Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars’ former first-round pick and standout running back, was waived by Jacksonville on Monday morning. That sends a starting-level fantasy football RB to the NFL’s waiver wire and leaves handcuffs Ryquell Armstead and Chris Thompson competing for carries in Jay Gruden’s backfield. Happy Monday fantasy owners — time to update your rankings, sleeper lists, and cheat sheets!
The full fallout of Fournette’s waiving will depend on what team picks him up and if Jacksonville signs any veteran running backs. For now, it creates a void in the RB rankings and creates at least one (if not two) potential sleepers.
Fournette now becomes the biggest mystery here. Prior to his release, he was our No. 11 running back in standard leagues. He was coming off a career year, at least in terms of yards and catches: 1,152 rushing yards to go with 76 catches for 522 yards. The only thing lacking a season ago were the touchdowns.
Now, Fournette’s value will depend almost entirely on where he ends up. After a down 2018, Fournette showed that his individual talent level is still high, but it will only show up if he gets opportunity.
A destination like the Bears, where David Montgomery could miss Week 1, could be best for his short-term value. A team like the Tampa Bay or Washington, which both have lots of running backs but no sure thing, might be better for Fournette’s season-long value.
That all assumes that the reasoning behind Fournette’s release was mostly cap-related. If further negative news comes out about Fournette, teams might be a lot slower to pick him up.
For now, if you’ve already drafted Fournette, you have to hold him and see what happens. If you’re drafting as soon as tonight, you can’t draft Fournette in a starting spot. If he falls to an RB3 level, though, he’s worth the flier.
2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200
Armstead’s in his second year out of Temple and looked to be the obvious handcuff to Fournette once again. Oh, how quickly things change!
If Jacksonville doesn’t sign anyone else, Armstead becomes the starting RB in an underrated offense. The Jaguars’ offensive line is bottom-six in the league, though, which could leave much to be desired.
The bigger question mark is Armstead: He only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his rookie year. He did catch 14 passes on 24 targets, but Thompson is more likely to hold down the passing-back role, so Armstead would need to get his work done on early downs.
Armstead’s largest opportunity came in Week 17 last year. He ran 10 times for 33 yards and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. If the Jags don’t sign anyone and that looks to be Armstead’s workload, he can be a Week 1 flex option.
Thompson is reunited with Jay Gruden from their Washington days, and after Fournette was targeted 100 times last year, Thompson could have big passing-game involvement this time around.
The biggest question surrounding Thompson will always be his health. Only once has he played all 16 games in a season. But in his career, he’s caught 3.2 passes per game, and he’s never been targeted to the extent Fournette was a year ago.
Even a 50-catch season with some secondary involvement as a rusher leaves Thompson as a PPR flex option week-in and week-out. And if Thompson stays healthy, that could be a conservative estimate for his catches. In standard leagues, Thompson probably isn’t worth drafting, but in PPR, he should come off the board as an RB4 at the latest (unless Jacksonville signs another back who can catch passes).
2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team
It’s great for a young quarterback to have a dependable running back like Fournette, and now Minshew doesn’t have that. That could mean more passing than expected, though.
Jacksonville already passed on the ninth-highest percentage of plays in the league last year, but a lot of those were dump-downs to Fournette. There could be a bit more down-field passing for Minshew in the early going. The Fournette release doesn’t dock Minshew or Chark’s value at all. If anything, if you liked them as sleepers, you can pick them slightly earlier.
Fournette’s release could also help a possession receiver like Dede Westbrook, who might become more important now in moving the chains.
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