I have lots of thoughts on this year’s NFL Draft, so I will lay them on you. I already completed a first round mock draft, why the Bears are in a perfect spot, and 5 players who should be drafted in the top 10. I still have more thoughts, so…
This brings me to today’s topic: Leonard Fournette vs the field. I was spot on last year with Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. Even though I write my mock drafts from a fantasy football aspect, I still like to “get it right” now and then. This brings me to 2017 and possibly the best player in this year’s draft.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was doing the Bears perfect spot post that I realized something. The Bears, and pretty much every team from #3 on, should be considering Leonard Fournette. Now, I know the running back has been devalued in the current NFL landscape. They are most often “ridden hard”, then discarded. Fournette is not one of those backs. He’s something different. In the mold of an Adrian Peterson. He’s got size. He’s got speed. He’s got power. He belongs on a team with a better than average offensive line.
I have watched Leonard Fournette for the last 3 years, and could not wait for him to get to the NFL.
Let’s go through the top 10, and see who could use Fournette, or someone else in the 2017 NFL Draft, shall we?
1. Browns: Myles Garrett is going to be a solid (and probably dominant) pass rusher in the NFL for while. He’s one of those rare dudes. Similar to Von Miller or Julius Peppers. Having said that, nothing can turn around a franchise faster than a stud running back. The Browns desperately need talent. They couldn’t go wrong with either pick. They have a ton of picks this year, and that is exactly why I could see them trading back into the first round for Fournette. I know, it sounds like nonsense. It probably is, but that didn’t keep me from writing it!
2. 49ers: Solomon Thomas looks like he will be a fine NFL player. Not as gifted a pass rusher as Myles Garrett, but he brings versatility and power to the table. The 49ers are in the same situation as the Browns, in having a void of talent. Fournette would bring immediate credibility on the offensive side of the ball.
3. Bears: The Bears already have two very good running backs in Jordan Howard, and Jeremy Langford. Running back is not a need. They could easily take Marshon Lattimore, or Jamal Adams, and call it a day. They absolutely need a playmaker in the secondary. The Bears also have a history of drafting great running backs. Walter Payton, Gayle Sayers, and Matt Forte, to name a few. Fournette could run himself into that company.
4. Jaguars: I believe the Jaguars would run to the podium if Fournette happens to be there at number 4. This is why I think a team will trade up to #3 to snatch him away from an obvious landing spot. The Jaguars had some real issues running the ball in 2016, and honestly, since Maurice Jones-Drew left. In fact, Blake Bortles is the current Jaguars rushing leader with 1,088 yards and 5 TDs. They need Fournette, badly. The question is: Will they get him?
5. Titans: The Titans, like the Bears, have two very good running backs. They don’t need to upgrade the position. If they take the “best player available”, that should be Fournette. You can make arguments for Lattimore, Adams, or any number of players. In reality, teams do draft for need most of the time.
6. Jets: One of the things the Jets have done in recent history is run the ball early and often. They have relied on backs such as Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Chris Ivory in recent history. Forte is a great back, but is in the twilight of his career. He may have one good season left. No better time to reload than with a possible All-Pro like Fournette. I think the Jets would run to the podium, but Jacksonville would probably say no to that. The Jets are my #3 pick to move up a couple spots to #3.
7. Chargers: The Chargers invested a first round pick in Melvin Gordon in 2015, so they probably are out of the Leonard Fournette sweepstakes. That being said, Fournette would come in and take the position away from Gordon. The Chargers have many other needs though, and can’t seem to keep wide receivers on the field.
8. Panthers: Rumor is, the Panthers want to get back to a power running game. They currently have Jonathan Stewart, who has some power to his game, but is 29, and has a history of various injuries. A team built to run the ball and play defense is perfect for Fournette. He could complement, and take pressure off Cam Newton. They are my #2 team to trade up to #3 and take him.
9. Bengals: The Bengals have had a running back by committee for the last couple seasons. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have done decent jobs for Cincinnati, but would be second stringers next to Fournette. This would help out Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense immensely. As you can see, there is little hope for Fournette sliding past at least 3 teams that could really use him. I don’t see the Bengals trading up, but did anyone see the Falcons trading up to get Julio Jones in 2011?
10. Bills: LeSean “shady” McCoy is the Bills current running back. He is 28, and has lots of mileage on his “tires”. If he can stay healthy, he probably has 2 solid years left, and maybe 3-4. Given running back is not a need, and the 3-4 other teams that will gobble up Fournette, we can probably cross the Bills off the list.
Outside looking in: The Colts, Redskins, Ravens, Broncos, Lions, Giants, Seahawks, Chiefs, and Packers all could use a running back. A couple of those teams, might even be 1 or two players away. It could be worth moving up to land a generational player at the position. Like most teams though, they will settle on lesser backs, who can get the job done. Will one of those teams kick the tires on trading up? Nobody can answer that question. That’s one of those things that will make this year’s first round so compelling. We will find out in less than two weeks.