2018 NFL Draft: Day 3 Skill Position Recap
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It. Is. Finished.
As fun as the draft is on Thursday night, by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around I’m just ready for the thing to be finished so I can return to betting on playoff basketball and hockey. In other words, I don’t regret skipping Day 2.
If you haven’t checked them out, here are my recaps for the first 100 picks.
Even though offensive linemen, edge rushers, cornerbacks, and linebackers are important, in these recaps I focus only on skill-position players.
Because they’re the only players who matter.
Although I discuss every skill-position player drafted in the top 100, in this piece I won’t for a few reasons.
- That would take a long time.
- I’m lazy. (Related to No. 1.)
- Historically, most of the guys selected outside of the top 100 never become anything more than temporary and mostly ineffective injury fill-ins (if they’re lucky).
So in this piece on the guys drafted in Rounds 4-7 I’ll touch on only the skill-position players I think have a modicum of long-term potential or are notable in some other way.
4.01 (101), Carolina Panthers: TE Ian Thomas (Indiana)
Senior | 6’4″ and 259 Pounds | Born June 6, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.74 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 7.15 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.2 sec | vertical: 36 in | broad: 123 in
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is 33 and reportedly contemplated retirement this offseason, and the team was thin at the position entering the draft after the departure of Ed Dickson in free agency. In Thomas, the team has a young backup who could develop into a future starter.
A young and athletic specimen, Thomas will likely need at least one season in an offense before being ready to contribute in a meaningful way. He started his undergraduate career at Nassau Community College and did almost nothing as a freshman, catching just four passes in four games (although two of those went for touchdowns), but as a sophomore in eight games he had a 23-catch, 433-yard, three-touchdown campaign that was impressive enough for him to leave Nassau as the No. 2 junior college tight end in the nation. Following his recruitment to Indiana, Thomas once again did little in his first year on campus — he had three receptions in 13 games — but as a senior (despite dealing with injuries) he had a much-improved 25-376-5 seasons in 10 games.
Tight ends are notoriously slow to develop, and Thomas is likely to be stuck on the bench for a couple of seasons behind Olsen, so he almost certainly won’t be worthy of a dynasty spot in all but the deepest of dynasty leagues, but a few years from now he could be a serviceable fantasy TE2.
For more, see Thomas’ player profile.
4.03 (103), Houston Texans: WR Keke Coutee (Texas Tech)
Junior | 5’10″ and 181 Pounds | Born January 14, 1997 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.43 sec | bench reps: 14 | 3-cone: 6.93 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.15 sec | vertical: 34.5 in | broad: 113 in
The Texans have a dynamic first-round wide receiver duo in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but they are otherwise thin at the position. In adding Coutee, the Texans finally have someone who might be able to lock down the No. 3 role.
After playing as a depth receiver as a freshman, Coutee served as Tech’s starting slot receiver for the next two years, averaging 93.4 yards and 0.72 touchdowns from scrimmage per game over that time. In his final season he was fourth in the nation with 1,429 yards receiving, and he had a 32.9% share of Tech’s receiving yardage, which is a high percentage for any given receiver to have in that offense.
While Coutee isn’t assured of overtaking Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, and Sammie Coates on the depth chart, he is the most accomplished receiver of the group, and if the Texans offense is as potent this year as it was last year with quarterback Deshaun Watson as the starter then he could have some occasional eruption performances as a deep-ball playmaker out of the slot.
For more, see Coutee’s player profile.
4.04 (104), Indianapolis Colts: RB Nyheim Hines (North Carolina State)
Junior | 5’8″ and 198 Pounds | Born November 12, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.38 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 7.18 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.35 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 119 in
The Colts entered the draft with running back Marlon Mack atop the depth chart, so they seemed likely to address the position at some point. Although Mack now appears to be locked in as the lead back after the team waited to the fourth round to add Hines, we should remember that Mack was drafted just last year with the No. 143 pick, near the end of the fourth round. Mack’s size and extra year of experience give him a theoretical edge on Hines, but the rookie is the one in whom the franchise has made the larger investment of draft capital.
