Wed Mar 4th 2020
10 Players Who Moved Up In My Rookie Rankings
Post-Combine Rankings Shake-up
Every year I put together my rookie rankings before the NFL Combine, and after the Combine I adjust my rankings and take note of the players that moved up or down based on their athletic testing. I don't let the Combine results affect my rookie rankings too much, especially at the top of my board, because film and college production is far more important to me than testing. However, I do allow athletic testing to affect the value of players in the middle to the back-end of my rankings because I believe that NFL teams do the same.
After watching the Combine this weekend and pouring over the results early this week, I adjusted all of my rookie rankings this morning. Ten players made notable jumps up in my rookie rankings as a result of their athletic testing.
AJ Dillon (#15 from #29)
- AJ Dillon is going to be one of the most debated players in this year's draft. He's the biggest surprise riser in my mind. Earlier in the year, when I watched the film of Dillon, all I could see what a massive lumbering guy that just ran guys over because he was bigger than them. His college production was incredible, averaging more than 1400 yards and 12 touchdowns per season, including a freshman breakout year with 1589 yards rushing. Still, I only ranked him #29 because I did not think he was athletic enough to play in the increasingly pass-happy NFL. He only had 21 receptions in college. His great day at the Combine changed my mind, even though it will likely not change other analyst's minds. At 247 pounds, he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and 7.19 in the three-cone drill. He proved to be much faster and quicker than I witnessed on film. He also had the highest vertical jump (41 inches) and the longest broad jump (131 inches) of the entire running back class, proving himself to be the most explosive and powerful back at the Combine. It was enough to change my mind and move him up to the #15 ranked rookie, making him the 6th ranked rookie running back in the class for me. He'll still be a first and second-down back only in the NFL, but he could score a lot of touchdowns from short and long distances.
Justin Herbert (#18 from #25)
- The most important part of the Combine for NFL teams is arguably the medical testing and interviews. I believe that's even more true for the quarterback position. From all the reports I read and listened to, Herbert seems to have impressed everyone in his interviews, leading many to speculate that he could be the second quarterback taken in the NFL draft. That alone would have been enough for me to bump him up in my rankings. What he did athletically made me move him up even higher, from #25 to #18 in my rookie rankings. First of all, he's prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, measuring in at 6'6" and 236 pounds. He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, finished second among quarterbacks in the vertical jump (35.5 inches), third in the class in the broad jump (123 inches), and first in the three-cone drill (7.06 seconds). He's checked every box and will be drafted in the first ten picks of the NFL draft, which means he will get an opportunity to start as a rookie. I now see him as a mid-first-round pick in super-flex leagues and a mid-second-round pick in one-quarterback leagues.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn (#20 from #26)
- Vaughn did not participate in most of the Combine drills. His broad jump and vertical jump were unimpressive, while 40-yard dash time was solid, running a 4.51 at 214 pounds (the 9th fastest time for the running back class). What impressed me the most, however, was watching him in the running and passing drills. I think he could become an every-down back if he is drafted to a team where he can compete for a job. His versatility and experience made me move him up ahead of another versatile and experienced back, Zack Moss, who moved down in my rookie rankings after not performing or looking as well as Vaughn at the Combine.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (#23 from #32)
- Peoples-Jones was one of the most highly recruited high school wide receivers in Michigan before signing with the Wolverines. The five-star athlete was never able to break out, however, mainly because of poor quarterback play at Michigan. There was just not enough film on People-Jones for me to rank him very high in my rookie rankings. He only had 103 receptions in three years at Michigan, and I did not like what I saw. I wanted to reconsider my stance on him after the Combine since experts predicted that he would be a Combine phenom since he showed that kind of athleticism in high school. He was just that. He has the size to be an outside receiver in the NFL, measuring in 6'2" and 212 pounds with 10 1/8 inch hands. He registered the highest vertical jump among receivers at 44.5 inches and the longest broad jump at 139 inches. He also ran a respectable 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. I think NFL teams are going to love these measurables and know that they can make him into what he looked like he could become a top-ranked high school recruit. I moved him all the way up from the end of the third round (#32) to the end of the second round (#23).
Denzel Mims (#26 from #44)
- While I'm still skeptical about Mims because I was very unimpressed by his film and how Baylor wide receivers have fared in the NFL, I had to move him up in my rankings after the Combine because I know NFL teams will do the same. His 6.66 time in the three-cone drill is just off the charts, as was his 4.38 40-yard dash. He added to his athletic profile by having the 4th longest broad jump (131 inches) and the tenth highest vertical jump (38.5 inches). I had to go back and reconsider practice reports during the Senior Bowl, where Mims also was turning heads of the scouts. To use the Football Guys term, there is a "steady drumbeat" with Denzel. He's steadily moving up NFL draft boards, so I needed to move him up my board as well.
