NFL Combine Comparison: Can 2018's NFL Draft Prospects Replicate 2017's Rookie Production? - Roto Street Journal
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NFL Combine Comparison: Can 2018’s NFL Draft Prospects Replicate 2017’s Rookie Production?

Well that was exciting, wasn’t it? With the NFL Combine in our rear-view mirror and a few days to let everything sink in, it’s time to start making some projections. The combine is a crucial part of the draft process in which we get to throw aside those lofty school measurements and see exactly how big and athletic these prospects are. While a great workout doesn’t always translate to in-game success, knowing a player’s measurables is a valuable part of the evaluation process.

Last season was as unpredictable as any other. Rookie running backs dominated the fantasy realm, as four of the top ten PPR ‘backs were first year players (Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey). Although three receivers were drafted in the top ten of last year’s draft (Corey DavisMike Williams, John Ross), injuries prevented any of them from making a significant impact. Instead, we saw day-two wideouts like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp provide the greatest boost to their team’s passing attack. Rookie phenom, Deshaun Watson, was on pace to be fantasy’s top scoring quarterback before tearing his ACL after week eight. Finally, let’s not forget about tight end, Evan Engram, who finished fifth at his position in fantasy scoring thanks to New York’s depleted receiving corps and a pass-heavy offense.

Holy Ed Hochuli’s biceps that’s a lot of production. The most tantalizing aspect of all this is the majority of those players went unselected in last summer’s fantasy drafts. That’s a lot of fantasy points left on the board. Can you imagine how your season could have played out had you identified the right players to take with your last several picks? That’s what I’m here for. By singling out talented prospects with NFL transferable skills, we put ourselves in the position to capitalize should those players land in a fantasy friendly scenario.

Below, I compare the combine numbers and overall game of this year’s college prospects to last season’s rookie fantasy studs in an effort to find 2018’s fantasy breakout stars.

 

Leonard Fournette – RB – LSU

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’0” 240 lbs 31 5/8” 9 ¼”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.51s 28.5”
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
4th Overall

Saquon Barkley – RB – Penn State

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’0” 233 lbs 31 3/8” 9 ½”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.40s 41” 29 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
4.24s Top 5

When trying to identify a comparison for a player with as rare of physical traits as Barkley, one does the best they can. Fournette’s combination of size and speed best resembles Barkley’s, and both will have been selected within the first four picks by this time the draft concludes. Like Fournette, Barkley is prepared to be the center piece of an offense as a rookie. Fournette racked up 1,342 yards from scrimmage, 36 catches and 10 total touchdowns in his first year.  Barkley is capable of surpassing those numbers, as his receiving prowess should prove invaluable in PPR leagues.

Alvin Kamara – RB – Tennessee

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’10” 214 lbs 32 3/4” 9 ¼”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.56s 39.5” 131” 15 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
67th Overall

Sony Michel – RB – Georgia

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’11” 214 lbs 31 1/4” 9 1/8”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.54s 22 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
4.21s 2nd Round

Michel is comparable to Kamara in both size and stature. Both ‘backs split carries in college and averaged over five yards per carry in the SEC. Michel’s speed and balance are on par with Kamara, who put up 1,554 yards from scrimmage, 81 catches and 14 total touchdowns as a rookie. However, Kamara’s agility, burst and receiving skills significantly trump Michel’s. Still, Michel has talent, and could provide a productive rookie campaign if drafted into a favorable situation, like Kamara’s.

Christian McCaffrey – RB – Stanford

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’11” 202 lbs 30 1/8” 9 1/8”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.48s 37.5” 121” 10 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
6.57s 4.22s 11.03s 8th Overall

Ronald Jones – RB – USC

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’11” 205 lbs 31 1/8” 8 ¾”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.65s* 36.5”
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
2nd Round

You see that asterisk next to Jones’ forty time? That’s because the junior pulled up mid-run due to hamstring troubles. Though the injury ended his workout, Jones’ tape shows a player with the speed, wiggle and stop/start ability that parallels McCaffrey. Due to his lack of size, Jones will likely split carries to begin his career, as McCaffrey did when he posted 1,086 yards from scrimmage, 80 catches and 7 total touchdowns as a rookie. Though he’s a capable receiver, Jones tallied just 32 receptions in his three seasons with USC, suggesting he may not be an immediate PPR star.

