There were two running backs selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft.
Joe Mixon was not one of them – but in last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, our listeners and readers voted Mixon the rookie running back most likely to have the best season in 2017.
Mixon, a second-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, received 24 percent of the vote. Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall pick of the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars received 21 percent of the vote, followed by Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook at 20 percent, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey at 19 percent, Washington’s Samaje Perine at 13 percent and San Francisco’s Joe Williams at three percent.
McCaffrey also was a first-round pick, Cook a second and both Perine and Williams fourths.
A first-round talent, Mixon slid to the middle of the second round because of a campus incident where he punched a woman in the face. Oklahoma suspended him from the team in 2014, but he returned to rush for 2,027 yards over the last two seasons, including a 1,274-yard effort in 2016 that earned him All-Big 12 acclaim. He also caught 37 passes and set a school single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,331 on runs, receptions and returns. He scored 16 touchdowns in 2016, including five in one game against Texas Tech.
As usual, the three Talk of Fame Network hosts disagreed with the poll. Ron Borges and Clark Judge casts their ballots for Fournette and Gosselin voted Cook.
“Leonard Fournette went to a team hell-bent on building a strong running game to take the heat off its young quarterback,” Borges said. “For the Jaguars to succeed in the way Tom Coughlin hopes, he wants to see the pressure taken off young Blake Bortles. To do it, Fournette will have to get the ball and do something with it. He'll get plenty of chances.”
“I rarely say this but ... I agree with Ron,” Judge said. “The Jaguars will make a commitment to the run, and Leonard Fournette is their ticket to a ground game. They believe they need to protect Blake Bortles more this season, and they will do it with a vastly improved run game -- just the way Tom Coughlin drew it up for Eli when he was with the Giants.”
Fournette was selected fourth overall – the same spot Ezekiel Elliott was drafted in 2016 on his way to an NFL rushing title as a rookie for the Cowboys. Fournette rushed for a school-record 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2015 and finished his career fourth on LSU’s all-time rushing list with 3,830 yards.
Like Cook, Fournette elected to skip his senior season to turn pro. He set school records with nine consecutive 100-yard games and five career 200-yard games. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the NCAA’s toughest conference. A two-time All-ACC selection, Cook left Florida State as the school’s all-time leading rusher.