LSU RB Leonard Fournette will apply for early eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, a long-anticipated decision for one of college football's elite rushers.
Fournette deepens what is expected to be a deep draft pool at the position with a dynamic combination of size and speed that helped make him the No. 1-rated running back recruit in the nation out of high school three years ago. He's been compared to Bo Jackson, and was described by an NFC West scout as being "as can't-miss as you can find out of college. Trait to trait, it's all rare to exceptional."
Bothersome ankle sprains hampered Fournette's production throughout his junior season. He missed four regular-season games and parts of others, but still managed to rush for 843 yards on 129 carries. For a look at a full-healthy Fournette, however, scouts need look no further than his spectacular sophomore year, when he ran for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns on 300 carries without missing a game.
"We haven't seen many guys in the league who have his combination of size, speed and power," said NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein. "He has some flaws in his game, but his ability to create for himself through power and speed will override those flaws."
LSU received a bid to the Citrus Bowl Sunday, where the Tigers will face Louisville on New Years Eve. LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Fournette wants to play in the game, but his playing status is "day to day" due to his ankle injury, per The Advocate. The Tigers will be without another of their top draft prospects for the Citrus Bowl, senior linebacker and Butkus Award finalist Kendell Beckwith, per the Advocate report.
Fournette (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) said before the season that he might take the unusual step of staying enrolled in spring classes at LSU while preparing for the 2017 draft. Typically, top draft prospects withdraw from school and train full-time for peak performance at the NFL Scouting Combine and pro day workouts. The Pittsburgh Steelers' 2015 first-round pick, DE Bud Dupree, remained enrolled at Kentucky through his draft preparations.