Rookies with speed can fill out a roster
NFL combine times are worth noting — except with QBs.
The NFL scouting combine has wrapped up and provided results that fantasy football owners should definitely bear in mind.
NFL rookies have made recent big splashes when it comes to fantasy football production. Think 2016 and Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard and Tyreek Hill. Elliott and Howard were Nos. 1 and 2 in rushing yards last season and Hill, despite getting very little playing time, ended up as a top-15 wide receiver for fantasy.
The NFL combine results can give us a clue as to which incoming rookies have the talent, if not the fanfare, to possibly make an impact early in their careers.
First, let’s look at the fastest rookies at the combine.
John Ross, a wide receiver out of Washington, broke Chris Johnson’s record (4.24 seconds) in the 40-yard dash, at 4.22.
Ross previously recovered from a torn ACL two years ago. He’s expected to be the third wideout taken in the draft. His speed makes him an interesting fantasy prospect, but he’s not just a speed demon. He can get open, and if he ends up with a team that knows how to use him, he could pay off for owners willing to draft him.
The second-fastest skill player was Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel, who can line up in multiple positions but can be considered a project as a wide receiver.
As they say, however, you can’t teach speed. If he ends up going to a team with a bona fide offensive guru calling plays, he could end up contributing early. Don’t use a high pick on him no matter where he goes, but remember his speed later in your draft.
The fastest running back at the combine was North Carolina’s T.J. Logan. His 4.37 was more than a tenth of a second faster than Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette. He’s not a better prospect than those running backs, but you can’t forget about him when you get to later rounds of the draft.
Another name you should remember is tight end Evan Engram. He finished his 40 in 4.42, faster than a lot of wideouts, and is an athletic player who can catch passes all over the field. His biggest weaknesses are in technique, things he can correct with proper guidance. He could be a starter early, and that means he could be a steal in late rounds as your backup tight end.
Josh Malone also posted a great time at the combine. The receiver’s 4.40 can make some forget that he was a late bloomer in terms of production in college — he had one good season at Tennessee, his junior year, before declaring for the 2017 draft. He has good size and his route running is better than average for a receiver as big as he is. He’s another one to look for late in your draft when you’ve got your WR1 and WR2 already set.
One more name worth mentioning is Taywan Taylor, a receiver out of Western Kentucky who didn’t have an amazing time in the 40 (4.50), but posted the top time in the three-cone drill alongside McCaffrey. He’ll most likely play in the slot, and he’ll have opportunities to break open plays with his quickness.
Again, no need to reach on a player like him, but remember his potential after you’ve got your starters in place.
Trevor Knight, Joshua Dobbs and Patrick Mahomes put up interesting numbers in the 40 and the three-cone drill. Of all the positions that go through timing drills at the combine, however, you learn the least about quarterbacks based on those results. So much more is involved in finding a signal caller who will excel at the next level. Base your rankings of rookie QBs on their body of work instead of combine times.
Bad or mediocre teams
Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets and San Francisco. Hard to picture Romo wanting any part of these slugs, and the teams on this list better know they are more than “one player away.”
Letting the imagination run wild, perhaps the Jets or Bears make a play for Romo. Nah, we don’t see it.
Good teams with decent QBs
■ Arizona: Carson Palmer is even older (37) than Romo, though he doesn’t break down like Romo. Can’t picture it.
■ Kansas City : A lot of Chiefs media and some fans are fantasizing about a gunslinger like Romo instead of boring game manager Alex Smith. But Smith is sturdy and reliable, and what happens to the locker room if the Chiefs make a play for Romo and don’t get him? Las Vegas makes KC the third-most likely landing spot.
■ Minnesota: The Vikings are hoping Teddy Bridgewater comes back and invested a first-round draft pick in Sam Bradford. OK, Bradford redefined the word mediocrity last year, and nobody is quite sure about Bridgewater’s recovery from a horrific knee injury. It would seem desperate to chase Romo, but we rate Minnesota an intriguing long-shot option.
■ Washington: Kirk Cousins is getting another expensive franchise tag, though rumors persist of a possible trade. Wouldn’t it be one of the great subplots in NFL history if the Redskins deal Cousins and sign Romo for the ultimate revenge tour? Bet your boots that Jerry won’t let that happen.
Contenders who need a QB
This list is short, but has the two most logical choices.
■ Denver: The Broncos have a ready-made Super Bowl-caliber team that needs a deft touch behind center. Paxton Lynch may be the future, or possibly even Trevor Siemian. But they don’t look like the present. Then again, do you go after Romo and kill the young quarterbacks’ development? John Elway is a smart guy, and he thinks a lot of Romo.
■ Houston: This is the one possibility that makes sense from every avenue. Provided, of course, the Texans think of a creative way to dump Brock Osweiler’s $19 million salary (“paging the Cleveland Browns”). The Texans seem one good quarterback away from Super Bowl contention.
Romo could stay in Texas, get a new start in a difference conference so as not to tarnish his Cowboys legacy and play indoors or in warm weather. Imagine what a folk hero he would be if he led the Texans to a place they’ve never been before. Our pick: H-town. How ’bout them Texans?
Ohio State receiver Curtis Samuel ran a 4.31-second 40 at the combine, and his speed alone makes him a late-round option for fantasy owners.