A first-team all-conference selection, Hines in 2017 became just the third player in the Atlantic Coast Conference over the last decade to have at least 1,000 yards rushing, 20 receptions, and a punt return touchdown in the same season: The first two were C.J. Spiller (2009) and Giovani Bernard (2012). As a sophomore Hines was forced to play much more at receiver because of the team’s lack of depth at the position, and he finished second with 43 receptions. A sprinter in high school, he also joined the Wolfpack track team in his second year and was named an All-American as the leadoff runner for the 4×100-meter relay squad.
As a junior, Hines again returned to running back, and he turned his 223 touches into an efficient 1,264 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage (plus a punt return touchdown) across 13 games. A talented and versatile player, Hines has the potential to be a long-time change-of-pace and difference-making receiving back — with lead-back upside.
Almost immediately Hines should be able to earn work in the Colts backfield as a receiver and occasional runner. If he does well with his opportunities , he could find himself earning 10-14 touches per game.
For more, see Hines’ player profile.
4.05 (105), Cleveland Browns: WR Antonio Callaway (Florida)
Junior | 5’11″ and 200 Pounds | Born January 9, 1997 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.41 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 34 in | broad: 121 in
Browns general manager John Dorsey is the NFL executive who drafted the troubled Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs two years ago in the fifth round. Although few players have Hill’s raw athleticism, it’s possible that Dorsey envisions a Hill-esque role for Callaway with the Browns.
A polarizing player, Callaway as a true freshman led Florida with 678 yards and four touchdowns receiving, and he also chipped in 19 yards rushing, two punt return touchdowns, and a passing touchdown. As a sophomore he again led the team in receiving, turning 54 receptions into 721 yards and three touchdowns, and he contributed as both a runner (five carries for 32 yards and a touchdown) and a return man (315 return yards and one touchdown). With his versatile skill set, Callaway is very much in the mold of Florida predecessor Percy Harvin (and maybe Hill).
As a person, though, Callaway is problematic. After his freshman year he was charged with sexual assault (the charges were eventually dropped — which is normally what happens with top-tier athletes), and after his sophomore year he was cited for marijuana possession. And then, before his junior year even started, he was suspended for the season because of his participation in a credit card fraud ring with some teammates. Despite his talent, some scouts viewed Callaway as undraftable. He was perhaps fortunate to be drafted as early as he was.
While Hill broke out as a rookie, Callaway might struggle to earn consistent opportunities in his first year. He’s buried on the depth chart behind Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and Corey Coleman, and tight end David Njoku and running back Duke Johnson will also get their share of the targets. In the long term, though, Callaway has the talent to become a versatile playmaker and fantasy starter.
For more, see Callaway’s player profile.
4.08 (108), New York Giants: QB Kyle Lauletta (Richmond)
Redshirt Senior | 6’3″ and 222 Pounds
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.81 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 6.95 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.07 sec | vertical: 31 in | broad: 113 in
In Eli Manning the Giants have a 37-year-old starting quarterback who over the past two years has 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt. (For reference: Blake Bortles‘ mark over that time is 6.2.) The Giants could’ve drafted a potential franchise quarterback with the No. 2 pick. Instead they opted to draft a running back in the first round and then a small-school passer in the fourth — one year after selecting a Pac-12 quarterback in the third. All of that makes perfect sense. (Read: It doesn’t make sense.)
The Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player, Lauletta was a multi-year starter and the only quarterback outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision drafted this year. After one year as a backup and a second year as a redshirt, Lauletta started for the Spiders for three seasons, completing 63.4% of his career passes for 10,244 yards, 72 touchdowns, and a respectable 8.7 AY/A. He’s not Jimmy Garoppolo, but Lauletta had a perfectly respectable career in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Given that Manning is entrenched as the starter and Lauletta is not certain to beat out Davis Webb for the No. 2 job, he seems likely to ride the bench for at least the first year of his career. He might eventually develop into a starter, but he’s not worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues at this point.
For more, see Lauletta’s player profile.
