2018 NFL Draft: Day 2 Skill Position Recap
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
I freely admit that offensive linemen, edge rushers, cornerbacks, and linebackers are important, but there were a few long runs during the day (especially in Round 3) when no skill-position players were drafted, and for the purposes of fantasy and props betting those are the guys we care about most.
Perhaps Day 3 will be better. If you’re in Dallas and have the chance to attend the draft, definitely do it.
Here’s a breakdown of the skill-position players selected in Rounds 2-3, ordered by draft position.
2.03 (33), Cleveland Browns: RB Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Senior | 5’11″ and 227 Pounds | Born December 27, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.52 sec | bench reps: 29 | 3-cone: 7.09 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.25 sec | vertical: 38.5 in | broad: 128.0 in
With the pick they acquired last offseason from Houston in the Brock Osweiler salary dump, the Browns selected their lead back of the future, and he has an outside chance of being the most productive back in the class. In 2014, Chubb looked like the No. 1 running back prospect of the 2017 draft. Four years later, he’s seemingly just another second-rounder in a pretty talented cohort of backs. That’s what a massive injury, a loathsome timeshare, and an extra year of college will do to a great running back’s draft stock, but his upside remains intact.
Chubb arrived at Georgia in 2014 as the No. 7 running back recruit in the nation, and he immediately became the backup to starter Todd Gurley, who missed four games to suspension and then three more with an ACL tear. In his seven Gurley-less games, Chubb balled out with 187.6 yards and 1.6 touchdowns from scrimmage per game. For the season he had 1,760 yards and 16 touchdowns, earning SEC Freshman of the Year and being named to the All-SEC first team. He looked like a future NFL superstar.
And then in 2015, after averaging 155.4 yards and 1.6 touchdowns from scrimmage through the first five games of the season, Chubb suffered a grotesque knee injury on the first carry of his sixth game. Now two years removed from his knee injury, Chubb displayed great athleticism at the combine and resurrected his draft stock. Last year he was fifth in the nation with a 96.2 elusive rating (Pro Football Focus).
Chubb didn’t exhibit much ability in college as a receiver, and he’s likely to play behind Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson early in his career, but his long-term potential is great, and it’s possible that by the end of the 2018 season he will have established himself as the team’s two-down grinder.
For more, see Chubb’s player profile.
2.06 (38), Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Ronald Jones II (Southern California)
Junior | 5’11″ and 205 Pounds | Born August 3, 1997 (Age: 20)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.65 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 36.5 in | broad: DNP
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: 4.48 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 7.00 sec | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
With a veteran depth chart of Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Charles Sims, the Bucs entered the draft widely expected to select a running back in the top 100, and that’s exactly what they did with Jones, who should be viewed as the presumptive Week 1 starter.
An All-American high-schooler from Texas, Jones in 2015 led the Trojans as a true freshman with 987 yards and eight touchdowns rushing as the second timeshare back in an offense led by quarterback Cody Kessler. After that Jones played as the lead back, rushing for 2,632 yards and 31 touchdowns over his 26 games as a sophomore and junior. Last year in particular he was dominant, averaging 20.1 carries for 119.2 yards and 1.46 touchdowns per game. Jones wasn’t prolific as a pass catcher (39 career receptions), but he was adequate with 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air over his two final years.
With three straight seasons of 1,000 scrimmage yards and an average of 14 touchdowns per year, Jones was one of the steadiest college running backs in his time at USC. A Pro Football Focus All-American in 2017 with his position-best overall grade of 92.4, Jones was in the Day 1 conversation entering the evaluation process, but his hamstring-tweaked 4.65-second 40 time at the combine and acceptable-but-unexceptional 4.48 mark at his pro day likely hurt his draft stock.
Although he’s likely to start right away, some caution is warranted when it comes to Jones. A mid-sized back without a proven record of passing-game production, it’s very possible that Jones could lose goal-line work to Barber and receiving work to Rodgers and Sims in 2018.
For more, see Jones’ player profile.
2.08 (40), Denver Broncos: WR Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist)
Redshirt Junior | 6’3″ and 218 Pounds | Born October 10, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 18 | 3-cone: 6.57 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.11 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 124 in
The top wide receiver in our rankings, Sutton seems to be the long-lost big-bodied No. 3 pass-catcher the Broncos hoped to find in 2014 when they drafted Cody Latimer in Round 2. This time they got it right.
