Player: Leonard Fournette
Comparison: Adrian Peterson
Best Fit: New York Jets
Leonard Fournette’s name has circulated Draft circles since he was the No. 1 Recruit coming out of high school. He evolved from returning kickoffs with his elite speed and decisive cuts to an impact lead running back. Over his three seasons, Fournette averaged an absurd 6.2 yards per carry. When you think of LSU running backs, names like Spencer Ware and Kevin Faulk come up, but many LSU Tiger faithfuls who've watched the team for the past 50 years believe he's the best RB in school history.
It goes beyond LSU greats because Fournette is a freak athlete at 6’1 and 230 lbs. He shouldn’t be able to run a 4.35 40-yard dash, top 20.5 mph, bench 315 lbs, squat 600 lbs., and this was all recorded during his high school career. Fournette was a track & field star in high school much like Ezekiel Elliott and Adrian Peterson. At that size, Leonard was able to beat sprinters on a regular basis.
All of those peripherals form into a huge bruising back with the speed of a Bo Jackson or Herschel Walker. His running style is so violent that no arm tackle is good enough to bring him down. Watching his tape, Fournette hits the hole at top speed because they ran a lot of toss running plays at LSU so he can build momentum when he catches the ball, and barrel through linebackers and run straight by DBs.
Despite, the fact his hype has him in Canton already. Fournette does come with some risk. During much of his 2016 campaign, Leonard was hampered with ankle injuries. Many believe that this issue is a chronic ankle injury that can be only fixed through surgery. With the NFL Draft scheduled for April 27th, he would be ready for training camp at the end of July if he decided to get the problem fixed permanently. Adrian Peterson had the same concerns coming out of Oklahoma and look how he shut up critics. There aren’t any other weaknesses, Fournette is a man amongst boys during his College career.
For the 2017 Draft, many of mocks have his talent going to the New York Jets. Who are in desperate need of a franchise player like Leonard, should turn out to be. Even though they have line issues, run blocking was a strength of the Jets line. Since 2010, the New York Jets have gone with a defensive player in the first round. The last time New York selected RB in the first round was in 1990, Blair Thomas from Penn State. This type of RB talent doesn’t come around often especially one compared to greats like AP, Bo Jackson, and even LeBron James because of his freakish body type. NFL will be a great test he should excel at.
On a special Saturday episode of the podcast, Rotowire's Dominick Capetillo stops by to talk about drafting players for logical reasons vs. emotional ones and why it's important not to factor off-the-field issues too much when drafting a player. He also states his case for Adrian Peterson as a No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts for 2015.
Follow Dominick on twitter here.
Subscribe to Rotowire.com to check out Dominick's latest analysis on Adrian Peterson.
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On Wednesday's edition of Treatment, The Helpers welcome guest Adam Inman, senior writer at FFLockerRoom.com. They discuss three running backs who will change the fantasy value of other players and themselves in the offseason.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adaminman.
Adrian Peterson — Barring the Vikings executives holding a boom box over their head outside Adrian Peterson's estate, it's looking like All Day will be All Out of Minnesota at some point, most likely via trade. Only problem with that is it's going to take a lot for the Vikings to get rid of him. The Arizona Cardinals have reportedly been willing to offer a high-round pick for him, while Dallas is also still in the running. Most people know Dallas will be the ideal fantasy fit for Peterson because of their offensive line. But let's take a look at Arizona could mean for Adrian Peterson's fantasy value if he winds up there.
House of Cards
The Arizona Cardinals were a below average offensive line last season, ranking 24th according to Pro Football Focus. That's actually an improvement over last year's squad that finished dead last, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. You could argue that starting RB Andre Ellington playing with a severed tendon in his foot in 2014 didn't make things easier on the unit. The Cardinals also had some quarterback injury woes with veteran Carson Palmer going down for the season with a torn ACL. Still, there's room for improvement along the offensive line.
