CFB Player Bracket: Leonard Fournette vs. Jonathan Allen
Today’s first-round matchup pits LSU’s nigh-on unstoppable running back Leonard Fournette against defensive end Jonathan Allen, a member of the Alabama defensive line that was able to stop Fournette. Let’s take a side-by-side look at both players:
To view the entire bracket and every Round 1 matchup, click here.
The case for Leonard Fournette
A superstar recruit, big things were expected from Fournette the instant he arrived in Baton Rouge. A total of 1,034 rushing yards (5.5 average) and 10 touchdowns made for a solid statistical freshman season, but didn’t quite live up to the hype. He averaged just 2.2 yards after contact, and earned a respectable +6.9 rushing grade, 59th out of 227 qualifying backs.
However, Fournette looked a different player as a sophomore, more agile and explosive, and he took college football by storm through the first two months of the season. His +40.6 overall grade ranked second in the nation in 2015, and his +37.7 rushing grade was top, and that’s among all backs, not just those returning in 2016. He also led the nation with 95 missed tackles on offense, and improved his yards after contact average to a much more impressive 3.6.
Fournette’s combination of size, power and speed is elite at any level, and makes him a nightmare to defend. A punishing direct runner, he also has the quickness to get around or outside a defense, and the speed to then take it to the house. The play below against South Carolina illustrates this perfectly — good blocking leaves Fournette with just the safety to beat at the second level. He does that with ease and then he’s gone.
The case for Jonathan Allen
Alabama’s Allen earned a +36.2 overall grade in 2015, fourth-best among all returning interior defenders (defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends), this despite playing on just 39.5 percent of Alabama’s defensive snaps.
That workload should rise in 2016 with the Crimson Tide losing three of their top five linemen. Allen was utilized as a rotational 3-4 defensive end and pass rush specialist in 2015, and saw less snaps against run-heavy opposition, but his +15.9 run defense grade was third-best on the team, and not far short of his excellent +19.1 pass rush grade. He was also very consistent; the chart below shows that he didn’t post a single negative overall grade all season.
Allen recorded 13 sacks and 36 total pressures in 2015; his 12.1 pass rushing productivity (a measure of pressure per pass rush snap) score ranks third among returning interior defenders. That’s 20 sacks, 77 total pressures, a +33.3 pass rush grade and an 11.2 pass rushing productivity score across the past two seasons.
The Verdict: Leonard Fournette advances
It’s always difficult comparing players from different positions, and there is a danger that this comparison could be swayed by their individual performances when their teams faced off in 2015. In that game Allen earned a +4.0 grade in run defense, and was part of an Alabama defensive front that smothered the LSU offensive line, leaving Fournette with nowhere to run. However, this was a team victory for the Crimson Tide over the Tigers offense, rather than any individual failing of Fournette’s. Plays like the one below were all too common. In this one Allen lined up as the right defensive end and was one of five Alabama players to surround Fournette in the backfield, resulting in a two-yard loss.
Both players are primed for big 2016 seasons, but Fournette arguably matters more for LSU’s fortunes than Allen does for Alabama’s, and while Allen is among the best inter defensive linemen in football, Fournette is already the best pure running back.
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— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 9, 2016