The Detroit Lions could be in the market to add another running back. Should the Motor City consider trading for someone like Leonard Fournette?
Back in 2016, the Detroit Lions were able to post a 9-7 record and earned their way to a playoff matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round. That’s despite not having a single running back to rush over 357 yards after starter Ameer Abdullah suffered a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury two games into the season.
That year, the Lions fielded the third-worst rushing attack in the NFL, averaging only 81.9 yards on the ground per game. Yet, their winning record meant they didn’t have a chance to acquire the top rushing prospect in the following 2017 NFL Draft.
That player was LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who was coming off a terrific college career. As a sophomore in 2015, Fournette recorded a whopping 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry on an incredible 300-attempts over a 12-game span.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Lions owned the 21st overall selection. Fournette was selected fourth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Detroit would go on to choose Florida linebacker, Jarrad Davis.
Four years later and the Lions running back depth chart has completely changed. Gone are names like Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, and Justin Forsett. In their place are Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Wes Hills, and Tra Carson.
Despite the crowded running back room in Detroit, inexperience and injury concerns mean the Lions could be in the market for a potential starter. And according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jaguars have been in trade discussions with several NFL teams involving Fournette.
The 25-year old Fournette is coming off his best season as a professional. Playing in a career-high 15 games, he recorded 1,152 rushing yards and three touchdowns averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Fournette also showed some versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, bringing in 76 receptions for 522 yards.
Fournette is scheduled to make $4.16 million this upcoming season. And because he’s a former first-rounder, he also has a pending fifth-year option available. As for Detroit, the team is believed to have an estimated $29.4 million in salary-cap space, which would be the second-most in the NFL according to OverTheCap.com.
Entering his fourth season in the NFL, Fournette would also come with some concerns. Which is likely why Jacksonville is even considering the move.
ESPN.com cites questions about Fournette’s past work ethic, commitment, and maturity. Although they also note his stellar third season where things presumably improved in those areas. Fournette also missed a total of 11 games over his first two seasons in the league due to injury.
Could the Detroit Lions use a running back Leonard Fournette? Here are the two questions I believe would most determine the answer. How do the Lions feel about Kerryon Johnson’s ability to stay healthy coming off his second-straight injury-plagued season? And how much will it cost to make a trade for Fournette? In the end, Detroit could simply elect to use one of their nine draft selections to better secure the position (and cheaply) rather than trading any of those picks away.