With good size and great college production, Sutton is in an elite historical cohort. Of all the first- and second-rounders to enter the NFL over the last decade, here are the big-bodied wide receivers (at least 6’0″ and 200 pounds) with multiple 1,000-10 receiving seasons in college.
- Corey Davis (2017, 1.05)
- Josh Doctson (2016, 1.22)
- Amari Cooper (2015, 1.04)
- Sammy Watkins (2014, 1.04)
- Davante Adams (2014, 2.53)
- Justin Blackmon (2012, 1.05)
- Michael Crabtree (2009, 1.10)
As a multi-year spread-system producer who relies more on size and technique than speed, Sutton is highly comparable as a prospect to Adams and Crabtree — except he’s bigger.
Although he’s likely to play behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as a rookie, he should play heavily in three-wide packages and will likely offer long-term value in dynasty rookie drafts.
For more, see Sutton’s player profile.
2.10 (42), Miami Dolphins: TE Mike Gesicki (Penn State)
Redshirt Junior | 6’3″ and 218 Pounds | Born October 10, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 18 | 3-cone: 6.57 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.11 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 124 in
In 2017 the Dolphins ‘relied’ on Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano at tight end, and they entered the draft with MarQueis Gray and A.J. Derby atop the depth chart, so they were highly likely to select a tight end early in the process. In drafting Gesicki, the Dolphins might’ve grabbed the best tight end of the class.
An uber-elite 99% SPARQ athlete, Gesicki holds the Penn State record for most receptions by a tight end with 129. After spending his freshman and sophomore campaigns as a backup, Gesicki in 2016 became a major part of Penn State’s passing offense as a junior, functioning as the No. 2 option behind wide receiver Chris Godwin, finishing with 48 receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns and ranking second among all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends with 301 yards on targets of 20-plus yards (PFF). Following Godwin’s early departure to the NFL, Gesicki in 2017 led the Nittany Lions with 57 receptions and nine touchdowns receiving. A red zone presence with ample size, Gesicki could be a matchup nightmare for NFL defenses.
Little should be expected of first-year tight ends, but it’s likely that Gesicki will get ample opportunity early in his career. A glorified slot receiver, he might acquire a large portion of the middle-of-the-field production that used to go to departed wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
For more, see Gesicki’s player profile.
2.11 (43), Detroit Lions: RB Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Junior | 5’11″ and 213 Pounds | Born June 30, 1997 (Age: 20)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 11 | 3-cone: 7.07 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.29 sec | vertical: 40 in | broad: 126 in
Pro day numbers (206 pounds): 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: 126 in
Even though the Lions didn’t seem to need a running back with LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah on the roster, they opted to add Johnson with their second pick. Since Jahvid Best‘s career was cut short in 2011, the team has been looking for a mid-sized player to lead the backfield, and the Lions might have found their long-term guy.
While Johnson was never considered the best back in college football — or even the Southeastern Conference — he was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 and was wise to declare early for the draft. Productive SEC backs hardly ever see more than three years of college action, and the extra year probably wouldn’t have helped his draft stock. A young runner, Johnson has joined an impressive cohort of 21-year-old rookie backs to enter the league as second-round selections over the past two decades.
- Joe Mixon (2017)
- Le’Veon Bell (2013)
- Dexter McCluster (2010)
- LeSean McCoy (2009)
- Ray Rice (2008)
- Maurice Jones-Drew (2006)
- Clinton Portis (2002)
With sufficient speed and excellent explosiveness, Johnson has long-term three-down NFL ability. For 2018, the question is whether he’ll be able to steal enough early-down work from Blount and receiving-down work from Riddick to be a fantasy-viable asset.
For more, see Johnson’s player profile.
