Cheers to another NFL Draft Combine in the books. Today we’re ranking and counting down the top 10 NFL Draft Prospects for the 2015 fantasy football season.
10. Todd Gurley
It would be downright disrespectful not to have Todd on this list. We’re on a first name basis, so. Had he not suffered a torn ACL back in November, Gurley would very likely have topped this list. Unfortunately, for both football fans and fantasy players alike, it’s nearly impossible to predict how a player will bounce back from an injury of this severity.
The former Georgia Bulldog had all the makings of a featured back in the NFL, and he still might. We’ve seen plenty of players bounce back from an ACL tear stronger than before, just look at Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson for instance. This type of injury normally takes roughly a year to come back from which would throw Gurley into the fantasy mix in the latter stage of the 2015 season. If he can triumph and complete rehab successfully, Gurley will be a steal for those who shelter him until his return.
He’s an explosive player with a unique blend of smashing power and breakaway speed. He’s been compared to Marshawn Lynch on many occasions and it’s not a stretch to say that’s accurate. Consider Gurley a late round draft pick to stash away, holding potential low-end RB1 upside available during fantasy playoff time.
9. Jay Ajayi
At 6 ft, 221 lbs Jay Ajayi has ideal size for an NFL running back. Coming from a soccer background, Ajayi’s hips and feet are rarely out of sync enabling him to mix together multiple juke moves on defenders simultaneously. Scouts are really high on the Boise State product because of his excellent ball carrier vision which he uses to hit the edge for big runs as well as possessing the toughness to fight for extra yards in the trenches. I’d say he’s a guy with more speed than quickness. Here’s what I mean by that. When I watch some of his film, he doesn’t exactly explode through the line, but once he gets into the secondary, his long distance speed gives him the ability to break away.
A running back scout from the AFC had this to say about Ajayi at the combine: “Of all the backs in this draft, Ajayi might be my favorite because he can do everything you want from a back and you don’t have to find a complementary back to pick up the slack for him in any one area.”
He’s a versatile back that could develop into something special in the NFL. While he only ran 4.57 40-yard dash, I think it’s time we start looking past speed as the primary measurement for potential/successful running backs.
A lot, and I mean A LOT, of this ranking will depend on the team Marcus Mariota gets drafted by. The same can be said about almost all prospects, but Mariota in particular. Rumors of teams looking to trade up for the all-world Oregon Duck have been swirling around at a high rate. But there’s one team that will set the NFL ablaze with Mariota under center. That being the Philadelphia Eagles. If Chip Kelly can find a way to trade up and steal Mariota, he’ll flourish in that system. His ability to run, given his 4.5 40-yard dash, and the ease in which the Eagles move the ball on offense will shoot Mariota into fantasy relevance, a top 12 fantasy QB.
That being said, there’s two sides to every story. Here’s the other angle. Tampa Bay selects Winston, Tennessee Titans select Marcus Mariota, game over. Give me Carson Palmer, Colin Kaepernick, hell, give me Derek Carr as my fantasy QB over Mariota in 2015.
It’s rare for a rookie quarterback to enter the NFL and impact the fantasy world. There’s a steep learning curve. This, of course, applies to everyone except Andrew Luck. The point is, I don’t see crazy upside in any of the QB’s this year from a fantasy perspective, but Winston could certainly prove me wrong. He’ll likely be heading to Tampa Bay come April where he’ll be paired up with a couple of dynamite WR’s named Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. It’s a better situation then most rookies get thrown into, and Winston certainly has the arm to deliver the goods.
Winston received a prospect rating of 95, the highest rated QB prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012, of course posting a grade of 99. While Winston’s 4.97 40-yard dash time brings down my hopes of him being a rushing threat, his throwing accuracy and pocket presence will more than make up for it. I’m certainly willing to go out on a limb and predict multiple 3-td performances in 2015 for Winston, however, that will come at the expensive of plenty of multi-interception games. As of now, I see Winston’s value being far superior in a dynasty league than in a redraft style.
6. DeVante Parker
Which number is less? The number of passes Parker has dropped since 2012, or the number of girls you’ve had sex with in that same time period.
My money is on you, sorry. In case you’re wondering that number is three. Three passes Parker has dropped since his sophomore season at Louisville.
Fast forward to his senior campaign in 2014, Parker was forced to sit out the first seven games because of a broken bone in his foot. He returned to play in the team’s final six games, posting 43 receptions for 855 yards and 5 touchdowns. His big play ability, as showcased in his 19.9 yards per reception, is one of the many traits that make Parker such an appealing wideout to NFL teams. That, coupled with his long, lean 6 foot 3 inch frame make him an ideal target to pick on smaller cornerbacks with. His ability to concentrate and to go up and get the ball is second to none. Pair that with 4.45 40-yard dash and you’re looking at an absolute beast.
Scouts have Parker rated lower than some of the other elite WR’s in this draft class mainly due to his slender build, which is understandable for 209 lbs. They think he’ll have trouble fighting off defenders and getting open. How’d that work out for A.J. Green?
With the number of question marks, concerns and off the field issues surrounding Dorial Green-Beckham, he must be an absolute STUD for teams to still consider taking him in the first round. Thankfully for us, the noise surrounding his off the field issues will affect his actual NFL draft stock and not so much his fantasy football performance.
