LSU's Leonard Fournette to bypass senior season, enter NFL draft

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSUAll-American running backLeonard Fournette plans to bypass his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL draft.

The junior running back announced his decision on Monday.

"I will be declaring for the 2017 NFL draft after our bowl game," Fournette wrote in a note to fans on Twitter. "I make this announcement now so that there will not be speculation and distractions while we prepare. I want everyone to know that I will forever treasure my experience as a Tiger."

Fournette is universally regarded as one of the top prospects in the 2017 draft. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranks Fournette as the No. 1 overall prospect, while ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has him second behind only Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.

As a sophomore, Fournette set an SEC record by rushing for 162.8 yards per game -- plus his 1,953 rushing yards last season rank second in conference history behind Alabama's Derrick Henry (2,219).

However, he has struggled with nagging ankle issues this season since initially suffering a high-ankle sprain, low-ankle sprain and bone bruise in an August scrimmage. The injuries prevented him from playing in four games and limited his participation in several more.

Fournette still rushed for 843 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games, including a 284-yard effort against Ole Miss that briefly stood as LSU's single-game rushing record before teammate Derrius Guice broke it with 285 yards in the regular-season finale against Texas A&M.

Fournette sat out that game against the Aggies, and his status for bowl season remained up in the air, although LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Sunday night that he expected his star junior to play if healthy.

"He's been at every meeting bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, wanting to go," Orgeron said. "He's always indicated to me that he wants to represent the LSU Tigers in the best way. I don't see any other reason for anything to happen. Now if an injury prevents him, it prevents him. But I think if he's well, he's ready to go, he's going to play."

Fournette is the first of several draft-eligible LSU juniors who must make draft decisions ahead of the Jan. 16 deadline. McShay and Kiper both rank LSU junior safety Jamal Adams as the sixth overall prospect, and Tigers underclassmen such as defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and wide receiver Malachi Dupre also have yet to announce their intentions.

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