The NFL Scouting Combine starts this week and I would like to take this opportunity to give you a crash course for those of you (and you know who you are) that do not watch much, if any, college football. But these are the guys that could make impacts in your fantasy drafts this season, so I want to make sure that you are squared away because you're already behind the 8-ball. It's like all of you that purchased Disney+ and realize that the final season of The Clone Wars is now streaming, but you never watched the first six. So without having to sit through all of that tape, let me get you caught up as quickly as possible for the Combine, which starts on NFL Network on Thursday.
And if you are some tape grinder who DVRs College Gameday, well then, enjoy Move the Sticks which you can download right here.
Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
Thaddeus Moss, LSU
A couple of quick answers for you. Yes, that is the son of Randy Moss. And yes, you are getting old. And the thing you might expect from Moss is a bunch of highlight-reel catches like his father. But he really made a name for himself with the national champions as a run-blocker which will end up being what draws scouts to him.
Some other tight ends to note: Hunter Bryant (Washington), Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) and Harrison Bryant (Florida Athletic).
As many as five dudes could go in the first-round this year, but things could continue to get weird later in the draft. Here's a quick look at the top guys. And again, for you fantasy enthusiasts, it's very hard for quarterbacks to breakthrough early on even though Kyler Murray had his moments last year, and Baker Mayfield was good as a rookie. No seriously, he was. Look it up. I know it seems like a long time ago.
Completely rewrote the college record books in 2019. Completed more than 76 percent of his passes. Threw for 5,600+ yards and 60 touchdown passes, almost all of those seemingly came in one half against Oklahoma in the college playoffs. He won the Heisman Trophy. And what scouts really love more than anything is his ability to make good decisions. Like leaving Ohio State for LSU. The last player to win a Heisman Trophy and a national championship and be selected first overall was Cam Newton. But the player Burrow gets compared to the most, is Tony Romo. Which some of you might take as an insult. But we see now as a broadcaster how smart he is. But take a look back at some of his tape and realize how good he was.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
A year ago at this time, he was expected to be the top pick in the draft. But he's battled some injuries last season, including a hip injury that ended his season. So don't expect to see him doing any drills or anything. He's mostly going to be at the combine to do interviews meet with some teams and will eventually have his own personal Pro Day. But remember, as a starter, Tua threw for close to 7,500 yards with 87 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. His closest NFL comparison is Russell Wilson. Which means he's eventually going to marry Normani. (In all fairness, the millennial women I work with said that was a really funny joke. I mean, I would have said something stupid like Taylor Swift, but they really stepped in and saved me.)
Justin Herbert, Oregon
He's got all of the size and intangibles that should make him the best quarterback in the draft. But it's never seemed to fully translate during his time at Oregon. Like current WWE Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre. We waited years for him to breakthrough and we are finally seeing it now. Maybe that happens for Herbert, who, when you watch him, will remind you of Carson Wentz. And I realize again, this might not be favorable in your mind. But trust me, it is.
Jordan Love, Utah State
This is going to be the buzziest name at the Combine. He was amazing during his junior year in 2018, going for 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. But struggled last year with 20 and 17. Which was the most-disappointing follow up since The Rise of Skywalker. Just kidding, I loved that movie. But Love has all of those rangy intangibles that scouts love and it kind of reminds you of Josh Allen, who also played in the Mountain West. But speaking of which, Love was an honorable mention in the Mountain West and I'm going to need a full investigation into that. He really does have the feel of a guy who could end up slipping a bit in the draft, going to a team like the Saints. And then ends up becoming a Pro Bowl quarterback for a decade after sitting behind a veteran for a year or two.
Some other quarterbacks to watch: Jacob Eason (Washington), Jake Fromm (Georgia) and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma). The latter you might remember as the guy Tua pushed out of Alabama to Norman. And I'll tell you, if Hurts' 40-time is under 4.6, some team is going to take him in the second. I mean, if there is a QB-needy team in the second with two picks. Fine, the Bears. They will take him.
