The Scouting Combine came in like a lion and out like… well, that very same lion. We all got our look at most of the prospects who will undoubtedly be scrutinized and picked apart every day until the NFL Draft finally arrives on April 26th. But as far as takeaways when it comes to fantasy football? I’ve got you covered here… let’s take a look.
“SAQUON BARKLEY – MAN, MYTH, LEGEND”
He will almost assuredly be the first rookie taken in seasonal fantasy drafts this summer, but could he be the first player taken overall in the 2018 NFL Draft? Saquon Barkley went from being a can’t miss prospect to vaulting his status even higher than imagined, with a fantastic combine. Weighing in at 233 pounds, he put in a 40 time of 4.4 flat. That’s just… what can you even say to that? That’s great for a player 30 pounds lighter, but the fact that with that mass putting up a time like that, it’s off the charts. Add in a 41″ vertical and 29 bench press rep, you’re looking at a back that has the size, strength, and quickness basically do whatever he wants out there on the field. Think a stronger version of David Johnson. That’s the best comparison I can think of. If he goes past the 4th pick of the draft, past the Browns, Giants, and Colts, who could all sorely use him, I’ll honestly be shocked. What does this mean for fantasy? As somebody with some trepidation draft Ezekiel Elliott in the end of the 1st round before his rookie season, I certainly have less trepidation about Barkley. Elliott landing with the Cowboys was a special situation that was tailor-made, as he had a superb offensive line and offense where he didn’t have to shoulder the entire load of the offense. Barkley would be thrust into a worse situation, but would instantly improve the viability of the offense he plays in. For the purposes of this, I would slot him in as an early to mid 2nd round pick. In any of those situations involving the Browns, Giants, or Colts, he’d be the starting running back and should get the lion’s share of touches out of the backfield and get some catches as well.
“THERE ARE OTHER RUNNING BACKS THAN SAQUON BARKLEY, YOU KNOW!”
Yes, yes, yes… I’ll get to them.
Rashaad Penny ran an excellent 40 time (4.46) relative to his weight (220 pounds), and to me, for the time being, vaulted himself over Sony Michel, who opted not to participate in some drills and in his 40 time, ran a disappointing 4.54. He did lead the NCAA in all-purpose yards this past season, and could even play a factor on special teams at the next level, as he proved himself as an outstanding return specialist (3 return TD last season). Penny could be this year’s Kareem Hunt, a value pickup who could produce right away for a team if put into the right scenario. Once the dust settles in the NFL Draft in May, take a look at where Penny ends up.
Michel’s 40 time could slide him out of the 1st round, but a quality pro day could bring him back into the conversation. Michel certainly has come a long way, having to find his niche among the shadows of talented backs at Georgia like Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley. Michel’s lone season at Georgia as the single featured back was his sophomore season, when Chubb went down with a mortifying knee injury. Michel’s vision and patience are the hallmarks of his running style, which should translate well in spot duty in his rookie season at the next level. Michel could be an excellent handcuff immediately in fantasy and we’ll see where he ends up come May.
“AND THE WIDE RECEIVERS?”
It’s a talented group but with no head and shoulders consensus #1 or even top 3, tread lightly. There will be a couple of prospects in this class that will pan out at the next level, but right now… everybody has issues but the cream will start to rise in the next few weeks here. Calvin Ridley was one of the top receivers heading into the combine, and while he has many attributes that should earn him some big time money in the NFL, his combine showing did him no favors. His 4.43 40 time was pretty solid, but his vertical (31 inches) was one of the worst at his position, and his broad jump was the worst among wideouts. He’s pretty old as far as prospects go (will turn 24 in December) so the window is much shorter than some of his position mates in this year’s draft. Ridley could honestly be the only receiver to go off the board in day 1, as there are as many as 7-8 receivers that could be going the next day or even sneak into day 1. Names like James Washington, Courtland Sutton, Michael Gallup, D.J. White, Christian Kirk, and Equanimeous (you try spelling his first name) St. Brown appear in some form or fashion among the next glut of players at the position. I do like Sutton as a red-zone threat who in the right situation could be a solid lottery ticket late in fantasy drafts. We will most certainly see some jockeying at the position as pro days for each player happen.
“BUT YOU DIDN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT MIKE GESICKI!”
The best non-Saquon Barkley/Shaquem Griffin combine performance goes to Barkley’s teammate at Penn State, TE Mike Gesicki, who at 6’6″ 245, turned in a 4.54 40 time and finished first or second among his position in every single event. He’s a tight end that can move around the field and cause matchup nightmares for opposing defensive backs and linebackers alike. Blocking is not his strong suit, but Gesicki may have snuck into the 1st round if a team decides to pull the trigger on him. Aside from Gesicki, the tight end class may be a very underrated position group. Names like Hayden Hurst (very sure-handed), Dallas Goedert, Mark Andrews, and Troy Fumagalli could come off the board at some point in day 2, if not, certainly in day 3. Where they land on the fantasy landscape certainly depends on their landing spot after the draft.
Next up, this weekend, I’ll take a look at the preview for NFL’s Free Agency period, which starts on March 14th and what that means for fantasy! Stay tuned!