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Tue Mar 12th 2024

Post-Combine Rookie Risers and Fallers

I apologize for not writing last week. My computer fell off my desk and shattered the screen, leaving me computerless for the entire weekend. While not being able to write was a bummer, it did allow me time to watch almost all of the NFL Combine. I don't let the Combine affect my rookie rankings too much, but I do factor athletic scoring into my rankings and see the Combine as the first opportunity to update them.

I released my first rookie rankings on Super Bowl Sunday. I only look at people else's rankings or opinions after I have posted my first rookie rankings. Afterward, however, I study the class more and take in a lot of information from other NFL analysts, especially from NFL scouts and mock drafts. Since the Super Bowl, my rankings and opinions about rookies have developed. I use the NFL Combine as the last data point before releasing my second rookie rankings.

After my rankings are updated, I compare them with my early rookie rankings to see which rookies are risers and fallers since I've been studying the class more diligently and factoring in athletic testing. I've completed this process, and in this article, I comment on the rookies who have risen and fallen in my rankings since Super Bowl Sunday.

Rookie Risers

Brian Thomas Jr. - from 16th to 12th

  • A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was skeptical about Thomas as a first-round NFL pick and dynasty pick. I am confident he will be a first-round draft pick by an NFL team and in all dynasty leagues. His 3rd ranked athleticism score in this wide receiver class and his final season production make him a shoo-in first-round pick. He needs to improve as a route runner, but NFL coaching can make this fantastic athlete into a top-notch wide receiver. One of the scouts I follow told a story about how he has a photographic football memory, that he only needs to be told what to do once, and he remembers how to do it. That news encouraged me, too. I likely still have him ranked lower than other dynasty managers, but I'm in the same ballpark now.

Ladd McConkey - from 24th to 20th

  • McConkey received the 12th-ranked athletic score among the wide receiver class, but what impressed me most during the Combine was his route running and hands. He was one of the smoothest players on the gauntlet drill and looked sharper and quicker than most of the receivers in the passing drills. The drumbeat for McConkey has been steady over the last month, and his Combine performance was another drumbeat. His excellent route running and football intelligence will get him drafted in the second round of the NFL draft and dynasty drafts. I was already high on McConkey when ranking him 24th in my rankings, but I have moved him up a bit more after seeing him in action last weekend.

Ricky Pearsall - from 29th to 21st

  • I thought about listing Pearsall and McConkey together because I'd say the same thing about each. Pearsall tested even higher than McConkey, finishing 8th in athletic score, but I liked the way McConkey looked in the passing drills just a little more than Pearsall. They win in the same way, but McConkey is slightly smoother. Still, Pearsall helped his draft stock at the Combine and will likely get drafted at the end of the second round. I moved him into the second round in my rookie rankings as well.

Ray Davis - from 34th to 23rd

  • Ray Davis did not blow up the Combine, but he did well enough for his size. His recent rise in my rankings has more to do with what I learned about him since I posted my early rookie rankings. I knew he played for three different schools (Temple, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky) and that he ran for more than 1000 yards in each of the last two seasons in the SEC. What I did not know was his background; he grew up in the foster care system and was homeless at times as a kid. His story proves to me that he is resilient and driven. Now, as an advocate for kids in foster care, he shows that he is a good man and spiritual leader. Call me dumb for letting a life story affect rookie rankings, but I do factor character and work ethic into my rankings. NFL teams do, too. He won't get drafted until day three of the draft, but I'd like to add him to my dynasty teams as the 2-3 turn.

Jaylen Wright - from 32nd to 24th

  • Like Brian Thomas Jr., I wrote about Wright a few weeks ago, explaining why I had him ranked lower than most dynasty analysts. While I stand by my belief that the Tennessee offense is nothing like NFL offienses, making their skilled players hard to evaluate, I had to move Wright up my rankings after his incredible athletic testing at the Combine. He had the 2nd highest athletic score among this year's running back class and improved his draft capital as a result. During the Combine, Daniel Jeremiah compared his skills and athletic scoring to Alvin Kamara. That's a stretch, but I have to let Jeremiah's opinion and Wright's athleticism factor in my rankings, so I have moved him to a second-round pick in dynasty leagues.

