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Carolina Panthers could move up to No. 2 in 2017 NFL Draft to take Leonard Fournette

By
Alex Butler
LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) warms up before the game with Alabama Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. November 5, 2016. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) warms up before the game with Alabama Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. November 5, 2016. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

March 31 (UPI) -- On Friday the Carolina Panthers gave running back Jonathan Stewart a contract extension through 2018.

But that hasn't stopped reports from piling up about the franchise attempting to trade up in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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The reported target is former LSU star running back Leonard Fournette. Stewart, 30, currently leads a backfield stable including Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Jalen Simmons.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday that there was "lots of talk/rumor" about the Panthers' intentions of moving from the No. 8 pick to the San Francisco 49ers' current No. 2 selection. He also reported that he was "told there's nothing currently in the works."

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Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported that he has "heard the same." Miller wrote that Carolina is attempting to move up in the draft to take either Fournette or Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas.

Thomas appears to be a unanimous top-3 selection on mock drafts by multiple analysts. Fournette is being projected from No. 4 to outside of the top-10.

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Fournette received a 6.8 grade on his NFL.com draft profile. The 6-foot, 240 pound workhorse is being compared to Bo Jackson.

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"I can't wait to see how the draft guys pick at Fournette and tell everyone what he doesn't do right," an NFC Director of Scouting told NFL.com. "He was healthy last year and that is what you are going to get. Big, fast and dominant."

Fournette is touted for his acceleration and power in scouting reports but is detailed for having weaknesses at eluding defenders in the open field.

This year's NFL Draft takes place from April 27 to April 29 in Philadelphia. Fournette had 2,206 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns his sophomore season, but played in just seven games during his final season in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers were No. 10 in rushing last year, a season after claiming the title of the best rushing offense in the NFC. Stewart averaged a career low 3.8 yards per carry.

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