As a draft-eligible junior, Leonard Fournette cannot attend the Senior Bowl. But Fournette’s absence hasn’t stopped the LSU running back from being a hot topic during this week’s events in Mobile, Ala.
Running backs have fallen out of vogue in recent drafts, but Ezekiel Elliott’s recently concluded rookie season may swing the pendulum back in the other direction. The likely Rookie of the Year was taken fourth by the Cowboys last spring and rushed for 1,631 yards this season.
The question around Fournette is how high he will be picked.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers scouting director/general manager and current ESPN analyst Mark Dominik discussed that topic, while Fournette’s LSU teammates at the Senior Bowl also chimed in with their thoughts on the matter.
“Do I see him being in the first half of the draft? Yeah, I don’t know why he wouldn’t be,” Dominik said. “I mean, he’s got great size. He’s got great acceleration. We all can’t wait to get to the combine and kind of see him. We all kind of want to sit down and talk to him and see what makes him click. Who is this young man? But certainly, a very exciting prospect that we’re all dying to put our hands on.”
Few have had a more unique perspective of Fournette than center Ethan Pocic. Pocic has the worst view possible of Fournette when he’s in the backfield, but perhaps the best vantage point once the back gets past the line of scrimmage.
“I think he’s probably the best back I’ve seen after the line of scrimmage,” Pocic said. “Trying to tackle him 1-on-1, I don’t know how people attempt to do it. I don’t know. I play O-line for a reason.”
Dominik said that teams at the combine will closely monitor how well Fournette has recovered from the ankle sprain that bedeviled his junior season.
“He’ll go through the combine and the medical (procedures), and that’s going to be a heavy check for him, because everybody is going to want to make sure that his body can handle whatever the wear and tear may be for him for what has occurred already,” Dominik said. “But you can’t control it.
“I always go back to one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, Curtis Martin, and he was hurt all the time in college. All the time, and that’s why he dropped down to the fourth round. Now, Leonard isn’t going to have to worry about that. But it’s just a reminder to yourself that just because a guy gets hurt in college doesn’t mean he’ll get hurt in the pros.”
Former LSU receiver Travin Dural would not hesitate to pick Fournette in the top 10 if he was given that power.
“If I was an owner, I would,” Dural said. “But I’m speaking because I know him. I’ve watched him work. I watched him grow from a freshman to a junior. So, I’ve seen him grow through his struggles and use his struggles to become better.”