NFL Combine Players to “Watch”

We here at the Art of Score have taken some time off to either lick our collective wounds, or in Ron’s case to celebrate the glory of the Seahawks’ 1st ever NFL title.   We have some big things coming in 2014, a new site design and more consistent content.   But to be truthful, that all takes a while to get off the ground.

So in the meantime, we will try to keep you updated the best we can on the 2014 NFL off season.  Expect podcasts and articles on the draft and free agency to be forthcoming – and in that spirit let’s take a quick look at the NFL Combine which is happening this very weekend in Indy.

When the average person (myself included) talks about the combine there’s no realistic way to judge the participating players.  We don’t get to scout these guys at their college practices year round, we don’t get to know the extenuating personal circumstances that may go into a one day performance, and we don’t have access to player interviews which may shed light on the hidden value (or damage) of players.

So, while the Combine is a debatablely flawed metric system (is there value in underwear running – outside of a college frat?) for NFL teams to evaluate players – it’s even less credible for an outside viewer sitting at home.

I recommend you read a book, play video games, or make a bad ass rock opera (doesn’t the world really need one of those right now?) rather than tune into any part of the NFL Combine.  Your untrained eye is going to tell you exactly zero about what’s going on…

So when I use the word “watch” for NFL Combine purposes it means – sometime next week find the combine results online and read them in black and white.  The Combine is really a pass/fail situation for players it and they’ll be plenty of articles written about who succeeded in performing acceptably, and who failed.

For fantasy purposes the Combine results are almost worthless to those of you in redraft leagues.  By the time you guys draft your fantasy teams for 2014, the incoming rookies will have already been drafted to their NFL teams and they will have already had some training camp and preseason.  In other words, much more substantial information will be available about their potential futures than some track meet numbers.

In dynasty leagues where your draft may be closer to the actual NFL draft, and occur before preseason really begins – the Combine numbers can be a more useful base of information.  Still though, I will maintain the real value in the combine is to track the potential “story” of each player.   For players who can pair up good combine results with college production – it becomes all roses, for players who have poor college production, but good combine performances – or vice versa – the questions become about the real weight of NFL physical metrics vs college game tape.

I’m not here to settle debates, I’m not telling you to turn in live to watch the Combine – what I am telling you is from a fantasy perspective at some point next week I’m checking the results of the players below – not to make a decision on them, but to start tracking their stories as they get ready to begin their rookie seasons.  How was the player thought of pre-combine?  How was he thought of post combine?  In camp?  etc….all these pieces help you draft players in fantasy and it starts with just a simple checklist around this time of year….

So here’s whom I’m “watching” at the combine.

QB Teddy Bridgewater Louisville –  To me Bridgewater is the only potential multi-year starter at the NFL level.  If he participates in the 40 yard dash and the shuttle – I want those numbers, but I’m not gonna concern myself with his throwing unless he completely embarrasses himself.   QB Combines are tough b/c they have to throw to WR’s they aren’t familiar with, who are also aren’t professionals. The “eye” test on QB throws at the Combine is just not all that relevant to me.  Bridgewater doesn’t bring the freaky mobility of a Vick or a RG3, but he is known for being a mobile pocket moving type of college QB – so his shuttle and 40 times could actually yield some useful metrics.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo  Eastern Illinois – Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Tajh Boyd are all potential flops for me at the next level.  A good combine showing by any of them won’t really change my mind (unless Manziel clocks in at 4-5 inches taller than expected), but Garoppolo is intriguing in that he is gaining momentum from draftnicks as a viable NFL starter.  I don’t know about that. The college production was there against bad opponents, and I don’t think his measurables at the combine will wow anyone. I’m looking though to see if he comes out of the combine with good buzz – if he comes out with good buzz, and then is drafted to the right team, those 2 things together would make me more interested in following him in preseason – even if he has no clear path to being a starter in 2014.

RB Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona – This is a player I think that has to absolutely be both faster and heavier than he’s expected to be – some people think he’s the draft’s best RB – but from a fantasy perspective at 5’10 and 210lbs he’s slated for a situational role to me if he can’t improve on his weight.  His Combine numbers may tell us he’s very quick – but to put it in context we’ll need to hear how the NFL views him.   Even if he winds up being the 1st RB taken, if doesn’t seem to have a chance for early down work – it would affect his fantasy value.

RB Carlos Hyde – Ohio St & RB Jeremy Hill LSU – Hyde may be the best RB of the class if he can prove a little quicker than anticipated.  At a college playing weight of around 240, and a height of 6″ – if he can somehow break into a 40 time of the 4.5’s he could cement his top spot.  Hill is also a rising stock player with a similar 6’2 235 frame who could turn heads with good shuttle and 40 times.

RB Tre Mason – Auburn & RB Bishop Sankey- Washington:  Both of these guys were productive college players, but at around 200 pounds they need to be faster than their previous on-record 40 times in the 4.6’s.

WR Sammy Watkins – Clemson –  You have to check in on the trending #1 skill position player in the 2014 class, don’t you?  I guess so, but I’m not sure what combine numbers will tell us about Watkins.  From what I’ve seen of him he doesn’t physically measure up to AJ Green or Julio Jones whom he’s been compared to in dynasty circles.  I think that notion is being perpetuated by a perception that the RB’s are not strong for 2014 – and there is great WR depth, and Watkins is at the top of great depth.  And he may well be the best of a good group, but I don’t know that that means he’s great.  I guess you monitor to be sure he didn’t get hurt or disappoint, but I can’t imagine his combine affects his stock much in either direction.

WR Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State, WR Allen Robinson – Penn State, and WR Brandon Coleman – Rutgers:  Now these guys are my type of fantasy producers.  All of them are 6’3 or taller and have run 40 times in the past under 4.6.   Benjamin and Robinson will be given early round looks in the draft unless they tank the combine, but Coleman needs good mobility numbers to really move up.   Coleman ( 6’6!) has had some knee issues so it’s possible he could use the combine to put those doubts to rest by being healthy and running faster.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington: To me the TE’s for 2014 begin and end with this guy. Sure there are stable and reliable guys for real life NFL teams – guys who block, and have some speed and some size.   But Jenkins is on the tape for college at like 6’6 266 pounds and a listed 40 time of 4.60 flat.  He needs a lot of polish, but he’s the only TE in this class to me right now that could be a Gronkowski or a Graham for your fantasy team.   Better yet he projects at his size to be an inline TE, meaning that he won’t come off the field very often and isn’t dependent on being split out into the slot for his production.

As every year the combine will produce some out of nowhere “stars”, but if you start with the guys above and some other “big” names you can get a feel for how the days went.   Those of you in IDP leagues can certainly monitor some defensive players, but to me defensive players depend so much on where they are drafted (to the NFL) that it’s not really worth judging them too much on the combine.

So “watch” these guys in some fashion and just take it in.  It’s not the be all and end all for fantasy purposes,  but hey – unless you’re a Seahawks fan – it’s good to have some part of the football season back.

If you are interested in torturing yourself – or you’re an addict (like myself) here’s the schedule for the combine live:

» Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams
» Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
» Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
» Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs

: by Mike

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