2.12 (44), San Francisco 49ers: WR Dante Pettis (Washington)
Senior | 6’0″ and 186 Pounds | Born October 23, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
The first wide receiver drafted by the 49ers in the Jimmy Garoppolo era, Pettis has underappreciated potential as the long-term No. 1 receiver in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Pettis is an All-American returner with an NCAA-record nine career punt return touchdowns. On top of that, in his two final seasons he had 1,583 yards and 22 touchdowns as a receiver (and 50 yards as a runner). Pettis is functional enough to be a legitimate NFL receiver, and last year he easily led all Huskies pass catchers with 63 receptions, 761 yards, and seven touchdowns. In 2016-17, Pettis captured 24.8 and 33.8 percent of Washington’s receiving yards and touchdowns.
He’s perhaps the best collegiate return man of all time, but he’s not just a returner. Given his size and collegiate production, he might best be thought of as a Marvin Jones-esque player with slightly less route-running ability but way more return-game utility. Although he opted not to work out at the combine and his pro day because of an ankle injury, at the 2016 ‘Huskies Combine’ he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and led the team with a 41.0-inch vertical jump. He’s got athleticism to spare.
Although Shanahan favorites Pierre Garcon and Aldrick Robinson as well as Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor are currently ahead of him on the depth chart, Garcon and Robinson will both be in their 30s when the season starts, and Goodwin and Taylor are both under 5’10”. Within two years, Pettis could be the Jimmy G’s top receiver.
For more, see Pettis’ player profile.
2.15 (47), Arizona Cardinals: WR Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)
Junior | 5’10″ and 201 Pounds | Born November 18, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.47 sec | bench reps: 20 | 3-cone: 7.09 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.45 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 115 in
The Cardinals have little in the way of proven receiving talent behind future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald, who is expected to retire after 2018. Although he can move around the formation, Kirk played 93.5% of his snaps in the slot last year, so it’s possible the Cardinals are viewing him as the long-term replacement for Fitz in the middle of the field.
It’s dangerous to compare any player to Stefon Diggs, but if there’s a Diggs in the 2018 class he might be Kirk. A five-star recruit in high school, Kirk was an all-around playmaker with 1,692 yards rushing, 1,187 yards receiving, and 42 scrimmage touchdowns as a senior. He enrolled early at A&M and broke out as a true freshman in 2015, leading the team with 80 receptions, 1,009 yards, and seven touchdowns receiving.
The next year he progressed, finishing first on the team with 83 receptions and second with 928 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. As a junior, Kirk didn’t have quite as strong of a campaign, but he was still the team’s dominant receiver with 66 receptions for 859 yards and 10 touchdowns. Due to turmoil at the quarterback position, the Aggies offense as a whole had a tough season.
Additionally, he was extraordinarily effective as a return man, scoring seven touchdowns in that capacity, and he also added 121 yards as a runner. All told, in his first two seasons he averaged 1,013 scrimmage yards and 10.5 all-purpose touchdowns per year: That’s pretty good for an underclassman in the Southeastern Conference.
Although the Cardinals are reportedly transitioning to a run-focused offense, Kirk should have opportunities early in his career to contribute. He has a solid quarterback in Sam Bradford, and he should be able to earn a spot in three-wide packages with just J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler, and Chad Williams on the depth chart underneath Fitzgerald.
For more, see Kirk’s player profile.
2.17 (49), Philadelphia Eagles: TE Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State)
Redshirt Senior | 6’5″ and 256 Pounds | Born January 3, 1995 (Age: 23)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 23 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 6.87 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.06 sec | vertical: 35 in | broad: 121 in
After losing No. 2 tight end Trey Burton in free agency and cutting longtime fan favorite Brent Celek in the offseason, the Eagles were thin behind starter Zach Ertz. In Goedert, they’ve found an all-around player who can back up Ertz early in his career and eventually partner with him to form a nightmarish duo of mismatch options in 12 personnel sets.
A small-school superstar, Goedert has excellent size-adjusted agility and the overall athleticism to compete in the NFL. And his production speaks for itself. After redshirting his first year in college and playing as a reserve in his freshman season, Goedert was a top-two pass catcher for the Jackrabbits in his three final seasons, serving as the middle-of-the-field supplement to wide receiver Jake Wieneke.
After a 484-yard, three-touchdown sophomore campaign, Goedert especially dominated in 2016-17 with two straight FCS All-American seasons. As a junior he had a monster year, leading the team with 92 receptions, which he turned into 1,293 yards, 11 touchdowns, and a 33.7% market share of the receiving production. As a senior he once again led the Jackrabbits in receptions, accumulating 72 catches on his way to a team-high 1,111 yards as well as seven scores.
