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If It Wasn’t Clear Already, Panthers Are Eyeing Running Backs in 2017 Draft

Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey. And the list goes on.

The running back class is so deep in the upcoming draft, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman sees no need to keep Carolina's cards too close to his vest.

When asked if he'd envision using one of his nine picks on a back in next month's draft, Gettleman on Wednesday admitted:

"That's a fair statement."

The Panthers' need at the position is obvious considering Jonathan Stewart is heading into the final year of his contract and the only other true running backs on the roster are upcoming free agent Fozzy Whittaker, little-used 2015 draft pick Cameron Artis-Payne and 2016 scout teamer Jalen Simmons.

Gettleman and the rest of Carolina's coaching and scouting staffs are at the combine in Indianapolis where Fournette weighed-in at an eye-popping 240 pounds, the heaviest of the 33 backs who stepped on the scale Wednesday morning.

"Big running backs are nice. They tend to run people over better than 180-pound running backs," Gettleman said with a smile.

"It's a deep running back group, we know that. It'll be interesting to see how the whole process plays out because we're really just halfway through it."

Naturally, of the Panthers' nine picks, most attention is centered on what they'll do with the eighth overall selection. Plenty of mock drafts have and will continue to place Fournette or Cook in Carolina. According to sources, the Panthers are high on Fournette while there are some off-the-field concerns about Cook. It's unclear if those will make Carolina take him off its board. 

McCaffrey, meanwhile, is a stretch at No. 8, but some around the league are expecting his name to become much hotter if and when he impresses during the combine's drills and interviews.

"Obviously you're looking for vision and you're looking for feet. You're looking for hands, you're looking for blitz pickup," Gettleman said of scouting young backs.

"I've said this before — one of the toughest things for these running backs coming in is the blitz pickup stuff. It keeps a lot of them off the field because you can't go out there, he waves his hand, 'I'm out here, we're just running the ball, don't worry about it.' It doesn't work like that."

If the Panthers don't use one of their early picks on a back, later options could include Tennessee's Alvin Kamara, D'Onta Foreman of Texas and Clemson's Wayne Gallman.

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