The NFL Combine + Fantasy Football = ?

 

Courtesy: NFL
Courtesy: NFL

For fantasy football fanatics the NFL Scouting Combine is just another event during the dead period of time that began at some point in December. It’s an extremely tough part of the year to even discuss what your draft strategy is going to be come August, but the weekend long event can provide a window into potential successful key picks in the mid to late rounds of your draft. Just ask anyone who drafted Robert Griffin the 3rd in the ninth round last year. Solid value picks are the key to winning a fantasy championship and the Combine is the first step for a player to create what we determine to be value.

In the past couple of years, there have been a few performances in the Combine that made us take notice. Julio Jones’ performance in 2011 (with a broken toe) validated that he could be a legitimate star in the league. In 2008, Chris Johnson foreshadowed his 1,228 yard/9 touchdown rookie season after he set the record for the fastest recorded 40 yard dash (according to the NFL), when he sprinted to a time of 4.24. In the same year Darren McFadden had an impressive 4.33 in the same event. Mike Wallace then tied McFadden’s 4.33 number in 2009.

Now obviously there are some workout warriors that had a great combine and proceeded to do didly poo on Sundays. Jacoby Ford had the second fastest recorded 40 time before this years’ Combine when he ran a  4.28 in 2010, in two seasons combined he has 749 yards and 3 touchdowns while being a fixture on the waiver wire. The ever popular Yamon Figurs ran the fastest forty from the set of receivers in 2007 (4.3), he’s had more jerseys (6) than receptions (5) and wasn’t on an NFL roster in 2012. Darius Hayward-Bay was the second receiver in this paragraph that not only tantalized Al Davis’ taste buds for speed when he ran a 4.3 in 2009, but also joined the mediocrity of the waiver wire.

The process of actually scouting college players is an inexact science, but in fantasy football there are a couple of signs that can give away when a player is going to make you say “damn I should have saw that coming” after you finish in eighth place in your league… again. The player to most likely make you say that this year is going to be Eddie Lacy, assuming that the Packers draft him in the first round.

The running back from Alabama exploded onto the national scene (and into the first round of the draft) after his dominating performance against Notre Dame in the national championship game. After two years of running in the backup role, Lacy carried the ball 204 times in his junior season and amassed 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. Yes he had the benefit of having (hyperbole alert) one of the best offensive lines in modern day college football, but his downhill, power style of running is similar to Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson. All three of those running backs not only played massive roles in getting their actual teams to the playoffs, but they no doubt helped millions of people win their fantasy leagues this season.

More importantly for Lacy and anyone who drafts him in August, the Packers desperately need to add a sufficient running game to their offensive arsenal. Yes Aaron Rodgers is the best all-around quarterback right now (my opinion), but it’s clear that the run and gun type of offense that led the Packers to a championship in 2010 isn’t going to bring another Lombardi Trophy to the land of cheese.

Enter Lacy who would provide a much needed second dimension to Mike McCarthy’s offense. The Packers would be able to prolong drives with their running game, which would pay dividends on the defensive side of the football. If Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, and DuJuan Harris could have flashes of decency, imagine what Lacy could look like. He could easily surpass Trent Richardson’s rookie numbers of 950 yards & 11 touchdowns.

 

Another interesting prospect that could be an interesting flyer in August is Denard Robinson. In January’s Senior Bowl, he was clearly still struggling to grasp the concepts of a wide receiver, at the Combine his footwork and hands were much improved. It’s still very hard to imagine what, if any team would go out of their way to draft Robinson before the fourth round, but with professional football in a transitional phase in terms of offense, Robinson could be a diamond in the rough.

It seems as if his peak potential is right around Antwaan Randel El, circa 2004-2007. The kind of do everything player that has a couple of flashes, but he isn’t really good enough at one position to just stay there. My preferred landing spot for him would be Philadelphia, just so we could see what type of trick plays Chip Kelly could come up with. Doesn’t Denard in a nice bubble screen/end around bomb (a la Mohammad Sanu) sound good enough for a fourteenth round pick?

Let me take this time to throw in a quick tangent about DeSean Jackson and why he’s a fantasy sleeper this season:

Last season was the first time in five years that Jackson failed to play at least 15 games as fractured ribs ended his 2012 campaign. Even though Jackson wasn’t able to suit up after week 11, he showed flashes of a changed individual. The Ricky Waters’ “for who, for what” virus infected Jackson’s effort level in 2011, but Jeffery Lurie cured Jackson’s sickness with a 45 million dollar ($10 mil signing bonus) remedy. It’s highly improbable that the 2011 version of D-Jax would have sacrificed his body to make a catch with Ed Reed in his peripheral, yet that’s exactly what happened this past season.

All of that sounds nice, right? Well that’s not the main reason he’s on this list. He’s here because the Eagles front office brought in an innovator to coach the team. Sure a quarterback still needs to be found and an offensive philosophy needs to be installed, but there’s no denying that Chip Kelly could vault Jackson’s fantasy value into the top 10 at his position. There are rumors swirling that Jackson will play a similar role in Kelly’s offense to Oregon running back/wide receiver/The Flash, D’anthony Thomas.

If Kelly does indeed mold Jackson into an all around offensive weapon his 2013, and he finds a way to stay healthy for all 16 games (a feat he’s only accomplished once), his career highs from 2009 will become a distant memory (1,293 total yards from scrimmage, 10 touchdowns.

There are obviously still three huge factors that could make those 247 words look moronic. One, as stated above is Jackson’s ability to stay healthy, especially if this new role involves more carries out of the backfield. Two is simply, will he be able to make the adjustment from a downfield threat, to an all around receiver. Three, will Michael Vick, or whoever ends up behind center after Vick gets hurt, be able to set DeSean up to succeed in the passing game.

With Kelly on the sidelines it seems as long as the quarterback can throw screen passes in a timely fashion, Jackson will have the most productive season of his career.

 

Okay I forgot that I wrote that two weeks ago and had to find some way to squeeze it in. Anyway…

This draft is shaping up to be dominated by interior lineman and features a buffet of meh to okay quarterback prospects. As a football culture we were definitely spoiled by last years’ rookie class and the potential of next years’ class. So it makes total sense that the year in between is dominated by the unsung heroes of the game that make our fantasy football teams function. Without prospects like Luke Joeckel more running backs would look like Chris Johnson during the early part of last season.

Indeed there will be less rookies highlighted in fantasy football guides in the dog days of summer, but maybe one will help bring home a championship this season.

I already told you who it was going to be.

Follow me @ScottDargis

Email me scottdargis18@gmail.com

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