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
I know vinyl is all the rage these days, but Lamb could make CDs cool again. And I already hate myself for saying that. He's the top receiver for me. He's big. He's fast. He had 376 yards after contact last year. That's the third-most in college football. He forced 26 missed tackles. And I know Big XII tackling is the Metallica's St. Anger of tackling, but that's still an impressive number. And for any of you kids who don't know what St. Anger is, GOOGLE that. I gave you Normani earlier, give me this one here.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
His numbers were a little bit down for him this year, as Alabama struggled a little bit this season. And believe me, I get that same glossed-over look when I hear Alabama struggles as I do when Ryan Reynolds complains about not being handsome enough, we get it. But the things scouts really love about Jeudy is his route-running ability, which is top notch. And his ability to change direction and cross up corner backs. Kind of think of him as an OBJ type.
Henry Ruggs, Alabama
Yes, the other Alabama receiver. But he might be my favorite. And somebody we really need to keep an eye on. He's like the Jarvis Landry to Lamb's OBJ. I know that was an LSU reference and I apologize for it. But wanted to give you a little bit of context. We want to see Henry run, however. If you check out this peak zone bubble nobody is going to stop him when he gets into the open field. So let's see this young man run. RUN LIKE THE WIND. He is expected to run the fastest 40 at the Combine. Maybe in Combine history. So this could be some team's version of Tyreek Hill. Which might be aiming high. He could be a better version of Ted Ginn Jr.
Other receivers to keep an eye on: Brandon Aiyuk (ASU), Tee Higgins (Clemson), Laviska Shenualt (Colorado) and Justin Jefferson (LSU).
Before we get to the running backs, we need to pay attention to the offensive linemen as well. I know the fantasy nerds might check out on this, but please don't. The Giants have the No. 4 overall selection in the draft and if they can find their Quenton Nelson, imagine what that could do for Saquon Barkley.
Here are the linemen to keep an eye on: Mekhi Becton (Louisville), Jedrick Wills (Alabama) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa).
D'Andre Swift, Georgia
He is the latest in a long-line of great Georgia running backs that will include Todd Gurley. Nick Chubb. Sony Michel. All three of those guys played at Georgia at the same time. Georgia is the Marvel Studios of running backs, they just keep cranking out the hits. Now we got Swift who averaged more than 6+ yards per attempt during his career. He reminds me a little of LeSean McCoy, and you might not be old enough to remember back nine years ago when he was dominating fantasy football, but Swift has that kind of ability.
He rushed for 2,003 yards last season and has averaged more than 6.2 yards per attempt. We also saw him play some of his best football in the biggest games, going for four touchdowns against Michigan. Crushing Wisconsin with 172 and a touch. He was even pretty good against Clemson, too. What we want to see at the combine is just how fast he is. I compared him favorable to Devonta Freeman when he was at FSU. And if you want to make an Ohio State fan freak out, compare him to a running back in the ACC and watch them lose their minds. But I think it fits, and it's worth checking out moving forward.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
He won the Doak Walker award for the second consecutive year. He had a lot of carries. He had nearly 1,000 carries during his college career at Wisconsin. And you don't want to be the guy who peaked in college. The dude who went so hard during his college days, that once he gets out he never goes out on the weekends. Overall, this guy reminds me of Arian Foster. The question is how well he can catch the ball like Foster. Taylor did have 26 receptions last year, so if he could add that wrinkle to his game, it could be huge. Like finding out that Zac Efron could also sing. Total game-changer.
Other running backs to watch: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU), Cam Akers (FSU), Antonio Gibson (Memphis) and Joshua Kelley (UCLA).
I'll give you a few defensive players to check out over the weekend starting with edge Chase Young who is expected to go No. 2 overall. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown. And my favorite defensive player, LB Isaiah Simmons is going to be a beast this year.