IDP Corner: 2018 Pre-Combine

COMBINE SEASON has returned!

The NFL postseason shenanigans are over and the league is on the verge of its yearly reset, and I’m genuinely pumped for the combine this year. Not that I wasn’t last year, but it kinda snuck up on me, while this year I feel significantly more ready. On-field workouts start tomorrow, but defenders won’t get their chance til Sunday. With plenty of players on my radar, you’ll find below are a selection of them who specifically have my interest for one reason or another. This is not a “top 5 at each position” type listing, but more a “who I am watching, who has my eye, who might change their stars”.

Defensive Linemen:

Hercules Mata’afa – DT/DE – Washington State University: Mr. Mata’afa wins the award for my favorite name of this year’s draft, and if you’ve been reading my articles for a while now, you know I love fun names. Having played mainly interior line (DT) in college, Hercules is rather undersized for such a role in the NFL, he doesn’t have the speed that’s typical of an edge rusher be it a DE or OLB. True to his name though, Hercules has the heart and the motor that will put his career floor at a special teams stand out, but depending how he steps up to the demands of playing in the NFL he could be much more. With mid-round NFL Draft expectations, you’ll likely want to put him on your radar for early season performance before adding him to your dynasty team.

Marcus Davenport DE – University of Texas at San Antonio: What will be interesting to look at for Davenport will be how his nonlinear running drills go. He has good speed for a DE on a 4 man line but has shown to have problems changing direction. Overall his senior bowl performance was only alright against an underwhelming offensive line, so he’ll need to prove that he’ll be worth his current speculative 1st/2nd round pick projections currently. Personally, I’ll be evaluating where he lands to decide if I’ll be targeting him in the later rounds of my dynasty draft.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo DE – University of Oklahoma: Positioned as “EDGE” on the NFL Draft site, I see Okoronkwo more as a DE than an OLB, mainly for how often he can get lost when he’s asked to go into coverage. That said, almost anything you read about him talks about his work ethic which I think bodes well for him. Similar to Mata’afa unless he turns in an amazing combine and gets drafted like he’ll be a day 1 starter, I’ll likely be waiting till I see in season production to add him to my dynasty team.

Nathan Shepard DTFort Hays State University: An extremely raw talented Senior coming out of Division II, Shepard has to prove he can handle NFL speed and strength. That is a huge red flag, but man is this guy talented, and physical, and leaves it all on the field. There is a chance he raises in the NFL Draft, but I think he’ll stay in the 4th to 5th round projections that he’s seeing currently, but if he gets with the right team that is willing to develop him, he could be a real gem in the rough. In a dynasty league that plays the DL position, it’ll be tough to draft Shepard, in leagues that start DT spots, I’m taking him in the 4th or later round, I think he’s worth the investment risk.

Arden Key – DE – Louisiana State University: Key has a super slippery game, with decent strength but, only moderate speed, he’s shown that he can rush inside and outside which could get him into a starting job. The concern that falls on Key is that his last season was arguably his least spectacular (partially to be expected since he only started 8 games), but there is also a question of his ability to stay focused on football when off the field. He will get drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft barring a horrible showing at the combine, I personally wouldn’t think of drafting Key unless a super late round opportunity should arise, I think others will be higher on Key and as a result he’ll likely go earlier than that in most dynasty drafts.

Defensive Backs:

Minkah Fitzpatrick – S – University of Alabama: Arguably the best defender in the draft, maybe even player, Fitzpatrick will go in the top 10 of the NFL Draft. He plays the new slot corner style of play which is a hybrid of Safety and Cornerback, his fantasy value will fall too if he lands on a team that has or is willing to adopt the slot corner position. Most likely Fitzpatrick will be the first DB drafted in your dynasty rookie draft, I’m targeting him in the late 2nd round at the earliest as DBs are not as productive as LBs in my league.