Once he’s on the field, he’s on the field and, like the Terminator, there’s no stopping Green-Beckham. Standing at a monstrous 6’5, 237 lbs, he’s nearly impossible to defend in the red zone. Think Mike Evans, but better. No, think Dez Bryant. In college, Green Beckham hauled in 47% of balls thrown his way in the red zone which we all know is fantasy gold. His body control is top notch, as are his hands and his catch radius. For someone his size, a 4.49 40-yard dash time is mind blowing, giving him yet another advantage over the already helpless defensive backs.
Bottom-line, Green-Beckham is definitely a risk. But that risk comes with an extremely high ceiling. If he can stay on the field but off the grass, if you pick up what I’m putting down, he’s capable of posting WR2, even WR1 numbers, not an easy feat for a rookie wide receiver (shhh, last year doesn’t count, you get the point). Take this with a grain of salt, but there have been whispers of scouts comparing Green-Beckham to Calvin Johnson.
4. Ameer Abdullah
Another running back from the wealthy Big 10 class has us at Ameer Abdullah. He’s being overlooked, but won’t be for long. The major concerns NFL scouts have about Abdullah are his lack of NFL size and lackluster ball security. While the latter is a legit concern, his 5’9 – 205lb frame doesn’t worry me as much. Abdullah fumbled the ball 13 times over his 4 year career at Nebraska, which I’m sure will be a top priority of his, leading up to the draft and the 2015 NFL season. In terms of his size, we’ve seen plenty of guys excel given less to work with.
Put into the right situation, Abdullah will prosper, given his combination of downhill running and quickness. And oh yeah, he hasn’t dropped a pass thrown his way in over two years. It’s not just that he hasn’t dropped a pass, but his hands are excellent. Topped only by his ridiculous ability to burst through the hole, Abdullah is a legitimate threat on all three downs.
An AFC Scout was recently quoted giving praise to Abdullah: “He has the highest overall character grade I’ve ever given to a prospect, and includes both football character and off-the-field. Aside from (Melvin) Gordon and (Todd) Gurley, I think he’s the third best running back in this draft.”
If I had to describe him in one way – A more durable Andre Ellington.
3. Kevin White
An absolute physical specimen, Kevin White will be an elite receiver in the NFL before long. He put on a performance for the ages at this year’s NFL combine, leaving scouts fiending for more.
His sheer body measurements are off the chart. At 6’3”, 215lbs, White will be a mismatch for any defensive back in the NFL. But White is more than just a big body. He ran a blazing 4.35 40-yard dash at the combine and leaped 36.5 inches on the vertical jumped. No one at White’s size should be physically able to move that well.
During actual game play, there may be no one better in the country at controlling their body and going up to snatch the ball at its highest point. His size also gives him leverage at the line of scrimmage helping him power through press coverage.
Key concerns going into the 2014 season were drops and top end speed. Like Nyquil, he put those to sleep. His 4.35 40-time quieted those who questioned his speed and those ever so apparent drops in 2013 vanished in 2014.
This guy could easily be a DeAndre Hopkins and more. Keep in mind, Hopkins had a breakout year in 2014 and would have an even higher ceiling if he wasn’t playing for one of the most run heavy teams in the NFL.
2. Amari Cooper
You’re probably asking, how do you top a 6’3, 215 lb 4.35 40-yard dash? By being the best all-around wide receiver. Amari Cooper does everything well at his position.
He arguably sits atop the two most important categories at his position. He’s got some of the softest hands in college ball and runs the best routes, which is a big predictor of how well a WR can translate success into the NFL. If Cooper can spill over even a portion of his 124-1,727-16 stat line into the NFL, he’ll be a household name in no time.
An NFL GM was recently quoted comparing Amari Cooper to Marvin Harrison. He’s super athletic and makes playing the position at such a dominant level look incredibly easy. Hopefully, the mock drafts estimating Cooper as a top 10 pick stay true, landing him on a team with a desperate need for a play maker. If Cooper can find himself playing for a team like the Browns or Raiders next season, he could easily break into the WR2 fantasy discussion.
1. Melvin Gordon
At last, we have arrived at our number one rookie fantasy ranking. Melvin Gordon certainly looks the part of a starting NFL running back. But his ripped physique isn’t why he’ll be the first rookie back off the board in both the NFL draft and your fantasy draft.
Gordon has averaged a staggering 7.6 yards per carry over his last two seasons at Wisconsin, a lot of which can be attributed to his ability to bust through the line of scrimmage and have defenders looking at his backside in a split second. There are times when Gordon will get too cute, bouncing outside when he shouldn’t be, but his excellent agility and sudden shiftiness give trouble to defenses even when they think they have him wrapped up.
I will admit, he’s not a superior pass catcher, but it’s not something that’s impossible to improve. At 6’1, 215 lbs he fits the ideal mold for an every down back. Gordon can hit the home run at any time. Fantasy players who’ve had Jamaal Charles on their fantasy teams know exactly how incredible that feeling is. “Jamaal Charles rushes 70 yards for a Kansas City Touchdown”. “!!!!!! 13 points for Beast by Ray”. Given the right situation, Melvin Gordon should find himself atop the depth chart of an NFL team in 2015, posting high-end RB2 numbers for those wise enough to grab the Cheesehead.