Goedert is unlikely to do much within his first couple of seasons because of Ertz, but he has the ability to play both inline and as a slot receiver and could eventually develop into a dominant every-down all-around tight end.
For more, see Goedert’s player profile.
2.19 (51), Chicago Bears: WR Anthony Miller (Memphis)
Redshirt Senior | 5’11″ and 201 Pounds | Born October 9, 1994 (Age: 23)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 22 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: 4.50 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 6.65 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.26 sec | vertical: 39 in | broad: 125 in
Last year quarterback Mitch Trubisky‘s top wide receivers were Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Dontrelle Inman. This offseason, in a marked effort to help out their developing passer, the Bears acquired Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel via free agency, and the addition of Miller through the draft rounds out the revamped unit.
After redshirting his first year and missing his second year to injury, Miller was a reliable receiver for quarterback Paxton Lynch in 2015, finishing first on the team with five touchdowns receiving, second with 694 receiving yards, and third with 47 receptions. The following season, with a new coach (Mike Norvell) and quarterback (Riley Ferguson), Miller took college football by storm, turning 95 receptions into 1,434 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 36.2% and 41.2% of Memphis’ receiving yards and touchdowns.
Showing that 2016 was no fluke, Miller last year had 96 receptions for 1,462 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 33.8% and 46.2% percent of the receiving yards and touchdowns. On top of that, throughout his career he chipped in 31 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns, which isn’t massive but also isn’t insignificant. Given the sufficient speed and exceptional agility Miller demonstrated at his pro day, his Day 2 selection is justifiable even with his small-school background.
Although Miller is unlikely ever to overtake A-Rob as the No. 1 receiver in Chicago, he has the potential even as a rookie to function as a high-end No. 2 receiver in the Bears offense.
For more, see Miller’s player profile.
2.27 (59), Washington Redskins: RB Derrius Guice (Louisiana State)
Junior | 5’10″ and 224 Pounds | Born June 21, 1997 (Age: 20)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.49 sec | bench reps: 15 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 31.5 in | broad: DNP
Even though he was one of the 22 draft invitees and widely expected to earn a Day 1 selection, Guice slid all the way down to the bottom quarter of Round 2 thanks to some ill-defined off-field issues. Within a couple of years, those concerns might seem foolish. Guice is one of the best on-field players in this class: He’s a gift to the Redskins.
Over the last decade, there have been nine big-bodied backs to enter the league as either first- or second-rounders and play as 21-year-old rookies (per Pro Football Reference). All of them (except for last year’s rookie) have had at least one NFL season with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Here are the nine backs and their best seasons.
- Joe Mixon (2017, 2.48): 913 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage
- Ezekiel Elliott (2016, 1.04): 1,994 yards, 16 touchdowns
- Todd Gurley (2015, 1.10): 2,093 yards, 19 touchdowns
- Le’Veon Bell (2013, 2.48): 2,215 yards, 11 touchdowns
- LeSean McCoy (2009, 2.53): 1,624 yards, 20 touchdowns
- Beanie Wells (2009, 1.31): 1,099 yards, 10 touchdowns
- Darren McFadden (2008,1.04): 1,664 yards, 10 touchdowns
- Rashard Mendenhall (2008, 1.23): 1,440 yards, 13 touchdowns
- Jonathan Stewart (2008, 1.13): 1,272 yards, 11 touchdowns
Drafted at the precocious age of 20, Guice is likely to emerge as Washington’s lead back right away. Chris Thompson will continue to get the majority of the backfield receiving work, but Guice should overtake Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley on the depth chart and could push for 18-plus touches per game.
For more, see Guice’s player profile.
