LSU Tigers junior running back Leonard Fournette has decided to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are five NFL teams that should draft him in the first round.
After three great years in the SEC as the LSU Tigers starting running back, junior Leonard Fournette has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
This comes as no surprise, as Fournette seemed like a player that was only going to play three years of college football any way. He was the No. 1 player in the 2014 recruiting class and projects as an early to mid-first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Here are five NFL teams that should consider drafting Fournette in the first round of this spring’s NFL Draft.
Oct 9, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson during warmups before the game against the New England Patriots at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots won 33-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns are almost certainly going to have the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Through Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season, the Browns are the only winless team in the NFL at 0-12.
Yes, the Browns have a ton of needs to fill on their depleted roster besides running back, but would Cleveland consider taking Fournette in the first round? Cleveland could conceivably use the No. 1 overall pick on Fournette. However, they might move back into the No. 5 to No. 10 range to still draft him and get another pick or two from a team that really wants a franchise quarterback at No. 1.
Cleveland also has the rights to the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2017 first round pick from Philadelphia’s decision to move up to No. 2 to draft quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State University in the 2016 NFL.
Wentz has plateaued in his rookie season with the Eagles. Maybe the reeling Eagles get the Browns another Top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft? The pick that the Browns would be getting from the Eagles would be the most likely selection Cleveland would use on drafting Fournette.
Cleveland has options in the top-half of the first round. While they could go 0-2 again with first round picks like wasting them on Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in 2014, the Browns could use their picks wisely for once and go with Fournette with one of these two first-round picks of theirs.
Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants
Though the New York Giants are in the NFC Playoff mix at 8-4 through Week 13, things could go south quickly for New York in December. Their next four games against the Dallas Cowboys, the Detroit Lions, at the Philadelphia Eagles, and at the Washington Redskins are all games the Giants could end up losing.
Going .500 in the last four to finish 10-6 would get New York a Wild Card spot. However, an 8-8 or even a 9-7 2016 season record would have the Giants on the outside looking in at the NFC Playoffs.
New York cannot run the football. Rashad Jennings is stuck in molasses and Paul Perkins cannot be trusted to close out games. The Giants have what looks to be a good defense again next year, as long as Steve Spagnuolo is still the defensive coordinator.
New York is stacked at wide receiver with players like Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard. Don’t think for a second that it’s time to upgrade over Eli Manning at the quarterback. The Mara Family will hear none of that nonsense.
The obvious position New York needs to upgrade is at running back. Fournette would thrive playing for the Giants. Though he is from New Orleans, he feels like New York as did Beckham when he entered the league.
The only problem for the Giants is that they will finish no worse than 8-8 this season. That would be middle of the pack in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. New York would have to move up a few spots, but if they really want Fournette the Giants should go get him.
Dec 4, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scrambles for a first down in the fourth quarter during the game against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers
Like the New York Giants, the Green Bay Packers need to massively improve their running game. Eddie Lacy can’t keep his weight under control and has been an embarrassingly long time since the Packers could run the football with confidence. We’re talking Ahman Green in his prime a decade plus ago.
Green Bay feels like an ideal fit for Fournette. The Packers are 6-6 and should be picking in the top-half of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That is unless quarterback Aaron Rodgers really isn’t cool with the Detroit Lions winning the NFC North this season.
Green Bay needs an injection of undeniable football talent. Their fall from grace has mostly to do with drafting non-productive players and shunning NFL free agency entirely. The Packers could look for a defensive star in the middle of the first round, but a bell-cow back like Fournette would help make this offense again Super Bowl caliber.
They have a strong offensive line and Rodgers is still a future Pro Football Hall of Famer at the quarterback position. If Green Bay has a reliable running game for cold-weather games, look out, NFC! As long as Green Bay doesn’t make the 2016 NFC Playoffs, the Packers would be in position to either draft or trade up to get Fournette in the first round.
Dec 4, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) reacts during a stop in play against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 32-14. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s be real for a second. The one team that needs Fournette than anybody cannot draft him. The Minnesota Vikings decided to trade for Sam Bradford with the Philadelphia Eagles days before the start of the season to be their starting quarterback in 2016 once Teddy Bridgewater went down for the year with a ghastly knee injury.
Trading for Bradford cost Minnesota their 2017 first-round pick. Philadelphia initially lost their first round pick by trading up to draft Carson Wentz No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. With the Vikings being one of the worst offenses in football, the Eagles might actually have a solid first-round pick on their hands.
Philadelphia needs work on offense. The Eagles have mediocre at best offensive weapons. Their defense is good under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. However, first-year head coach Doug Pederson has hit the metaphorical wall in his first year on the Philadelphia sidelines.
The Eagles have a franchise quarterback in Wentz and a better than average offensive line. They could keep one of their scat backs, but need that bell-cow to lessen the burden of Wentz’s steep learning curve.
Fournette to the Eagles would make them an NFC Playoff team in 2017. Defense, a star running back, and an expected leap forward from a second-year starting quarterback. What’s not to love besides Pederson? The Eagles could be in the running to draft Fournette with the first round pick they are getting from the Vikings. The more the Vikings sink, the better the chances that Fournette will be an Eagle in 2017.
Nov 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) on the sideline in the second half of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
For the same NFL franchise that once “Sucked for Luck” back in 2011, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts to “Plummet for Fournette”. Yes, the Colts can still win the putrid AFC South, but would Indianapolis rather lose the 2016 battle and win the AFC South war for the next decade?
By drafting Fournette in the middle of the first round, the Colts will have a running back on par with what Edgerrin James was in his prime. The Colts’ dysfunctional front office could definitely mess this up by drafting another wide receiver that can’t catch or a pass rusher without a spin move in the teens again this year.
However if the Colts want to win a Super Bowl before Andrew Luck turns 30, they will need a bell-cow back the caliber of Fournette. If that requires trading up into the top 10, then Indianapolis needs to do that. Fournette may not be the pro running back of the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, but he will give the Colts multiple 100-yard games a season.
Playing in a dome and in the AFC South will absolutely increase Fournette’s shelf life as an NFL back. Should Indianapolis get back to winning the division perennially, Fournette would be the physical runner that the Colts would need to win in cold-weather games in the AFC Playoffs.
Running back is a primary need for the Colts this offseason, as veteran Frank Gore is in the twilight of his illustrious NFL career. The Colts should do everything in their power to draft Fournette in the first half of the first round. The only exception for the Colts pursuing Fournette is if they make the 2016 AFC Playoffs by winning the AFC South. That would be too steep of a climb for the Colts to make up the draft board in all honesty.