Sport Leonard Fournette builds case to beat Deshaun Watson, Kareem Hunt in rookie race

17:14  12 october  2017
17:14  12 october  2017 Source:   Sporting News

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Leonard Fournette – (+400). Christian McCaffrey – (+450). DeShaun Watson – (+500). Kareem Hunt – (+1200). John Ross – (+1800). Quickly starting away from Hunt , we agree Fournette is far and away the leading man for OROY.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette will definitely be in the early discussion for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, but as of right now he trails Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson in the odds. Per NOLA.com

After Week 1, it looked like nobody would catch Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt in the race for 2017 NFL offensive rookie of the year. Then Deshaun Watson started playing quarterback for the Texans and quickly took over as the new heavy favorite.

According to updated odds from Bovada, Watson has gone from 2/3 to 1/2 in the past week. After Hunt's team beat Watson's team in Week 5, the running back went from to 11/10 to only 8/5.

But the current distant third in the race, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (12-1), can't be forgotten. Fournette was 25/1 going into the Steelers game, but he greatly improved his chances by rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville's upset win. Considering he was the preseason front-runner, Fournette is very much in the chase. To figure whether he can finish first in the end requires a comparison of his case against those of the other two.

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Against the spread | Straight up

Let's begin back vs. back. Hunt has an early lead for the rushing title as he tries to duplicate Ezekiel Elliott's rookie feat from 2016. The Kansas City running back has 609 yards through five games, while Fournette is second at 466 yards. Fournette has out-touched Hunt, 122-113, but Hunt has averaged 6.9 years per touch vs. Fournette's 4.9. They each have scored six touchdowns.

Looking ahead, other than facing Denver's dominant run defense twice, Hunt's only two tricky matchups remaining are against Buffalo and Miami. Fournette has a tougher overall schedule left to play, with both Los Angeles teams and two Indianapolis games being the most favorable.

Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Deshaun Watson © (Getty Images) Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Deshaun Watson

Hunt cracks the top 10 in MVP odds as the best non-QB candidate, but there's no doubt the play of quarterback Alex Smith has helped him. Meanwhile, Fournette has produced despite little help from his QB, Blake Borltes, and running against consistently stacked boxes. Case in point was his 90-yard score to seal the deal against Pittsburgh. Those facts don't hurt Hunt, but they should help Fournette.

Texans are totally Deshaun Watson's team now

  Texans are totally Deshaun Watson's team now Having Deshaun Watson is a considerable consolation for Houston after losing J.J. Watt to another major injury.For the second straight year, Watt will see his season cut short by a major injury. That means Watson, quickly warmed up as a red-hot rookie, needs to keep quarterbacking that way to give Houston hope over the final 12 weeks.

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The Chiefs are 5-0, and the Jaguars are 3-2. Hunt needs to keep up his strong play, and Kansas City needs to keep winning big to boost his cause. Fournette needs to avoid a drop-off and push Jacksonville into the AFC playoffs, but both scenarios are possible. The player who ends up as the more productive workhorse back will pull ahead for a late award showdown with Watson.

Although offensive rookie of the year isn't the same as NFL MVP, it can have the same feel — see why Dak Prescott edged Elliott for the AP honor last season, and why Watson is the best bet to succeed him.

Watson has a ton of buzz around him because of his big-armed passing and dynamic running. Like Fournette and unlike Hunt, he was a familiar, big-stage player in college. He is channeling what Prescott, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Vince Young did to win the award in recent seasons.

But the Texans are 2-3 and behind Fournette's Jaguars, who won at Houston in Week 1. After losing to New England and Kansas City, Houston has two more strong 2016 playoff teams left on the schedule, Seattle and Pittsburgh. Watson should keep it up against Cleveland this week, but he is bound to experience a few more downs throughout the year as he assumes the burden of carrying his team.

Texans are totally Deshaun Watson's team now

  Texans are totally Deshaun Watson's team now Having Deshaun Watson is a considerable consolation for Houston after losing J.J. Watt to another major injury.For the second straight year, Watt will see his season cut short by a major injury. That means Watson, quickly warmed up as a red-hot rookie, needs to keep quarterbacking that way to give Houston hope over the final 12 weeks.

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For Fournette to pass Hunt, it needs to be done statistically. For Fournette to leap past Watson, it needs to be done in the standings. The Jaguars are alone in first place in the AFC South, but it's by that one game in which Watson did not play until the second half. Given how things are going for Tennessee and Indianapolis, the division might come down to the Houston-Jacksonville rematch in Week 15.

Health willing, the force should remain stronger with Fournette deep into the season. Two days after "The Last Jedi" opens in December, he can have the last laugh while Watson faces the Jaguars' tough pass defense in the same game.

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Watson seems impossible to beat, but that also was said about Hunt not long ago. Rookie fortunes can change quickly — just ask Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Prescott and Elliott going wire-to-wire last year was anomaly. Plus, consider the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. and Todd Gurley won in 2014 and '15, respectively, despite missing multiple games.

While Watson and Hunt are ahead for now, if OROY were to swing all the way back to Fournette, it shouldn't surprise anybody.

NFL Week 7 in five tweets .
The theme so far during the 2017 NFL season seems to be "next man up" with several star players done for the season.Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was added to that list last Sunday with a broken collarbone. The Packers are dealing with multiple injuries on both sides of the ball as they prepare to face the Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The good news for the Packers is they get their bye week after Sunday's game.

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