It’s that time again, the week before the NFL draft and you’re probably sick of reading about Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield! But hey, there’s plenty more to speculate on other than which of these QBs is going to sit behind Tyrod Taylor this season, including who is going to emerge from the pack as the Alvin Kamara of this year’s draft.
The below players have all been mooted as going in round 2 or below this year, but those who watch college ball intently will know they’ve got a chance to make an immediate impact on the big stage itself. They’ve also got an equal chance of being that guy who never quite made the grade.
Keeping it fantasy focused I’ve only looked at the offensive side of the ball, with a WR, RB and TE to choose from. Each of these college ballers could feasibly add some points in your flex slot next season – providing they get the fit they need when coming off the draft board (disclaimer: don’t hold me to that this time next year!).
Simmie Cobbs Jr – Wide Receiver, Indiana
Predicted round: 4th / 5th
2017 Stats: Receptions- 72; Yards – 841; TDs – 8
Best Fit: Tennessee Titans
The Indiana junior is in the mid range of the 2018 WR crop; some expect him to go as high as the 2nd round, others expect him to fall to day three of the draft, in part due to an arrest last summer which will leave GMs wondering if there’s an underlying attitude issue.
In 2015 the Illinois native enjoyed a breakout season for the Hoosiers, going for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns whilst starting all 13 games, earning an honourable mention in the All-Big ten end of season accolades. Sharing targets with current Jags wide out Shane Wynn saw Cobbs’ end zone contribution take a hit in his freshman year but the potential was clear.
An injury in the first series of his 2016 season meant that he was unable to build on that potential immediately. But Cobbs bounced back in 2017 earning First Team All-Big Ten honours as he hauled in 72 passes including 8 touchdowns as the Hoosiers went 5-7, going off against Ohio State and Maryland in particular.
At 6ft 4, he has the build many teams are looking for in an end zone threat and watching even five minutes of his film demonstrates his ability to reach over opposition cornerbacks and pluck the ball away just at the right second.
Last season’s game against Ohio State put Cobbs firmly in the contention to move up the draft board. In the season opener he went for 149 yards, made two single handed grabs on the sideline and bullied his way in to score from 10 yards out. He also dominated a leaky Maryland defence, hauling in two TDs – one of which was a trademark reach and grab on a high ball in the corner of the end zone.
Cobbs’ downside is primarily around acceleration- his quickness doesn’t allow separation from the line and occasionally his turning circle when coming back for the ball can leave a lot to be desired.
However, paired with a quick opposite number, there is no reason why he can’t build on those aspects of his game whilst posing an immediate danger for teams within the red zone.
Mark Walton – Running Back, Miami
Predicted round: 4th
2017 Stats: Rush Attempts- 56; Yards- 428; TDs- 3
Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants
Let me get this out there now, I LOVE what Mark Walton brings to the table. However, whether or not he is a premier back is a completely different matter.
Like Cobbs, Walton has an arrest hanging over him – this one for a DUI in 2016. That, combined with an injury hit 2017 season and a slight indecisiveness when looking for interior lanes has him falling to the fourth in another draft stacked with RB talent.
Back to the positive, as a true freshman Walton bowled into the end zone ten times, enough to top the list of scorers for the Hurricanes that season. But it was his 2016 season as a starter where he came alive, going for 1,117 yards on the ground, 240 through the air and 15 TDs. What this doesn’t say is that Walton is a BEAST.
For starters, over his last 274 carries Walton hasn’t fumbled the ball once with his ability to lean into the first tackle a large part of this. He’s also comfortable holding the fort against the blitz and blocking on QB runs. An all round team player.
But it’s the versatility he shows that really impresses, built with the look of a power back, Walton has a turn of speed and an elusiveness which makes him deadly even when the blocking in front of him fails. In his 204 yard appearance against Toledo last season, his 44 yard cut and run TD showed the NFL potential the South Florida native possesses, sending the D-line one way and burning through the Rockets backfield in the process.
He certainly has areas for improvement but lord this guy is underrated (NFL.com’s Chad Reuter agrees!).
Hayden Hurst – Tight End, South Carolina
Projected Round: 2nd
2017 Stats: Receptions- 44; Yards- 559; TDs- 3
Best Fit: Miami Dolphins
Alright, alright, I hear you – Hurst has gone at the bottom of the first in that mock draft you saw earlier. Here’s why he won’t: he’s 24 already and NFL teams have already commented that they can’t see him progressing physically, add the fact that Dallas Goedert and possibly Mark Andrews are above him in the pecking order and he falls to the second.
You probably know that Hurst was originally drafted as an MLB Pitcher in 2012 before returning to play for the Gamecocks as a walk on in 2015, but there is his first plus point for me. This guy has determination, versatility and a will to succeed. His second year saw him break South Carolina records at the TE position as he made 48 catches for 616 yards, developing his ability to separate from opposition linebackers and a sticky pair of hands in the process.
Sounds good, doesn’t he? Well, it gets better. Hurst has only dropped one catch from 100 career catches for the Gamecocks. That combined with a mentality that sees him actively seek tackles rather than running out of bounds means I’m sold – as a Dolphins fan I’d love to see him as a weapon in Ryan Tannehill’s 2018 arsenal.
So there you have it, three prospects that aren’t being lauded in every single pre-draft piece, three young men who are going to have their lives changed in 2018. Will they succeed? I’m looking forward to finding out!
Make sure you check out all of the other NFL Draft articles right here on acrossthefantasypond.com and please feel free to leave a comment to let me know how much you enjoyed this article
By Andy Moore – @AJMoore21