Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette: A 2017 Rookie Draft Dilemma

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard of running backs Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. Both are considered elite prospects, and more than likely first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

After the 2015 season, a majority thought Fournette would be the absolute best RB in the 2017 draft. Due to a season riddled with injury, and high production from Cook, there is an open debate about which is the best overall RB in the upcoming draft.

Sports Illustrated recently ranked Cook as the #1 overall RB:

http://www.si.com/2017-nfl-draft-running-back-rankings-dalvin-cook

NFL.com featured Fournette as the #1 RB overall:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000787221/article/2017-nfl-draft-leonard-fournette-heads-top-five-running-backs.

Both running backs are certain top-five picks in upcoming dynasty league rookie drafts. However, determining which one deserves to be picked higher in dynasty rookie drafts – depends on where they land in the NFL draft.

While looking at draft order and analyzing team needs it’s not exactly easy to determine where these players will be drafted. However, I concluded several potential landing spots that would work out well – not only for the NFL teams that draft them, but also for your dynasty team:

Leonard Fournette:

  • Carolina Panthers
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Oakland Raiders

Dalvin Cook:

  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • New York Giants

All six teams need an RB, but the following three teams specifically need a downhill runner like Fournette:

Carolina Panthers: They have an aging Jonathan Stewart whose contract is up at the end of the 2017 season. Drafting a player like Fournette could also help take the load off Cam Newton. The panthers totaled 1,814 yards on the ground, 359 of which came from Cam Newton himself. Their best rusher was Jonathan Stewart who had 824 yards on 218 carries for an average of 3.8 yards per carry (YPC). If they get a legitimate home run threat in the backfield, teams will be forced to stack the box which would open up the passing game for Cam Newton.

Cleveland Browns: They have two first-round picks, at first overall and #12. I don’t see the Browns taking Fournette with the first overall NFL draft pick, but if he is still on the board when the Browns pick again at #12 he could be the guy. Isaiah Crowell is a free agent this offseason, they may choose to bring him back, but if not – Fournette would be a stellar replacement. Duke Johnson is underrated and plays the RB position very well, but where he excels is in the passing game. The Browns still need an RB who can run between the tackles and handle carrying the ball 20+ times a game. The Browns did sign Darius Jackson late last season, and who knows what they think of him, but with Crowell out the door it is likely they bring in another RB – and who better than Fournette.

Oakland Raiders: Fournette may no longer be available when they are on the clock, but if so, it would be hard for the Raiders to pass him up. Latavius Murray is a free agent this offseason, and there are rumors that the Raiders will not resign him. So, they do need a starting RB. It would be nice to match Fournette with Carr, Cooper and that stellar offensive line. We saw how Ezekiel Elliott benefited from a great line and solid QB play. I think we could expect similar production from Fournette if he landed in Oakland.

The next three teams deploy spread-style offenses. They are probably looking for an RB that can create in open space and catch the ball out of the backfield:

Indianapolis Colts: They need to take some pressure off Andrew Luck. Frank Gore isn’t getting any younger and he is in the last year of his deal. The smart move would be for the Colts to draft an offensive lineman. However, Colts owner Jim Irsay is a guy who likes to make a splash in the draft – and Cook is a splash pick. Cook is effective running off tackle as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. In the Colts’ air-it-out offense, he could potentially rack up big numbers both receiving and rushing.

Philadelphia Eagles: This is a team with young quarterback Carson Wentz. Ryan Matthews can’t stay on the field, Darren Sproles is a third-down back and no one knows whether Wendell Smallwood can carry the load. The NFL is a copycat league and the Eagles do not have to go outside of the division to find the team to copy. The Dallas Cowboys teamed Ezekiel Elliott up with Dak Prescott and that make Prescott’s job much, much easier. Yes, Dak won Offensive Rookie of the Year, but would not have if he did not have Ezekiel Elliott by his side forcing defenses to stack the box, opening up the pass and more specifically the play-action pass game.

New York Giants: They simply have no run game, mostly due to their offensive line being terrible, but they also haven’t gotten much production from Rashad Jennings. The Giants cut Jennings on Feb. 13th and are now left with Paul Perkins as their RB1. Perkins had 112 carries for 456 yards, an average of 4.1 YPC. Watching Perkins play, I felt he was more effective on draws and screens –typical for a third-down back. Paul Perkins is good, but I think he is more of a committee running back rather than a bell cow. Additionally, the Giants have an elite defense. To optimize that defense, you need to run the ball, eat up clock and keep your opponent and their quarterback off the field.

After looking at where these two RBs could end up during the NFL draft, I ranked the Running Back/ Team combination from best possible dynasty scenario to worst. This is largely based on supporting cast (mainly Quarterback and Offensive Line):

  1.       Fournette/Oakland Raiders
  2.       Cook/Philadelphia Eagles
  3.       Fournette/Carolina Panthers
  4.       Cook/New York Giants
  5.       Cook/Indianapolis Colts
  6.       Fournette/Cleveland Browns

Overall, the best dynasty spot for Leonard Fournette would be the Raiders. However, I do not think Fournette to the Raiders is likely, but it would be a great match. I think Derek Carr would welcome it. Similarly, an ideal team for Dalvin Cook is the Eagles. This scenario is more likely and if it does happen, it would vault Dalvin Cook to #1 overall in rookie drafts.

There you have it. If you have a top-five pick in your dynasty league’s upcoming rookie draft, you should consider this review when making your running back selection.

jschepps

New Yorker, Cowboys Fan, Father of 2(Emmitt & Dylan). Football is my passion.

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