4.26 (126), Atlanta Falcons: RB Ito Smith (Southern Mississippi)
Senior | 5’9″ and 200 Pounds | Born September 11, 1995 (Age: 22)
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: 4.45 sec | bench reps: 22 | 3-cone: 7.22 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.56 sec | vertical: 36.5 in | broad: 119 in
With Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons didn’t need Smith, but they evidently liked him enough to draft him. Despite not even being invited to the combine, he’s likely to open the season as the No. 3 back for the Falcons.
While Smith is almost certain never to be relied upon as a lead back because of his size, he does have some potential. After starting six games as a true freshman and then playing in an uber-productive committee with the senior Jalen Richard as a sophomore, Smith was the primary back for the Golden Eagles for his two final campaigns. In his three full seasons as an every-game contributor Smith averaged 134.3 yards and 1.18 touchdowns per game over 40 contests. Since at least 2000 he is the only college player with at least 4,400 yards rushing and 1,400 yards receiving in his career.
The running back position is beset with injuries, and Coleman is entering the final year of his contract. Smith is unlikely to do much as a rookie, but at some point within the first few years of his career he will probably have the chance to carve out a timeshare role in what has recently been a productive offense.
For more, see Smith’s player profile.
4.31 (131), Miami Dolphins: RB Kalen Ballage (Arizona State)
Senior | 6’1″ and 228 Pounds | Born December 22, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.46 sec | bench reps: 15 | 3-cone: 6.91 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.35 sec | vertical: 33.5 in | broad: 122 in
After trading away Jay Ajayi, failing to re-sign Damien Williams, and replacing them only with the ghost of Frank Gore, the Dolphins needed a running back entering the draft. In Ballage, they have a player who is highly comparable to Williams as a size/speed specimen short on rushing skills but long on receiving ability.
Ballage was a backup runner and part-time edge rusher as a true freshman and committee back as a sophomore. In 2016 as a junior Ballage impressed in waves: Although he managed only 536 yards rushing in a timeshare, he exhibited a David Johnson-esque combination of power running (14 scores) and consistent receiving (44 receptions for 469 yards).
In total, Ballage in 2016 accumulated 1,005 yards and 15 touchdowns and looked like a future star — and yet he had eight of his touchdowns in one game against a defense-deficient Texas Tech team. Without that game, Ballage’s breakout season wouldn’t have been a breakout at all. As a senior, he had just 58.5 yards and 0.46 touchdowns from scrimmage per game.
Built like a thick-and-fast linebacker and hyped as a future NFL three-down back after his 2016 campaign, Ballage is now slotted to be the No. 3 back on the Dolphins, but if Kenyan Drake were to suffer an injury during the season Ballage would have the potential to emerge as a serviceable fill-in (after Gore proved inadequate).
For more, see Ballage’s player profile.
4.32 (132), Baltimore Ravens: WR Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State)
Redshirt Senior | 6’5″ and 218 Pounds | Born February 23, 1995 (Age: 23)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.56 sec | bench reps: 16 | 3-cone: 7.2 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.4 sec | vertical: 34.5 in | broad: 124 in
Even though the Ravens revamped their wide receiver unit in the offseason with the additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead
and Ryan Grant, they continued to augment the group with the addition of Scott, who has the potential to function as a niche goal-line weapon given his size.
Although he started out at junior college and finished in the Sun Belt, Scott has some Power Five-ish pedigree in that he was recruited by Maryland and Kentucky, but his academic qualifications for admission were lacking. As a result, he went to Ellsworth Community College. Thanks to his raw talent and red-zone ability, Scott was recruited to New Mexico St. out of the JC ranks, and in his first year with the Aggies he led the team with five touchdowns.
As a senior, he finally had a complete campaign, leading the team with 76 receptions, 1,079 yards, and nine touchdowns. While Scott’s athleticism is by no means elite, he has enough size-adjusted speed to be a functional NFL receiver, and his contested-catch skills are nearly elite thanks to his ability to box out defenders with his large frame.
Coming from a mid-major conference, Scott will almost certainly struggle to adjust to NFL cornerbacks as a rookie, and he’s unlikely to see much playing time anyway given the receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, but all of them have relatively short-term contracts. It’s possible that with a couple of years of development, Scott could be a starting receiver in an offense quarterbacked by emerging superstar Lamar Jackson.