2.28 (60), Pittsburgh Steelers: WR James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Senior | 5’11″ and 213 Pounds | Born April 2, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 14 | 3-cone: 7.11 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.32 sec | vertical: 34.5 in | broad: 120 in
After the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for the No. 79 pick, they were clearly in the market for a wide receiver, and for the second straight year they acquired one in Round 2. Washington should play right away as the No. 3 receiver behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Washington is just the latest in a long line of Big 12 wide receivers to dominate college football before entering the NFL. The 2017 Biletnikoff award winner as the nation’s top receiver, Washington had an impressive college career. As a true freshman, he led the Cowboys with six touchdowns receiving, and the next year he had the first of three straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving. As a junior he was highly impressive with 1,408 yards and 10 touchdowns, and in 2017 of all the wideouts in college football he had the best combination of yardage and touchdowns with 1,561 and 14 in 13 games.
Given the volume Brown and JuJu are likely to receive in 2018, it’s unreasonable to expect much from Washington as a rookie, but he has long-term potential. In terms of his collegiate production and biophysical profile, Washington is actually quite comparable to JuJu.
For more, see Washington’s player profile.
2.29 (61), Jacksonville Jaguars: WR D.J. Chark (Louisiana State)
Senior | 6’3″ and 199 Pounds | Born September 23, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.34 sec | bench reps: 16 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 40 in | broad: 129 in
For most of his collegiate career, Chark was an underutilized field-stretcher in a conservative Leonard Fournette-led run-first offense frequently victimized by poor quarterback play. He should feel right at home in Jacksonville.
As a freshman, Chark literally didn’t touch the ball. As a sophomore, he touched the ball twice: Once on an end-around run, and once on a lateral that someone else caught first. For his first two years of college, Chark actually had zero receptions. As a junior he finally got regular playing time as the third receiver in the offense behind Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, and he finished second on the team with 466 yards receiving and tied for first with three touchdowns. With Dupre and Dural in the NFL, Chark as a senior ‘dominated’ the passing offense, leading the team with 40 receptions, 874 yards, and three touchdowns. None of that is very exciting. He feels exactly like the type of receiver who should wallow for years in Jacksonville with minimal production.
Even though he’s a second-round pick, Chark is fairly raw, and he might have a hard time seeing the field as a rookie with Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, and Donte Moncrief ahead of him on the depth chart. And even if does get playing time, that doesn’t mean Chark will actually get a significant number of targets — or that many of his targets will be catchable. Go deep, young man. Keep going.
For more, see Chark’s player profile.
3.07 (71), Denver Broncos: RB Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Senior | 5’11″ and 229 Pounds | Born February 24, 1996 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 17 | 3-cone: 6.9 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.16 sec | vertical: 34 in | broad: 118 in
After releasing C.J. Anderson this offseason, the Broncos were left with just Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson on the depth chart. Clearly in need of a lead back with three-down potential, the Broncos got their guy in Round 3.
The Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, Freeman was so dominant in his first year at Oregon that the coaching staff shifted Byron Marshall — a 1,000-yard rusher the previous season — to wide receiver. Freeman and quarterback Marcus Mariota formed a dynamic backfield duo that led the Ducks to the College Football Championship as Freeman rushed for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns. The next year, Freeman became the focal point of the Mariota-less offense, rushing for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns and chipping in 26 receptions for 348 more yards.
After an injury-impacted junior campaign (in which he still had 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns), Freeman returned to form as a senior, rushing for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games. In the entire history of the NFL only two running backs to enter the league as top-100 picks have weighed more than Freeman and had at least 250 yards receiving in a college campaign: Fournette and Bell. For his career he caught 80 of his 89 targets. Freeman has some very underappreciated NFL potential.
Given his talent, draft position, and expected workload, Freeman might be the most undervalued running back in dynasty rookie drafts. He has legitimate top-12 fantasy upside at his position in 2018.
For more, see Freeman’s player profile.
3.12 (76), Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)
Senior | 6’5″ and 235 Pounds | Born July 17, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.9 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 26 in | broad: DNP
The only quarterback drafted on Day 2, Rudolph is in a tier of his own. Some draftniks attempted to force Rudolph into the Round 1 conversation, but he was never a serious contender to be selected in the same draft range as the top five. And yet he’s clearly superior as a prospect to the likes of Luke Falk, Mike White, and Kyle Lauletta based on his physical attributes and college production. By snagging him in Round 3, the Steelers got excellent value and a player who one day could develop into a starting quarterback. “Team stacking” him with his longtime No. 1 college receiver was a sharp organizational move.
