FANTASY FOOTBALL NFL DRAFT COVERAGE

2012 NFL Draft: Combine Recap
John Tuvey
February 29, 2012
 

The 2012 Scouting Combine is in the rear-view mirror, which means scouts can retreat to the film room to finalize draft boards, the Under Armor spandex can be covered up by team t-shirts and shorts and fantasy owners can start projecting where skill position players might end up—both in the NFL and in the fantasy rankings.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch the NFL Network’s exhaustive coverage of the Underwear Olympics, or even if you did but were too mesmerized by Dontari Poe’s 4.87 or Rich Eisen’s 6.03 to take cognizant notes, here’s a rundown of what the Combine could mean for those players fantasy owners are keeping a close eye on.

QUARTERBACKS

To the surprise of few, big guns Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III didn’t throw in Indy, their decision made easier as word leaked out that Cam Newton’s poor showing last year was due at least in part due to the WRs not being on the same page as the QBs. However, both found other ways to impress—especially in team interviews, where both flashed off-the-charts intangibles.

On the field, Griffin blazed a 4.38 40 with a 39-inch vertical jump and 10-foot broad jump; perhaps more importantly, he measured in at 6-2 to help allay concerns he might be too small to withstand the physical punishment a running quarterback absorbs. Though he’s not quite as fast as Michael Vick and not nearly as big as Newton, Griffin nonetheless possesses a rare athleticism for the position. And he’s demonstrated more accuracy than either, making him a unique player at what is fast becoming the most critical fantasy position.

Luck, meanwhile, ran an impressive 4.59 (third among QBs) and added 36-inch vertical and 10-foot-4 broad jumps, suggesting he’ll bring much more athleticism to the Colts’ quarterback position than they’re used to seeing with Peyton Manning. With the size and mobility to be Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket and the arm and vision to be another Manning, Luck should make an immediate fantasy impact as well.

Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler also opted not to throw due to foot injuries, leaving the door open for other QBs to move up the draft board. Kirk Cousins took advantage, standing out in passing drills to give his stock a boost in much the same manner Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder saw theirs climb last year through the Senior Bowl and Combine and into the second and first rounds, respectively. While Tannehill and veteran rookie Brandon Weeden are the most likely consolation prizes to those QB-needy teams who miss out on Luck and Griffin or Matt Flynn and Manning in free agency, Cousins pushed his way into the conversation as well.

RUNNING BACKS

The consensus top running back in this class, Trent Richardson, didn’t work out due to recent knee surgery and while no one threatened Richardson’s status atop the class there was plenty going on at the tier directly beneath him.

At 212 pounds and with a position-leading 4.40 in the 40 Lamar Miller flashed the physical tools to be an immediate impact feature back. Doug Martin is a shade shorter and a few pounds heavier than Miller, and was barely a blink behind him with a 4.47 40; he also threw up an RB-best 28 reps in the bench and wowed with a 6.79 3-cone drill that highlighted his ability to change directions quickly. And David Wilson (4.49 officially, almost a tenth faster unofficially) posted the best vertical (41 inches) and broad (11 feet) jumps for the position to keep his name in the mix as well.

Among the speed backs, LaMichael James was officially clocked at 4.45 but unofficially registered as low as 4.37 on some watches, as did Chris Rainey. Isaiah Pead’s official time of 4.47 was solid, and he built on his Senior Bowl MVP with strong showings in the position drills as well. Pead could still push for a larger share of a backfield workload, but at minimum he joins James and Rainey as backs with the speed and quickness to carve out touches early in their NFL careers.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Justin Blackmon, widely considered the top receiver on most draft boards, not only chose not to run the 40 at the Combine due to a hamstring injury but also measured in at 6-0, a couple inches shorter than advertised. His productivity on film and a decent 40 at his Pro Day should limit the damage to his draft stock. Also opting not to run was Alshon Jeffery, a surprising development considering he weighed in at a svelte 216 pounds after rumors placed him closer to 250.

While Blackmon and Jeffery didn’t run, Michael Floyd did—and posted an official 4.47 (unofficially 4.42) to erase any concerns about his lack of speed. Stephen Hill’s 4.36 (unofficially 4.30) led all wide receivers, and at 6-4, 215 he’s an almost ideal combination of size and speed—though a slow shuttle time emphasizes that Hill’s speed is primarily straight-line. While there are concerns about his ability to transition to the NFL from Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, that Demaryius Thomas has found success in Denver certainly helps Hill’s case.

Another size/speed combo who helped his draft stock was Tommy Streeter, who ran an official 4.40 (unofficially as low as 4.34) at 6-4 and change and 219 pounds. Marvin McNutt’s official time checked in at 4.54, but the 6-2, 216 pounder was clocked by some as low as 4.42. Most scouts indicated McNutt didn’t play at that speed, but it was sending them back to the film for more analysis.

On the other hand, Kendall Wright and Joe Adams were expected to run faster than their respective 4.61 and 4.55 (unofficially 4.44) official clockings. And maybe they did, as unofficial clockings had Adams as low as 4.44 and Wright at 4.45—causing many to question the league’s “official” clocking procedures. Wright’s times can be attributed to poor track starts on his run, and he sparkled in position drills; combined with a bevy of good film, Wright’s stock shouldn’t be dramatically affected by the slow times.

TIGHT ENDS

After blowing up the weight room with 35 reps on the bench press—eight more than any other tight end and a better total than all but one offensive linemen—Orson Charles was set to own the Combine. However, he opted not to run or jump and though he did participate in position drills (and looked just fine) it’s puzzling he chose not to lay down a 40 time that would solidify his spot atop the tight end rankings.

Dwayne Allen’s 4.89 40 was disappointing, leaving the door open for lesser-known players like Ladarius Green, Evan Rodriguez (4.58), and deep sleeper James Hanna (4.49) to make waves. At 6-5 and change, Green is more in the mold of Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley than his position mates, and a 4.53 40 time makes him an intriguing option at a position whose fantasy value exploded in 2011. At a shade under 6-2 Rodriguez is more H-back or oversized slot guy than in-line tight end, but his 4.58 40 and some of the better shuttle times in his group suggest he has the athleticism to be a mismatch problem and a fantasy asset if given the opportunity. And Hanna’s 4.49 came out of nowhere, forcing teams to take another look at the 6-3, 252-pounder (who also put up 24 reps on the bench, jumped a position-high 36 inches, and matched Rodriguez’ 11.43 in the 60-yard shuttle) as a pass-catching tight end with the athleticism to contribute immediately.


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