power and speed coupled with playing in a rising offense makes him one of the premiere running backs to own in dynasty. Although his suspension earlier in the year for breaking team rules and his injury history are a tad worrisome, it’s difficult to find more than a handful of running backs more valuable in our game.
Corey Davis, WR TEN
Week 16 Stats: six receptions, 91 yards, one touchdown (nine targets)
Like many, I prefer to build my dynasty rosters around elite wide receivers so I preferred Davis over Fournette in rookie drafts last off-season. Although he’s been far from elite – even by rookie standards – in 2017, I still prefer the wide out.
Despite what all the naysayers said of him coming out – mostly about the inferior talent he faced while at Western Michigan – Davis’ killer instinct with the ball in the air and elite tracking skills to run under the deep ball made him an ideal building block receiver for dynasty owners. And in week 16, dynasty owners got a glimpse as to why.
Against the Rams on Sunday, Davis hauled in six passes for 91 yards on nine targets. Although he still didn’t find pay dirt, it was easily the biggest game of his rookie season.
Davis made his nicest play of the game on a third-and six in the first quarter. Lined up wide to the left, he ran a 15-yard dig route with cornerback Troy Hill in man coverage. Although Hill was glued to his hip when he made his break, Davis skied for the well thrown ball and made an acrobatic catch showing that “killer instinct” I mentioned earlier.
Then the biggest play Davis made against the Rams came early in the third quarter, once again against man coverage. He ran a deep comeback route, worked his way back to his quarterback nicely with the ball in the air, and instantly turned to the outside, angling his way down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain. The play was his biggest so far as a pro and displayed just how good of a route runner he can be and exactly how explosive he is after the catch.
Despite reaching 40 receiving yards just three times in ten games, not finding the end zone yet as a rookie and a few growing pains (including at least one bad drop and fumbling out of the end zone while extending for the pylon) earlier in the year, Davis has shown flashes of the sharp route running, physicality and high pointing skills at the point of the catch, and competitiveness that made him one of the premiere rookie picks last off-season.
Although Alvin Kamara has moved ahead of him in my rookie rankings, I’d still take Davis over Fournette (by a very slight margin), Dalvin Cook and Kareem Hunt. Ultra-competitive receivers with size (6’-3”, 209 pounds), leaping ability and quickness – to go along with excellent ball skills – are difficult to find. He belongs as a mid-to-late second round startup pick this off-season and should be considered the top trade target for those looking for a young wide receiver with elite upside. Although he’ll still cost a high first round rookie pick (at least), his potential makes him well worth it.
Find Dan on Twitter at @dmeylor22
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