The Leonard Fournette era has reached its sudden end in Jacksonville.
Any outside beliefs the Jaguars could have kept Fournette, the fourth-year running back and a former first-round pick, and paired him with quarterback Gardner Minshew for a full season, evaporated Monday.
Jacksonville waived Fournette, who ran for a career-high 1,152 yards on 4.3 yards per attempt last year. The move, coupled with the timing, could drastically change life for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the NFL at large.
Jacksonville waived Leonard Fournette after three seasons
An All-American running back at LSU, Leonard Fournette was supposed to be a long-term starting running back for Jacksonville.
Instead of filling the roles Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew once did, Fournette only lasted three seasons. Fournette played 36 of a possible 48 games for the Jaguars, who have torn everything down since making the AFC championship game in early-2018.
Jacksonville traded pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings on August 30.
Leonard Fournette’s departure means none of the Jaguars’ first-round picks from 2012-17 are still on the roster. All of those picks, from Blake Bortles to Jalen Ramsey, were top-5 selections.
Ryquell Armstead, a former star running back at Temple, could start for the Jaguars. Armstead totaled 108 yards on 3.1 yards per attempt as a rookie in 2019. The former fifth-round pick also turned 14 passes into 144 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Fournette flashed at times in Jacksonville
Leonard Forunette’s departure is only surprising because he finally resembled a rising star last season.
After a productive rookie season and a terrible second year in the NFL, Fournette totaled 1,152 yards and three touchdowns on 4.3 yards per attempt. Fournette also caught 76 passes for 522 yards.
That’s not to say Fournette resembled Panthers star Christian McCaffrey throughout the season. Most of Fournette’s damage came when he ran for 225 yards in a 26-24 victory over Von Miller and the Denver Broncos on Sept. 29, 2019.
Fournette only topped 100+ rushing yards in two other games.
Still, it appeared Leonard Fournette was making progress. Fournette did those numbers behind an offensive line that Pro Football Focus ranked as the seventh-worst in the NFL.
Leonard Fournette’s departure could change the NFL
Leonard Fournette leaving the Jaguars and turning his next home into a Super Bowl contender would be one of the season’s best stories. It could also change the NFL.
Fournette is quickly getting up there in running back years. He’ll play this season at 25 years old and turns 26 in January.
Could Fournete’s birthday cake come during his next team’s playoff run? Given the numbers he produced behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines last year, it’s not unrealistic to think Fournette can enjoy another breakout campaign this fall.
The fact Fournette played three years in Jacksonville, one of the league’s worst franchises, also has to be considered in his potential comeback story.
Washington released another former LSU standout, Derrius Guice, this offseason after a domestic violence charge. Fournette could slide in and join a room that already features an aging Adrian Peterson and former Stanford star Bryce Love.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Miami Dolphins’ running game as the worst entering this season. Miami added Jordan Howard and Matt Brieda this offseason, though, so Fournette wouldn’t be guaranteed a heavy dose of reps.
Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake has battled a foot injury in recent weeks and wore a boot at one point, though he is reportedly working without it as of August 31.
Jacksonville may not regret parting ways with Leonard Fournette if he resembles his 2018 self. But the odds are against it when Fournette’s talent and the Jaguars’ luck is factored in.