When LSU running back Leonard Fournette posted a disappointing 28.5-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, second worst of any running back who participated, the talk surrounding the physical running back immediately transitioned to his weight. After weighing in at 240 pounds, about 5-10 pounds heavier than his playing weight and the heaviest among running backs, Fournette told reporters that it was simply "water weight" that would easily come off and no longer be a concern.
Leonard Fournette's #NFLCombine vertical: 28.5"
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) March 3, 2017
But when Fournette barely got off the ground, the critics started chirping. He's too big. His added weight has adversely affected his athleticism. He's tumbling down draft boards. But then something funny happened. Fournette ran the 40-Yard Dash, and all of a sudden, his weight total was no longer a detriment. Instead, it was a blessing.
Leonard Fournette silences some critics by running a 4.51 40 yard dash on his first try. My man is 240 pounds. pic.twitter.com/AejzP9YdTh
— STACK (@STACKMedia) March 3, 2017
Fournette ran his 40 in 4.51 seconds, lightspeed for a dude weighing 240 pounds. It was 10th best among the running backs who ran, and only .02 seconds slower than Florida State's Dalvin Cook, a player who's considered a helluva lot faster than Fournette on the field. Almost immediately, headlines like "Leonard Fournette is Not Having a Great NFL Combine" from SB Nation turned into headlines like this:
How quickly the narrative changes!
For some context, Derrick Henry, who weighed 247 pounds at the 2015 NFL Combine, ran a 4.54. Eddie Lacy, who weighed 231 pounds, ran a 4.62 at his Pro Day in 2013. Or, broken down in simpler terms, take this information into account:
Based on the combine, Leonard Fournette has:
- Same weight as Clay Matthews
- Same burst as Percy Harvin
- Same speed as Jordy Nelson
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 3, 2017
Fournette's extra poundage let fans and scouts view his overall Combine performance through rose colored glasses. If Fournette had run a 4.51 weighing even 5 pounds less, it wouldn't have created the same buzz, because it wouldn't have been quite as impressive. But because Fournette will forever be able to put his 40 time up against a weight of 240, people have already erased his poor vertical jump from their memories. Here's what Chris Landry, an NFL scout, wrote about Fournette's Combine for Gridiron Now:
As far as Fournette's vertical jump being below the standard for the position, it again was not that surprising as it mirrors his athleticism on the playing field. He has a big, truncated lower-body build that translates to strong, gradual power-built speed. He is not explosive in short spurts, but long spurts.
If Fournette's vertical was never going to truly matter to scouts because of how he runs the ball, then coming into the Combine heavier might have been the smartest move the LSU running back could have made.
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