Nov 25, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack back Jaylen Samuels (1) runs the ball during the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack won 33-21. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

2018 NFL Combine: I’ve Got My Eye On You

Dynasty season is upon us and there will be no hotter commodity than rookie picks after the NFL Draft in April. The combine is a huge part of the process and can make or break any prospect. Here are the players that I am looking forward to watching so that I can help form my evaluation of them. Who will rise? Who will fall? Tune in and find out!

The NFL Combine kicks off it’s on field drills Friday, March 2nd at 8 a.m. and rolls through Monday, March 5th. Here is the current workout itinerary by position;

Friday: Running Backs, Offensive Lineman and Special Teamers

Saturday: Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Sunday: Linebackers and Defensive Lineman

Monday: Defensive Backs

These workouts can be seen on www.nfl.com and the NFL Network.

Quarterback:

Lamar Jackson, Louisville

I can’t wait for some draft pundits to highlight Jackson’s 40 yard dash time and speculate around him converting to a wide receiver. Then as Jackson nails most of his throws in the drills pump him up as a passer. Jackson is my QB1 going into the combine and I don’t think that’s going to change. The people who think Jackson should be a wide receiver should find a new line of work. He’s going to be a blast to watch at the combine and at the next level.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Is he Johnny Manziel? Hell no! Talk about a lazy narrative. Mayfield has the best opportunity to rise on the draft boards with a great combine. Some people say he’s too short, inconsistent and doesn’t pass from the pocket very well. I’m a heart over height guy so I have zero concerns there but will be watching how well he passes from the pocket in drills.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

I know Rosen has the skills on the field to be a top QB in the draft but I’m really looking forward to hear about how his team interviews went and what his wonderlic score is. There have been some character concerns around Rosen and while they may be unwarranted in the scheme of things I think we need some reassurance around his interview results.

Sam Darnold, USC

Unfortunately, Sam Darnold will not throw at the combine and will opt to throw at USC’s pro day in March. One of the biggest critiques of Darnolds game is his throwing motion. It may be unconventional but Sam makes NFL caliber throws when it matters and overall I don’t think him not throwing at the combine will effect his draft value.

Kyle Lauletta, Richmond

After watching the Senior Bowl I came away impressed with Lauletta. His poise, accuracy and arm strength are all things that jumped out at me. He has drawn some Jimmy Garappollo comparisons and that has automatically linked him with the New England Patriots during the draft process. I’ll be watching both his measurables and on field performance very closely and I would not be shocked to hear his name as a riser post combine.

Running Back:

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Many people who’s opinion I value are calling Barkley a “generational” talent at the running back position. I want to see if the hype is real. I think we will have an answer after the combine.

Mark Walton, Miami

Walton missed the majority of his junior season with an ankle injury so he is a player with a lot to prove at the combine. I love the way Walton totes the rock. Balance, power and speed are Walton’s game. I’m interested to see how he tests in the three cone drill and short shuttle. His weight is also an important factor for his draft stock. If he comes in light he may be forced to be a third down, satellite back which ultimately isn’t a bad thing but I think he has a three down skill set.

John Kelly, Tennessee

Run angry: The John Kelly story. Talk about a punishing runner, whew boy. The 40 yard dash and agility drills will be very important for Kelly. He had a tough time running outside and on the edge in college but I think he’s more than just an in between the tackles player. Can he be explosive? I sure hope so.

Kalen Ballage, Arizona State

The most polarizing player at the position in 2018, Ballage is about to be a very buzzy name in dynasty draft circles (again). Personally, I LOVE Ballage. Size, speed, athleticism, hands make him such an intriguing prospect. The majority of the concerns around Ballage are based on his usage at ASU and his lack of vision, which is something I noticed on tape. He had a great Senior Bowl week and I think his stock continues to rise after he has an outstanding combine.

