CFB Player Bracket: Leonard Fournette vs Deshaun Watson
We’ve now reached the last eight in our 2016 college football player bracket, and at this point we are left with the cream of the crop of the college class this year. Both Leonard Fournette and Deshaun Watson have gotten past fantastic competition to each this point, and both are easily top-10 players in the nation, but only one can advance to the semi-final.
Will it be Clemson’s star quarterback, who finished the 2015 season on a run unmatched by any quarterback in the nation? Or will it be LSU’s powerful Leonard Fournette, who broke tackles for fun last year?
To see the entire bracket and every matchup breakdown, click here.
The case for Leonard Fournette
You can point to the fact that Fournette might not be a complete back given that he hasn’t made a huge impact as a receiver, but you won’t find a better pure runner in all of college football. Indeed, we might not have seen a better pure runner since the days of Adrian Peterson, such is Fournette’s ability to carry the load for the LSU offense.
His rushing grade of +37.7 was the best in the nation last year, and the highest of any running back in the two years we have been grading college football. Carrying the ball 300 times, Fournette forced 85 missed tackles as a runner, with a lot of those being the result of him simply running over opposing defenders when they got in his way.
It’s an understandable counter argument for people to point to his one dimensional nature as a knock on Fournette, but when you’re as good a pure runner as he is, it really doesn’t matter that much. He’s poised to once again be the standard bearer as the best pure runner in the nation, and the focal point of the LSU offense.
The case for Deshaun Watson
Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have just been drafted at number one or two overall in the NFL draft, with the belief that they are good enough to lead NFL franchises for the next decade. And yet when you look at our quarterbacks rankings in the second half of the 2015 season, it’s Clemson’s Deshaun Watson who leads the group.
Truly developing into the best quarterback in the nation in front of our eyes, Watson’s transformation helped power the Clemson Tigers almost all the way to a National Championship, and behind his arm and legs they’ll compete to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2016. Watson was fantastic throwing the ball downfield, completing 34 of the 80 passes of 20 yards or further downfield, going for 1,196 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That was the second most touchdowns on deep passes of any quarterback in the nation in 2015, trailing only Bowling Green’s deep ball extrordinaire Matt Johnson in that statistic.
That doesn’t even factor in his ability as a runner, with Watson picking up 383 of his 1,174 yards as a runner on quarterback scrambles, with the rest coming on designed runs. A quarterback who can do it all, he’s on the verge of something truly special at the quarterback position.
The Verdict: Leonard Fournette advances
Watson might be on the verge of something special at the quarterback position, but the same is true of Fournette at the running back position. It’s not inconceivable to think that he could break 100 tackles as a runner in 2016, something which would be a truly incredible feat. He broke 85 last year at a rate of one missed tackle forced every 3.5 carries. At that rate he would need just over 350 carries to break the 100 missed tackles forced mark, but considering his rate improved from a missed tackle forced every 6.1 carries, a further improvement is well within his grasp. Leonard Fournette gets the nod for the semi-finals.
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