The 2014 draft class may not have the ultra-talented running backs, but they do have a few solid, lesser known prospects. Storm Johnson was one of those backs that stood out to me in bowl season this past winter. He is one of the taller backs in his class measuring in at 6’ and 209 lbs., while running a 4.60 40 at the Combine. There was not a lot of game film available for Johnson in 2013 as I could only find games against Baylor and Penn State, so I also included his game against Ohio State in 2012. These bigger, more football savvy schools were a good challenge for the young, skilled back.
My tour around the running back rookies continues with Ka’Deem Carey. The former Arizona back measured in at 5’ 9” and 207 lbs., but ran a very disappointing 40 time of 4.70 at the Combine. Now that 40 time alone won’t drop his stock too much, but it is concerning. I reviewed five of his 2013 games against USC, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, and UCLA to get a better idea of what skill level he will bring to the NFL.
At first blush, Carey reminds me a lot of Stepfan Taylor, the former Stanford running back that got drafted in the 5th round by the Arizona Cardinals. The rookie is a bit smaller, but shares the same running style and overall skill set. I do think that Taylor is the superior short yardage back though. Much like Taylor, Carey needs high volumes to be successful. Also keep in mind Taylor did not make much of an impact his rookie season.
If you follow the draft community on twitter or anywhere else on the internet, many people are warming up to the red-shirted sophomore running back Jeremy Hill. I decided to take the afternoon to watch four of his 2013 games against Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and Mississippi State to see what the #draft-twitter excitement was all about.
Before I get into what I saw on tape, Hill does not have very impressive intangibles. There were some accusations of sexual misconduct in high school with a 14-year-old that caused him to enter college a year late. He punched a fellow LSU student out at a local college bar last spring. Perhaps Hill was an immature guy and has grown out of this kind of behavior. Only NFL teams will get a good grip on that with the several interviews each team gets with him starting at the Combine this coming weekend. Dynasty owners will have to make their decision partly based on which NFL team takes him, either a team with issues such as the Dolphins or a strong locker room like the Patriots.
First I would like to apologize to all the IDPers out there for the tardiness of my first defensive player list. We will look at the combined linebacker position and I rated them with a balanced scheme focus so a sack would be worth about two and a half times what a tackle is worth. I will also admit to a Senior Bowl bias as most of these players I got to see up close there.
1. OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
He is a thick, powerful backer with good burst to the ball. Mack disengages with blockers quickly keeping them off his body. Finds the ball quickly which helps him cause turnovers and negative plays for the offense. The outside linebacker moves around well, but struggles somewhat in pass coverage. In big play leagues, he is the best linebacker bar none!
Now before anyone takes the title the wrong way, I am insinuating that Manziel reminds me of the Disney character “Puss-in-Boots”. They both are swashbucklers and are light on their feet. Some people are huge fans of these characters and others are pure haters. I would say I fall in between those two camps. When he is on, Manziel is one of the most dangerous play makers that college football has ever seen, but when he is off, dreadful comes to mind. I watched five of his 2013 Texas A&M games to get a good idea of what skills he brings into the NFL. In two of those games (LSU and Missouri), the quarterback faced good disciplined, attacking defenses. The other three games (Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas) were not as challenging for him.
There are many opinions when it comes to scouting quarterbacks. Just look at the 2011 draft where Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder were first round selections and Andy Dalton was a second rounder. The entire 2011 class underwhelmed, but at least the Bengal quarterback played average to better than average. While I am hopeful, the very same situation may occur with this draft. Despite his average looking effort at his pro day, Teddy Bridgewater remains his class’ best quarterback prospect in my eyes. I reviewed four of his 2013 games (Cincinnati, Miami, Central Florida, and Houston) to get a better feel for what he skills he can bring to the NFL.
