Leonard Fournette suffered a hamstring injury during the Jaguars’ Week 1 win over the Giants and left the game before the end of the first half. The workhorse back averaged 20.6 carries per game last season, and he seemed on the verge of increasing his receiving workload after a productive preseason.
The thing is … the Jaguars didn’t exactly struggle without Fournette in 2017. In fact, you could argue their offense was better.
- Jaguars with Fournette (16 games including playoffs): 9-7, 24.8 PPG, 340.4 yards, 202.5 pass yards, 137.9 rush yards
- Jaguars without Fournette (3 games): 3-0, 31.7 PPG, 463.3 yards, 305 pass yards, 158.3 rush yards
Of course, the Colts, Bengals and Texans weren’t exactly the class of the NFL in 2017, but the Jags’ offense has proven itself capable of producing without their three-down bell cow.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that Fournette said his hamstring is “good” and he stayed out because “they were being cautious.” Hopefully that’s true, but the problem is Fournette hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to staying on the field.
This isn’t the first time Fournette has been injured
The 2017 draft’s fourth overall pick has a troubling history of lower-body injuries dating back to his days at Louisiana State:
- August 2016: Sprained ankle
- September 2016: Knee bruise
- August 2017: Foot
- October 2017: Sprained ankle
- December 2017: Bruised quad
- September 2018: Hamstring
Fournette’s physical running style probably doesn’t help his tendency of getting banged up, but that’s part of the lifestyle of a big-bodied workhorse. It seems likely this won’t be the last time we discuss his backups.
T.J. Yeldon is the front-runner for No. 1 RB duties if Fournette is sidelined
T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant are the next men up for the Jaguars, and journeyman Brandon Wilds is on the practice squad. The former two backs figure to see the bulk of the action during Fournette’s potential absence, although it remains to be seen how the touches will be distributed.
Sunday’s box score would indicate Yeldon is the Jaguars’ featured back with Fournette sidelined, as he out-snapped Grant 27-4 during the second half. Overall, Yeldon racked up 14 carries and seven targets, while Grant saw just one rush attempt all afternoon.
The Jaguars’ former second-round pick probably deserves to get the first crack at early-down duties. Yeldon is a 6-foot-1 and 226-pound all-purpose back who averaged a career-high 5.2 yards per carry last season — the fourth-highest mark in the league among 84 backs with at least 40 carries. He has caught at least 30 passes in each of the past three seasons.
Yeldon was plenty productive during Fournette’s absence in 2017, although the Jaguars didn’t exactly entrust him with a full three-down workload.
- Chris Ivory: 54 rush attempts, 4 targets, 107 snaps
- T.J. Yeldon: 27 rush attempts, 11 targets, 86 snaps
- Corey Grant: 20 rush attempts, 1 target, 26 snaps
It seems unlikely the Jaguars would thrust Ivory’s entire workload onto Yeldon’s plate, but he’s clearly positioned to assume lead back duties.
Grant Still Holds Fantasy Value
Grant could work as more of a true backup to Yeldon as opposed to a complement, as they each posses theoretical three-down ability. The 26-year old has only carried the ball 68 times and caught nine passes since 2015, but Grant emerged as one of the league’s most explosive backs in 2017:
- Yards after contact per rush: 4.93 (1st)
- Elusive Rating: 104.6 (2nd)
- Percentage of runs for 15+ yards: 54% (1st)
- Yards per carry: 8.3 (1st)
- 96th-percentile SPARQ-x score
The team somewhat surprisingly tendered him at a second-round level this offseason. Perhaps it was because Grant has consistently made plays when given chances since entering the league.
T.J. Yeldon should work as the Jaguars' No. 1 RB if Leonard Fournette (hamstring) misses time
Still, Corey Grant doesn't need many touches to make an impact pic.twitter.com/oHfhRlvFi1
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 10, 2018
Get Ready for an AFC Championship Rematch
Hamstring injuries are tricky, and Week 2 probably isn’t the best time to take a risk on your star running back’s health. Still, there’s little doubt the Jaguars will have revenge on their minds for next Sunday’s matchup against the Patriots in Jacksonville.
Grant managed to rack up 61 yards on just four touches (nine snaps) the last time these teams met, while Yeldon parlayed five rushes and two receptions into 31 total yards. Whoever winds up suiting up will be in play across the daily fantasy industry against a Patriots defense that ranked 31st in rush Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) in 2017.
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