Leonard Fournette or Derrick Henry: Who’s Better?

    Derrick Henry or Leonard Fournette ... Who's going to have the better game, and who'll have a better NFL career?

    November 3, 2015

    Derrick Henry or Leonard Fournette … Who’s going to have the better game, and who’ll have a better NFL career?

    Rich Cirminiello
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello
    Earn a Ph.D. in college football … class is in session at Campus Insiders

    Henry … and Fournette.

    Picking between Henry and Fournette at this stage of the season is akin to choosing which of your children you like the most. It’s an impossibly unfair question.

    On Saturday night, neither back is going to put up his usual numbers, though give me Henry, because Fournette will be facing the better defense and Jacob Coker will have a tighter game than Brandon Harris through the air. Bama has the best front seven in the country, and it’s going to throw everyone, from linebackers Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster to safeties Eddie Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith, into the box to support an already-dominant D-line. Neither star back will average more than four yards a carry by the way.

    Long-term, I like Fournette on Sundays, but that’s hardly an indictment of Henry. Both players are man-children at the college level. And their futures are extremely bright. Fournette, though, harbors a little something special that separates him from any back of the last decade. It’s more than his measurables, which defy conventional wisdom.

    It’s the way he carries himself, on and off the field, which portends greatness. Fournette has a Lebron-esque demeanor, a big-picture awareness and a certain magnetism that leads to championships as well as fat marketing deals.

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    Both Henry and Fournette are freakish backs with the size and skills that just don’t show up to college campuses that often, and both are destined for the NFL, but when stacking them up on the field this Saturday.

    I have to go with Henry with the chance of having the better game.

    Sometimes it’s more about circumstances versus talent, and it seems to fit here. LSU’s run defense is very, very good, but Alabama’s is even better, giving up only 78.5 yards per game and only allowing one running back to go over 100 yards so far this year. Alabama’s front seven on defense is strong and physical, and built to stop running games, meaning Fournette won’t be able to get into the second level where he likes to do his damage.

    As far as playing on Sundays, you have to like the chances of Fournette being the better pro. Don’t get me wrong; Henry is a load to bring down and fast for his size, but he’s more of a straight-line gap runner. In the NFL, they fill those holes and play better assignment football than in college. Fournette, on the other hand, seems to have better vision and shiftiness to go along with his ability to get the tough yards. When playing for the shield, the guys that can hit the hole faster and ad-lib their way towards daylight have more success. Those tools seem to be in Fournett’es arsenal over Henry at this point.

    But either way, at least in the immediate term, the game Saturday will be a five-star affair with both running backs getting a chance to showcase what they can do against a solid defensive front. It should be fun.

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    Both teams have great run defenses – Bama’s is ranked best in the SEC, with LSU second best. However, in conference play they switch places, with the Tigers taking the top “running defense” spot.

    Bama’s running backs tend to struggle a bit more against LSU. T.J. Yeldon rushed for only 68 yards last year, and had some trouble holding onto the ball; Bama finished with just 106 total rushing yards. Eddie Lacy had only 83 in 2012, and Trent Richardson 89 in 2011. Not that the Tigers did that much better … they just ran the ball more often.

    Heading into Saturday, the big focus will be on LSU’s offensive line, which is one of the best in the nation and playing better, and more consistently as a unit. However, LSU’s defensive line is banged up, in particular, its star defensive tackle, junior Christian LaCouture. If he’s unable to play at 100%, Derrick Henry and Alabama might have a field day in the A-Gap.

    As good as Henry is, Leonard Fournette is a once-in-a-generation freak of nature. Behind the better offensive line, with a quarterback who has proven he can hit the short slant rout at least 55% of the time, not to mention a deep threat, expect Fournette and Co. to wear down Alabama and have the better game.

    LSU runs the ball seven out of every ten plays – expect more opportunities to break off a long run.

    As for who will have the better NFL career … who cares? It’s all about Saturdays, baby! On average, LSU’s running backs seem to stick a bit longer in the League, although Eddie Lacy has been a home run. Lacy is a Louisiana talent, by the way … one the Tigers missed.


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