How Leonard Fournette’s Release Impacts Fantasy Rankings & Projections for Jaguars RBs

Credit:

James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryquell Armstead

About 24 hours after trading edge defender Yannick Ngakoue, news broke early Monday morning that the Jacksonville Jaguars have released running back Leonard Fournette.

With Fournette vacating 30.6% of the Jaguars offensive yards from 2019 (per ESPN Stats & Information), our fantasy football rankers are here to analyze how this impacts the outlook of the Jags’ remaining RBs.

Their reactions — complete with changes in rankings and updated projections — are below.

Fantasy Dominoes of Leonard Fournette Release

Below are before vs. after comparisons of each of our analyst’s rankings based on half PPR scoring. Find all of their rankings and projections here.

Matthew Freedman

Matthew is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs and was the sixth-most accurate FantasyPros ranker in 2017.

Jaguars RBs Freedman’s Ranks
Before Release
Freedman’s Ranks
After Release
Ryquell Armstead RB89 RB47
Chris Thompson RB44 RB41
Devine Ozigbo RB125 RB58

The fantasy gawds giveth, and the fantasy gawds taketh. This morning, they took.

Fournette is a Jaguar no more. For the big-bodied between-the-tackles bruiser — and his fantasy investors — gone are a projected 230 carries and 50 targets, vanished into thin air like Keyser Söze.

This tweet just about says it all.

Eventually, Fournette is likely to find his way onto another team, but it’s damning that in the aftermath of the release Jags head coach Doug Marrone said that the team was unable to generate any interest for Fournette in the trade market (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

Apparently, the NFL is not nearly as high on Fournette now as the Jags were in 2017 when they drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick. Wherever he signs, Fournette is likely to be no more than a timeshare back in a committee: Gone are the days of plentiful carbohydrates.

In Jacksonville, chaos remains, but from the disorder a few intriguing fantasy candidates emerge.

Change-of-pace back Chris Thompson knows offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s system, and he’s one of the league’s best receiving backs when healthy. Right now, he’s healthy. Over the past four years, he has averaged 10.4 PPR points, 52.5 scrimmage yards and 0.26 touchdowns on 4.9 targets, 4.5 carries and 3.6 receptions per game.

That’s probably what we should expect out of him with the 2020 Jags — as long as he’s healthy.

Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo will likely compete for the lead-back role. Of the two, Armstead probably has the edge. Unlike Ozigbo, Armstead was actually drafted last year by the team, and he’s the superior athlete (4.45-second 40-yard dash at 220 pounds vs. 4.70 at 222).

But neither seems especially likely to break out as a high-end fantasy option based on what we saw out of them last year:

  • Ryquell Armstead: 35-108-0 rushing, 14-144-02 receiving on 24 targets
  • Devine Ozigbo: 9-27-0 rushing, 3-23-0 receiving on five targets

And undrafted rookie James Robinson will likely be nothing more than a deep backup.

The silver lining in all this? Playmaking rookie wide receiver and wildcat rusher Laviska Shenault now has the opportunity for even more carries, especially on the goal line.

Freedman’s Updated 2020 Jaguars Projections

  • Chris Thompson (13 games): 47-220-1 rushing, 52-448-3 receiving on 74 targets
  • Ryquell Armstead (14.5 games): 142-529-3 rushing, 11-120-1 receiving on 21 targets
  • Devine Ozigbo (14.5 games): 105-359-2 rushing, 18-138-1 receiving on 30 targets
  • James Robinson (14.5 games): 15-59-0 rushing, 4-31-0 receiving on five targets
  • Laviska Shenault Jr. (15 games): 19-127-1 rushing, 53-696-4 receiving on 85 targets

Sean Koerner

Sean was FantasyPros’ No. 1 fantasy football draft ranker of 2019 and has finished as their top in-season ranker in three of the past five seasons.

Jaguars RBs Koerner’s Ranks
Before Release
Koerner’s Ranks
After Release
Ryquell Armstead RB66 RB36
Chris Thompson RB76 RB57
Devine Ozigbo RB123 RB60

Ryquell Armstead didn’t become a league winner with Fournette’s release, but his value did shoot up with the news.

We need to look at the impacts through a short- and long-term lens:

Short term: Armstead is now the RB32 in my Week 1 projections, putting him in-play as a RB3/Flex option. I have him projected to inherit 65% of Fournette’s role out of the gate.

Chris Thompson is likely to dominate the passing down work, so that means Devine Ozigbo will likely be the tail-end of a committee.

Here’s how Armstead and Ozigbo fared in Week 17 of 2019 when Fournette sat out:

  • Armstead: 10/33/0 rushing and 5/52/1 receiving (RB15 of the week)
  • Ozigbo: 9/27/0 rushing and 3/23/0 receiving

Thompson will eat into Armstead’s and Ozigbo’s target share, lowering everyone’s ceiling.

Long term: Armstead had a “C” grade in my RB Upside Ratings prior to the news of Fournette’s release. The Jags are unlikely to produce many goal-line opportunities for easy rushing touchdowns or play with the lead often enough to create run-heavy game scripts, so Armstead’s ceiling is capped.

Additionally, the presence of Ozigbo and Thompson makes this much more of a three-way committee. We’ll have to see how much his average draft position (ADP) shifts after Monday’s news, but I would hesitate to target Armstead inside the top-40 RBs.

If you snagged Armstead at his ADP of RB60 in recent drafts and you don’t have to start him Week 1, you should consider trading him away to another manager in your league who may need the short-term help. I would think you could trade Armstead for a backup with a higher ceiling like Zack Moss or Boston Scott, or buy-low on David Montgomery.

Fournette is in an interesting position right now. It’s unclear when he’ll sign with a new team or what type of situation he’ll end up in. He could sign with a team that already has a solid starter, which would downgrade his value along with the value of any other RBs on that roster. But there’s also the chance a starting RB goes down with an injury before the season and Fournette is brought in to replace him.

There’s a wide range of outcomes for Fournette, so drafting him in the RB30-35 range would be a fair price, though that could change with any further developments.

Koerner’s Updated 2020 Jaguars Projections

  • Chris Thompson: 51-203-1 rushing, 38-294-1.6 receiving
  • Ryquell Armstead: 177-708-4 rushing, 26-204-1.3 receiving
  • Devine Ozigbo: 97-379-1.9 rushing, 22-152-0.8 receiving
  • James Robinson: 23-93-0.5 rushing, 9-61-0.3 receiving
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