Malik Washington - from 67th to 25th

  • Washington did not move up my rookie rankings because of his testing at the Combine, though his 42.5-inch vertical jump was highly impressive and tied for first in this class. He moved up my rankings over the last month as I learned more about his outstanding final season at Virginia, where he had 110 catches, 1426 yards, and nine touchdowns. I have listened to countless scouting and dynasty podcasts, and analysts often listed Washington as a favorite sleeper. I went back to watch highlights of his final season and was more impressed than I was at first. He won't get drafted until day three, but he could be a great sleeper pick by NFL and dynasty teams.

MarShawn Llyod - from 48th to 31st

  • Llyod did not blow up the Combine, but he did finish ranked 9th in athletic scoring for the running back class. What was more impressive was his testing scores compared to the running backs, who were twenty pounds lighter than him. Llyod is among the biggest backs in this class, so a team that values size in their backfield will draft him higher than expected. During the Combine and over the last few weeks, Daniel Jeremiah has repeatedly said that he thinks Llyod could be the first running back drafted in this class. If he is, he'll shoot up rookie rankings. I still like many other running backs ahead of Llyod, so I only moved him up to 31st in my rankings. I'll only move him higher if his draft capital is way higher than expected. NFL Mock Draft Database still has him projected as a fourth-round pick.

Rookie Fallers

Blake Corum - from 9th to 13th

  • I didn't move Corum down my rankings so much as move receivers ahead of him. Corum is still my top-ranked running back in this class, and he did nothing to hurt his ranking at the Combine, where he tested as the 12th highest-scoring running back. He just moved back because so many receivers moved ahead of him. I moved J.J. McCarthy, Adonai Mitchell, Xavier Worthy, and Brian Thomas Jr. ahead of Corum, meaning I have no running backs in the top twelve of my rankings. I've never seen a first-round without a running back drafted in rookie drafts, but this might be the first year.

Braelon Allen - from 10th to 17th

  • Allen tested better than Corum, finishing 7th in the class, but I didn't like what I saw when watching him as much as I did with Corum and others. He largely moved back because of other players moving ahead of him, but I also moved him back to my RB-3 after moving Trey Benson ahead of him due to his excellent Combine performance. Allen is the biggest back at the top of this class. His draft capital and landing spot will significantly affect his rookie ranking, but the same could be said for this entire class. With Allen, however, the landing spot matters more to me than some of the more versatile backs in this class.

Audric Estime - from 21st to 28th

  • Unlike Corum and Allen, Estime's fall in my rankings was largely because of his poor athletic testing. He finished 28th in athletic score in this class and ran a very slow 4.71 in the 40. Sometimes, athletic scoring can be deceiving. Estime looked faster when watching him on film, but maybe he's not. He's more of a short-yardage bowling ball kind of runner, so he might not get docked too much for his poor Combine if a team drafts him for a specific power-back role. He's now projected to be a fourth-round draft pick, causing me to move him quite a bit in my rankings. His Combine results demand it. That said, he's a player I bet I have ranked ahead of other analysts after the Combine. I'd still like to take a chance on him early in the third round.

Bucky Irving - from 35th to 39th

  • I was already lower on Irving than most dynasty analysts, so his poor Combine performance only moved him back four spots in my ranking. I dinged him in my first rookie rankings based mainly on his small stature. He could have changed my mind if he tested well, but instead, he tested poorly and moved even further back. His 4.55 40 was a big surprise given his 192-pound frame, and he was way below average in explosiveness with a 29.5-inch vertical jump and 9'7" broad jump. Slow speed and poor explosiveness do not match well with a 192-pound frame. He looks way more athletic than that on film, and his college production was great, but he's still not a player I'm interested in drafting this year.

Brenden Rice - from 36th to 42nd

  • When I first started studying this class, I started with the quarterbacks. While Watching Caleb Williams's film, Rice stood out as a favorite target and a great red zone target. I was impressed with what I saw and figured being Jerry Rice's son couldn't hurt. However, as I continued to study the class, Rice began to fall down my rankings. His 31st-ranked athletic score in this class reinforced my conviction to drop him in my rankings. His family pedigree and touchdown-catching prowess make him a player I'd still like to draft late in rookie drafts, but I would want to draft him in the fourth round instead of the third now.

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