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Will a thin group of running backs hurt Leonard Fournette in the playoffs?

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars saw a resurgence in their run game for the first time in years and it led — in part — to the most success this franchise has had in nearly two decades.

Granted, rookie running back Leonard Fournette finished the season with just 3.9 yards per carry, despite the fact he literally faced eight or more defenders in the box every other attempt.

Now, when I say the Jaguars’ running back group is “thin” I don’t mean devoid of talent. Both T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant are good players who fit solid roles within this team and can definitely shoulder some of the burden. But with Chris Ivory gone, the Jaguars could keep just three running backs on the 53-man roster and that could mean a higher-than-normal workload for Fournette. How will that affect the run game if (when) the Jaguars go into the playoffs?

This week, we’re taking a look at several aspects of this year’s Jaguars team with the help of Football Outsider’s Andrew Potter who was kind enough to explain why Fournette’s playoff production has little to no correlation to his regular season production.

Last season, ten running backs carried the ball more than 240 times – ie. At least 15 times per game, without accounting for games missed. Of those ten, five played into the postseason: Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, and of course Leonard Fournette. There was no correlation between their number of regular-season carries and the decline or improvement in their postseason DVOA:

Regular season vs. playoffs

Player Carries Reg. Season DVOA Playoff DVOA
Player Carries Reg. Season DVOA Playoff DVOA
Le’Veon Bell 321 7.90% -25.40%
LeSean McCoy 286 -10.80% -10.50%
Todd Gurley 279 13.90% 31.70%
Kareem Hunt 272 11.90% 26.80%
Leonard Fournette 268 2.10% -23.30%

Any decline in postseason numbers is most likely to be a result of facing better defenses in the playoffs than the average regular-season opponent. As long as he can stay healthy — which, naturally, becomes more difficult with a higher workload — Fournette should be fine if* the Jaguars return to the playoffs.


What do you think? Will Fournette be fine for the Jaguars’ playoff run in 2018?

Let us know in the comments below!