Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll look at the possibility of a Leonard Fournette trade-up scenario, we’ll talk about why it might appeal to the Seahawks and then we’ll discuss why it likely won’t happen.
Of course it’s way too early to determine whether a move like this would be even remotely possible. I just think we could use a change of pace from dissecting what isn’t working with Seattle’s offense at the moment (groan).
Right now it could be argued they’re missing a bell-cow stud running back. The thing they relied on for years with Marshawn Lynch and the kind of player they’d ideally lean on with Russell Wilson still recovering from knee/ankle/peck injuries.
The 2017 draft class will have a few good running backs. There’s going to be depth at the position right into the middle rounds. Speed, explosive athleticism, grit, finesse — it’s all there with a mix of very different backs.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, compares to Fournette.
He is the one true tone-setter. A physical, punishing force with breakaway speed and home-run hitting ability. He’ll knock a defender on his backside, get the hard yards up the middle, wear down a defense and then run 70-yards for a touchdown.
He can do this:
And yeah, he’s a great football player. He’s also a pretty good dude too:
Character, size, speed, unique athleticism, brutality. Leonard Fournette is the complete package.
It’s hard to compare him to anyone. We’ve often referred to him on this blog as the Julio Jones of running backs. That’ll do for now.
Unless the Seahawks’ running game picks up before the end of the year, they might feel like they need a spark at the position. Thomas Rawls could yet provide it — but he has to get healthy, stay healthy and rekindle his 2015 form.
That remains Seattle’s best bet — because Fournette isn’t likely to be unattainable next year.
He might be the #1 overall pick. Top-three is likely. Top-five seems certain.
If you want a tiny glimmer of hope that such a move could be possible, this is the only example I’ve got for you. The trade that took the aforementioned Julio Jones to Atlanta in 2011.
The Falcons traded with Cleveland to move from #26 to #6 to select Jones. It cost them the following:
#26 overall pick (round 1) in 2011
#59 overall pick (round 2) in 2011
#124 overall pick (round 4 in 2011
#22 overall pick (round 1) in 2012
#118 overall pick (round 4) in 2012
Two first rounders, a second rounder and two fourth rounders.
Quite a deal.
Such a move isn’t totally preposterous. It’s not three first rounders like the RGIII deal. At the time the Falcons received some criticism for making such a bold move — but with hindsight they were the big winners. Cleveland were left with a lot of picks but spent them unwisely.
Good players >>>> draft picks
The league and its fans are obsessed with draft picks. Having a lot of picks in the first three or four rounds is great. It’s exciting. In reality most of these picks don’t produce good players, let alone stars. Cleveland aren’t the only culprits. In that 2012 draft where they gained an extra first rounder (used on Brandon Weeden), the at-the-time red hot San Francisco 49ers used the #31 pick on A.J. Jenkins (remember him?).
Atlanta wanted a legit #1 receiver for Matt Ryan. Had they not moved up in the 2011 draft the options were:
Jonathan Baldwin (drafted with their original #26 pick, now out of the league)
Titus Young (a smaller receiver drafted at #44, now out of the league)
Torrey Smith (#55 pick, now with the 49ers)
Greg Little (#56 pick, now out of the league)
Randall Cobb (#64 pick enjoying a productive run with the Packers)
Cobb has enjoyed a nice career so far — but none of this group are Julio Jones. Not even close.
The Falcons did the right thing.
Jones had an ideal blend of athleticism, character and maturity. The investment was steep but the ceiling as high as can be. It felt like an expensive yet strangely safe move.
Cleveland wanted the picks. I bet they’d rather have Julio today.
I don’t know if teams — and the Seahawks specifically — will view Fournette in a similar light. I think there’s a pretty good chance they will. If so, spending a bevy of picks to acquire someone with the potential to be a star is worth it. Again, good players are better than lots of picks. Talent wins.
If Fournette falls into a similar range (#4-#8 overall) and presuming a team like the Seahawks own a pick from #25-32, the precedent is there to negotiate a deal.
Some teams would cringe at the idea of spending so much on a running back. The Seahawks aren’t like a lot of teams. During an era of passing game dominance they’ve thrived playing great defense and running the football with a point guard QB. Having a successful running game is part of Seattle’s DNA. Without it — well you can see the results at the moment.
If you could get 6-8 years out of Fournette (a modest estimate), would that be worth two first round picks and some change? Maybe. If it helps relieve some of the pressure on Russell Wilson to produce, if it helps you keep the defense off the field for longer, if it helps you be the team you want to be. Sure, it’d be worth it.
It’d also help create another huge mismatch problem for opponents. Game planning for Wilson, Fournette, Graham, Baldwin and Lockett wouldn’t be easy. Throw in Thomas Rawls as a 1-2 punch and you’re cooking on gas.
So that’s the argument for the deal. Now the brutal truth.
For starters, it takes two to tango. The Falcons found a willing trade partner in the Browns in 2011. It was an unusual deal. Teams don’t often trade down 20 spots in the first round. The 2017 draft class looks really good at the top. Trading away a shot at someone like Myles Garrett or Julius Peppers or Jonathan Allen is a hard sell. Fournette would probably need to fall a bit first and how likely is that?
The Seahawks have been aggressive in the past with trades but it’s always been with a full understanding of the situation. With Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin they knew which pick they had in round one. They knew the players available in the draft. They assessed the value and decided Harvin and Graham were vastly superior to the prospects available. They weren’t making a blind choice. They knew what they were trading away.
If you deal multiple first round picks you don’t know what you’re missing out on in the future. Would the Seahawks be comfortable doing that?
For example — imagine if the Dallas Cowboys, fresh from a 12-win season in 2014, had traded their 2016 first rounder away to make a bold move. That pick would’ve been #4 overall. How were they to anticipate an incredible collapse?
It’s unlikely the Seahawks would sink in such a way but this is an unpredictable league. Right now Seattle’s backup quarterback is an UDFA rookie. If Wilson was injured sufficiently to actually miss multiple games or most of a season, how many wins do you get with Trevone Boykin?
Would Seattle’s front office deem such a big trade necessary? They’re probably more likely to back themselves to find an alternative runner on day three or in UDFA. That’s where they found Rawls after all. C.J. Prosise could also end up being a more important player than we realise in the coming weeks.
They would need absolute conviction that Fournette was going to be a star, the price would have to be something similar to Atlanta’s outlay for Jones and they’d need a trade partner. That’s a lot of stars needing to align.
It’s still a nice thought for a cold Tuesday evening just after a loss.