1 Vs 1 Rookie RB Edition: Leonard Fournette Vs Kareem Hunt
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted rookie running backs putting them up against each other, and comparing them in a variety of categories such as 2017 stats, quality of offensive line, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, teams time of possession, percentage of rushing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare two elite rookie runningbacks in Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette and KC's Kareem Hunt, who both enjoyed incredible rookie campaigns. The explosive pair were the centrepiece's of their teams offense in 2017, which was not a surprise for Fournette as he was drafted to be the Jaguars workhorse back. Hunt however was not expected to have such a prominent role in the offense right out of the shoot, but a Spencer Ware injury combined with Hunt playing incredible and exploding for 246 total yards and three touchdowns in his NFL debut against Green Bay made it impossible to not give him twenty plus touches per game.
Fournette and Hunt had very impressive 2017 regular seasons, especially considering they were rookies, and both players palyed a significant role in the Jag's and the Chiefs making the playoffs. Fournette rushed 268 times for 1040 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, adding 36 receptions on 48 targets for 302 yards and 1 touchdown for an 8.4 yards per reception average in only 13 games. Hunt rushed 272 times for 1327 yards and 8 touchdowns averaging 4.9 yards per carry, adding 53 receptions on 63 targets for 455 yards and 3 touchdowns averaging 8.6 yards per reception. Fournette was PFF's 25th ranked runningback with a grade of 77.7, Hunt was the 4th overall among runningbacks with an incredible 89.4 grade. I have Fournette as my 6th ranked runningback and Hunt as my 8th ranked dynasty RB. Advantage: Hunt
A big part of running back success is tied to the quality of a teams offensive line, as we have seen time and time again a mid level running back with a top tier offensive line can have comparable stats with a much better running back with a questionable offensive line. In 2017 Jacksonville graded out as the 11th overall offensive line, as a unit averaging 4.21 runningback yards per attempt with a 61% power run success rate. Kansas City had the 12th graded offensive line, and averaged 4.62 runningback yards per attempt and a 84% power run success rate. Jacksonville possessed the ball on average 32:03 per game in 2017, and rushed on 49.4% of offensive plays,. The Chiefs possessed the ball 30:46 per game rushing 41.09% of offensive plays last season. I foresee Jacksonville continuing to ride Fournette as their workhorse back giving him twenty or more touches per game for the length of his rookie contract to justify the draft capitol they invested in him. I'm not as confident that Hunt will maintain his heavy workload with KC having a respectable passing game and Spencer ware returning from injury. Advantage: Fournette
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, there are some considerable differences between the two of them. Fournette is the bigger of the two runningbacks, as he is listed at 6'0, 228 pounds, to Hunt's 5'11, 216 pounds, Fournette has prototypical bell cow frame and shows incredible lateral ability for his size, whereas Hunt is slightly smaller but still possesses three down back size. Fournette came out ahead in two of three major combine categories, as he ran a 4.51, 40, had a 121” broad jump, and put up a 28.5” vertical. Hunt ran a 4.62, 40, jumped 119” in the broad jump, and had an impressive 36.5” vertical. They are essentially the same age as they were both born in 1995 with Hunt being roughly 6 months younger than Fournette. These two had different paths to the NFL and much different draft weekend experiences, as Fournette was selected with the 4h pick of the 1st round, 4th overall in 2017, after a successful and well decorated college career at LSU. Hunt was a day two draft pick as he was selected in the 3rd round, with the 22nd pick, 86th overall also in the 2017 NFL draft. He was not nearly as hyped as Fournette likely due to the sluggish 40 time and smaller frame, but had a successful college career at Toledo nonetheless. Advantage: Fournette
Both players played starters snaps in their rookie season, with Fournette playing 562 snaps in 13 games, 35 of which he was required to pass protect, he posted a respectable 58.2 grade in pass blocking. Hunt played 665 snaps, 37 of which were in pass protection, he was given a 39.9 pass blocking grade from PFF. Fournette doesn't have much long term competition for touches on the depth chart, with essentially only pass catching back TJ Yeldon and veteran Chris Ivory being the only real threats to take a few touches away. In Kansas City Hunt will have to fend off Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West next season, but should still dominate touches. Advantage: Hunt
The only real knock on Fournette coming out of college was that he wasn't a competent pass catcher in the LSU offense, but after putting in the offseason work and catching 36 passes in his rookie campaign which was 20th among runningback receptions. I can see Fournette playing a true three down role and catching fifty passes a season. I am just not as confident in Hunt maintaining a long term three down role on an Andy Reid offense, and for that reason I am giving a very slight advantage to Fournette. I have nothing against Hunt he looked incredibly smooth as a runner and receiver it's more the KC offenese I don't trust as Hunt had less than 10 carries 4 times in 2017 and will have more competition for touches next season. Winner: Leonard Fournette