Sunday at the combine is when the meat of your fantasy prospects put out. You know what I mean, like, deliver their goods. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Show their stuff? Wow… um, I guess I should say, Sunday is the day that the majority of your future fantasy stars hit the field, in their underwear. The position groups that went out Sunday are all relevant to your future fantasy success: QBs, WRs, and RBs; with the QBs leading off. As discussed in Jay’s Combine primer, my WR review will be coming tomorrow, with RBs coming on Thursday. Tight Ends were already covered here. The class of QBs this year is nothing, if not interesting. We’ve seen recent classes produce instant fantasy stars such as Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, along with guys who went on to become stars like Colin Kaepernick. Sadly, right now I don’t see any of these QBs providing quite the same fantasy value that Luck (almost 4400 yards passing) and Wilson (100 passer rating) had in their rookie years. However, there are some guys that I believe that can come in and have reasonable fantasy (and real) success their rookie years, along with some who could, under the right coaching, eventually become fantasy starters for your squads down the road.
Johnny Manziel (5’11 207) Texas A&M — “Here’s Johnny!” “Where did that saying even come from?” “Some movie or something, I don’t know..” Sorry about that little aside I just had with myself. Felt like Jack Nicholson in The Shining there for a minute… Anyway, it should come as no surprise that Johnny Football comes in first on this list, what with his ability to make plays not only with his arm but also his feet. He is what most would call a “playmaker” at the QB position. He loves to improvise, get outside the pocket, either find his man downfield (usually big Mike Evans), or run for a big gain. His ability to run effectively really sets his fantasy value apart from the other guys in the class, as the other QBs are athletic but don’t typically look to run unless there isn’t any other option. As we’ve seen before, with even subpar throwing QBs like Michael Vick or even Tim Tebow, if you can make plays with your feet there is fantasy value to be had. However, Manziel is better at throwing the football than those other guys. He has drawn comparisons to Russell Wilson due to his size and playing style. Wilson loves to escape the pocket, just like Johnny. I know many, myself included, were hoping to see how he would fair in the throwing drills at the combine, but he decided to run the 40 yard dash, and then he ran the 40 yard dash again (all prospects run the 40 twice), and then decided to put his sweats on and call it a day without participating in any other drills. I do like Manziel towards the top of dynasty rookie drafts this year because of his playmaking ability, but I would temper expectations a bit as he may not be able to show the same ability at turning nothing into something like he did in college due to NFL defenses being, ya know, NFL defenses.
Teddy Bridgewater (6’2 214) Lou — Coming out of Louisville as junior, Bridgewater is considered by many, if not all, draft pundits as the most NFL ready and safest quarterback prospect in the draft. Most often, safe picks don’t come with the potential upside as some of the riskier prospects, which is the case here. The main knocks on Teddy are his size, he may be a little thin to remain consistently healthy, and he is inconsistent with his intermediate and deep passes. His durability concern is rather “nit-picky” in my mind because he doesn’t expose himself to a lot of hits. He wasn’t able to silence the few questions people have about his deep passing ability, because he also chose not to perform the position drills at the Combine. His best qualities are probably his elite pocket presence and vision downfield, which allow him to minimize sacks and mistakes. Physically, he doesn’t possess outstanding traits. He has a slightly above average arm and isn’t particularly mobile. But he can read defenses and make the throws. There’s definitely a place for that in the NFL. Put him in an offense containing a good supporting cast, and he should be at least moderately successful. From a long-term fantasy perspective, I see Bridgewater producing similar production as former 1st round pick, Alex Smith. Solid, but unspectacular.
Blake Bortles (6’5 232) UCF — The Bortles hype train has really taken off since bowl season ended. He has even been mocked #1 overall to the Texans by a few analysts. Bortles may have helped himself more this week than either of the other 2 top QBs, well because the other guys didn’t do anything but be spectators. The reactions from his throwing session at the Combine were mixed, which is somewhat surprising. Usually, the consensus is that a guy either does well or he doesn’t well. Some scouts thought he threw the ball really well, with touch and others thought he struggled, mainly with ball placement and footwork. The consensus is that Bortles has the talent to be successful in the NFL with above average arm strength, good pocket presence, intelligence, and leadership. He has drawn comparisons mostly to Ben Roethlisberger, especially with his ability to manipulate the pocket and avoid being brought down, mainly thanks to his Roethlisberger-esque size. Overall, his biggest issue is that he’s a bit raw, needing his mechanics ironed out. I do like Bortles as a long-term option at the position, as he may not be able to contribute right away but does have the potential to be an above average QB in the NFL.
Derek Carr (6’2 214) Fresno State — As discussed in my Senior Bowl review, Carr’s biggest assets are his arm strength and overall athleticism. He has one of the strongest arms in the draft and ran a sub 4.7 40 at the Combine. While he ran well, he isn’t considered much of a running threat. He took the same path as Manziel and Bridgewater by not participating in the throwing drills. Based on various scouting reports, his weaknesses are inaccurate passes and handling pressure. His footwork in the pocket needs a lot of work and when under pressure, he really struggles. It’s been suggested that he will need some development time before becoming a starter in the league. If anything, he will be more of a long term project in fantasy-land.
AJ McCarron (6’3 220) Ala — Being the starting quarterback for back-to-back National Championship teams, McCarron clearly received a lot of attention. Having her (possibly NSFW) as his girlfriend probably helps, too. Just ask Brent Musberger. McCarron isn’t a special prospect, by almost all accounts. He projects more as a game manager than anything else at the next level, if he’s even a starter. He did participate in the throwing drills in Indy, so there’s that. He actually looked pretty good throwing ball, granted there was no pass rush or any defenders, for that matter. If there is any semblance of pressure, he folds. He’ll be a mid round pick and probably a back up for at least a year or two. Pass on him, pun intended.
Logan Thomas (6’6 250) VT — As I stated in the Senior Bowl review, Logan Thomas certainly looks the part of a quarterback. He is tall, lean, and strong. He has everything you want in your star QB, except consistency. Oh wait, you want that? Well then… His performances at the Senior Bowl and the Combine perfectly illustrate my point. Logan Thomas struggled all week at the Senior Bowl. But, at the Combine, he put together the best workout of any quarterback. He ran the fastest time in the 40, at 4.61, and then looked great in the throwing drills. Thomas showed touch, accuracy, and arm strength with each pass. As most good scouts will tell you, the Combine shouldn’t change your view of any single player. What it should do is force you to go back to the tape and use that to confirm or reject your views from the Combine. With Thomas, his tape backs up the idea that he has all talent in the world but can’t put it all together for any considerable amount of time. It is most likely going to take a couple years to iron out his kinks and to harness his potential, if it ever happens. He’s someone you should draft late, stash him and wait and wait and wait until he gets a shot. It would not surprise me if in 3-4 years, when looking back at this draft class, that Logan Thomas either turned into the best quarterback of the group, and one of the best in the NFL, or if he is no longer in the league.
Please check back tomorrow as I’ll cover the Wide Receivers of the Combine. Spoiler alert: It’s the deepest position in the entire draft and should contain many fantasy contributors as soon as next year.
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