By: Nate Leer
The next big step in the NFL draft process finished up last week. The NFL Combine gave the top prospects in the country a stage to showcase their physical talent and skillsets. The highlights of the combine included excellent performances by defensive players including probable #1 overall pick edge rusher Myles Garrett. However, most of the elite defensive players will not go to teams with good Ds so they will have little fantasy impact in standard leagues.
The offensive players also put on a good show. A number of the top skill players showed measurables and skills that likely moved them up draft boards or cemented their statuses as 1st round picks. Experienced fantasy football players know that certain positions tend to produce more as rookies than others. QBs usually have little or no impact early on although last year Dak Prescott and, to a lesser extent, Carson Wentz were productive. WRs and TEs are also usually not worth owning their rookie year but there have been exceptions over the years.
On the other hand, RBs can break out their 1st year and some never get back to that level (Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, etc.). Identifying which rookies could have big years in the right situation and which could be helpful later in the season can help you win championships. 2 years ago, owners that held onto David Johnson or picked him up in the middle of the season, probably won their leagues based on his production down the stretch. Let’s take a look at the prospects at the NFL Combine who could help your fantasy team this year:
Teams in need: Browns – #1 & #12, Bears – #2, 49ers – #3, Jets – #6, Bills – #10, Cardinals – #13, Texans – #25.
DeShaun Watson – Watson was the star of the combine QB class with his measurables and throwing ability. His ability to run the ball could make him a low end fantasy option this year. Ideally he is on a team with some receiving weapons and a run game. Best fantasy fits: Bills, Texans.
Davis Webb – He reminds me some of Joe Flacco with his height and powerful arm. If he gets a chance to play, Webb could be a QB to watch down the stretch of the fantasy football season in the right offense. Put him in a Cardinals uniform and imagine him taking over for a broken down Carson Palmer around week 10. In deep or 2 QB leagues, he could be useful. Best fantasy fit: Cardinals.
Pat Mahomes – I know I’m old because I remember his dad as an elite pitching prospect for my Twins. At the combine, it sure looked like this kid got his dad’s arm strength and the buzz around him as a gunslinger reminds me of the steam about David Carr a few years ago. He’s similar to Webb in that he would have the best shot at being fantasy viable if he goes late to a good team that needs a healthy QB down the stretch. Best fantasy fit: Cardinals.
Teams in need: Jaguars – #4, Panthers – #8, Eagles – #14, Colts – #15, Skins – #17, Bucs – #19, Raiders – #24, Packers – #29, Vikings – no 1st rd pick.
Leonard Fournette – Fournette is huge and fast and showed it at the combine (6’, 240, 4.51 40). A coaching staff that likes to pound the ball can make this kid an immediate fantasy factor. Going to a team that also has a deep passing attack to open running lanes, could make him a stud. Best fantasy fits: Panthers, Bucs.
Dalvin Cook – Cook is arguably the most complete RB and confirmed his requisite size (5’ 10” 210) and speed (4.45 40) as well as good receiving skills. He would benefit lost from a team that will make him their lead ball carrier and get him involved in the passing game. Best fantasy fits: Eagles, Colts.
Christian McCaffrey – Ed’s kid ran well (4.48) but is a bit lanky (5’ 11”, 200) for RB. He could become a great catch first RB and it would be sweet to see him on a team that gets real creative using him in the slot, etc. Best fantasy fits: Bucs, Raiders, Packers, Patriots (2nd rd).
A Kamara – Kamara didn’t run particularly well (4.56 40) but was an explosive leaper which could bode well for his short area quickness. He is also a decent receiver which can help him be serviceable for fantasy purposes this year. Adding weight could make him a more complete back down the road. Best fantasy fits: Raiders, Packers.
Kareem Hunt – Hunt is not fast (4.62 40) but is thick (5’ 10”, 215) and had an explosive vertical. He was serviceable catching the ball but that will not be where he makes his money early on. This kid runs with great balance so the measurables could be good enough for him to be an effective runner at the next level. Going in the mid rounds of the draft could make him this year’s Jordan Howard in the right situation. Best fantasy fits: Bucs, Raiders.
Teams in need: Titans – #5 & #18, Chargers – #8, Bills – #10, Cardinals – #13, Ravens – #16, Lions – #21.
Mike Williams – Caught the ball well and naturally. Along with running in the 4.5s in the 40 at his pro day, he looks like the top WR and could be picked as high as #10. He would jump up fantasy draft boards if he goes to the right offense. The Titans would be a great landing spot but #5 seems high and he shouldn’t be around at their later 1st round pick, #18. Another intriguing possibility: the Cardinals. As a complement to WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson, Big Mike could be a big play, if somewhat inconsistent, WR this year. Best fantasy fits: Titans, Chargers, Cardinals.
John Ross – Ross blew up the combine with the fastest 40 time ever (4.22 seconds). He also is a skilled receiver with hands and route running ability. A big armed QB would love to have this guy running deep routes. The biggest concern are his knees which have already had multiple, major issues. Best fantasy fits: Cards, Lions.
Zay Jones – Jones is big enough (6’2”, 200), runs well (4.45 40) and has impressive leaping ability. He could be productive right away if he lands on a team that throws plenty but has an established veteran WR already. Best fantasy fits: Chargers (2nd rd), Cardinals (2nd rd).
Teams in need: Jaguars – #4, Titans – #5 & #18, Jets – #6, Bills – #10, Saints – #11, Cardinals – #13.
OJ Howard: Howard is not the most natural ball catcher but his size, athleticism and professional approach make him a potential impact player as early as this year. He also is a good blocker which will help him get more snaps at the next level. For a position with few elite options in fantasy drafts, Howard could be a value pick with upside in the right O. Best fantasy fits: Jaguars, Titans, Saints, Cardinals.
Evan Engram: Engram gassed the 40 at 4.42. He also caught the ball as well as anyone at the combine so could fit right into an offense that likes to play matchup games, like New England. Engram can score multiple ways so could make a sneaky play if and when he gets touches this season. Best fantasy fits: Vikings (2nd rd), Patriots (2nd rd).