When Leonard Fournette, the star running back at LSU and a possible target for the Jets with the sixth pick of the draft, weighed a surprising 240 at the NFL scouting combine in early March, he blamed it on drinking way too much water.
Apparently, all that water weight is now gone.
The 6-foot Fournette weighed in at a relatively svelte 228 pounds on Wednesday morning at LSU's Pro Day in Baton Rouge, La. - an impressive weight loss of 12 pounds in five weeks. That should quiet any fears teams might have had when he tipped the scales at what even he called a "surprising" number last month.
Not that there was much fear about Fournette. Most teams still considered him a Top 10 pick, if not a Top 5. The Jets certainly are intrigued by the LSU star, and will consider him - according to a team source - if he slips to sixth.
Not surprisingly, Jets coach Todd Bowles was at LSU's Pro Day on Wednesday, watching Fournette and another potential Top 6 pick that interests the Jets - safety Jamal Adams.
Giants GM Jerry Reese was also in attendance, according to various reports. With the Giants picking 23rd they have no shot at Fournette or Adams, but he could be taking a look at cornerback Tre'Davious White, the only other Tiger expected to have a shot at going in the first round.
The 6-foot, 214-pound Adams - who reportedly ran a dazzling 4.33 in his 40-yard dash at the Pro Day -- is considered the best safety in the NFL draft this year, and he would fill more of an immediate need for the Jets who had major problems in their secondary last season. Especially with Marcus Gilchrist's status unknown due to the knee injury he suffered late last season, the only established safety in their lineup is Calvin Pryor. And the future is even murkier since the Jets haven't decided whether to pick up Pryor's fifth-year option for 2018 - a decision they must make by May 2.
Fournette, though, is more intriguing. Many scouts put him in the "special" category reserved for the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and even Adrian Peterson - a rare running back worthy of a Top 10 pick in an era where first-round running backs have become increasingly rare. Even at the combine, when there were worries about Fournette's weight - just five pounds over the 235 he was listed at in college -- he still ran a dazzling 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
Fournette would be an odd fit for the Jets in 2017, since they already have Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. But Forte is 32 and his future with the Jets beyond this season is far from secure, even though he's signed through 2018. And as much as the Jets like Powell, who is also signed through 2018, they've never felt he has the durability and strength to be their workhorse back.
No one has that worry about Fournette, who ran for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in his three seasons at LSU. He also caught 41 passes for 526 yards and a touchdown, though he obviously wasn't used as a receiver out of the backfield much.
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Ordinarily, I'd suggest that selecting a running back or safety with a pick as high as number six would be unwise unless you were certain they were a transcendent talent. But with the paucity of viable quarterback and offensive tackle options at the top end this year, it's not out of the question. Of course, we should also consider that the Jets could trade down, with another team potentially being enticed into moving up for the sixth pick to acquire one of these players or the possibility that one or other of them could still be on the board after a trade-down.
Fournette's athleticism is good but not great and there are concerns over his durability, but a lot of his film is spectacular and you'd expect a dynamic runner such as that to bolster any offense. However, at least one analyst from Pro Football Focus has suggested Fournette might struggle in a zone blocking system or on a team without a top-level offensive line due to his lack of patience.
The Jets retained offensive line coach Steve Marshall, so I'd expect the running game to operate in a similar fashion to last year, in spite of the John Morton hire. That would mean they would be operating out of zone blocking packages at times and, in addition, not many people are optimistic that the Jets are going to have a good line. You'd therefore have to question the short-term wisdom behind selecting him so high, at least from a scheme fit perspective. He also doesn't offer much in terms of the passing game, although that's not an immediate issue because they already have Powell and Forte.
Adams could be an ideal fit for the Jets defensively, assuming his blazing-fast 40-time doesn't push him into the top five. If Adams was a Jet, I'd envision his role as being similar to that of Tyrann Mathieu, who played for Todd Bowles at Arizona. Adams is capable of matching up in the slot and also ranging deep so that he can be paired with a strong safety who can come up into the box in base packages. Calvin Pryor would be the main candidate to partner him with, although it appears the team is lukewarm regarding Pryor's longer term future.
Should the Jets draft Adams, it would likely make Marcus Gilchrist expendable, which would prevent the Jets from having to rely on an injured player and also save them money if he's released. Much like Gilchrist, Adams could also be paired with a deep safety and play in the box instead, if needed, so it would add flexibility and perhaps interchangeability to the defense going forward.