Jaire Alexander – CB – University of Louisville: Alexander is really an example of where the combine really can determine where and when he gets drafted. He came back and played the last 3 games of the season after a knee injury, we’ll quickly find out if he can meet his expectations in the combine. Right now he’s expected to be drafted in the NFL between the 2nd and the 3rd round. In dynasty right now I have him in the 4th round til I see how he does in the combine and then where he’s drafted, either way, I wouldn’t take him any earlier than the 3rd.

Tarvarus McFadden – CB – Florida State University: A physically long player who does a great job in underneath coverage. The knocks on McFadden is pretty much everything else, most specifically that he gave up too many touchdowns as a starter, his speed is underwhelming on the field, and strength doesn’t seem to be there when needing to contest a ball. Unless he surprises at the combine, I think McFadden ends up being drafted in the 3rd round for the NFL, in dynasty, I think the team he ends up on could make him draftable, but right now, I’m not looking to draft him.

Kyzir White – S – West Virginia University: A team leader with a strong motor, White is not an overwhelming athlete as much as he is willing to play hard every play. It sounds like most people that are scouting him expect him to transition into a slot corner… that is more focused on tight ends than slot receivers. If White shows better than expected speed, he could move up to an early 2nd round draft position for the NFL, I think he’ll be worth grabbing in the 4th round of a dynasty draft.

Isaiah Oliver CB – University of Colorado: Likely to go off the board no later than the 2nd round for the NFL Draft, Oliver has the size, speed, and strength to play at the pro level. There does appear to be holes in where or how he can cover, which is a concern, but is also a teachable thing. I expect Oliver to potentially go in the 3rd round of my dynasty rookie draft, and depending on where he lands I may even personally target him in that round as well since he could be worth the price on the right team.

Linebackers:

Tegray Scales ILB – Indiana University: Known as having great instincts to always be in the action and be making plays, Scales brought in all kinds of defensive accolades in his senior year. I personally think his size is over criticised and is what is causing him to be projected to be drafted around the 4th or 5th round of the NFL Draft, rather than more like the 3rd. I will be looking for a potential sleeper 4th round grab in my dynasty league to get Scales.

Skai Moore – OLB- University of South Carolina: On the opposite end of the size spectrum criticism from Scales, Moore is criticized for being too lean and slow for such leanness. I think dynasty wise Moore will be a player that I’ll evaluate in season before trying to acquire him, in the NFL Draft there is speculation that he may go undrafted. If he can show some strong numbers at the combine I think he does end up on a team coming out of the draft.

Nick DeLuca – OLB – North Dakota State University: While his size is there, durability concerns are what is keeping DeLuca projected as a 7th round or Undrafted player. He’s shown great instinct and again I think I’ll be waiting til in season play starts before truly thinking about putting him on my team. That said I think he has a much better chance than Moore does at being drafted, and raising above more than a special teamer in his first season.

Rashaan Evans – LB – University of Alabama: If it wasn’t for Roquon Smith and Tremaine Edwards being in this year’s draft, Evans would likely be the first LB off the board in the NFL Draft. It’s still very likely that he is on a team in the first half of the 1st round. He has sideline to sideline play making ability. Being at the top of most draft boards, really the combine is more a test to see if there was anything that we’ve missed to make sure that he’ll be worth taking in the 2nd round of my dynasty draft.

Leighton Vander Esch – LB – Boise State University: I’m hoping that Vander Esch drops to the 2nd round in the NFL Draft so that he gets some time to develop more this season and add a little more size. He’ll be perfectly fine if he’s a starter out of the gate this year he has plenty of skill and ability and more than enough instincts, but if he ends up on a team where he is given time like Zach Cunningham was this year, I think he could develop into a special player. I expect I’ll be drafting him in the 3rd round of my dynasty draft.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all get to enjoy the combine this year. Be on the lookout next week for my follow up to the combine. For everything else go look at the words on tffgurus.com that not only I’ve written but, all my cohorts have!

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