In his two final seasons Rudolph excelled as the full-time quarterback, passing for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016 and 4,904 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017 with elite marks of 10.0 and 10.7 AY/A. This past year the Cowboys were eighth in passing success rate (Football Study Hall): More than just the beneficiary of a soft Big 12 schedule, Rudolph completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns (to one interception) in his two 2017 games against non-conference Power Five opponents. Rudolph isn’t highly mobile, but in his two final seasons he did chip in 16 touchdowns as a runner and improve his rushing average from -0.84 to 0.69 yards per carry (including sacks). As a producer Rudolph was one of the best in college football over the past two years.
Given that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has seemingly been on the verge of retirement for the past two years, Rudolph might actually be worth a roster spot in the deepest of dynasty leagues. If Roethlisberger were to retire within the next couple of years and Rudolph were to inherit a wide receiver group of Antonio, JuJu, and J-Wash, it would be hard for him not to be a serviceable fantasy option with the potential for massive upside.
For more, see Rudolph’s player profile.
3.17 (81), Dallas Cowboys: WR Michael Gallup (Colorado State)
Senior | 6’1″ and 205 Pounds | Born March 4, 1996 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 2-3
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.51 sec | bench reps: 10 | 3-cone: 6.95 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.37 sec | vertical: 36 in | broad: 122 in
After losing Brice Butler in free agency and cutting longtime No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant late in the offseason, the Cowboys clearly needed to add a wide receiver in the draft, even with the (ahem) ‘addition’ of Allen Hurns to the team. With Gallup, the Cowboys might have just lucked into a long-term Dez replacement.
A 2017 Biletnikoff finalist and PFF’s top-ranked wide receiver, Gallup was third in the Football Bowl Subdivision over the last two years with 2,690 yards. Even though as a high school student he was recruited by some Southeastern Conference institutions, Gallup due to his standardized test scores started his career at Butler Community College, leading his team as a freshman with 44 receptions, 780 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He missed all but three games of his sophomore campaign with an ankle injury, but he leveraged his first-year dominance into a number of scholarship offers, and he committed to CSU.
Once on campus Gallup immediately became the team’s top receiver and was one of the best wideouts of the 2016 season, turning 76 receptions into 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns. His market share numbers were especially impressive, as he captured 40.0% and 48.3% of his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns. Of all the 2018 draft-eligible receivers, he was first with 4.34 yards per route (PFF). While Gallup’s touchdown total dropped to seven in 2017, he had even more receptions and yards with 100 and 1,418, finishing top-five in the country in both categories.
Although Gallup is nothing close to a freak athlete, he has slightly above-average size, speed, agility, and explosiveness and should be able to line up all over the formation for the Cowboys. While he’s unlikely to start ahead of Terrance Williams and Hurns right away, by the end of his rookie season he could be the No. 1 receiver in Dallas.
For more, see Gallup’s player profile.
3.22 (86), Baltimore Ravens: TE Mark Andrews (Oklahoma)
Redshirt Junior | 6’5″ and 256 Pounds | Born September 6, 1995 (Age: 23)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.67 sec | bench reps: 17 | 3-cone: 7.34 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.38 sec | vertical: 31 in | broad: 133 in
Even though they selected Hayden Hurst in Round 1, the Ravens decided to double-down in Round 3 with another tight end selection. Bizarrely, for much of the last decade the Ravens have tended to draft tight ends in pairs when addressing the position.
- 2010: Ed Dickson (70), Dennis Pitta (114)
- 2015: Maxx Williams (55), Nick Boyle (171)
Ironically, in both cases the second tight end drafted (to this point) has been the one to have the better career. That could be the case this time too.
A four-star wide receiver recruit, Andrews redshirted in 2014 as he changed positions, but in his first year of action he immediately made an impact as a red zone weapon, finishing second on the team with seven receiving touchdowns (behind No. 1 wide receiver Sterling Shepard) even though he had only 19 receptions. The next year he progressed within the offense: He again finished second with seven touchdowns receiving (behind No. 1 wide receiver Dede Westbrook), and he also finished third with 489 yards and fourth with 31 receptions. With Shepard, Westbrook, and pass-catching running back Joe Mixon all in the NFL in 2017, Andrews broke out in his final season, leading all Sooners pass catchers with 62 receptions and eight touchdowns and placing second with 958 yards.
