Analyst Calls For Chiefs to Trade For Former First-Round Running Back

Leonard Fournette

Getty Images Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is among the most popular trade candidates heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Kansas City Chiefs are entering 2020 NFL Draft week with Damien Williams penciled in as their starting running back, and not much behind him. Even after signing former Las Vegas Raiders RB DeAndre Washington on April 8, many a mock draft are forecasting top rushing prospects like Georgia’s D’Andre Swift or Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor to Kansas City as high as the team’s No. 32 overall pick.

That’s assuming Kansas City stays put in the final spot of the first round.

With only five picks currently, the defending world champions are among the most likely teams to move down to acquire additional draft capital. The Chiefs have not selected a running back in Round 1 since Larry Johnson (No. 27 overall) in 2003. Since then, the team has only spent nine picks on the position, none higher than Jamaal Charles in the third round (No. 73 overall) in 2008.

While the franchise’s recent history suggests the likelihood of drafting a running back early is low, that doesn’t mean a trade scenario can be ruled out.

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Over the weekend, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio floated the idea of the Chiefs as an ideal landing spot for Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette, calling on Kansas City to take action on a trade.

Although Damien Williams had a solid season in Kansas City, the Chiefs lack the kind of threat at running back that would give their offense true balance. Really, given the presence of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs should have more than 1,569 rushing yards as a team, and a leading rusher with more than 498. (Mahomes had 218.)

Last year, the Chiefs paid LeSean McCoy $3 million, after the Bills made him a surprise cut on Labor Day weekend. As the season progressed, McCoy fell out of favor, to the point where he didn’t even dress in the Super Bowl. Fournette, with much more tread on the tires and only $1.1 million more in salary for 2020, would make a ton of sense — especially given the potential influence of coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

The former No. 4 overall pick in 2017 is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, but has seen his name swirling in trade rumors at a growing rate in recent months. Fournette is coming off his best statistical output in 2019 with career-bests in rushing yards (1,152), yards per carry (4.3), receptions (76) and scrimmage yards (1,674), however, the trade market for the 25-year-old remains weak at best.

While the case for Chiefs’ depth behind Williams and Washington is a fair one to make, Florio’s point of the Super Bowl champs finishing the regular season with a leading rusher under 500 yards lacks merit. When Pro Football Focus data scientist Eric Eager crunched some numbers, the stats actually revealed a trend working in Kansas City’s favor.

That’s correct – only three of the past nine championship rosters featured a 1,000-yard rusher, and not since 2016 when LeGarrette Blount achieved the feat on 299 carries (3.9 YPC) with the New England Patriots. Considering Williams has posted a healthy 4.7 average yards per carry over his first two seasons in Kansas City, the Chiefs appear to be just fine with a committee approach in the backfield alongside Patrick Mahomes.


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For more NFL updates, follow Chris Licata on Twitter: @Chris__Licata

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