By: Nate Leer
The NFL draft process essentially started almost 2 weeks ago with the college all-star games then Senior Bowl practice and the game. The players who stood out in the games and practices took the first step towards boosting their draft stocks. Up next is the combine where we can see if these players really have the measurables to match what they do on the field. I love getting these early opportunities to start getting a feel for how these guys may stack up as NFL prospects and hence fantasy football prospects.
Top 5 Senior Bowl players that could have a fantasy football impact in 2017:
Davis Webb – QB: Webb was this year’s MVP. He may not replicate last year’s winner. Dallas QB Dak Prescott really helped himself in my eyes at last year’s Senior Bowl with his play on the field but also his professional approach to the game. Webb also look every bit the NFL QB he wants to be. While some of his potential issues are being compared to the things that held Jared Goff back this year, some of those same things were said about Dak – decision making issues and learning to operate a pro style O. A couple things do or could make him more similar to Dak than Goff: excellent physical traits (arm, size) and going later in the draft could set him up in a good situation. He could look good in Arizona, Houston, maybe Denver or even Buffalo. Those teams may not have an O-line like Dallas but they have other facets that can help a young QB who works hard and does his job.
Kareem Hunt – RB: Toledo lists Hunt as 6′, 225 but the word is that he showed up to the Senior Bowl practice over 15 lbs. lighter. However, Hunt’s unique balance when running through traffic and strong core make him intriguing as a guy who could come in and produce at the NFL level. Watching him run during the game was impressive and his stats reflect that – 129 yards from scrimmage and 7.9 yards per carry. If Hunt falls to a team like the Vikings in the 3rd or 4th round, he could get carries eventually. This is the kind of sleeper player that should be watched all the way through the draft process and preseason. If you think he has some juice, pick him up as a depth RB and hold on to potentially reap David Johnson-like rewards.
Zay Jones – WR: Jones caught 3 balls in the end zone in Saturday’s game. One was after he supposedly pushed off and another was taken away on an out of bounds call that looked like it would have been overturned on replay if that was an option. However, those 2 and the 1 that counted all looked good and displayed a vast skill set. He really does look somewhat like Odell Beckham with his length, quicks and hands. However, he will likely be available much later in the draft and could find a nice landing spot somewhere like Baltimore, New England or any number of other teams as a nice #2 WR with #1 upside.
Josh Reynolds – WR: Reynolds showed a little burst in catching a deep TD among his 6 receptions. He is very skinny and very long. He could be a mid round player who ends up producing some TDs as the year progresses. He reminds me of former San Diego WR Malcolm Floyd who was a sneaky productive fantasy players for many years.
OJ Howard – TE: The big, athletic TE had a decent game but his willingness to compete in practices all week and during the game while already being a very highly regarded prospect says a lot about him as a football player. I will be very interested to see him run at the combine as he predicts a sub-4.6 40. Let’s also watch to see how natural his hands are and whether he has acceptable short area quickness. In what looks to be one of the best Te draft classes ever, Howard could cement his standing as the #1 prospect with a good showing in Indianapolis.
5 more players who had moments in the Senior Bowl and should be watched at the combine:
RB Donnel Pumphrey – tiny but quick and fast, let’s see how his speed measures up; TE Evan Engram; WR Cooper Kupp – good practice week, not a lot of action in the game; RB Corey Clement; WR Fred Ross.