For more, see Scott’s player profile.
4.33 (133), Green Bay Packers: WR J’Mon Moore (Missouri)
Redshirt Senior | 6’3″ and 207 Pounds | Born May 23, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 3-4
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.6 sec | bench reps: 21 | 3-cone: 6.56 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.04 sec | vertical: 38 in | broad: 120 in
The Packers cut longtime No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson in the offseason and entered the draft with a clear need at the position. In Moore, they might have the next wide receiver to develop into a productive weapon for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Moore is one of just 18 players from the Southeastern Conference with a season of 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving since at least 2000. That list includes Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, and Jarvis Landry. Of the 16 such players to go through the draft process before him, only three weren’t selected within the first four rounds.
As a producer from the top conference in college football, Moore belongs to a cohort that possesses significant draft capital. The only other player in school history with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons is former first-rounder Jeremy Maclin.
Possessing good size and agility, Moore has the potential to emerge as the No. 3 receiver for the Packers as soon as his rookie year. With opposing secondaries focused on Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, whoever ends up as the third starter in the receiving unit will have the opportunity for some big fantasy performances.
For more, see Moore’s player profile.
4.34 (134), Arizona Cardinals: RB Chase Edmonds (Fordham)
Senior | 5’9″ and 205 Pounds | Born April 13, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Rounds 4-5
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.55 sec | bench reps: 19 | 3-cone: 6.79 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.07 sec | vertical: 34 in | broad: 122 in
After playing almost all the 2017 season without David Johnson and suffering through an incompetent committee of Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, and Elijhaa Penny, the Cardinals added Edmonds in the hope that he can be a competent backup and maybe even change-of-pace supplement to Johnson.
Edmonds is perhaps the 2018 version of Tarik Cohen — a smallish big-time producer from a small school. Given his small-school pedigree, Edmonds was as productive in college as you’d expect. Although he had an injury-impacted down year on an underperforming team as a senior, accumulating just 417 yards and three touchdowns in six games, across his four-year career he still averaged 150.7 yards and 1.67 touchdowns from scrimmage per game.
A four-year starter, Edmonds was immensely productive as both a runner (5,578 yards, 65 touchdowns) and receiver (85 receptions, 900 yards, seven touchdowns). Before an injury cut short his East-West Shrine Game week, he received positive remarks from industry scouts in attendance. Although his 40 time and jumps weren’t particularly impressive, he led all running backs at the 2018 combine in the agility drills.
Following the departure of offensive-minded head coach Bruce Arians, the Cardinals reportedly plan to employ a run-heavy system. If Edmonds is able to win the No. 2 job, he could enter the season slated for around 10 touches per game.
For more, see Edmonds’ player profile.
5.07 (144), Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Justin Watson (Pennsylvania)
Senior | 6’3″ and 215 Pounds | Born April 4, 1996 (Age: 22)
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: 4.44 sec | bench reps: 20 | 3-cone: 7.08 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.26 sec | vertical: 40 in | broad: 124 in
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the new Jeff Janis. Long may he rein. With Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin on the roster, the Buccaneers didn’t need to add a wide receiver, but Watson has so much tantalizing potential that they couldn’t help but draft him.
After playing as the No. 3 receiver as a freshman, he tore up the Ivy League for his three final years, averaging 120.6 yards and 1.07 touchdowns per game across that time. Most impressively, he improved each year, and by the end of his senior season he had an unreal market share of Penn’s aerial production.
- 2014: 16.0% of receptions, 18.1% of yards, 13.3% of touchdowns
- 2015: 35.7% of receptions, 44.5% of yards, 36.0% of touchdowns
- 2016: 44.1% of receptions, 49.0% of yards, 44.4% of touchdowns
- 2017: 47.6% of receptions, 50.5% of yards, 70.0% of touchdowns
Even when adjustments are made for his level of competition, Watson’s senior-year production was unbelievable. Not every uber-productive receiver from the FCS is worthy of playing in the NFL, but Watson’s combination of elite production and high-end athleticism suggests that he has the ability to develop into a long-term starter.
