2020 NFL Combine winners and losers: skill positions

2020 NFL Combine winners and losers: skill positions

NFL Combine

2020 NFL Combine winners and losers: skill positions

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The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine moved into the primetime television slot for the first time and it hasn’t disappointed. Several of the biggest names in the draft were on display to reaffirm their standings among the best of the best, and a few even climbed up draftboards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best showing for a handful of players.

We’ll focus on skill players (QB-RB-WR-TE) who could make an impact in fantasy football for the 2020 season and a couple for beyond. There’s not a tremendous amount of fantasy-relevant information to be gleaned from watching players work out in shorts, but sometimes all we need to see is more confirmation of what we think we know.

Winners

(Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

WRs Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, Alabama: The latter ran 4.27 during the 40, and while Ruggs (quad) didn’t set the all-time combine record (4.22), he still is unbelievably fast. Jeudy (4.45) displayed his natural athleticism in the positional drills and solidified himself among the two playmakers in the draft. Here are two examples of sometimes all we crave is a little confirmation that what we see on Saturdays indeed translates on paper, as well. Both of these well-coached guys will be Day 1 contributors in fantasy leagues, and Jeudy has the pedigree of an elite playmaker.

RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: One would think after rushing for 2,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons and nearly three times in as many years, Taylor wouldn’t have far upward to go in the rankings. He dazzled at the scouting combine with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, which ended up being the fastest of his positional mates. He also was a top-six performer among RBs in the short shuttle and three-cone drill, displaying the agility and quickness we see on film. The excessive workload and mileage will come with doubters, but for a short time, Taylor has the makings of potentially being the best fantasy football back in the draft. Gamers in dynasty leagues may want to view him as more of a one-contract guy due to the wear on his tires.

WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: This one is short and sweet: That catch! Everything we’ve seen on film from Lamb can be summed up in one grab that left Indy with a collective mouth agape. In the 40, he ran a respectable 4.50 but plays faster due to insane body control and agility. Fake gamers will be reveling in Lamb’s awesomeness for years to come, and it is bound to begin in 2020.

QB Justin Herbert, Oregon: Vying to be the No. 3 quarterback to come off of the board, Herbert didn’t let down his believers, and he should have won over a few of his detractors. The senior showed off a lively, accurate arm and has the athleticism to make a few plays with his feel. Some of the footwork could be improved, which is safe to say about almost every combine QB. While rookie quarterbacks rarely contribute meaningfully in fantasy football, there’s no denying the negative impact they can have on surrounding talent. Like Daniel Jones last year, there will be plenty of good mixed with some bad for Herbert. The key here is he has the demeanor and makeup to keep fantasy forces around him afloat.

QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: Even though Tua didn’t workout at the combine, it doesn’t mean he isn’t a winner from the medical evaluations. The injured hip came back with a clean bill of health, highlighted by MRI results that confirmed there isn’t a blood-flow problem in the area. He’s expected to be medically cleared March 9.

TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri: The early production as a freshman put him on the map, but after 11 touchdowns that year, he’d go on to score 12 more over the rest of his collegiate career. At the combine, Okwuegbunam ran 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, which will open eyes and give him a chance to climb out of a heap of unspectacular tight ends in this class. Given his penchant to find the end zone and his athleticism, the former Tiger could be a fringe fantasy option as early as this fall.

WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame: In any scenario when literally the only other person to accomplish the same feat is Calvin Johnson, heads … will … turn. The Golden Domer ran 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, becoming only the second player (Megatron) to run sub-4.35 and measure at least 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. In many cases, this performance will send scouts back to the tape. Don’t expect Claypool to vault up draftboards just yet, however, but there is a role for him in fantasy football under the right circumstances.

QB Jordan Love, Utah State: Offering plenty of size and arm, Love may have solidified himself as the third quarterback in this draft. The buzz leading up to Indy usually placed Love in the first round, which is a lock at this point, and some reports suggest he could climb into the top 10. In 2020, there’s a path for serious playing time, depending upon where he ends up. Some teams could consider him a one-year project, much like the guy he most often is compared to — Patrick Mahomes. Love has future value in keeper leagues and should be in the starting mix for 2021.

QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma: The zip and accuracy were jumping off of the screen in Indianapolis. Hurts is a dedicated competitor and son of a high school coach. He played at a high level for a marquee football college, and Hurts’ football IQ is off of the charts. It’s highly unlikely he will play a prominent role in 2020 fantasy football settings, but don’t be totally shocked if he makes a difference in the right situation. Tuck away his name for dynasty league drafts.

WR Quez Watkins, Southern Mississippi: In all likelihood, Watkins isn’t going to hear his name before Day 3 of the draft. However, fantasy owners know that is mostly irrelevant come Sundays. Watkins ran a blazing 4.35-second 40 and stood out even more during the positional drills. His natural fluidity, hands and athleticism were evident. It’s probably a long shot Watkins will make a difference in Year 1 for fantasy football, yet he warrants an eye throughout the upcoming months.

Losers

(Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

QB Jake Fromm, Georgia: This might be kind of unfair, but after watching Herbert, Jacob Eason and Love flick the ball 50 yards through the air, Fromm’s lack of an explosive arm was noticeable. He fluttered passes that required more distance than his arm is intended for maximizing, and workouts like this expose players of his nature. Fromm is better in pads and will find an opportunity to eventually give him a shot at a starting gig, but he isn’t an immediate threat to any starter right now. Anticipation, nuance, and accuracy are more his game — which still gets bread buttered in the NFL — but the relatively weak arm is what can get teams to cross a quarterback off of a draftboard.

WR Jalen Reagor, TCU: Look, part of this deal is expectations, and when multiple pundits expect a player to threaten to be the fastest receiver, 16th fastest requires a second look at the tape. Reagor has the bloodlines, and he’s ready for the NFL, so for now consider this somewhere between a disappointment and overinflated expectations. Running 4.47 is still fast enough to get the job done. Reagor’s landing spot in the pros will make a huge difference for a guy whose best route is a fly.

TE Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic: Recognized officially as the nation’s best tight end, Bryant — a high school offensive tackle — comes from a small school and also has to overcome a modest 4.73-second 40 time. While it isn’t horrible by any stretch, it was expected he’d time a little faster, and his 13 reps at 225 pounds on the bench may be more alarming. Functional strength is a must for tight ends to be every-down players, and it’s abundantly clear Bryant is destined for a pass-catching role, despite the widespread comparisons to more well-rounded tight ends, like Travis Kelce and George Kittle. It may be unfair to say his performance was in the “loser” column, although it will be interesting to see if it scares off a few teams in a thin rookie year in which so many TE-friendly systems need more talent.

RB Tony Jones Jr., Notre Dame: No one was coming into the combine expecting Jones to blow them away with athleticism, but he looked tight-hipped and slow-footed during the process. In a league increasingly more compartmentalized at the position, teams will go back to the film room to review more film to see if this pounding back is a worthwhile late-round pick vs. being a free-agent addition.

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