Top 10 Fantasy Prospects to Watch at the 2017 Senior Bowl
R.C. Fischer discusses the top fantasy prospects to keep on eye on during the Senior Bowl.
This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from R.C. head to Fantasy Football Metrics.
I’ve been watching all of the 2017 Senior Bowl practices, and I have done anywhere from 30 minutes to hours of pre-Senior Bowl week tape study on each prospect. After all the practices and my study, here are the 10 guys I’m most intrigued to see on Saturday and ones who could become the cornerstones of upcoming dynasty rookie drafts and key impact players for fantasy 2017.
O.J. Howard (TE – Alabama)
Howard is on everybody’s ‘winner’ list from Senior Bowl week. He measured perfectly (6′5″/249 with 10.0″ hands) and has looked smooth in drills. He’s catching the ball with ease and getting people titillated with one-handed catches in warm-ups.
He has the pedigree and name recognition to be everyone’s top guy. Now, I want to see it in live action – him as a go-to guy.
The Senior Bowl quarterbacks are looking for Howard a lot in live scrimmages, but he hasn’t exploded in live action like he has in warm-ups. If Howard has a few signature moments in the Senior Bowl game, he’s going to be a top 15 overall draft pick and possibly a top three dynasty rookie draft pick candidate (depending on landing spot).
We haven’t had a tight end prospect this exciting for rookie drafts in a while. Hunter Henry isn’t in the same league as Howard, and Howard can put a stamp on that reality on Saturday.
Cooper Kupp (WR – Eastern Washington)
If you like your wide receivers super-tall or super-flashy, then you’re not going to like Cooper Kupp. If you like your wide receivers to run killer routes, embarrass defenders with head-shaking “moves,” and be sure-handed while leaving DBs confounded as he racks numbers a la Jordy Nelson…here’s your guy.
Three straight seasons with 100+ catches and produced 1,400+ yards in each of his four college seasons. As a four-year starter, Kupp has averaged 107 catches for 1,616 yards and 18 TDs per season. He also returned three punts for TDs on just 25 career attempts, and he’s rushed for a TD.
Kupp has been stellar in all the practices. I’m interested to see how he does in the Senior Bowl game itself because an all-star contest may not be his best place to shine – he’s more of a QB-relationship and timing weapon. If he explodes on Saturday, his draft stock is going to soar even higher.
Given Kupp’s technical skills, he has a chance to make a fantasy impact right away in 2017. There will not be much of a learning curve for him in the pros. He could be an NFL starter day one.
Antonio Pipkin (QB – Tiffin)
On the first day of Senior Bowl practice, Pipkin didn’t stand out, and the Browns’ coaches didn’t seem to trust him to throw passes in the scrimmage. On the second day, you could clearly see Pipkin was more comfortable.
Compared to teammate QB Josh Dobbs in the drills – there was no comparison. Pipkin is the better, more gifted all-around QB prospect.
The question for scouts and fans – is Pipkin just a neat, small-school quarterback soon to be forgotten, or do we see the next Russell Wilson-type QB prospect here? Pipkin is a little under 6′1″ with good feet and a cannon for an arm. To me, he’s not small-school raw either – he’s got terrific instincts.
He’s the player I am watching the most this practice week and in this game. I’ve scouted and studied several of his Tiffin games and wrote an initial full scouting report on him on CollegeFootballMetrics.com, so I’m fully intrigued. I think his NFL prospects could be a lot better than anyone realizes right now. His march towards relevance begins by flashing at the Senior Bowl game for all to see.
If he has a quiet game, he runs the risk of getting overlooked due to his height and small-school status. He needs to get people’s attention Saturday.
Obi Melifonwu (DB – UConn)
Melifonwu has made some plays at the Senior Bowl practices, because of his speed/burst, that left my jaw dropped. He’s a freakish 6′4″ safety who can move with the speed of a corner.
He’s going to be a versatile weapon as a tackler who can cover like a corner. If he’s not converted to corner, he might be an instant impact IDP producer at safety in 2017.
118 tackles last season, eighth in the nation in solo tackles…and he had four interceptions as well. A very talented, unique DB because of his size and athleticism. A big day at the Senior Bowl could lock him in as a first round prospect.
Jalen Robinette (WR – Air Force)
I thought Robinette was by far the best WR prospect at the East-West Shrine. He was so good that he was extended a late Senior Bowl invite. ‘Only’ 35 catches for 959 yards and 6 TDs in 2016, but consider that was about half or more of all his team’s completions, passing yards and TDs.