He shouldn’t be counted on at all for at least the first two seasons of his career — late-round wide receivers, especially those from small schools, often take a while to develop — but Watson deserves an end-of-the-roster spot in dynasty leagues.
For more, see Watson’s player profile.
5.25 (162), Baltimore Ravens: WR Jordan Lasley (California-Los Angeles)
Redshirt Junior | 6’1″ and 203 Pounds | Born November 13, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.5 sec | bench reps: 8 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.19 sec | vertical: 34.5 in | broad: 112 in
Like Jaleel Scott, Lasley is joining a Ravens wide receiver unit that has been totally restructured over the past few months. Unlike Scott, Lasley produced in a major conference and is a young prospect who declared early for the draft. Even though he was selected after Scott, Lasley is probably the more talented player.
After redshirting in his first year and playing as a depth receiver in his second year, Lasley emerged as a starter in his sophomore campaign, finishing first on the team with five touchdowns and second with 41 receptions and 620 receiving yards. As a junior he had to deal with suspensions and injuries to quarterback Josh Rosen, but even then he was a star, catching 69 passes for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games.
Catching 32.2% and 45% of UCLA’s receiving yards and touchdowns in the 2017 games in which he appeared, Lasley flashed legitimate play-making ability thanks to his smooth route running. He missed more than a quarter of the season, and he also dropped a frustratingly high 12.5% of his targets last year, but his combine performance (though not great) was passable. With his size, athleticism, and production, he’s fairly similar to Terrance Williams.
Lasley is likely to see minimal action as a rookie, but within a couple of seasons he could be the No. 1 receiver for the team.
For more, see Lasley’s player profile.
5.28 (165), Pittsburgh Steelers: FB Jaylen Samuels (North Carolina State)
Senior | 5’11″ and 225 Pounds | Born July 20, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 18 | 3-cone: 6.93 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.28 sec | vertical: 34.5 in | broad: 121 in
The Steelers have the 260-pound Roosevelt Nix at fullback, and they just signed him to a four-year contract on the heels of a 2017 Pro-Bowl campaign, so they probably didn’t draft Samuels with the intention of having him block for Le’Veon Bell. Rather, he’s likely to be with the Steelers what he was with the Wolfpack: A jack-of-all-trades.
A hybrid player, Samuels regularly moved across the formation at NC State and served a variety of functions: Tight end, slot receiver, fullback, H-back, goal-line back, and sometimes even wideout. He did it all. A versatile prospect, Samuels is in the mold of Kyle Juszczyk, Charles Clay, and Aaron Hernandez as a high-level multidimensional contributor, except he’s built like a lead back and was a more prolific college producer (2,719 yards and 45 touchdowns from scrimmage over his three final years).
Samuels is unlikely to see much immediate playing time, but I expect he will increasingly be leveraged as an early-down H-back (fullback and slot receiver) with the flexibility to move across the formation and a third-down halfback with the ability to run and catch out of the backfield. Given his size, athleticism, functional skill as a runner, and high-end ability as a receiver, there’s an underappreciated non-zero chance that Samuels could become the long-term replacement to Bell, who might leave Pittsburgh in the 2019 offseason after two straight years of playing on the franchise tag.
Even though he’s currently classified as a fullback, Samuels absolutely should be rostered in dynasty leagues. He might be talented enough to steal the No. 2 job from James Conner before the season starts.
For more, see Samuels’ player profile.
6.02 (176), Los Angeles Rams: RB John Kelly (Tennessee)
Junior | 5’10″ and 216 Pounds | Born October 4, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: 15 | 3-cone: 7.13 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.51 sec | vertical: 35 in | broad: 120 in
Pro day numbers: 40-yard: 4.64 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.22 sec | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
The Rams wanted a better backup behind starting running back Todd Gurley, and Kelly is probably an upgrade on Malcolm Brown and the rest of the nameless depth chart.
Kelly is just one in a line of productive backs to play for the Volunteers over the last decade.