Eno Benjamin (#28 from #33)
- I had Eno ranked higher than #28 when I first put together my rookie rankings, but I moved him down to #33 after he only weighed in at 195 pounds at the Senior Bowl. After weighing in at 207 pounds at the Combine, I was eager to move him back up in my rookie rankings, especially if he proved to be athletic, which he did. He ran a respectable 4.57 40-yard dash. More importantly, he had the second-fastest three-cone drill among running backs at 6.95 seconds. His quickness was exactly what I wanted to see from Benjamin, who I predict to have a split role in the NFL, functioning primarily as a passing-downs back. He caught 35 passes his sophomore season at Arizona State, and 42 passes his junior year before declaring for the draft. He's an excellent receiver who runs routes like a wide receiver. His 6.95 quickness is proof of what he can do in the passing game for an NFL team. If he's drafted to a team that knows how to use him best, he will rise even higher than #28 in my rookie rankings.
Darrynton Evans (#34 from outside my top 72)
- I have to admit that I missed this one because I did not even have Evans ranked in my top 72 before the Combine. I'm not alone in that at least, because I see now that four of the seven guys who rank rookies on the DLF website did not have Evans ranked in their top 50. After his second-fastest 40-yard dash time of 4.41 (just behind Jonathan Taylor's 4.39), I decided to look at the film for the first time. I immediately moved him up to #34 overall, putting him firmly into the third round of rookie drafts. He was the Sunbelt offensive player of the year last year while racking up 1678 total yards and 23 touchdowns. He wins with speed, so he isn't the best back between the tackles, but give him a crease on a pitch or an outside zone run, and he can take anything to the house. He's decent sized, too, at 5'10" and 203 pounds. I should have noticed him earlier. He's on my radar now, and if he signs with a team with an offense that fits his running style, he could move up even more in rookie rankings.
Devin Duvernay (#39 from #46)
- I moved my fellow Texas Longhorn up a few spots based primarily on his speed and quickness. Duvernay ran the 5th fastest 40-yard dash among the wideouts at 4.39 and posted the twelfth best three-cone time at 7.13. That 40 time is very impressive, while the three-cone time is decent. I think Duvernay is poised to fit a particular role on whichever team drafts him. He'd be a perfect fit as a short-yardage underneath the coverage pass catcher. He bailed out my Longhorns consistently in third and short situations and last year and can do the same for and NFL team. Creative coaches could also use his speed on jet sweeps, much like Deebo Samuel did in his rookie season last year. He's an end of the fourth-round dynasty draft pick for me. He could move up a bit more if he's drafted by a team with an innovative offensive coach.
Adam Trautman (#41 from #59)
- As expected, the tight end class was overall not very impressive overall. I only have four tight ends ranked in my top 50 rookies, but Trautman did enough at the Combine to be ranked as my #2 tight end in this class behind on Cole Kmet, who is predicted to be the first tight end drafted in the NFL draft. There was just one thing in the Combine that caused me to move Trautman up in my rankings, his three-cone time. He ran the third-fastest three-cone at the entire Combine! Only Denzel Mims and K'Von Wallace ran faster than Trautman's 6.78. It's an impressive enough time to cause him to get drafted earlier than previously expected in the NFL draft and dynasty drafts. Most tight ends take time to produce for dynasty teams, especially if they played at Dayton against inferior opponents than other tight ends in this class. Players like Dallas Goedert, however, are showing that small-school tight end prospects can thrive in the NFL and become fantasy relevant.
Chase Claypool (#46 from outside my top 72)
- Claypool was another player that was not on my radar and out of my top 72 rookies before the Combine. Two of the seven rankers at DFL also do not have him ranked in their top 50. After a composite Combine score compared to that of Calvin Johnson, he is now on everyone's radar. I did go back and watch the film of him and saw a few things that I liked, most notably, his size. He's 6'4" and 238 pounds. He looks more like a tight end. His frame and leaping ability made him an excellent red-zone target. For a big guy, he was also very nimble with his feet, making many toe-tapping grabs on the sideline and in the endzone. His production at Notre Dame is what concerns me, not breaking out until his senior season when he had 1037 yards and 13 touchdowns. I'm not going to move him up more than this unless he lands on the perfect NFL team. He has a lot to be refined but could contribute immediately as a red-zone target.
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