Marvin Gentry

Is Fournette on Browns radar?

Leonard Fournette has been compared to Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley. Could he be the big playmaker the Browns need on offense?

(As it stands now, the Browns have the first and 12th overall picks in the upcoming NFL Draft as well as the top pick (33rd) in the second-round. We've taken a consensus of the majority of mock drafts and will profile the players that have been most associated with the Browns in the upcoming draft. Check out our previous profiles of DE Myles Garrett, QB Mitchell Trubisky, QB DeShaun Watson, S Jamal Adams, TE O.J. Howard, S Malik Hooker and QB Patrick Mahomes)

Leonard Fournette  (6-1, 230) Running Back, LSU

Pro Football Weekly ranks him as the No. 1 running back, and is the No. 3 RB by Pro Football Focus (Overall 23rd ranked player)

Fournette rushed for 3,830 yards with 40 touchdowns in three seasons at LSU.

What experts say about Fournette's strengths: 

Pro Football Weekly: "Excellent size, strength and power...Plays in a pro-style offense...Big time homerun hitter...If he gets a seam, he's gone...Can outrun the pursuit...Very good power, can move the pile and consistently get yards after contact...Has a physical running style and can punish tacklers...effective as a pass blocker, will face up...Good receiver out of the backfield...Great speed and burst to turn the corner...Ran for 3,830 yards in only 32 games."

Pro Football Focus: "Powerful runner who hits the point of attack hard and will actively take on defenders...Excellent at keeping his feet churning through contact to continue gaining yards...Had the second-most yards gained after contact in 2015, behind only Alabama’s Derrick Henry, and averaged more after contact per carry than Henry...At his best in 2015, Fournette was capable of stringing multiple moves together in order to better maximize his runs...Quick acceleration allows him to burst through holes and beat angles by safeties...Utilizes spin move and stiff arm well to make defenders miss and create separation...Ran a heavy amount of zone and pin-pull blocking schemes...Physical pass blocker who recorded a pass-blocking efficiency of 97 percent or higher in all three years, albeit on a small sample size."

What Experts say are Fournette's weaknesses: PFW: "Missed games this year because of injury...Has had some fumbles...Good but not great cutback runner...Can make the first man miss, but lacks great elusiveness."

PFF: "Sometimes on zone runes, Fournette doesn’t press long enough, and can be too quick to cut back when the intended point of attack actually does open up...When LSU’s blocking was poor in 2016, Fournette was unable to create on his own as often as he did in previous seasons, possibly due to an ankle injury...Limited experience as a receiver, with only 40 career receptions...Dropped 8 of 48 catchable targets in his career...Stayed in to pass block just 132 times in his career, less than 30 percent of passing plays...Physicality as a runner and blocker may cause concerns about his durability."

Bottom Line: PFW: "As a freshman and sophomore, he looked like the next Adrian Peterson and probably a top three pick...Had a more "normal" year in 2016 because of injuries...Opponents have to find a way to stop him...He is big, powerful and productive and can dominate a game once he gets going...Few have his natural traits...Will need to become a better cutback runner but the vision and instincts are there for him to become that...Could very well become the first back taken...Not as good as Ezekiel Elliot, but not far behind."

PFF: "Like (Todd) Gurley, Fournette has a size-speed blend that doesn’t come around often. He’s a powerful runner who consistently finishes runs through contact. His 2015 performance as a runner is the highest grade for a running back in the past three seasons of PFF grading. Fournette dealt with an ankle injury during the 2016 season, forcing him to miss multiple games. When Fournette was able to play, he was not nearly as effective of a runner as he was in his impressive sophomore campaign, outside of a train- wreck defensive performance by Ole Miss. As long as Fournette gets back to full health, it may actually end up benefitting him by preventing another 300-plus carry season. His blocking was considerably better in 2015, and when he was provided with clear paths this past year, he still rattled off long runs. But when his blocking and reads were murkier this past season, he was at times indecisive and quick to abandon the intended point of attack, and not nearly as effective at making defenders miss. Teammate Derrius Guice was considerably more productive running behind the same offensive line. The biggest question around Fournette may be whether the decrease in his effectiveness was solely due to injury, or other aspects of his play."

How Fournette would fit with the Browns: The Browns seem to have much bigger needs than a running back, but if they feel they could truly have a dominant running attack with Fournette in the backfield, they just might draft him if they feel he is the best player available to them. Hue Jackson has praised Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, Jr. on numerous occasions, but national draft analysts have linked Fournette to the Browns on several occasions in recent weeks. In fact, one report said the Browns liked Fournette enough to trade down from the No. 1 pick to a team that covets Myles Garrett and take Fournette. A 'silly season' rumor or is there some truth to it? A breakaway back could help a young quarterback immensely, whether it be Cody Kessler or a rookie behind center in a similar way that Ezekiel Elliott helped Dak Prescott to a great rookie season in Dallas. 

Next Up: We'll take a look at wide receiver Corey Davis from Western Michigan.

 


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