Depending on who you talk to, the 2014 quarterback class is rather exciting or just full of question marks. There are at least five teams that are starving for quarterback talent: Houston (pick one), Jacksonville (pick three), Cleveland (pick four), Oakland (pick five), and Minnesota (pick eight). The NFL team needs and your dynasty team needs sometimes don’t exactly mimic each other. Let’s take a quick look at my top seven rookie quarterbacks.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Despite the poor performance on his pro day, I have Bridgewater as my number one quarterback. He is calm, cool, and collected in the pocket. Makes good decisions, can use his feet when he needs to, and doesn’t turn over the football. Sure his deep ball accuracy isn’t a strong suit, but he can make any throw within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. Bridgewater isn’t exciting, but he is as safe as you can find in this year’s class.
The 2014 running back class is not as deep or as good as the 2014 wide receiver class, but don’t be in despair just yet. There are a few talented runners that not many people are discussing. One of the best runners is the not often used Devonta Freeman of Florida State. The young back was a part of a three-man committee so he did not see the normal wear and tear that most runners see in their college careers. He isn’t the biggest back at 5’ 8” 206 lbs., nor is he one of the fastest timing out at a 4.58 40 in Indianapolis. I watched four of his 2013 games: Duke, Auburn (national championship game), NC State, and Bethune-Cookman so I could better evaluate the skill set that he brings to the NFL.
We have already heard that this year’s draft class is weak at running back, so why bother with ranking more backs? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as every runner on this secondary list has some of the same skills that you can find in the top seven backs. Some of them don’t have a lot of experience at the position, didn’t get the carries, or were too slow/injury prone. Many of these backs will get pushed down your rookie drafts into the third, fourth, and fifth rounds with the talent found elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that they can’t help you win, if you grab the right one. These rushers got ranked by skill set before we all get caught up in what NFL team selects them in the draft.
8. Storm Johnson, Central Florida
The junior hasn’t started many games as he was a transfer from the University of Miami, but he certainly put together an impressive year. He has a slashing running style, possesses good balance, and is a good short yardage back. Johnson didn’t get asked to pass block much; however, he is a good receiver out of the backfield. He is raw, but malleable. I see him having the body type that can hold up to the NFL punishment.
It’s quite rare in draft circles when two receivers from the same college (LSU) in the same year get viewed as favorably as Odell Beckham Jr, and the subject of this article, Jarvis Landry. Landry is the technician to Beckham’s raw athleticism. The young receiver came in at 5’ 11 ½” 205 lbs. with 10 ¼” hands (anything over 10 inches is quite good) at the Combine, but got injured running his first 40 yard dash. He was never known for top end speed, but as a good, dependable route runner. I reviewed four of his 2013 games to get a good idea of what talents he brings to the NFL: TCU, Auburn, Arkansas, and Ole Miss.
The first thing I noticed watching Landry is that he has the same stance and the same explosion with every snap of the ball. Why is this important? Whoever is in coverage against him has no idea where he is going to go with his route. Too many college players and some NFL receivers give little clues and when a receiver hides it well, it deserves to be noticed. Landry lines up a lot in the slot, but also lines up on the line of scrimmage. He has quick feet and loose hips that he uses to get off the line quickly. When the receiver gets asked to block, he fires out and squares himself on his man. He is always looking for someone to hit when the ball isn’t designed to be in his hands.
As we continue with my trip around the rookie class, I took a look at former Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson who has good size at 6’ 3” 220 lbs. and ran a 4.6 second 40 at the Combine (improved his time to the 4.5s at his pro day). There are various feeling about him in the draft community, so I decided to watch five of his 2013 games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State, University of Central Florida, and Syracuse to get a better idea of what he skills he can bring to the NFL. Big Ten receivers have lost some credibility over the years, can Robinson reverse this trend?
The young wide receiver lines up all over the formation: in the slot, split out wide, and was occasionally sent in motion. The first thing that jumped off the screen is that Robinson does a lot of looking around when he isn’t the primary target or when his team runs the ball. His effort as a run blocker was lackluster. While I understand this scouting report is more for fantasy purposes, keep in mind the better a receiver is a run blocker, the more time they will spend on the field. The other part of his game that concerned me was his stance on the line of scrimmage. It tipped off the defense at times which route he planned to run. Robinson needs to get off the line of scrimmage the same way, every time. That is not to say he could not improve in this area, but it is alarming off the bat.