LSU running back Leonard Fournette confirmed on Monday what most any draft follower anticipated. Fournette tweeted out that he will be foregoing his remaining eligibility and declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft following LSU’s appearance in the Citrus Bowl. Fournette said he wanted to announced it now so there would be no speculation and distraction during his bowl game preparations.
Fournette has missed LSU’s last four games due to an ankle injury. There has been some speculation it could be a chronic injury, but we’ll have to wait and see what medical reports at the 2017 NFL Combine bring. He has just under a month more to get ready for LSU’s January 1 game against Louisville. Fournette has rushed for 843 yards this season, and while the injury lowered his season-long totals, he matched his sophomore season’s 6.5 yards per carry. He has averaged 6.2 yards per carry for his three-year career, and it makes sense to cash in while the getting’s good.
This year’s running back class could be quite strong up top. Aside from Fournette, the top of the class could include Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman. We could see three or four running backs go in the first round, which be the most since three first round backs in 2012 (Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson).
I don’t think anybody expects the 49ers to go running back in the first round, but the position is one the team might need to consider for depth. Carlos Hyde will be eligible for a contract extension after this season. He remains a bulldozing back, but injuries have been an issue for him. The team has failed to find decent complementary options in the draft, instead relying on free agents like Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris. They have both provided some spark, so that is something to factor in, but if a BPA option is there in the second or early in the third day, maybe it’s worth rolling the dice.