In the wake of Carolina Panthers GM Dave Gettleman’s press conference, there seems to be a narrative developing that the Panthers are trying to decide between Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. While this is an enticing story line that contrasts two completely different players, it just isn’t true.
The truth is that if both Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey were both available at pick 8, Gettleman himself would skip joyfully to the podium with card in hand. On that card would be written Leonard Fournette surrounded by a big red freehand heart. Sources close to the situation assure me that Fournette is far and away the top choice at running back, and indeed above most other prospects at any position. In short, the Panthers are hot for Fournette.
So why then all of the talk about Christian McCaffrey? Well, the Carolina Panthers do like McCaffrey. Most teams do. He is a talented player that could bring much to the offense. But the Panthers likely have him in the contingency plans for pick 8. Should any tier 1 candidate such as Fournette or LSU safety Jamal Adams not be available, it would then come down to a group of tier 2 players to choose from.
Even then, McCaffrey is not a lock. The Panthers would then make a judgement call based on who was selected before them, because that would dictate the choices in the second round for those teams ahead of them. For instance, if Chicago took a safety with their first pick, they likely would not with their second pick. The Panthers would then take into account that a safety they like is more likely to be there in round two and not choose a tier 2 safety in round 1. Is this making any sense?
If all tier 1 prospects are off the board, not even the Carolina Panthers know which tier 2 prospect they would choose because all of the required information won’t be available until this Thursday evening.
In conclusion: If Fournette is there, he is the pick. Heck, the Panthers may even trade up for him. Yes, the pick could be Christian McCaffrey, but only if Fournette is gone.