I don’t know about you guys, but I’m excited. The NFL Scouting Combine drills begin this weekend and ultimately serve as the first step toward the upcoming football season. These events provide insight into what these young talents can potentially offer our respective teams in upcoming rookie fantasy drafts.
From a fantasy perspective, we’re primarily going to want to keep a close eye on running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks. Let’s take a look at five key names from each position.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. Arguably the most anticipated player to watch this weekend is “Johnny Football.” He’s just shy of 6’, but we’ve seen what Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have done with that (lack of) height. Manziel has to prove he can compete at the next level, but if he can, he just may have the most potential out of this year’s QB crop.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Bridgewater is certainly the most accurate QB in this class. His arm isn’t a cannon, but he has the skill set necessary to compete in today’s NFL. He is a smart QB that displays excellent poise and will be one of the first three quarterbacks taken in the draft.
Blake Bortles, UCF. Bortles has a nice balance of mobility, arm strength and size. It wasn’t too long ago that Bridgewater and Manziel were the clear favorites to be drafted first at the position, but Bortles’ rapid rise culminated in a Fiesta Bowl victory this past year. There’s a chance he’ll be the first QB off the board.
Derek Carr, Fresno State. Younger brother of David, Derek Carr is coming off a ridiculous statistical season and impressed at the Senior Bowl. He’s got a rocket for an arm, but there are doubts about his accuracy.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois. Coming off an impressive season and Senior Bowl, Garoppolo has great vision and reads the field well. He can also scramble well in the pocket and is fairly accurate. However, his passes don’t have a whole lot of zip and his decision-making skills are questionable.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State. He’s currently near or at the top of nearly all running back rankings right now. When the Buckeyes’ battering ram isn’t punishing defenders between the tackles, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up yardage around the perimeter. He’s not going to set the world on fire with speed, but he’s a big, powerful back that has potential to start right away in the NFL.
Jeremy Hill, LSU. Like Carlos Hyde, Hill is a big bruising back. The Tigers’ stud has to work hard in order to prove that he is ready to put his legal issues behind him. He might just be the most talented back in the class, so if he can do that, the sky is the limit.
Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona. The Wildcats’ back racked up 3814 yards and 42 touchdowns in the last two seasons alone. That’s huge. His biggest knock might be that he lacks elite breakaway speed, though he is a shifty and slippery runner. He’s not a big, punishing back, so his potential will have a lot to do with his landing spot.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor. The Bears’ speedster may be the most athletic of all the backs and he’s even got his sights on breaking Chris Johnson’s 40-dash record. His wheels won’t be questioned by anybody; it’s his tendency to dance around in the backfield that has scouts and draftniks questioning his vision and decision-making. The combine will also give us a feel for his pass-catching ability. Possibly the biggest boom or bust potential at the position.
Tre Mason, Auburn. Scouts are all over the map on this Tigers’ back, but Mason’s agent feels he has first-round draft potential. He’s a compact back and has the skills necessary to be an NFL starter, but as fantasy owners are well aware, draft destination is crucial.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson. Many draftniks see Watkins as the #1 overall pick in dynasty drafts and rightfully so. He’s lightning fast, has good hands, and runs smooth routes. He’s not as tall as the Julio’s and A.J.’s out there, but he’s arguably the best collegiate receiver we’ve seen in more recent years.
Marquise Lee, USC. Lee was, and in some circles still is, the highest graded receiver in the class. He struggled with injuries this past season, but if he falls in your fantasy draft for that reason, you just might wind up getting a steal.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M. Evans will be one to keep a close eye on at the combine. He’s got a big frame (6’5”) and good top speed, but may lack the quickness to break away from defenders. Echoes of Vincent Jackson have been making the rounds.
Allen Robinson, Penn State. He doesn’t have elite speed, but Robinson has great agility, initial quickness, and runs professional-style routes. He comes equipped with great hands and a tendency to make big plays with the ball in the air. While folks in your leagues will be fighting over Watkins/Lee/Evans in the early going, take Robinson in the late 1st/early 2nd round.
Kelvin Benjamin, FSU. This is a big boy right here. At 6’5”, he gets some comparisons to Calvin Johnson, but don’t assume he’ll translate to that skill level. He’s a raw prospect and has had issues with dropped balls, but if he can tie everything together at the next level, watch out.
Eric Ebron, UNC. Ebron has gotten comparisons to Vernon Davis, but although he’s not as fast as Davis, Ebron arguably has better skills as a receiver. Barring a disastrous combine, he’ll be the first tight end off the board.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech. There are rumors that New England might be interested in drafting Amaro, but he might not fall that far on draft day. Green Bay could be in the market for a tight end as well. If Amaro goes to either team, he’ll fight Ebron for the top rookie fantasy pick at the position.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington. ASJ is a big-bodied tight end and can run some decent routes. He’s had some character issues, which could cause him to slide in the NFL draft, but if he pans out, he could be a red zone beast as worst.
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame. Dude is a monster at 6-7, 270 pounds and he has elite size, tremendous athleticism, and can block well. His stock has skyrocketed since his surprise declaration for the draft, so expect Niklas to go in the NFL Draft’s second or third round.
CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa. He’s physical, can block well, and has the massive frame necessary for a tight end in today’s league. He’s not the most gifted talent of the bunch, but given the right opportunity, he could be fantasy relevant.