Before the NFL combine, I did my pre-draft tiers for incoming rookies which you can find here. Although I value a player’s tape most amongst all the factors that go into a player’s draft resume, the combine can (and should) move some players around in your tiers. I believe RotoUnderworld’s Matt Kelly said it best when he said that the NFL is full of athletes so athletics matter. To get my original thought process, read my previous article. In this version, I will talk more about the players who moved up or down tiers and why.
Corey Davis WR, Western Michigan
Joe Mixon RB, Oklahoma
This tier is all about addition by subtraction. Davis and Mixon remain, but the exclusion of Dalvin cook after a subpar combine performance is noteworthy. I did a write-up of Cook after the combine, and it’s worth a read because many are dropping him farther down their boards than I am. You can find that article here. Plenty will argue that Christian McCaffery fought his way into this tier, and while I think he deserves to move up boards, he just isn’t on the same playing field athletically as Joe Mixon. Had Mixon not made a poor decision back in 2014, he would be talked about as the undisputed best running back in this class.
Mike Williams WR, Clemson
John Ross WR, Washington
Dalvin Cook RB, Florida State
Leonard Fournette RB, LSU
Christian McCaffery RB, Stanford
This tier grew from four players to five. One addition was via move up, another moved down. There was also a subtraction (Malachi Dupre) who I will talk about later. I already mentioned Dalvin Cook moving down a tier, but the addition of this tier via a ridiculous combine is none other than Washington’s John Ross. Everyone knew the man was fast, but I don’t think many saw him breaking the record for the fastest 40-time ever recorded at the combine. (4.22) I wrote a pre-combine profile on the speedster and updated it post-combine. You can find that article here and read why I like Ross for reasons other than his cheetah-like wheels. His smaller frame does scare me a little, but his speed gives him a slight bump over the tier 3 receivers.
Other notes: plenty will put Fournette in their top-tier, and I can’t blame them. His size-adjusted speed score was the best amongst running backs. Simply put, nobody is going to want to tackle a 240 lb man running at 4.5 speed.
Zay Jones WR, Eastern Carolina
Juju Smith-Schuster WR, USC
Chris Godwin WR, Penn State
Malachi Dupre WR, LSU
Samaje Perine RB, Oklahoma
Kareem Hunt RB, Toledo
Elijah Mcguire RB, Louisianna-Lafayette
Jeremy McNichols RB, Boise State
Aaron Jones RB, UTEP
OJ Howard TE, Alabama
Evan Engram TE, Ole Miss
Malachi Dupre had the combine I was expecting, and people are still sleeping on him because of his production. My main reason for moving him down a tier is that he measured in at 6’2″ instead of 6’4″. He is less agile than the player I compared him to in the pre-combine process (AJ Green) despite having a greater vertical. His hands are excellent. He probably won’t get drafted as high as the other receivers in this tier, but his potential is equal to or greater than everyone else in it. Dupre is still one of my favorite players in this draft.
My fellow Penn State alum, Chris Godwin, dominated the combine warranting a move-up from tier 5. I think Zay Jones also surprised at the combine. Zay was one of the most productive receivers ever in college albeit at a smaller school, but the combine proves he has the athleticism to compete against NFL competition as well, and that is huge for him in my opinion.
Jeremy McNichols gets a bump for me because I am beginning to like his versatility and athletic profile. I thought he would run slower at the combine, but his results allow me to look at him differently. He will definitely be able to earn at least a timeshare in the NFL pretty quickly making him worthy of a top-20 pick.
Aaron Jones is a guy who didn’t garner much attention until he blew up at the combine. I went back and watched his tape and saw a guy with quick feet, great power, and nice receiving ability. If an NFL team gives him a chance for a big role, he has the tools to step up and run with it.
I swapped out Evan Engram and David Njoku in this tier. Njoku is plenty athletic, but I see him as more of a raw receiver than Engram. Njoku could easily be the better long-term player, but I think Engram is much more polished in the receiving game. (you know, that part of the tight end’s game that actually gets fantasy points for you) Engram’s 4.42 speed is going to create a ton of matchup issues for defenses potentially as early as this year, so I would give him the slight edge over Njoku for those reasons.
Taywan Taylor WR, Western Kentucky
KD Cannon WR, Baylor
Curtis Samuel WR/RB, Ohio State
James Connor RB, Pittsburgh
Brian Hill RB, Wyoming
David Njoku TE, Miami
Brian Hill makes his presence felt for the first time in my tiered ranks with an excellent combine. I went back and watched tape on him and I was impressed with what I saw. He looks like a solid early down guy at the NFL level with good size and speed.
Cannon takes a slight hit more because I just like the receivers in front of him better than anything else. KD had the combine I expected and is a plus athlete. I think he can make for an excellent complementary receiver at the next level. However, his upside is limited due to his size and lack of polish. I think he could still be one of the top-5 receivers in the class if he lands on the right team with the right coaches.