- Arian Foster: 1,533 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2007
- Montario Hardesty: 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009
- Tauren Poole: 1,205 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010
- Rajion Neal: 1,232 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013
- Jalen Hurd: 1,475 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015
- Alvin Kamara: 988 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016
In 2017 with Hurd at Baylor and Kamara in the NFL, Kelly stepped up as the lead back and turned 189 rushes and 37 receptions into 1,077 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games. Kelly’s work in the receiving game was particularly impressive: He’s not as dynamic as Kamara — in fact, Kelly’s pre-draft athletic testing didn’t go well at all — but he did finish 11th in receptions among all FBS backs last year.
In an ideal world, Gurley would never leave the field, but if he were to suffer an injury Kelly would become an immediate plug-and-play option in the Rams offense, assuming he in fact wins the No. 2 job.
For more, see Kelly’s player profile.
6.33 (207), Green Bay Packers: WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)
Junior | 6’5″ and 214 Pounds | Born September 30, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Rounds 2-3
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.48 sec | bench reps: 20 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Even though the Packers drafted J’Mon Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fourth and fifth rounds, they couldn’t help but snag the falling St. Brown, who was widely expected to be a Day 2 selection.
St. Brown broke out as a sophomore, serving as the No. 1 receiver to quarterback DeShone Kizer as he led the team with 58 receptions, 961 yards, and nine touchdowns receiving in 12 games. Among all major-program receivers, St. Brown was fifth with 2.69 yards per route run (Pro Football Focus). The Offensive Player of the Year for the Fighting Irish, St. Brown looked like a future first-rounder.
And then 2017 happened. With Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, the team shifted to more of a ground-based offense, and St. Brown’s production plummeted. He still led the team in the major receiving categories, but his 33 receptions, 515 yards, and four touchdowns were rather pitiful totals, and his market share metrics (22.1% of receiving yards; 20% of receiving touchdowns) weren’t much better. Even so, with his measurables and 2016 production St. Brown is a high-upside developmental player.
Given the uncertainty that the Packers have on the depth chart after Adams and Cobb, it’s very possible that St. Brown could win the No. 3 job as a rookie.
For more, see St. Brown’s player profile.
7.18 (236), Dallas Cowboys: RB Bo Scarbrough (Alabama)
Redshirt Junior | 6’1″ and 228 Pounds | Born September 29, 1996 (Age: 21)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.52 sec | bench reps: 14 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.34 sec | vertical: 40 in | broad: 129 in
The Cowboys offense stagnated for significant stretches last year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, and entering the draft the Cowboys needed to add a viable backup after the midseason retirement of Darren McFadden and offseason departure of Alfred Morris. They perhaps found their guy in Scarbrough.
An Alabama back, Scarbrough displayed great sized-adjusted speed and explosiveness at the combine. His production was relatively paltry — his best season was in 2016, when as a sophomore he rushed 125 times for 812 yards and 11 touchdowns — but over the last decade the NFL just hasn’t been able to get enough of the Alabama backfield. Here are all of the previously draft-eligible Crimson Tide backs of the last decade to have at least 500 yards rushing in a college season (as well as the years and rounds in which they were drafted).
- Glen Coffee (2009, third round)
- Mark Ingram (2011, first round)
- Trent Richardson (2012, first round)
- Eddie Lacy (2013, second round)
- T.J. Yeldon (2015, second round)
- Derrick Henry (2016, second round)
- Kenyan Drake (2016, third round)
Scarbrough has never had a full-on breakout season, but neither had Drake before his top-100 selection. It’s possible that, if given the opportunity, Scarbrough could heroically outperform his draft position.
If Scarbrough wins the No. 2 job — and there’s little reason to believe he won’t — he will have massive latent value as Zeke’s handcuff.
For more, see Scarbrough’s player profile.
7.22 (240), San Francisco 49ers: WR Richie James (Middle Tennessee)
Redshirt Junior | 5’10″ and 183 Pounds | Born September 5, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.48 sec | bench reps: 6 | 3-cone: 6.87 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.16 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 122 in
Although they already drafted the versatile Dante Pettis on Day 2, the 49ers added James as another pass-catching option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Given how unsettled the positional depth chart is in San Francisco, it makes sense for the 49ers to continue to accumulate wide receivers.