Keep in mind, the Arizona Cardinals drafted a top 10 offensive linemen in 2013, a draft that could've been given the theme of 'the big guys up front.' There was a lot of offensive linemen drafted in the first round of that draft and to a lot of teams badly in need of a good protection for their quarterback. Cooper was drafted seventh overall in 2013 and has only played in 10 games entering his third season and didn't play his entire rookie season. He's an X factor when it comes to bolstering the Cardinals' offensive and subsequently Adrian Peterson's value if he in fact does get traded to Arizona. Cooper is a guard and stands 6'2, 311lbs, he would be an absolute beast in the run blocking game if he could get healthy, but there's a lot of doubt that can happen as of right now.
As far as the rest of the offensive line goes, left tackle Jard Veldheer was solid after coming over from Oakland. He was one of the main reasons their ranking got better. The interior linemen such as center Lyle Sendlein didn't fare as well. Ted Larsen filled in admirably when Cooper was hurt but clearly isn't as physically gifted as the former Top 10 pick. Peterson, who's now in his 30s, will need to have a good offensive line to help maximize his fantasy value and make him worthy of a top 5 fantasy draft pick. I just can't see taking him as anything other than the 8-10 range if he ends up in Arizona. You also have to factor in Carson Palmer's age and the fact that his body will heal differently from an ACL tear than a player in his 20s likely would. Everybody heals differently.
When it comes to Ellington, he would most likely take the back seat to Peterson and see his fantasy value drop significantly.
And if there's any quarterback in the league that needs ample amount of protection, it's Carson Palmer. Guy is a statue in the pocket. But he can make throws when given the time.
He went to Jerick
Jerick McKinnon — The Vikings have another running back waiting in the wings if Peterson refuses to come back, and that man is sophomore running back Jerick McKinnon. A third-round pick in last year's draft, McKinnon filled in for the Vikings after Peterson was suspended. He wasn't incredible by any means due largely to a back injury that relegated him to the I.R. for the last five games of the season, but he was a very consistent back and strung together numbers along the lines of Alfred Morris in Washington in terms of consistent fantasy scoring. He scored 60 fantasy points total in eight games. He's 23 years old.
He started out with a bang when he rushed for 135 yards and 14 fantasy points against Atlanta (a team that allowed nearly every running back to morph into Bernie Sanders last season) in Week 3. Managed to rush for over 100 yards against a good Buffalo rushing defense in Week 7. Aside from one dud performance against Detroit, McKinnon never rushed for less than 50 yards as long as he carried the ball at least 10 times. Of the eight games McKinnon played last year, he scored at least eight fantasy points in four of them. If Peterson decides not to come back to Minnesota or demand a trade, McKinnon becomes an RB2 with RB1 upside.
The Vikings offensive line struggled a lot at times due to injuries to Phil Loadholt and Brandon Fusco on the right side of their line, but overall they weren't a terrible run blocking team. They managed to get a first down 68% of the time on third down runs with two yards or less to go. They also had a stuffed ranking of No. 2 overall, meaning they were second best at not allowing their running back to get stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Again, these stats aren't crazy impressive in terms of fantasy value, but I'm just looking at the positives here. Only Pittsburgh was better. So this is an offensive line that didn't get pushed back too often. They still gave up 51 sacks last season which ranked among the bottom in the NFL. The Vikes might opt to draft a lineman somewhere in the earlier rounds of the 2015 draft since it's one of their bigger needs.
They drafted guard David Yankey in the fifth round last year and he might challenge for a starting spot in 2015 now that the Vikings got rid of veteran Charlie Johnson earlier in March. Yankey's play will be a crucial part to the offensive line success in Minnesota. The Vikings decision on whether or not to pick up left tackle Matt Kalil's fifth-year option is also an issue. They will decide on that in May. A former No. 4 overall pick in 2012 who was named to the Pro Bowl in his first season, Kalil started off slow in 2014 (which could've been the result of offseason knee surgery which set his offseason training back) but he only allowed one sack in the final five games of the season. He also had some mental lapses which included an altercation with a fan after a rough game against Green Bay. If he can play like he did in the final weeks of the 2014 season, McKinnon should be much better off.
For Minnesota Vikings fans, the Adrian Peterson situation has become more of a soap opera than a regular collective bargaining disagreement. It seemed as if the saga was close to its conclusion after Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL unjustifiably used a new personal conduct policy to suspend Peterson for the full season, however the NFL has appealed this decision. There are a lot of rumors swirling that Peterson could be potentially trying to force his way out of Minnesota, the place where he was spent his entire 8-year playing career. While I see Peterson's departure from the Twin Cities as unlikely, I am going to go through possible destinations for Peterson if the Vikings pursue a trade.