Ishmael Zamora WR, Baylor
Chad Williams WR, Grambling State
Robert Davis WR, Georgia State
Elijah Hood RB, North Carolina
Alvin Kamara RB, Tennessee
D’onta Foreman RB, Texas
This tier of receivers should be named “low draft pedigree, high upside” because none of them are first round picks, but all have the athleticism to produce at that level. All were either small school prospects or have off-field issues.
Ishmael Zamora is another player who appears here for the first time. He was not invited to the combine due to off-field issues, but after getting the chance to watch his tape, I think he deserves to be in this tier from an athletic standpoint. He could be a red-zone beast for a team, but his dynasty stock may take a hit if he goes undrafted. After his impressive pro day, I doubt that happens.
Chad Williams is another small school guy who makes this list for the first time. He is an athletic specimen with who has a Nike SPARQ score in the 99th percentile. He wasn’t invited to the combine but could be a late round sleeper in the NFL draft. If he goes undrafted in your rookie draft, scoop him up and stash him.
TFA Senior writer Travis May did a nice write-up for Dynasty League Football on Robert Davis. After watching his tape and getting the combine numbers back, there is no question he deserves to be in this list of exciting prospects. He is a big, extremely athletic receiver with ball skills who just hasn’t gotten the attention of a power-5 school prospect.
I moved Elijah Hood down a few tiers despite only participating in bench press at the combine. I do this mostly after re-evaluating him and deciding that he is probably not going to be much more than a short-yardage specialist. He has some wiggle, but his success is largely hinged on the situation he falls in.
Alvin Kamara moves up a tier for me mostly based on hype and the combine I was expecting from him. I don’t like his vision, but it seems like he will land in a more favorable situation based on his metrics so that’s why he gets a bump. You can freshen up on my Kamara opinions here.
D’onta Foreman moves up a little bit after weighing in a bit smaller at 233. I still don’t like the fact that he is a finesse runner instead of a power runner at his size, but there is a place for him in an NFL backfield, especially with his speed.
Josh Reynolds WR, Texas A&M
D’amorea Stringfellow WR, Ole Miss
Chad Hansen WR, Cal
Carlos Henderson WR, Louisianna Tech
Jehu Chesson WR, Michigan
Ryan Switzer WR, North Carolina
Jamaal Williams RB, BYU
Marlon Mack RB, USF
Bucky Hodges TE, Virginia Tech
Jake Butt TE, Michigan
This was originally my tier 5, but I decided to add a tier between 4 and 5, so tier 5 became tier 6 and tier 6 became tier 7.
Chad Hansen moved down a tier with a lackluster combine. I think he is a fringe WR2/WR3 on an NFL team, but he plays better than his combine results would indicate he might athletically which is why this is the perfect spot for him.
Carlos Henderson is a player I am not as high on as some other experts, but I think this is a fair tier for him. As a small school prospect with only 1 year of production and decent combine numbers, he will be a mid-round pick. If your league rewards return yardage, he gets a boost.
Switzer didn’t have a poor combine, but as a slot only guy, he gets pushed down by some guys who separated themselves from the pack of mid-level wideouts.
Marlon Mack bumps up a few tiers mainly because he weighed in at 213. It’s not ideal weight, but it was definitely heavier than I was expecting. At 4.50 speed, I think his chances of NFL success are in a time-share, but he is a home run hitter for sure.
After a combine where Bucky Hodges proved he is an athletic specimen, I bumped him up a tier. He definitely has work to do refining his game, but some team will give him the time he needs to develop. When he does, watch out.
Noah Br0wn WR, Ohio State
Ardarius Stewart WR, Alabama
Wayne Gallman RB, Clemson
Adam Shaheen TE, Ashland
Gallman moves down a few tiers for me with a poor combine performance. For someone who relies on speed and agility to win, he did not test like someone who should win with those traits.
Adam Shaheen is a tight end who has been garnering some serious attention lately. I’m not entirely sure what to make of a small school guy who looks a bit awkward but tests well. At the back end of your draft, you could do worse than to take a flier on a 6’6″ 278 lb guy who had a better 3-cone drill than most running backs on this list.
Dede Westbrook WR, Oklahoma
Cooper Kupp WR, Eastern Washington
DeAngelo Yancey WR, Purdue
Chris Carson RB, Oklahoma State
Combine season has not been kind to Dede Westbrook. After finishing 4th in Heisman voting, he weighed in small at the combine (178 lbs) with only 9-inch hands. Character concerns were brought up when Dede decided not to participate in any combine drills. His stock is falling fast.
Kupp has all but fallen out of dynasty owners minds after a poor combine where he showed he is essentially a low-end slot receiver. At 6’2″ 204, with a 31 inch vertical and a 4.62 forty time, he can still be used as a bigger target in the slot, but he may never be an X receiver in the NFL.
Chris Carson makes this list after an athletic combine where he showed he has the burst to match his power on tape. He has an NFL-ready body and should find a role on early downs.
Thanks for reading!
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