NCAA

Leonard Fournette is the Exception To A Bad Rule

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Unless you have been living under a rock through the first few weeks of the college football season, you have noticed that Leonard Fournette is a man among boys on college football Saturdays. Fournette effortlessly glides through holes and runs through defenders like an unstoppable force. Through three games, Fournette has run for 631 yards on 73 attempts, 8.6 yards per carry, for an incredible eight touchdowns.

Normally, when someone is so great at their craft, they have the ability to monetize their value, either from their employer or by moving on to a place that can adequately compensate them for their talent in the near future. However, Fournette won’t have that opportunity for at least another year and a half. Under the NFL rules, college football players have to be three years removed from high school before they can enter the draft.

Fournette, a true sophomore, is only two years removed from high school; therefore, he will not be eligible to take his talents to the NFL after the culmination of the college football season.

For 98 percent of college football players, this rule doesn’t effect them at all because they wouldn’t be ready to take the next step after just two years in college because they are not physically or mentally equipped to deal with the rigors of the NFL. Nevertheless, that means the other two percent, players like Fournette, Nick Chubb or Myles Garret, get the short end of the stick.

They have the physically and mental capabilities to make it in the NFL, but they are unable to go because of an outdated and arbitrary rule. Rather than a player’s production, physical and mental makeup being the deciding factor for a player getting to the NFL, the NFL put a rule in place to eliminate any possibility of it coming to fruition.

Former NFL scout and NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt told The New York Times, Fournette “would be the first guy picked in the draft if you just say, ‘Who is the best player?’ ”

It is easy to see why Brandt would make such a bold statement as Fournette has the physical skills and the mental nuance to make an impact in the NFL today. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Fournette is a big running back with the type of game-breaking speed that you rarely see with running backs his size. Furthermore, he utilizes his size extremely well to bully opposing defender with his low pad level and explosive leg drive. At times, it appears as though defenders are scared to tackle him, which allows Fournette to utilize his speed to turn medium-sized plays into long touchdowns.

Fournette’s ability to be a bruising back that wears down the defense or an explosive playmaker who can score from anywhere on the field is what makes him truly a dynamic player at his position.

Moreover, Fournette has made huge improvements with his mental processing since he was a freshman a year ago. Last year, Fournette was very impatient and he didn’t let holes develop, which led to him leaving meat on the bone throughout his freshman campaign. Fast-forward a year and Fournette has drastically improved in that area as let has shown a lot more patience to let his blocking develop, which has led to some of his biggest runs this year.

Now, you would think a player of this level of talent should be able to test himself at the next level; however, that is simply not the case. Instead, Fournette will have to either sit out his junior campaign or play another year and risk injuring himself and drastically affecting his worth in the NFL.

This conundrum is one we have seen with a few players over the past couple years. Jadeveon Clowney, a once in a lifetime type of talent at defensive end, would have been the first-

overall pick after his sophomore season, but he had to come back for one more year, which was riddled with injury. While Clowney still ended up going No. 1 overall, the toll of the injuries really affected his body and likely was a big part in his knee injury that cost him most of his rookie season.

This is what Fournette will have to avoid as he will still have to show his otherworldly talent, but without getting hurt or injured, which is almost impossible at a contact position like running back.

What this shows is that the NFL rules are outdated in this regard and need to be changed because they are affecting players like Fournette’s ability to fully take advantage of their talent.

The answer to this problem could be a for the NFL to create a committee of general managers who look at special cases such as Fournette and make the determination if they’re ready for the NFL both physically and mentally. This would stop every sophomore who has an inflated sense of their talents from declaring, but also allow the true talents, such as Fournette, Chubb and Garrett, to make the jump to the next level without risking an injury that could flush it all down the drain.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com