He has flashed in moments at the East-West and Senior Bowl practices, but we have yet to see the ‘wow’ moment. Let’s see if it happens in the Senior Bowl game. I see flashes of Tyrell Williams and Josh Doctson in Robinette on tape.
Haason Reddick (LB – Temple)
Was a 4-3 DE for Temple and was third in the nation in tackles-for-loss last season, but doesn’t necessarily translate for the NFL because of his size (6′1″/237). He’s built more as a cover/tackling linebacker than pure pass-rusher.
Reddick didn’t stand out to me as much when I saw him on the one game tape I’ve watched so far, but he’s had some ‘wow’ moments in Senior Bowl drills. He’s fast to the ball and been a menace for linemen to pick up/stop in pass-rush drills. He’s a tough, athletic, versatile prospect – he might be an OLB, an ILB, or could be moved to a hybrid safety/linebacker position.
I want to see Reddick show me something in the actual Senior Bowl game. I know he’s a sneaky fast pass-rusher, but he needs to show the ability to play traditional linebacker in this game.
Evan Engram (TE – Mississippi)
Engram is going to get the same comparison applied to him a million times between now and draft day – that he’s “the next Jordan Reed.” That looks like the right scouting, but let’s see if he brings that at the Senior Bowl. He should have a chance to show it because I see the coaches running plays for him like a Jordan Reed, sliding him off the line and out in space/on the move.
He can solidify the “next Reed” label for the draft by showing it Saturday. If he does take a big step forward – he has a chance to be an immediate impact for fantasy next season. His draft team will be taking him on purpose for that specific role.
Mike Roberts (TE – Toledo)
The tight end enigma who is growing in scouting buzz every day scored 16 TDs last year for Toledo. Used as a traditional, Antonio Gates-like tight end.
He’s a big (6′4/260) strapping tight end prospect with gigantic hands (11.6″). Analysts initially saw him as limited, but he made some plays in the East-West Shrine game that got everyone on board with him as a full receiving threat.
I see Roberts running medium and deep routes in Mobile and has been displaying somewhat freakish athleticism for a guy his size. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, and there are several quality tight end prospects here (best overall group I’ve ever seen) – so, the question is whether he will stand out among them in the actual game itself. Scouts have questioned his blocking, but he’s looked as good as/better in blocking drills than any of the other TE prospects in Mobile.
Trent Taylor (WR – La. Tech)
Guys like Taylor tend to get lumped into the same “small [5′8″] and scrappy, next Wes Welker” type WR prospects, and it diminishes them because so many diminutive, college possession receivers get that label. However, Taylor is one of the best I’ve seen in this role in college. 136 catches for 1,803 yards and 12 TDs last season.
Taylor has been a machine in drills all week at the Senior Bowl, catching everything thrown his way and getting open almost without exception. An NFL team that covets a receiver for this role could draft Taylor top 100 and start him day one, and he could be a shock PPR guy for fantasy 2017.
Josh Reynolds (WR – Texas A&M)
Reynolds has used his long, lanky body to make terrific catches, and then quickly twist and speed up field after the catch. Has made some excellent grabs of misfired balls showing off a superior catching radius.
He has gone from ‘who’s the tall, skinny kid?’ to the quarterback’s top look deep downfield or for fades in the end zone in live scrimmages. He has a chance to have te Senior Bowl games best stats.
- Davis Webb (QB – Cal) – He’s the best, most polished QB prospect at the Senior Bowl, in my book. Want to see him show it.
- Nate Peterman (QB – Pitt) – Some are pushing Peterman as the top QB prospect here, but I don’t think Peterman is in the top three among the QBs here. I want to see if he lives up to my negative scouting on him, or forces a re-look.
- Jamaal Williams (RB – BYU) – Like his college tape, but came in under advertised size and hasn’t done anything to stand out at the practices.
- Zay Jones (WR – East Carolina) — Has quietly made a name for himself this week in Mobile by catching most everything thrown his way, and he’s been doing it on more medium-deep throws in stride or battling tight coverage for a long ball. Every time you see him, he makes another catch.
- Chad Williams (WR – Grambling State) – Has been similar to Zay Jones. Catches everything and hard to cover.
Once the NFL Combine data/measurables are in on the prospects, I begin to do a more exhaustive research and tape study to produce full scouting reports on 100+ prospects from this draft and will statistically grade and rank over 600 prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft and then for dynasty rookie drafts at CollegeFootballMetrics.com. On Monday, I will recap the happenings and fantasy impact from the actual Senior Bowl game itself.