2017 NFL Draft rumors: Why Fournette will go in top five, McCaffrey before Cook

If something shocking happens in the top five picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, it very well might involve running back Leonard Fournette. I hear the big back out of LSU is increasingly being viewed as a best-of-breed player in this draft, a true blue chipper, and he is being considered at the highest reaches of the first round.

Frankly, it would take a promise of a reincarnation of some kind of Walter Peyton/Earl Campbell hybrid beast back for me to invest that kind of draft pick in a running back in this day and age. But the more football people I speak to as scouts and executives emerge from their all-day draft meetings is that Fournette could surprise with how high he goes.

Some have suggested to me that Fournette is even in play at No. 1 with the Browns. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t see that happening, and in the end, I suspect the Browns take pass rusher Myles Garrett. But then again, the Browns are capable of some extreme curve balls in that front office and their version of analytics tends to swing outside of convention. Maybe someone believes the devaluation of running backs has gone too far.

I suppose when you think about it, however, and consider the scope of the offensive talent in this draft, I could see why Fournette could surprise. The quarterbacks are all questionable -- there is no Andrew Luck in this draft as a surefire first overall pick -- and the receivers leave plenty to be desired and it’s one of the worst tackle drafts in recent memory.

The depth and strength is at tight end and running back, so it stands to reason that one of them gets pushed up very high. The signals I am picking up from scouts on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook are less than stellar, with his character and attitude raising some major red flags. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is the second back selected and goes in the top third of the first round. And Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, despite striking a female as an underclassman, is one of the most physically talented players in the draft and I would be stunned at this point if he wasn’t selected during the second day of the draft.

It could finally be a better draft for backs than what we’ve seen recently, and Fournette might set the tone very early if he goes as quickly as I am becoming convinced he’s about to.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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