It seems like we do this a few times every offseason— a big name is available, and we all get giddy and start clamoring for that player to become a Dolphin.
Let’s slow our roll here as there are things to consider.
Leonard Fournette is a good player. We can say he’s a beast of a man. Fournette was considered by many the best running back coming out of the 2017 draft.
And he showed it during his rookie year.
Fournette was an essential factor and critical cog of the Jaguars 2017 offense that helped the team get to the AFC Championship before losing to the Patriots.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 20, 2020
He’s big, and he’s powerful, he’s been on our fantasy teams.
But his durability is a concern.
This reason is partly why the Jaguars want to move on from Fournette at this time when you combine that with his upcoming contract, he will wish to obtain. Fournette has missed a total of 12 regular-season games in his first three seasons. Most of those were during his 2018 campaign due to a nagging hamstring injury.
Fournette’s discipline is also a concern.
As a rookie, Fournette violated team rules following a Week 8 Bye and was declared inactive in Week 9 versus the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2018, Fournette got into a fistfight with then-Bills defender Shaq Lawson which led to a team brawl. Lawson and Fournette were both ejected, and without Fournette, the Jaguars went on to lose that game.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is big on discipline and putting the team first. He doesn’t fool around, especially when a player’s attitude and action can lead to a team loss. The Dolphins have brought in players with character concerns due to their talent and have warned them that if they don’t get with the program and conduct themselves accordingly, they are out. One of the most recent examples of this was the release of RB Mark Walton after his arrest.
But the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league.
And what Fournette has done for us lately is that his durability and disciplinary issues could be a thing of the past. He played in 15 out of 16 regular-season games, racked up 1,152 yards, three touchdowns, and caught 76 receptions for 522 yards: while conducting himself accordingly.
The Jags know Fournette bounced back from a 2nd-year slump that was full of injury and took a dip in his statistical performance. They are hoping a team is willing to bite on his 2019 production and bite hard.
But how would Fournette fit in with the Dolphins?
Does Fournette suit the Dolphins needs at running back?
Initially, I would have said, “no.”
Miami is looking for a balanced running back, not a power-back like Fournette is believed to be. Fournette has some speed to him (4.51), but not enough wiggle to be considered a back you would use in the passing game. Plus, the Dolphins have already signed a virtually 1-dimensional power-back in Jordan Howard.
So that takes care of that.
But then I began to think maybe Fournette has a little more balanced than we think. After all, 76 receptions are nothing to scoff at these days in the NFL.
Let me repeat: 76 receptions.
That’s 25th amongst all players in 2019, including wide receivers.
That’s pretty darn good.
That’s pretty darn productive.
So maybe Fournette doesn’t precisely have wiggle, but he has hands, and power, and speed.
New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who has a history of getting the most out of his running backs, could sure admire that.
And behind Jordan Howard, the backfield is relatively underwhelming. Kalen Ballage has been disappointing after replacing former Dolphins, Kenyan Drake. Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskins are beautiful passing-down backs, but not big enough to be considered “featured” guys. And Samaje Perine has found himself sticking around the Dolphins the last couple years.
So, the Dolphins aren’t in a place to pass up a Leonard Fournette.
And you could probably say based on the resume’ that Fournette would be an immediate upgrade over Ballage.
And Fournette would give you a nice 1-2 punch with Howard while having Gaskins or Laird come in for passing-down work.
And acquiring Fournette would eliminate the need for finding a running back in the draft— a draft pick that could almost certainly be used on another position of need for the Dolphins.
So, should the Dolphins bite on Fournette?
I’d give a nibble at the idea.