NFL Combine 2017 Observations

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The NFL Combine, much like the NFL Draft, draws mixed reactions from casual fans. Some see it as a way to learn more about the next generation of players, while others consider it a glorified meat market and made-for-TV event that doesn't reliably predict future success. If you play in a dynasty or rookie fantasy football league, chances are you are following each event and 40 time closely and adjusting your draft sheets accordingly.

While we should be careful not to overreact to the number of bench press reps done by every wide receiver, there are certainly some important observations that can be gleaned from this event. In lieu of analyzing every skill player that is draft-eligible, we'll focus here on the most likely to have a fantasy impact in 2017, as well as those who helped or hurt their stock the most.

Here are some early observations from the 2017 NFL combine that could benefit fantasy owners in all formats, especially those drafting early in MFL10 or dynasty leagues.

 

Top NFL Draft Prospects - Combine Analysis

Leonard Fournette (RB, Louisiana State) - Fournette could be the first skill player drafted, although he's been linked to several different teams, none of which will make fantasy owners smile (Browns, Jets, Eagles). His 4.51 40 and disappointing 28.5" vertical don't scream stud, but he is one player where the sum is greater than the whole of the parts. Fournette has been compared to Adrian Peterson and even Bo Jackson, although those are certainly the upper-end of his ceiling. Nothing at the Combine should affect his value either way.

Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) - Cook's stock remains mostly static after a 4.49 40 that should be enough to keep him in the first round, considering Fournette didn't outdo him. Cook shined most in the bench press, where he finished with 22 reps. He isn't known as a tough runner, so his display of strength could help. Cook's character issues are still in question and won't go away before draft day. Then again, there were similar questions about Ezekiel Elliott.

Alvin Kamara (RB, Tennessee) - Kamara was projected to be a second-rounder, but that isn't a guarantee. Like Cook, Kamara already enters with baggage in terms of personal trouble and injuries. Kamara did his best to impress scouts, however, by leading all RB with a 39.5" vertical and 131" broad jump. His physical talent is obvious, but teams will have to invest in a player who never accumulated 1,000 total yards in a season.

Mike Williams (WR, Clemson) - A limited participant in this year's combine, Williams didn't run a 40 or any of the speed events. He put up a modest 32.5" vertical, 121" broad jump, and 15 reps on the bench. Williams doesn't need anything to boost his stock, as he is expected to be a first-round pick regardless. Williams racked up 98 catches, 1,361 receiving yards and 11 TD as a redshirt junior at Clemson.

Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan) - Davis also did not take part in the Combine due to ankle surgery that took place in January, leading many to wonder whether it should be he or Williams as the first receiver taken. Davis helped Western Michigan to their best season ever with a 13-1 record and a #15 finish in the AP poll. Davis hauled in 5,278 yards over his four-year college career.

 

Potential Combine Risers

Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford) - It's official - McCaffrey is a Combine stud. He opened some eyes by posting top performer stats in five different categories, including a 4.48 40 and RB-best 11.03 60-yard shuttle. McCaffrey's versatility will make him a desirable commodity, as some experts are now placing him in the first round. He doesn't have the same upside as Fournette or Cook, but don't sleep on him because of his size. Think Danny Woodhead, with a bit more speed.

John Ross (WR, Washington) - When you break the record for fastest 40 time in Combine history, that's worth noting. His inhuman 4.22 in the event broke Chris Johnson's previous record of 4.24 set in 2008. Oh, he was also a top performer in the broad jump too, tying for third among receivers. Ross was already projected to be a 2nd-round pick by most experts, but this may raise his fantasy stock depending on where he lands in the NFL draft. Keep in mind that the fastest WR 40 time previously belonged to Jerome Mathis of Hampton in 2005. Remember him? Didn't think so. He had one good year as a kick returner in Houston but barely saw the field as a receiver and ended his NFL career after three seasons. Boost Ross a tick in your rankings, but not too much.