As good as those numbers are, they don’t fully convey the extent to which he dominated the tight end position last year. He had almost 300 yards receiving more than the No. 2 tight end, and he was second among all draft-eligible tight ends with his 2.63 yards per route (Pro Football Focus). A smooth route runner with the size to be a competent blocker, Andrews won the 2017 John Mackey Award, which is given to college football’s most outstanding tight end.
Blessed with near-elite speed for his size, Andrews is an all-around talent. He’ll have to compete with Hurst for playing time, and rookie tight ends rarely contribute in a significant fashion, but in three years it wouldn’t be surprising to see Andrews play the Alge Crumpler role to emerging superstar Lamar Jackson‘s Michael Vick.
For more, see Andrews’ player profile.
3.27 (91), New Orleans Saints: WR Tre’Quan Smith (Central Florida)
Redshirt Junior | 6’2″ and 203 Pounds | Born January 7, 1996 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.49 sec | bench reps: 12 | 3-cone: 6.97 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.5 sec | vertical: 37.5 in | broad: 130 in
Even though the Saints already have a loaded depth chart, they saw fit to draft Smith, so they presumably must see something in him they really like. Since head coach Sean Payton arrived in New Orleans, the team has a high hit rate on the pass catchers it has drafted, especially those with top-100 picks.
- Brandin Cooks (2014, 20)
- Robert Meachem (2007, 27)
- Michael Thomas (2016, 47)
- Jimmy Graham (2010, 95)
- Nick Toon (2012, 122)
- Kenny Stills (2013, 144)
- Mike Hass (2006, 171)
- Adrian Arrington (2008, 237)
- Marques Colston (2006, 252)
After redshirting in 2014, Smith emerged as UCF’s top pass catcher in 2015 thanks to the early departure of No. 1 wide receiver and future first-rounder Breshad Perriman. Although the Knights were awful, going 0-12 and finishing with one of the worst offenses in football, Smith led the team with 52 receptions, 724 yards, and four touchdowns, capturing 32.2% and 30.8% of the receiving yards and touchdowns — strong numbers for a first-year player. He progressed in 2016 with 57 receptions, 853 yards, and five touchdowns
Last year he turned into one of the most dominant receivers in the country: He was first among all draft-eligible wide receivers with a 142.9 passer rating when targeted (PFF), and even though he was often targeted downfield — he was third in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 16 deep receptions of 20-plus yards — he still managed to catch an outstanding 71.1% of his total targets for 1,171 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He even chipped in five rushes for 23 yards and a touchdown. Although he was selected in Round 3, he has Round 2 upside thanks to his physicality and ability to make plays all over the field.
Smith is unlikely to earn a wealth of playing time as a rookie, given that he’s buried on the depth chart under Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, and maybe even Brandon Coleman, but in a few years he has the potential to be a highly productive No. 2 wideout who benefits from the minimal defensive attention he receives.
For more, see Smith’s player profile.
3.34 (98), Houston Texans: TE Jordan Akins (Central Florida)
Senior | 6’3″ and 249 Pounds | Born April 19, 1992 (Age: 26)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 24 | 3-cone: 7.29 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.38 sec | vertical: 35 in | broad: 122 in
Following the retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz due to concussions, the Texans seemed likely to select a tight end during the draft. Older than Moses thanks to the four years he spent as a minor-league baseball player in the Texas Rangers farm system — he was a third-round selection in the 2010 MLB draft — Akins will immediately compete with Ryan Griffen and Stephen Anderson to start for the Texans in 2018.
A return man and backup wideout in 2014 as a true freshman, Akins started three games in 2015 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. When he returned in 2016 he transitioned to tight end, where he has accumulated 55 receptions, 862 yards, and six touchdowns in 21 games over the past two years.
Built more like an H-back than a traditional inline tight end, Akins is a glorified big-bodied slot receiver. With quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball, it’s possible that Akins could quickly acclimate to the NFL, but as an aged rookie Akins likely has a limited long-term ceiling.
Pictured above: Nick Chubb goes through drills at the combine