As a freshman, James was unstoppable. In 2015 he led the team with 107 receptions and 1,334 yards. The next year he improved upon his production with 105 receptions and 1,625 yards. During this time, he was third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receptions and yards receiving, and he also chipped in as a wildcat quarterback, turning his 51 carries into 497 yards. In total he had 25 touchdowns in his first 26 games.
As a junior, though, he missed a few games in the middle of the season with an ankle sprain, and then later in the year he suffered a broken collarbone and had to miss the rest of the campaign. In total he had only 31 receptions and 10 carries for 347 yards and three touchdowns in five games, but even though he missed time in two of those contests he still managed to capture 26.3% and 50% of the receiving yards and touchdowns in the games he played. In his seven healthy games against Power Five opponents, he had 67 receptions and five rushes for 870 yards and six touchdowns.
As of now the 49ers don’t have a locked-in slot receiver. It’s possible that James — with his near-elite quick-twitch agility — could win the No. 3 receiver job
For more, see James’ player profile.
7.33 (251), Los Angeles Chargers: RB Justin Jackson (Northwestern)
Senior | 6’0″ and 199 Pounds | Born April 22, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Rounds 5-7
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.52 sec | bench reps: 13 | 3-cone: 6.81 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.07 sec | vertical: 38.5 in | broad: 122 in
The only player of note behind starter Melvin Gordon III on the depth chart is change-of-pace back Austin Ekeler, who had a fine rookie campaign last year but is far from irreplaceable. Given that the team even bothered to select Jackson, he has a chance to earn the No. 2 role.
A four-year starter in the Big Ten, Jackson is unlikely ever to be a lead back in the NFL because of his size, but that should in no way diminish his achievements at Northwestern. His 1,743-yard, 15-touchdown junior season was especially dominant, and over his three final seasons he was like a metronome, steadily grinding out campaigns of 333, 333, and 331 touches. In the best of scenarios, it’s possible that Jackson could put his Felix Jones-esque frame to use as a three-down rotational back in a committee.
Jackson had elite production (6,298 yards and 42 touchdowns in 51 games) and top-tier consistency (four seasons of at least 1,350 yards), so he has potential. What’s most intriguing about him is his pass-catching ability (122 career receptions), which could help him stick in the league for a while as a change-of-pace and third-down back. He didn’t have a great 40 time at the combine, but it also wasn’t bad for his weight, and he had the second-best agility marks at the position.
MG3 is a true three-down back, so even if Jackson wins the No. 2 job he’s unlikely to see an abundance of work, but he would have value as an injury fill-in if Gordon were to miss time — and he might even be able to best Gordon’s rushing average of 3.8 yards per carry.
For more, see Jackson’s player profile.
7.38 (256), Washington Redskins: WR Trey Quinn (Southern Methodist)
Redshirt Junior | 5’11″ and 203 Pounds | Born December 7, 1995 (Age: 22)
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.55 sec | bench reps: 17 | 3-cone: 6.91 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.19 sec | vertical: 33.5 in | broad: 116 in
Although the Redskins have a solid starting unit of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Paul Richardson at wide receiver, they have little depth at the position otherwise, so they added Quinn — this year’s Mr. Irrelevant.
As good as wide receiver Courtland Sutton was at SMU, it’s possible that he was the second-best receiver on the Mustangs in 2017: Quinn was that good in his only year of action at SMU, as he led the FBS with 114 receptions, which converted into 1,236 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 32.6% and 37.1% of the team’s receiving yardage and scores.
Last year Quinn led all FBS wide receivers with 4.66 yards per route in the slot (PFF), but he’s perhaps not a slot-only pass catcher, as he played just 33.8% of his snaps there. Quinn’s combine performance wasn’t great — he fell well short of his 4.39-second 40 time from high school — but he displayed enough agility to suggest that he can be a competent NFL receiver.
As a rookie Quinn might play primarily as Crowder’s direct backup in the slot, but he also probably has the ability to line up all over the formation, and it’s possible that Quinn could be a significant part of the Redskins offense as soon as 2019, when Crowder is eligible to leave the team via free agency.
For more, see Quinn’s player profile.
Pictured above: Jaylen Samuels