Throughout the offseason, we’ll be profiling players who may end up in Denver when all is said and done with the 2017 NFL Draft. The Broncos clearly have plenty of holes to fill before they get back to Super-Bowl form and we’ll be examining a long list of players they may choose to help the franchise do just that.
Entering the NFL draft the expectations and hype surrounding Leonard Fournette are very similar to when he entered college as the No. 1 overall high school recruit in the nation. At 6-foot-0, 240 pounds, Fournette possesses a nearly unmatched combination of size and speed—4.51 40-yard dash. His freakish athleticism, along with his historic college career, make Fournette a hands down first-round pick, very likely within the top 10.
Although he was only able to play in seven games at LSU last season, he finished with 8 touchdowns and a 6.5 yards per carry average—enough to be named second-team All-SEC. While the NFL has become a pass-happy league as of recently, Fournette will bring the excitement back to the running game for whatever team drafts him.
Big, powerful, fast, and aggressive are just a few adjectives that can be used to describe Fournette’s style of play. Fournette uses his massive structure to his advantage by running downhill and putting the punishment on the defender that attempts to take him down. When Fournette sees an opening, he uses his speed to kick into a dangerously fast second gear.
Along with all of his traits, Fournette is NFL ready. If he is able to stay healthy—read below—he will easily be in the conversation for rookie of the year as he will likely be a workhorse in the backfield.
Fournette’s biggest concern entering the draft is his health. During his final season at LSU he dealt with a nagging ankle injury that limited him to just seven games. Additionally, with his punishing style of play there is concern that he could get injured more often or even have a shortened NFL career.
When healthy, Fournette has a few areas of improvement as well. While he can plow through defenders and run past them, he isn’t able to shake or elude them. Also, he hasn’t fully developed his awareness or vision on the field. He is a liability in pass protection, even though he has the frame to succeed.
How he fits in Denver
It’s very hard to imagine Fournette slipping to the Broncos at No. 20 overall or general manager John Elway trading up to select a running back. However, crazier things have happened in the draft. If Fournette were to end up in orange and blue, not only would he immediately be the best running back on the team, his presence would change the structure of the offense that Mike McCoy is creating.
Instead of Denver looking to their two high-paid wide receivers—Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders—to carry the offense, Fournette would get a significant amount of that responsibility and the Broncos would look to have him in the rookie of the year conversation from day one. If he were to land in Denver, Fournette would be the third offensive weapon that the Broncos so desperately lacked last season.