Curtis Samuel (WR, Ohio State) - Samuel finished second among all receivers with a 4.37 40 time. He was also one of the top performers in the vertical jump with a 37" mark that tied him for fifth among receivers, along with John Ross, KD Cannon, and Josh Reynolds. It's unclear whether Samuel will be better off at RB or WR at the next level, which could affect his draft status. Still, he showed good burst and comes from a winning program, so he gets some slack.

Aaron Jones (RB, Texas-El Paso) - Playing at UTEP didn't do him any favors, but Jones appears to have the physical tools to be an impact player in the NFL. Jones put up top notch numbers in five different categories, including a 127" broad jump and 37" vertical. Just 5'9", Jones could find work as a short-yardage back with some burst, but will have to work his way into playing time.

Speedy Noil (WR, Texas A&M) - Could Noil be this year's Tyreek Hill? Noil placed first among WR with a 43.5" vertical and tied John Ross with a 133" broad jump. Disappointingly, he didn't participate in the 40-yard dash. A top recruit out of high school, Noil didn't make much of an impact after his freshman year and saw his yards from scrimmage drop each season. He will surely find a home in the NFL as a kick returner, with the chance to help on offense if he lands on a receiver-hungry team.

Evan Engram (TE, Mississippi) - Although OJ Howard and David Njoku are the only tight ends expected to have a chance at first-round status, Engram has closed the gap considerably. Engram ran an outstanding 4.42 40, good for seventh overall and better than most wide receivers. Engram also posted a 36" vertical, and a 6.92 in the three-cone drill, which was slightly behind Howard but ahead of Njoku. Don't be surprised if Engram makes an immediate impact in the league.

Pat Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech) - He didn't outperform Mitch Trubisky, but Mahomes may show the greatest improvement in draft stock since Trubisky is already expected to be the top QB selected. Mahomes (4.80) ran a faster 40 than DeShone Kizer (4.83). He was also a top performer in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He is more of a project, but don't sleep on Mahomes as a long-term QB prospect.

 

Potential Combine Fallers

DeShone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame) - When you think of Kizer, you think of a big, athletic quarterback. His combine results showed that he is definitely still big. Kizer finished dead last at his position in the 20-yard shuttle (4.53), three-cone drill (7.40), and was in the bottom five in vertical jump (107") and 40-yard dash (4.83). Kizer has the arm strength, but if he proves to be a statue in the pocket, he may get eaten alive by NFL defenders.

Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma) - There were already questions about his ability to help in the passing game. Running a 4.65 40, seventh-lowest among all running backs, won't help. He acquitted himself well in the 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.71 seconds, but that won't be enough to help him jump up in the rankings. Any temptation of comparing him to Derrick Henry should be squashed as bench press is the only event in which Perine performed better (it was a beastly 30 reps though). Perine is smartly looking to parlay a huge bowl game into an NFL contract, but he will have to prove he is more than just a short yardage back to be fantasy relevant.

Drew Morgan (WR, Arkansas) - Placing dead-last at your position in the 40 is bad enough, but when you are a wide receiver it could be a death knell to your draft stock. At 6'0", 190 lb, Morgan doesn't have the size to make up for the lack of speed he displayed at the Combine. A good 60-yard shuttle time (11.19 sec) can't excuse bottom of the barrel results in nearly every other event. He will have to hope a team takes a chance on his hands to make him a slot receiver, but he doesn't appear draft-worthy in dynasty leagues.

Travis Rudolph (WR, Florida State) - Receivers coming out of Tallahassee usually get the benefit of the doubt, but Rudolph's stock is sure to fall after last weekend. A 4.65 40 and no top-five numbers in any event will make him a late-round depth pick in the NFL Draft. At just 189 pounds, he doesn't appear to be anything more than a poor man's Rashad Greene.

Jordan Leggett (TE, Clemson) - It may be a good thing that Leggett didn't participate in the 40-yard dash. He had disappointing measurables in the vertical (33"), broad jump (114"), and bench press (18 reps) compared to other tight ends. Leggett was an important part of the National Championship Clemson team and caught 15 touchdowns the last two seasons combined. That alone may not be enough to earn him a draft spot.


Check out RotoBaller's famous 2017 fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!