2017 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers Set To Draft LSU RB Leonard Fournette?

Evan Massey

The 2017 NFL offseason is close to getting underway, with just the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons preparing for one more game. After Super Bowl 51 concludes in two weeks, the entire league will be focusing on the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft and free agency period.

One of the teams already focusing on the upcoming offseason is the Carolina Panthers. After dominating the NFC last year, they finished the 2016 season with an embarrassing 6-10 record. While the defense was still capable of making big plays, the offense took a huge step backward, to say the least.

Looking ahead at the upcoming draft, there are a few players that the Panthers could target with the No. 8 overall pick to help get their offense back on track. One of those players is LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

According to Bleacher Report featured columnist Justis Mosqueda, the Panthers could take Fournette with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. Adding that kind of a presence on the offensive side of the ball would be a huge step in the right direction. Fournette could help take a lot of pressure off of star quarterback Cam Newton.

Last season with the LSU Tigers, Fournette ended up carrying the football 129 times for 843 yards and eight touchdowns. Two years ago with the Tigers, he carried the football 300 times for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns. He took a bit of time off last year due to nagging injuries, although he also didn’t seem to be playing as hard as he had two years ago for fear of injuring himself.

Fournette is going to be a solid NFL running back. He also has the chance to be a superstar if he works hard and gives everything he has at the next level. That being said, there are still plenty of concerns about him after watching him last season.

Carolina saw Jonathan Stewart step up in a big way this season. He racked up 824 yards and nine touchdowns on 218 carries this season. Stewart is more than capable of being the feature back again next season, but the Panthers could choose to go in another direction.

Needless to say, the Panthers could choose to go a different direction with the No. 8 overall pick. They could choose to take a receiver, or potentially go with another defensive player. Fournette would make the most sense, unless Dalvin Cook happens to slip in the draft.

It will be interesting to see how the 2017 NFL Draft goes throughout the entire first round. There are so many different teams that have a long list of needs that could go any direction in the draft. Carolina is one of those teams.

All of that being said, Fournette would be a perfect addition for the Panthers. Their offense would take a big step forward next season and he would immediately be a 1,000-yard threat. He may not end up being an Ezekiel Elliott type of back, but he has the potential to be a top-five running back in a few seasons.

After suffering through a rough 2016 season, bringing in a playmaker like Fournette is exactly what the doctor ordered for Ron Rivera and the Panthers. If he stays healthy and keeps a hard work ethic long-term, the sky is the limit for Fournette in the NFL.

Expect to see the Panthers be aggressive with the No. 8 pick in the draft. They need to make a splash, which is exactly what they would do by taking the former LSU running back.

Do you think the Carolina Panthers should take Leonard Fournette with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft? What other players do you think they should target with the pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

[Featured Image by Samantha Baker/AP Images]