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ADP Showdown - Leonard Fournette vs Damien Williams


In this ADP showdown, let’s take a look at two running backs on vastly different teams and in two completely different situations.

On one hand, we have Leonard Fournette. A back on a Jacksonville Jaguars team who is known more for their defense rather than their offense. A team which has already voided the guaranteed money due to him because of immaturity concerns. Concerns which frankly are correct based on actions seen. The other running back is Damien Williams. He is on a Chiefs offense who, if it wasn’t the best before Friday, sure is now. With the return of Tyreek Hill leading to even more explosiveness in Kansas City, the bell-cow back could just become a top-five back in the league this season.

With the participants in this showdown defined, we can now take a look at the argument for each of them and you can decide which one you prefer.

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The Case for Leonard Fournette

Playing in only eight games due to injury, suspension and plain indifference led Fournette to be a major bust in 2018, but the final numbers are not the whole story.

Yes, he was a bust for sure. He has not been healthy since high school and the likelihood of him being on Jacksonville much longer are not great. But he does have two things going for him.

First and foremost, the Jaguars want to run and play defense. This means despite not even averaging 4.0 yards per carry, he will get the rock. The other key factor is his unsecured spot for the future. The team will pound him into the ground before letting him ride off into the sunset. In the NFL of today where running backs are a dime a dozen, he will be given all the work he can handle to prove himself.

Although he only finished as RB39 last season based on total points, he was still a top-15 back when it came to points per game at 13.7. Of course, these numbers can be taken any way you want them to be. I can play in one game, have a big run and a touchdown and never play again thus making the average high. But eight full games are a solid sample size for this number, and it was only a few years ago when he was a rookie, that Fournette was a top-10 running back for the entire season.

Longevity is not going to be a friend of Fournette. Even as it relates to backs in the league, he is more of a short-term player than others. But one season is short term. If the Jaguars want to get back to sniffing the postseason with Nick Foles and company, Leonard Fournette will be a big part of the equation. He will not be asked to catch the ball, thank goodness. But he will be asked to pound the rock 18 to 20 times a game or more. Last season, Ezekiel Elliott was the only running back in the league with over 300 rush attempts. The next closest was Saquon Barkley with 281. This season you should expect Fournette to join that 300-rush club and it could go much higher as well.

Currently, Leonard Fournette is going as RB15 at pick 3.02 in drafts. Despite his lack of pass-catching profile, this is a solid value for a player who should be pushing for the league lead in rush attempts. Even if he just gets to 4.0 yards per carry, he should amass 1,200 rush yards. If he can play in all 16 games, he could also reach double-digit touchdowns in the low-powered but run-heavy Jacksonville offense.

 

The Case for Damien Williams

We loved Damien Williams all offseason. Especially after Andy Reid came out and named him the starter. The starter in an Andy Reid rush attack is great, as it means bell-cow work. As the bell-cow, last season Kareem Hunt saw 71% of the snaps in the offense. In the four total games in which Damien Williams started and finished in 2018? He saw 73%. He also averaged 128 yards per game and 20.3 touches in those games.

With Tyreek Hill now back on the field officially, Williams becomes even more valuable. But also, more expensive.

Currently going in the late second-round as RB13, this number is going to climb to incredible heights in coming months leading into the season. Before the season starts, it is likely he will make his way into the late first round. But at worst the high second-round. Bell-cow back or not, for someone with limited production in his career, this could be just right for some people.

A first-round price would put him above players such as James Conner and Dalvin Cook. Both of whom could easily finish higher. But they are also players on lesser offenses, even if not significantly worse, and they also have concerns with injury. This is not a concern we have seen with Williams. All three of these backs could finish back to back to back in the ranks and all should be in consideration this high in drafts. At this point, it is your preference on which one you want to take a chance on.

Is it going to be the guy in Minnesota who cannot seem to stay healthy? The guy in Pittsburgh who may be in a split backfield with a player in Jalen Samuels whom the coaching staff wants to get on the field? Or the man in Kansas City. The man whose coach has already named the starter and is playing on the best offense in the NFL with potentially the number one QB and WR on his team.

 

Final Thoughts

Damien Williams has not shown much in the NFL. But to be fair, other than being drafted far too high, neither has Leonard Fournette since his rookie year.

Fournette will get the work in the run game as long as he stays healthy. But based on the work he received as the starter last season; Williams may not be far behind in the rush attempts in 2019. With the offense in Kansas City poised to set records, it is hard not to choose the guy on this team. You may decide to go opposite and take the riskier Fournette and this is your choice. If you do this, I hope it is because you were able to lock down the receiver position in the first two rounds of your draft.

But if you are looking for an RB one out of either of these two? Damien Williams is not only safer but also has a higher potential finish. This makes him a double threat and at least in my mind, the clear pick.

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