The Cowboys seem to be the first team mentioned when talking about a potential landing spot for Adrian Peterson. Peterson is a Texas-native, and has always said that he wouldn't mind playing for the Cowboys at some point in his career. Now that the possibility that Peterson could be available via trade, the Cowboys are being called one of the front-runners to land the former-MVP.
While the situation may seem like a perfect fit, I would say that the likelihood of Peterson ends up playing for the Cowboys is slim. The Cowboys are in an interesting place this offseason with their salary cap situation. The team currently has $130 million tied up into next years salary, $37 million of which is occupied by Tony Romo, and have several key free agents to address.
First and foremost is trying to lock up Dez Bryant to a long-term contract. It has been reported that the Cowboys have offered Dez in the range $110 million with around $20 million in guaranteed money. Getting in the way of locking up Dez long-term are the swirling rumors over a potential domestic violence issue involving Dez and a female in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The Cowboys seem to be leery of offering Dez a deal with heavy guaranteed money before figuring out whether or not the tape really does exist or not.
The other barrier in the way of Peterson landing in Dallas is the presence of DeMarco Murray. While Murray is currently slated to test free agency this offseason, I fully expect the Cowboys to find a way to lock Murray up long-term. Coming off of a career-year in which he led the NFL in rushing yards (1,726), Murray is expected to be looking for a deal that pays him among the top-5 running backs in football. The Cowboys apparently have different plans, as they have reportedly only been willing to offer Murray a contract of 4 years/$16 million, a salary that Murray wants no part of.
The dilemma is simple: Which player do you want to give the long-term contract to? Do you give it to the wide receiver who has been one of, if not the best wide receiver in all of football over the last few seasons? Or do you give it to a 28 year-old running back who is coming off a career season in which he was able to stay healthy for the full 16-game season for the first time in his career?
Looking at the situation I expect a couple of outcomes. The first outcome I expect is for Dez Bryant to be hit with the franchise-tag. If you are unfamiliar with what the franchise tag is, it is a one-year, fully guaranteed contract that pays the player a salary in the top 10 percent of his position. The final situation I see coming to fruition is the Cowboys and Murray coming to an agreement on a long-term extension. There is no secret that Murray is what made this team go last season, and I feel like Jerry and the rest of the Cowboys front-office realize Murray's importance as well.
The next team on the list of potential suitors for Adrian Peterson is the Indianapolis Colts. While some Colts fans may see this and thinking "please god do not let Grigson trade for another running back", I think that the addition of Peterson is just what this offense has been missing over the last few seasons.
The Trent Richardson trade in which the Colts surrendered a first-round pick in last years draft has been a colossal bust, and it seems like Richardson may be given his walking papers this offseason. If Richardson is let go, the Colts are going to be looking for someone that has the ability to carry the load for their running game.
While the Colts could very well wait and add some talented young depth at the running back position through the draft, I do not think the team wants to wait for a rookie to develop when there is a proven, all-pro caliber running back available via trade.
Could you imagine Colts fans; Andrew Luck and Adrian Peterson in the same backfield? How would defenses attempt to stop them? Do they load the box in hopes to take the run game away? Or do they play coverage and allow Peterson to get to the second level on a consistent basis? Either scenario has to be enticing for the Colts front office and coaching staff.
As far as fantasy perspective goes, I feel like the Colts are the best place for Adrian's fantasy value, if he is not in Minnesota that is. The Colts are equipped with an elite young quarterback, an above-average offensive line and good weapons at the wide receiver position to take pressure off of him.
If the Colts want AP to line up in their backfield in 2015 it could very well take another first-round pick, a price tag that I feel is well-worth the risk associated with taking on a 30 year-old running back.
In an interview with the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson, Adrian's father Nelson Peterson recently mentioned the Cardinals as a spot that Peterson would like to play next season. If you remember back to when Adrian declared for the NFL Draft in 2007, the Cardinals were one of the teams that reportedly had a ton of interest in the former Sooner running back. However, when the Cardinals pick was on the clock they decided to pass on Peterson for Levi Brown, a massive left tackle out of Penn State University.
