By: Nate Leer
Another NFL Combine has come and gone and there were plenty of performances of note at this year’s event. Similar to last year, there were plenty of excellent fantasy prospects on display at the RB position. There were also a handful of prospects at the other skill positions that could be relevant for fantasy this year, even though we know it is hard for rookies to make a big impact at QB or WR. Even the top players at those positions are almost completely situation dependent as to whether they have any fantasy value whereas top RBs can change the situation. Case in point: the Saints Alvin Kamara who went from being an afterthought in the New Orleans backfield to being arguably the best rook in football.
Watching the Combine is somewhat of a 2-part exercise based because of the aforementioned disparity in likely outcomes for RBs versus other skill players. The 1st part is determining which RBs are difference makers no matter which team drafts them. The 2nd part is trying to discern which other skill players are capable of contributing to my fantasy team IF they fall to the right team in the NFL Draft. The Combine is also a great opportunity to see how physically gifted the players are who performed well at the Senior Bowl.
10 Players From The NFL Combine Who Could Have A Fantasy Impact in 2018:
1. Saquon Barkley – RB – 6’ 233 lbs. 4.41 40 yard dash: Barkley is the no brainer, top fantasy prospect in 2018 and he cemented that status at the Combine. Besides the prototype measurables above, Barkley blew away RB standards with 29 reps on the bench press and a 41” vertical. He also looked great in the movement and receiving drills. This dude is all that and a bag of chips! He is unlikely to get past the top 3 picks and any destination among the Browns, Giants and Colts would be improved if we also see O line improvements made whether in free agency or the draft. The Browns have already improved their O this year with skill players who can do enough to keep Ds from overloading on the run game and their abundance of picks would seem to make it easy for them to add an interior O lineman in the 2nd round. Call me crazy but the Browns look like the best likely landing spot for Barkley.
2. Rashaad Penny – RB – 5’ 11” 220 4.46: I first picked up on Penny’s upside at the Senior Bowl and pegged him as this year’s Kareem Hunt. However, he is moving up NFL draft boards and could get into the 1st round. His rise may be partly attributable to the success of guys like Hunt and Kamara as teams have seen how good RBs have take a good O to the next level. However, Penny’s performance at the Combine, while not dominant, should get most of the credit for his movement. His 40 time and size are better than those studs from last year. That plus his natural running ability on tape make him a high upside player. There is not much need for RB at the back end of the 1st round although it would be cool to see New England grab him. Unless that happens or a team trades up, Penny could go to any of the teams at the top of the 2nd round. While none is even an above average O, all would be primed to get Penny the ball a ton, which makes him an excellent upside play for fantasy.
3. Nick Chubb – RB – 5’ 10” 227 4.53: Chubb is a thick back who still ran well. He would look good in Washington, Seattle or Detroit. His power style with enough burst to make plays could be huge next to a very good QB such as Russell Wilson or Matt Stafford. I would also love to see him in New England. Otherwise he has the same possibilities at the beginning of the 1st round and he is powerful enough to produce well if given the ball a lot even against stacked D
4. Derrius Guice – 5’ 10” 224 4.49: Guice also measured well and should produce anywhere from RB3 to RB 1 value. Monitor his landing spot and don’t be afraid to draft him later even if he is in a less than desirable situation.
5. Josh Allen – QB – 6’ 5” 237 4.74: Allen is the most intriguing QB prospect even though he does not run like Lamar Jackson and running is usually the best way to fantasy relevance for young QBs. Allen could slip in the draft to a spot where he can showcase his elite arm talent without Ds keying on stopping the pass. Denver seems like a great fit depending whether they think similarly skilled Paxton Lynch is still a legit prospect. If the Denver D rebounds, they can control games on the ground and let Allen take shots off of play action. With fast WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to run under Allen’s deep shots, he could be a high upside plug and play QB by midseason.
6. Kalen Ballage – RB – 6’ 1” 228 4.46: Ballage is a player who’s measurements outweigh his college production. That said, he has more than just straight line speed and size to his game. He showed good movement skills at the Combine and Senior Bowl. He is certainly situation dependent but he may have more upside than any of the RBs outside the top 4.
7. DJ Chark – WR – 6’ 3” 199 4.34: Chark was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl displaying huge downfield skills. He confirmed his truly elite speed and has nice height. He is moving up draft boards but could still land in a great situation as a deep threat. His output this year for fantasy owners is likely to be hit and miss at best but that can be useful as a WR4.
8. Courtland Sutton – WR – 6’ 3” 218: 4.55: Sutton is the best of the big WR prospects and he ran pretty well. He is not likely to go early in the NFL draft so could land in a good O like Arizona (assuming they get a decent QB), Seattle, Dallas or Detroit. Sutton’s draft value is all over the board partly because this is a bad WR class, especially at the top. Expect a couple players to emerge a bit in the predraft process and be reached for in the draft. A team like the Bills taking a WR early is bad for their fantasy value for reasons including QB issues, other decent WR talents around and even the weather. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen to Sutton.
9. Calvin Ridley – WR – 6’ 189 4.44: Ridley ran decently well which was key in establishing his value as the likely top WR to go in the draft. As with Sutton, he will probably go earlier than his talent indicates due to the dearth of WR prospects this year. That could land him in a hopeless fantasy location. The 49ers or Dolphins might be decent but are relative unknowns because of QB transitions. Ideally he drops enough to get to Seattle, etc. and one of the better QBs.
10. Will Hernandez – G – 6’ 2” 327 5.15: Obviously you won’t be drafting Hernandez but watch where Hernandez lands. In the right city, he could be opening up holes for a quality RB. He had a fast 40 time for OL and led the group with 37 reps on the bench press. This guy could legitimately be a difference maker for a RB. Add him to Tennessee on Minnesota and their young RBs get a boost in my book.
5 other prospects I learned more about at the Combine: Josh Rosen – QB (threw well and could fall to a good spot in the draft due to durability and weird off field concerns), Lamar Jackson – QB – (didn’t run at the draft but is considered an elite NFL athlete and threw just well enough to remain a legit QB prospect), Christian Kirk – WR – 5’ 10” 201 4.47 (short WR could produce early if he ends up in a great spot), Sony Michel – RB – 5’ 10” 214 4.54 (quicker than fast but thicker than expected), Equamineous St. Brown – WR – 6’ 4” 214 4.48 (struggled a bit catching but size/speed are intriguing).