The Carolina Panthers could take Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffery in the 2017 NFL Draft, but who is the better fit as a long-term running back?
The Carolina Panthers are heading into the 2017 NFL Draft with a few lingering questions surrounding the team’s immediate and future plans. The Panthers have to address multiple areas of concern on the offense, the biggest of which is at running back.
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Carolina has grown accustomed to using a running back by committee. But with Mike Tolbert being released and Jonathan Stewart signing a one-year extension, Carolina needs to address this concern through the draft. As this weekend looms, there are two key players that stand out as potential picks to fill this void.
Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffery of Stanford are the two big names that leap off the page. While these players are different in key ways, they both show the potential to be the type of running backs that would thrive in the Panthers system.
In Fournette the Panthers could pick up a running back that has shown he has the ability to carry an entire load on his shoulders. In three years at LSU, he put up 3,830 yards and 40 rushing touchdowns. While Carolina tends to leverage Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball along with the fullback, Fournette’s ability to be a long-term solution is what the Panthers need at this point in time.
The big concern for this pick is the fact that an ankle injury hampered Fournette’s production in his junior year. While 843 yards is a strong number, it’s not even half of what he put forth the year before. Carolina has dealt with having an oft-injured running back as their main weapon in the past, and the team should be weary of selecting another player who could have those issues in the future.
McCaffery is a different style of back that also has skills Carolina can leverage. McCaffery earned 3,922 rushing yards while playing at Stanford, but that wasn’t his only way to give the team a boost. McCaffery’s college career also includes 1,206 receiving yards and a combined 1,859 return yards. He’s a multi-purpose player that the Panthers can fit into a number of places to help boost the offense.
For example, McCaffery’s 4.48-second 40-yard dash time at the combine turned a lot of heads. Now, some are wondering if he can be a suitable replacement for Ted Ginn Jr., the speedy wide receiver that took his skills to New Orleans during this off season. There are a number of ways he could line up with this Panthers offense to cause confusion for opposing defenses.
The Carolina Panthers sit with the eighth-overall pick with an opportunity to have an immediate impact on the offense. Cameron Artis-Payne has not panned out as a viable long-term option for this team, so much so he barely saw playing time during the 2016 season.
Christian McCaffery and Leonard Fournette are two players that can step in and contribute behind Stewart, and then take the position over when his contract is over at the end of this season. As Carolina focuses on the immediate future, either one of these picks can be a big player for the organization in the future.