Leonard Fournette is a great downhill running back who would fit other teams, like gasp, the Panthers who have that run first mentality. Unless the Saints are planning for LAD, (Life After Brees), they would better suited with other RB options. I personally question why he didn’t participate in the bench press. Claims he will wait for his Pro day at LSU, rather than show what he has on the National stage. Sorry, I just don’t get that.
The biggest knock against Leonard was the pass catching drills. Unlike Mark Ingram at Bama, he was used very little at LSU, as a pass catcher. When he was thrown the ball it was as a screen or check down option. This was very obvious in the combine drills. On the two route drills inside sweep and down and out, he juggled the ball when catching and barely grabbed it at all on the out route. On the check down and screen routes, he had good hands.
This shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation really. The Saints need to go defense first and heavily. Offensive line help is also of some concern. Now what the Saints do in the free agency season will of course affect the draft mentality. Several of the top defensive talents have already been tagged. Also for the Saints in free agency, the results recently has been of the buyer beware variety.
Realistically, with the trade speculation surrounding Brandin Cooks, it is entirely possible we will have 2 first round picks, so they could decide to take an offensive weapon early. If this were to happen both Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffery would be better fits. The Saints are more likely to bundle the picks and trade up, rather than trading down for more picks.
It is highly unlikely Cook would drop to the eleventh pick. McCaffery might be a bit of a stretch at 11, (I don’t think it would be), but would be the best fit for the Saints in my opinion. Aced all the drills and was used to show how each drill should be done, on NFL Network. Not to mention he has great hands. Forget drafting a wide receiver to replace Cooks, he is a receiving running back. Don’t let this fool you he rushed 2019 yards in 2015, and 1603 yards in 2016, for the Stanford Cardinal.
Now if you are looking at the later rounds, there are a few who bear consideration. For those who want that Darren Sproles type back, you might look to T.J. Logan. At 5’10”, 190 lbs he is too light to be your every down back, but he has blazing speed. Ran the fastest time of 4.37 in the 40. Good hands, has dropped only 1 pass with 66 catches in 3 years. Not to mention he is a returning threat. Special teams could always use some help. Has had fumbling issues.
If you want that backup bruiser, then Samaje Perine of the Big 12’s Oklahoma deserves a hard look. As a freshman in 2014, Perine took the NCAA single game rushing record one week after Melvin Gordon unseated LaDainian Tomlinson. He rushed for 427 yards and 5 TDs against Kansas. Rushed for 1713 yards in 2014, (his freshman year), 1349 in 2015, and 1060 in 2016. Not bad considering the combine “uninvited”, Joe Mixon, took some of his runs in 2016. Samaje may not be that speed rusher, ran 4.65 in the 40. He has the power, leading all running back on the bench press with 30 reps. Did pretty good in the receiving drills although that was not something he did often at Oklahoma. He dropped one on the go route that was right in his hands and in stride.
Now my personal favorite later round prospect, and one of the most underrated, is Elijah McGuire. I admit to a little prejudice as he played for my Alma Mater UL of Lafayette, home of the Ragin Cajuns. First impressed me in the East/West Shrine Game. He had a great day if you didn’t see the game. He also made himself some money at the combine in the drills and showed great hands. I think he opened some eyes, but hopefully he will still be available in the later rounds. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him drafted in the 3rd or 4th. As a freshman in 2013 he rushed for 863 yards averaging 8.4 per attempt. 2014, 1264, averaging 7.6. 2015, 1047, averaging 5.0, and 2016 1127, with an average of 4.9. I know, you might say but who did he play against. In the Shrine game he played well against talent from around the nation. Those are some that stood out for me. There were a lot of backs who performed at the combine, so it’s a really deep class.