Kareem Hunt – RB – Toledo

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’10” 216 lbs 31 3/8” 9 5/8”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.62s 36.5” 119” 18 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
86th Overall

Royce Freeman – RB – Oregon

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’11” 229 lbs 32” 9 ½”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.54s 34” 118” 17 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
6.9s 4.16s 11.64s 3rd Round

After leading the NFL in rushing as a rookie, Hunt illustrated that one’s combine performance doesn’t define a player’s career. Like Hunt, Freeman is a thick, zone rusher with the balance and shiftiness to break tackles with ease. Both ‘backs feature excellent vision and can catch the ball out of the backfield, but must improve in pass protection. Spencer Ware’s preseason injury resulted in Hunt receiving over 84% of his team’s halfback touches. He totaled 1,782 yards from scrimmage, 53 catches and 11 touchdowns in 2017.  If Freeman lands in a dream scenario such as Hunt’s, he too could make a splash as a rookie.

Cooper Kupp – WR – Eastern Washington

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’2” 204 lbs 31 1/2” 9 1/2”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.62s 31” 116”
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
6.75s 4.08s 69TH Overall

Michael Gallup – WR – Colorado State

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’1” 205 lbs 31 1/2” 9 ¼”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.51s 36” 122” 10 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
6.95s 4.37s 11.84s 3rd Round

Similar in size, both players put up ridiculous collegiate numbers , but didn’t draw the national attention that a Power Five conference player would. After beginning his journey at Butler Community College, Gallup’s route running has improved drastically from the time he transferred to Colorado State. Though he’s less refined than Kupp was coming out, Gallup is a rapidly ascending player who has the quickness to play in the slot and the long speed to win outside. Kupp caught 62 passes for 869 yards and 5 touchdowns from the slot as a rookie, which is where Gallup has the best chance of making an immediate impact.

JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR – USC

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’1” 215 lbs 32 7/8” 10 1/2”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.54s 32.5” 120” 15 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
62nd Overall

James Washington – WR – Oklahoma State

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
5’11” 213 lbs 32 3/8” 9 ¾”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.54s 34.5” 120” 14 reps
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
7.11s 4.32s 11.56s 3rd Round

Washington plays above his 5’11” frame, which is by far the biggest discrepancy when comparing his measurables to Smith-Schuster’s. Both receivers excel at tracking the ball down the field and are ultra-competitive after the catch. Washington averaged over 20 yards per catch over his final three seasons, and Smith-Schuster had the tenth-highest YPC (15.8) amongst qualified receivers in 2017. Neither pass-catcher has ideal quickness, which means they must get open with physicality and savvy. Primarily deployed from the slot, Smith-Schuster racked up 58 catches for 917 yards and 8 total touchdowns as a rookie. Washington can have early success as the complimentary weapon in a pass-happy offense.

Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’2” 221 lbs 33” 9 ¾”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.66s 32.5” 119”
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
6.95s 4.31s 12TH Overall

Lamar Jackson – QB – Louisville

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’2” 216 lbs 33 1/8” 9 ½”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
1st Round

A quick glance at their dimensions will show you they’re similar in stature. Both quarterbacks had success in the ACC and were better collegiate passers than their reputations imply. Deshaun Watson took the NFL by storm as a rookie, throwing the most touchdown passes ever within a player’s first seven games (19). While Jackson won’t be breaking that record, he could replicate Watson’s success on the ground. Watson was on pace to rush for over 614 yards, which would have finished second amongst quarterbacks. Jackson accumulated 3,172 rushing yards in his final two seasons at Louisville and is ready to run circles around NFL defenses.

Evan Engram – TE – Ole Miss

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’3” 234 lbs 33 ½” 10”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.42s 36” 125” 19
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT SELECTION
6.92s 4.23s 23rd Overall

Mike Gesicki – TE – Penn State

HEIGHT WEIGHT ARM LENGTH HAND SIZE
6’5” 247 lbs 34” 10 1/8”
40 YARD DASH VERTICAL JUMP BROAD JUMP BENCH PRESS
4.54s 41.5” 129” 22
3 CONE 20 YARD SHUTTLE 60 YARD SHUTTLE DRAFT PREDICTION
6.76s 4.1s 11.33s 2nd Round

Gesicki and Engram are a couple of athletic freaks. Like Engram, Gesicki will be a moveable mismatch nightmare at the next level. Engram is essentially an overgrown receiver. He used his physical gifts to haul in 64 passes for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns as a rookie. Though Gesicki’s size is more reminiscent of a prototypical tight end, he is about as useless of a blocker as Engram is. If the team who drafts Gesicki allows him to play to his strengths, he too can have the instant success that Engram saw in his first NFL season.