Nyheim Hines, N.C. State

My first third down passing catching back on this list. Hines can hit the home run in a variety of ways. Kickoff and punt returns, running outside zone scheme plays and catching out of the back field. He’s pretty versatile despite his smaller size. His weigh in will be important for me as he’s currently listed at 5’9″ and 197 pounds. I know the speed is there but I want to see a bit more size in order for him to carve out a role with an NFL team.

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

The forgotten man of the running back group, Bo is a player that could shoot up boards with a good combine. There is still a place in the NFL for a big bruising back. Can he be Derrick Henry 2.0? I don’t believe so as his pass catching chops aren’t nearly as good on tape. With that said I’m really watching closely as he goes through those drills to see if he’s made some improvements in that area. For now he’s a two down hammer who will be a great fit for a team with an established third down back. Detroit maybe?

Wide Receiver:

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Once a coveted dynasty option, Sutton has seen his stock fall this season. Sutton used to be in the top three conversation in 2018 dynasty rookie drafts but now questions about speed and separation have tempered expectations. We know he has the size and body control we like to see but the 40 yard dash will single handedly be the most important drill we see Sutton run.

Jordan Lasley, UCLA

I’ll be watching Lasley’s hands in all the pass catching drills extremely closely. I think Lasley has the opportunity to be the most complete receiver in this draft IF he can show improvement in the hands department. According to NFL.com Lasley dropped 21 passes over the last two seasons for a drop rate of 16%. Not so good.

Anthony Miller, Memphis 

I love Miller’s compete level and this kid has a ton of fight in his game. He’s explosive out of breaks and has great hands. I expect him to test well overall but I am very interested to see what he runs in the forty yard dash. if he can run a sub 4.5 I’ll be pretty happy with that and we should see his dynasty stock start to rise.

Auden Tate, Florida State

First of all, Go Noles! A 6’5″ 225 pound specimen of an outside receiver Tate is a long strider who has great ball skills and body control. His knock will no doubt be speed and strength so I’ll be interested to see his bench press, vertical and 40 yard dash times. People either love or hate Tate in dynasty it seems so maybe we can bring the two sides a little bit closer post combine.

Dante Pettis, Washington

An electric return man who should blaze in the 40 yard dash. His father was former long time center fielder and speedster Gary Pettis and his brother is former NFL receiver Austin Pettis. That’s one athletic family! His game reminds me a bit of John Brown. A polished route runner who has take off the top of the defense speed. Look for him to excel in all of the combine drills and shoot up draft boards!

Tight End:

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St.

Even though he looks like a creepy ice cream truck driver, Goedert is in the conversation for the TE1 in this years class. Goedert has drawn some comparisons to Hunter Henry and Zach Ertz early in the draft process. That’s very high praise. Lauded for his hands, body control and three down skillset it will be interesting to see how he tests and if his small school competition level can make the adjustment to the big leagues.

Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

The oldest player at the combine due to pursuing a major league baseball career, Hurst has the size, speed and skill set to be on the field a ton as a pro. How much will his age (he will be 25 when the season starts) hurt his draft stock?

Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan

A Jones fracture in his foot kept Conklin off the field in much of 2017 and I think he’s flying under the radar at the moment. The combine just might change that though. Athletic with great hands and a former basketball player ( a pretty good recipe for success) can he regain some of the explosiveness?

Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State

Samuels is listed with the tight ends but should be categorized as an offensive weapon. He can play running back, tight end and maybe even some receiver if you needed him too. He’s 5’11” and 223 pounds which also puts him in a weird spot. Most teams will think he’s too small to play the TE position and too big to be  WR. Ultimately I think he is a running back. He has some of the most natural hands I’ve seen in this class and if he gets drafted by a team that will use him all over the field that would be best case scenario.

Ian Thomas, Indiana

Another athletic specimen who is a bit raw. I see some long term potential with Thomas as a deep dynasty stash in rookie drafts. I haven’t watched any tape on him so it will be fun to have a fresh set of eyes while watching him at the combine.

Thanks for reading and make sure to come back next week as I add my notes from each prospects combine performance! Head over to the Trophy Time podcast tab and download or listen to our latest episode where we cover even more NFL prospects.

 

 

 

 

 

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