According to CBS Sports, LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette is currently ranked as the No. 1 running back prospect and No. 4 overall prospect in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, but that could change if a recent report from SEC Country’s Will Carroll proves to be true.
Carroll reports that he was told that Fournette’s ankle injury isn’t a short-term problem and that it’s considered a chronic injury and “one that will need constant maintenance or perhaps surgery in the future.”
Source: LSU RB Leonard Fournette’s ankle injury chronic problem, could require surgeryhttps://t.co/HLOKDvY1Zl
— SEC Country (@SECcountry) November 19, 2016
Fournette first injured the ankle in August, but it wasn’t expected to be a serious issue at the time. Fournette was able to play in the season opener against Wisconsin and rushed for 138 yards on 23 carries as the Tigers suffered a shocking 16-14 defeat at the hands of the Badgers.
Despite being able to play against Wisconsin, Fournette missed LSU’s second game of the season against Jacksonville State, a 34-13 victory for the Tigers. He would return play the next two games, a 23-20 victory over Mississippi State and an 18-13 loss at the hands of Auburn. In the two games combined, Leonard rushed 44 times for 248 yards and scored two touchdowns.
LSU RB Leonard Fournette has been dealing with an ankle injury since preseason, and reportedly might need surgery. https://t.co/38QNxF6l1u
— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) November 18, 2016
Unfortunately, Leonard Fournette re-injured his ankle against Auburn and was forced to miss the following two games against Missouri and Southern Mississippi. Despite missing two games, it was technically a three-game absence for Fournette as the Tigers had a game postponed against Florida in between due to Hurricane Matthew.
In total, Leonard has played in seven games this season and has carried the ball 117 times for 803 yards and eight touchdowns. His best game was against Ole Miss which happened to be his first game after the three-week absence due to the ankle. Fournette rushed for 284 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette’s injury could be an issue for the NFL: https://t.co/spIPqcTKnX
— FanBuzz (@FanBuzz) November 18, 2016
The Tigers will square off with Florida this Saturday in the rescheduled game from September. Fournette is expected to play against the Gators in what is expected to be his final home game at LSU. Leonard told reporters this week that he’s enjoyed his experience in Baton Rouge and that he’s sad to see it coming to an end.
“Throughout my whole experience at LSU from my freshman year when I first set foot on campus, it’s been exciting,” he told reporters Tuesday. “The good and the bad, I enjoyed every bit of it.
“At the end of the day, nobody wants to leave college. Nobody is ready for the real world. I know I’m not. We’ll have to wait and see.”
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 13, 2016
Even though he’s only a true junior, there’s zero chance of Fournette returning to campus for his senior year. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by spending another season at LSU. Assuming his ankle checks out during pre-draft workouts, Leonard is going to be a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he would only be risking injury by staying at Baton Rouge.
Fournette has the ability to become one of the most dominant running backs in NFL history if he’s able to figure out a way to keep his ankle healthy. Unfortunately, it sounds as if any team that selects him will be taking a chance on how long his ankle will hold up. It could be one year, five years, 10 years, or 15 years, and that’s why it could end up affecting his draft status.
Here’s hoping that Leonard Fournette is able to play 15 years in the NFL and become just as dominant a player for whatever team that takes a chance on him in the 2017 NFL Draft as he was for the LSU Tigers.
[Featured Image by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images]