Brown went on to an under-whelming NFL career in which he battled several season-ending injuries, and issues with the speed of NFL pass rushers. Brown was released from the Cardinals in 2012 after suffering a torn triceps, and currently finds himself out of football after being released by the Steelers in 2014.
Now as far as a potential landing spot for Adrian Peterson, the Cardinals and Colts make far and away the most sense for teams that could acquire the former-MVP.
The Cardinals are in a "win-now" mindset. Quarterback Carson Palmer has maybe three years left in him, so the Cardinals front-office needs to do as much as they can to ensure a deep playoff run.
Now the Cardinals currently have a young running back by the name of Andre Ellington. Ellington was a hot commodity in fantasy football drafts last season, but struggled to live up the value after suffering torn ligaments in his ankle. Ellington was able to play in 12 of the teams 16 games this season, and showed that he may be better suited for a change-of-pace role within an offense rather than being the focal point.
If the Cardinals were to add Peterson to their team he would instantly become the focal point of their offensive gameplan. I know that Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball down the field as much as anyone, and with the presence of Adrian Peterson on play-action fakes could be the missing factor in the Cardinals offense.
I put the Cardinals as the second runner-up in the Adrian Peterson-sweepstakes behind the Colts and the Minnesota Vikings at this point in the process. The addition of Peterson to the Cardinals offense could be the stabilization factor that Arians' offense needs.
The final team that I expect to be in the running for the services of Adrian Peterson is his current team, the Minnesota Vikings. In my personal opinion, there is no place that Adrian would be embraced or utilized like he would be in the Twin Cities.
Adrian Peterson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings as the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and immediately took the league by storm. During Peterson's time with the Vikings he was awarded the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, and the MVP award in 2013 after rushing for over 2,000 yards one season after suffering a torn ACL.
It seemed as if Peterson was going to do something rare in this day in age, play his entire career for one team. However a wrench was thrown into those plans after Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges. Due to the legal issues, Peterson was placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list, allowing him to still earn his full $12 million salary, but to stay away from the team until his legal situation was finished.
It seemed as if the entire situation was starting to go away, as Minnesota Supreme Court Judge David Doty ruled in favor of the NFLPA and ruled that the suspension of Peterson was unjust, and is now being sent back to Harold Henderson, the "independent" arbitrary that Goodell hired to oversee Peterson's original appeal hearing.
As of now Peterson is still on the Commissioner's Exempt List, which means he is still technically suspended by the NFL, but is also give the Vikings some advantage in that they are now allowed to have contact with Peterson and his representation directly. The situation is going to likely come down to one thing: money. Peterson is a very proud person from all the accounts I have been told and money is important too him, and playing the position he does I cannot entirely blame him.
In the end, it's going to come down to the decision of the Vikings front office. Do they pay Adrian his entire 2015 salary of $12.75 million? Or do they try and get AD to restructure his contract to ensure more guaranteed money later in his contract? I expect the team to offer to pay Adrian his full $12.75 million salary (15 million cap hit) for this season, and possibly restructure his contract next offseason. Now people may look at the 12.75 million salary and say no running back is worth that just remember, this is the same guy that ran for 2,000 yards just 9 months after ACL reconstruction surgery. History could also be on the side of Peterson, as the Vikings have had a history of paying their veterans big money. If you remember, the Vikings paid defensive end Jared Allen $17 million in his final season despite being past his athletic prime.
Where Adrian Peterson plays next season is going to be one of the major story lines of the NFL offseason. While Peterson is starting to reach the back half of his career, he still has plenty left in the tank to produce at a high level for a few more seasons.
I would currently rank the Vikings as the favorite to have Adrian on their team next season. After the Vikings I believe that the Cardinals and Colts would be the most attractive options for both Peterson and the Vikings front office.
Compensation is going to be crucial for the Vikings if they do end up trading AP. Right now the reported asking price for AP is at least a first-round pick, and with the Cardinals an Colts both sitting at the end of round 1, I expect both teams to be associated with trade rumors involving Adrian Peterson.
Image Courtesy of Joe Bielawa Flickr Page