Rook­ies with speed can fill out a ros­ter

NFL com­bine times are worth not­ing — ex­cept with QBs.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

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?

DAVID J. PHILLIP / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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