Better chance at a breakout fantasy year, McCaffrey or Fournette?
This past April, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars selected running backs at the top end of the draft with the hope that they will provide a jolt to their respective franchises who both had very disappointing seasons in 2016. Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were not only top 10 picks, but were the only two running backs chosen in the first round. I believe that McCaffrey and Fournette were both drafted into favorable situations as both Carolina and Jacksonville should give them plenty of opportunities to contribute. After the success of Ezekiel Elliott last season, the question is which of these two rookie running backs has a better chance to be this year’s fantasy breakout star.
Fresh off a stellar career at Stanford, McCaffrey will look to continue his success with the Panthers after being drafted 8th overall. Carolina may already have Jonathan Stewart on the roster, but Stewart has missed nine games the past three years and just turned 30 in March. Not to mention, Carolina could use McCaffrey as a receiver, on special teams, as well as a running back to begin his career. The Panthers have ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts and rushing yards the past three seasons, which shows how much they have relied on their running game in the past. The versatility that comes with McCaffrey makes him an intriguing player for fantasy owners to consider in both PPR leagues and standard leagues as a FLEX option, at least to start the season.
Not much went right for the Jaguars last year as they failed to improve from two seasons ago. As a team, they ranked 22nd in rushing yards and 29th in rushing touchdowns in 2016. Enter Leonard Fournette. The number 4 overall pick will need to help rescue an offense that as a whole was not very successful last season. Between the deep struggles in the running game and the regression of Blake Bortles, the Jaguars are in need of someone who can help get their offense on track. Last year, Jacksonville used a combination of mostly T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory to no avail. Both running backs were not viable fantasy starters as they both averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry and scored a combined 4 rushing touchdowns. This preseason, Fournette will need to show that he is ready to take on a major role and if successful, may jump into RB1 or RB2 status as the regular season progresses. However, be cautious when deciding to draft a potential workhorse running back on a mediocre offense. As we saw last year with Todd Gurley, a talented running back on a poor offense can lead to very underwhelming statistics. Fournette may be given more of a chance to shine right away, but like McCaffrey, I see him as a FLEX option to start the year.
I believe that both McCaffrey and Fournette will be put in great positions to be successful. The possibility of Fournette being a full time starter early in the year makes him a great player to contemplate drafting. On the other hand, if McCaffrey shows his versatility, he can be a very valuable asset for any fantasy owner. If I had to choose one to have a breakout year, I’d go with Fournette. Jacksonville will need to find a way to make Fournette successful which is why I believe that they will give him ample opportunity to take the starting job and run away with it.
All stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
Colby Gatz covers Fantasy Football for MFST and you can follow him on Twitter @bostonfan_15.