Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Weight: 240 lbs.
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40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
Vertical jump: 28.5 inches
2016: 129 ATT, 843 YDS, 6.5 AVG, 8 TD
2015: 300 ATT, 1,953 YDS, 6.5 AVG, 22 TD
2014: 187 ATT, 1,034 YDS, 5.5 AVG, 10 TD
It's kind of ironic. The same NFL that is constantly looking for the next Adrian Peterson in the draft has been hesitant to give actual Adrian Peterson a job this offseason. To be fair, Peterson turned 32 on Tuesday and missed 13 games in 2016, yet fear he's in decline and a steep price tag aren't the only factors keeping the seven-time Pro Bowl selection unemployed. For many teams, there's also the question of fit.
The concerns surrounding Peterson are not entirely unlike the questions the Eagles must ask themselves with regard to LSU running back Leonard Fournette. When healthy, Fournette is an extremely dangerous ball carrier. But can the 22-year-old develop into a weapon in the aerial attack and an effective pass protector? Will he demonstrate improved ball security at the next level? Is the ankle injury that limited him to seven games during the '16 campaign a thing of the past?
Is Fournette a fit for the Eagles offense?
Peterson was such a gifted runner, the Vikings were able to overlook the shortcomings in his game. Now an aging, unknown quantity, NFL teams must take into account the possibility he can no longer handle a full 300-carry workload, or should probably come off the field on third downs, anyway.
Fournette is a full 10 years younger, but there's no guarantee his ability as a ball carrier will be enough to transcend all other skills at the next level, as it once did for Peterson. If the Eagles are to use the No. 14 pick or consider trading up for Fournette in the 2017 NFL Draft, the decision must be based on how he checks those other boxes, for such a lofty investment should produce a three-down back.
When the Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott No. 4 overall last year, they weren't just getting a Peterson clone. In many ways, Elliott is better, or more complete. He's an incredible runner who can also contribute in the passing game, as both a blocker and a receiver -- a true every-down player.
Can Fournette make a similar jump?
The evidence is promising. Fournette recorded 34 receptions for 399 yards in 19 games over his sophomore and junior seasons at LSU, so while clearly not where he shines, he's not uncomfortable catching passes, either. And while Fournette wasn't called upon in protection as much, scouting reports describe a willing blocker, which is half the battle there.
The Eagles reportedly had Fournette in the NovaCare Complex for a visit and should now be up to date on his health. As for ball security, it's not an uncommon gripe for players coming out of college, and therefore not an area that is likely to change many minds.
Yet, even as Fournette appears to check all the boxes, he still doesn't look like the prototypical running back for Doug Pederson's version of the Eagles west coast offense. Think Brian Westbrook during the Andy Reid years, or Jamaal Charles in Kansas City, versatile backs who were every bit the threat in the passing game that they were on the ground, if not more so. That may never be Fournette, a bruising, between-the-tackles runner who took most of his handoffs behind a fullback -- a position which currently does not exist in the Eagles offense.
Then again, the Eagles may have the perfect mentor for Fournette in running backs coach Duce Staley, who played in Reid's offense for five seasons. Listed at 5-11, 242 pounds, Staley wasn't necessarily the prototypical west-coast back, either, and still managed to flourish, twice eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing and 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
With the right coaching, Fournette might just be able to work in Pederson's offense. Of course, the next challenge is landing the consensus All-American, who's likely to hear his name called in the top 10 on April 27.