I'm from Chicago. So it stands to reason I would really like Jordan Payton.
But I need you to brace yourself. Jordan Payton is ... not from Chicago. Seriously, is there a more Chicago name than Jordan Payton, the surname of two of the greatest Chicago sports legends of all-time? Some might even argue the two greatest players in their respective sports. And you'd be right about one of them. And not the one you think.
(Before some of you millennials run off to Yahoo! the surnames, I'll save you the effort. We are talking about Michael Jordan and Walter Payton. You've probably heard of Jordan, no doubt. Yes, he's the crying Jordan meme guy. Payton was the best running back of all-time. He really is. So I guess that would mean that Michael Jordan isn't the greatest basketball player. Which he isn't.)
But anyways, I'm a big fan of UCLA receiver Jordan Payton (from Torrance, Calif. Go South Bay!), who was one of the most underrated players in college football last year. Or at least he told reporters that he was prior to the Senior Bowl. (Pro Tip: Don't label yourself as 'underrated' because that's not a good look. It's akin to giving yourself a nickname.)
But let's take a look.
» Ideal size
» Good in contested catches
» Solid blocker
Scouts and quarterbacks are going to love his size (6-foot-1, 207 pounds). He uses his body very well against smaller cornerbacks. He'll fight for the ball and often comes down with it. Though he did go for long stretches without a touchdown for UCLA during his senior season. Although the Bruins kind of struggled down the stretch and the team just seemed listless at times. It was a weird season for UCLA. They'd lose at home to Washington State and then win at Utah. And then they got punked by USC. Just strange. So I don't want to make too much out of his statistics at the end of the season.
Coach Jim Mora compared Payton to Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmanzadeh. I can see the T.J. comparison, but Boldin might be a bit of a stretch. Mostly because I see Boldin as one of the most underrated receivers of this era. And note, I'm calling Boldin underrated, he didn't call himself underrated.
Also of note is Payton's blocking ability. This is big with the way a lot of NFL offenses run these days. You need to have receivers who not only relish blocking, but excel at it. His size and blocking ability are going to get him drafted.
» Getting off the line
» Slow acceleration to top speed
Payton is stopwatch fast. He's good at the 40. But there were times where he had trouble pushing off the line. Some teams would try to press him, and he had trouble getting down the field.
He's also fast, but he doesn't blaze off the line. It's kind of like having one of those big Chevy cars from back in the day. They are fast cars, but not right away. I mean, I used to sit at one of those meters waiting to get on the 405 and it was harrowing as the car got up to top speed trying to merge on the freeway. That's the way Jordan runs. He's going to get to that top speed. Just not immediately. And if somebody slows him a little bit (or cuts him off), then it's kind of over. He needs to work on those quick twitch fibers.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
I'll go back to the comparisons to Boldin and Houshmanzadeh to point out Payton would be really good as a complementary receiver, and he really doesn't have the skills to be a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He could be a nice option as more of a thumper who will fight for catches, be good around the first-down marker or goal-line and also be an asset to the running game.
I would like to see him go to a team like Dallas, who could use a strong No. 2 receiver. Maybe as a replacement for Chris Hogan in Buffalo. Playing opposite Julio Jones in Atlanta would be fun, but I do like Justin Hardy as a Danger Zone player this year. Houston would be another good option. The Giants, too. Cincinnati as a replacement for Marvin Jones. Minnesota would be interesting if you believe in Danger Zone alumnus Stefon Diggs.
All right, because of his name. But teams should just have a gentlemen's agreement to not take Payton and allow the Bears to grab him, which would be really cool.
Early fantasy draft projection
I don't see him coming in and making an immediate impact. There is potential there down the road, but he really needs to refine some of his skills on this level. He doesn't offer much value in dynasty leagues, and you certainly won't want him in redrafts. He could at some point in his career develop into a decent fantasy option. But it's not going to happen this year. I could see him having statistics similar to Devin Smith last year. And Smith carried a more well-rounded game into the league.