Scouting the Scouting Combine
It is here! It is finally here! The NFL combine has officially arrived. With tight ends performing today, one skill position is in the books (you can find the results at http://www.nfl.com/combine/tracker ). While there were no blazing 40 times like Vernon Davis back in 2006 (4.38 seconds), there were still some impressive performances. I encourage you all to look around and see for yourself how some of your favorite prospects panned out, however that is not what I’m here for today. While I have the mic I’ll be telling you about one player from each position I’m excited to watch today. Today we will get to see the Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Wide Receivers: the players that win you and the rest of your imaginary team their games every Sunday.
Running Back: Montee Ball – Wisconsin
I thought Montee was the best rusher in college football last season, and was disappointed I’d have to wait until this season to acquire him on my Dynasty squad. When I watched him run I felt he had a very good mix of everything a coach wants from his runner. He’s quick, patient, and powerful. He’s a throwback Running Back who would rather run through you than around you and seems to wear defenses down over the course of the game. Unfortunately Backs like this are getting phased out of the pro game today- but the few feature backs that are still around have been fantasy studs like Lynch and AP. There are some question marks surrounding him though, like, “How are his hands?”, or “How many of his yards did he get, and how many did his line give him?” These are fair question to ask, and when you look at his stats from 2012, particularly his receiving stats (10 for 72 yards), there are some flags that should be raised. However, RBs have proven that they don’t have to be exceptional pass catchers to be exceptional stars on your fantasy team, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The combine might not do much to make teams more comfortable with his hands, but I expect him to surprise in the speed and agility drills tomorrow. Montee gets knocked on for being “big” and “clunky” but when I watch him those words are far from my thoughts.
Wide Receiver: DeAndre Hopkins – Clemson
As an ACC fan, I’ve watched a lot of Clemson football. In the past few years there have been two Tigers who sincerely scared me as a Rambling Wreck fan; CJ Spiller, and DeAndre Hopkins. While I have been far from impressed by Tajh Boyd (Note: I’m pretty much alone in this view) Hopkins seems to make something happen every time he touches the ball. On tape he is able to get by defenders and catch balls cleanly and with authority. I haven’t seen enough catches in traffic to feel comfortable saying he plays angry like, say, Boldin, but he picks the ball out of the air and secures it, keeping the DBs from getting a shot at knocking it loose. Although he is often seen catching bombs behind the safeties, I don’t expect a blazing 40 speed. I expect Hopkins to impress most with his change of direction and lateral agility. Expected to go in the back half of the first come April, I think he’d be best served in either New England or San Francisco.
The Quarterback I Wanted to See: Matt Barkley – USC
My, how the mighty have fallen. The consensus #1 pick a year ago, he is now just a whisper in the fantasy community. His final season at USC was disappointing given the receiving talent around him, but he was largely mistake free. He has dropped from “the guy” to just “a guy” over the last 12 months which shows how fickle football fans really are. Most of the knocks against him are for physical attributes it is said he lacks, and the combine would be a great chance for him to bounce back and re-energize his 2013 draft campaign. From what I’ve seen I am not counting on him to come out and set the league afire, but I expect him to earn the trust of his teammates and coaches over the offseason and preseason thru his leadership and drive, and for him to be given a legitimate shot at starting from week one. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a team like Kansas City address their Line with their first pick, and throw in a 3rd or 4th rounder to move up from the early 2nd to the late 1st. If this were to happen, I’d expect the team to sign a veteran QB who is capable of leading a team, but one that they aren’t tied to through a large salary or long contract. For example, how awful would it be for Matt Flynn if he gets traded to the Chiefs and loses another camp battle to an under appreciated rookie? #wishfulthinking. Regardless of how the draft turns out, I’m excited to watch Barkley’s rookie season unfold.
The Quarterback I’ll Settle With: Geno Smith – WVU
While not a sleeper in terms of the NFL draft, Smith has been unfairly treated in the fantasy community lately. With an ADP of the 19th QB off the board (behind Josh Freeman, really?), there seems to be only upside. With the push towards the read option in the NFL, many people (me included) are wondering if Smith has enough mobility to run a Pistol offense in the NFL. When you look at the crazy fantasy numbers mobile quarterbacks have been putting up recently, it makes me think he should be valued higher. With a quick 40 time and reasonable agility shown in his combine results he will be a player I will be acquiring everywhere for his current asking price.
There you have it; my watch list for today. What do you think? Who are you excited to be analyzing today? Let me know in the comments or @BRonIsBoss.