Leonard Fournette is one of the top running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft class and he’s battling with Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to be the first off the board. But he didn’t help his case at all with a disastrous trip to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.
The LSU running back drew attention at the end of the 2016 season when he announced that he wouldn’t play in the Citrus Bowl so he could be better prepared for the draft process. But when he arrived for the NFL Combine, Fournette weighed in heavier than expected, tipping the scales at 240 pounds.
“I drank a lot of water before I weighed in,” Fournette told reporters Thursday. “So it was water weight. It went away completely. ...Most definitely a lot of people think I'm just strong. Some people say I lack speed, lack burst. I mean, tomorrow will show it out."
He didn’t show it at all, though. His Friday began instead with a 28.5-inch vertical jump that raised plenty of eyebrows.
Only two running backs in the last four NFL Combines have posted a worse mark in the drill — 2015 seventh-round pick Kenneth Hilliard and 2017 draft prospect Matt Dayes. Fournette has drawn comparisons to other big, powerful running backs like Adrian Peterson and Derrick Henry, but his numbers pale in comparison.
Peterson jumped 38.5 inches a decade ago and Henry jumped 37 inches last year. Fournette’s jump was closer to the numbers that an offensive lineman would post.
Fournette was reportedly paying particular attention to the jump drills in training, but after his poor mark in the vertical jump, he withdrew from the broad jump. Whether it was related remains to be seen, but he told NFL Network that he wasn’t surprised by the poor vertical jump, saying “I’m not a jumper.”
And so what? Why does it matter if a bruising running back who ran through tacklers isn’t able to get off the ground?
The vertical and broad jumps aren’t a test of jumping ability as much as a show of lower-body strength and burst. Players able to generate power and explode forward are able to use that to post big marks in jumping drills.
His 40-yard dash wasn’t as bad. He officially ran the drill in 4.51 seconds — which isn’t a bad mark at all for a player who weighed in at 240 pounds a day earlier — although he told reporters he hoped to get a time in the 4.4 range.
The LSU Pro Day will be one of the last in the nation, scheduled for April 5. That gives Fournette a little more than a month to improve some of his times and results, weigh in without the water weight and show teams that he can run over opponents the way he did in college.
His skills on the field are ultimately going to be the biggest deciding factor for his draft stock, but Fournette’s poor showing in Indianapolis may cause teams to think twice about taking him in April.