Rookie Combine Comps to NFL Players

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Mar 9, 2018

D.J. Moore earned some believers at the combine

While fantasy baseball is exciting, we are all itching for some football whenever there are no games being played on Sundays. The NFL draft is right around the corner, and while the combine can’t tell us everything about a player, it clues us in on the type of player they might be. When you pair it with the tape and stats, we can develop a strong idea of how they might fit into the fantasy landscape. My favorite way to digest the combine data is to find a series of NFL comparables for each player’s athletic profile. MockDraftable.com makes the task so much easier and if you aren’t careful, you just might lose your entire weekend searching through their database. Before we dive into the top player comparisons, be advised that I am not suggesting any rookie is going to be a hall of famer like some of their comps. It is merely an exercise to help you understand how they may look on the football field and fit into an NFL offense. With that said, let’s jump in:

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Saquon Barkley (RB) vs David Johnson

  • Size – 233 lbs to 224 lbs
  • Forty – 4.40 to 4.50
  • Bench – 29 reps to 25 reps
  • Vert – 41.0 to 41.5
  • Shuttle – 4.24 to 4.27

Takeaway: This one is really straightforward and props to Mike Tagliere for pointing out the comparison a few weeks ago. Barkley is simply a bigger, faster, stronger version of what may be the best running back in all of football. There really isn’t much more to say than that, and frankly, it should surprise no one. He may just be the most talented running back to join the NFL since Barry Sanders.

Royce Freeman (RB) vs LeVeon Bell

  • Size – 234 lbs to 230 lbs
  • Forty – 4.54 to 4.60
  • Bench – 17 reps to 24 reps
  • Vert – 34.0 to 31.5
  • 3 Cone  6.90 to 6.75

Takeaway: This one is going to ruffle some feathers, but I can’t help but notice all the similarities in their games. Freeman, like Bell, is a patient runner with the size to pound it in on the goal-line and soft enough hands to be a playmaker in the passing game. He will almost certainly never live up to Bell’s absurd standard, but if Freeman falls in the right offense (hello, San Francisco!) he may be the surprise fantasy performer of the rookie class.

Nick Chubb (RB) vs Jonathan Stewart

  • Size – 227 lbs to 235 lbs
  • Forty – 4.52 to 4.48
  • Bench – 29 reps to 28 reps
  • Vert – 38.5 to 36.5
  • Broad – 128 to 128

Takeaway: If it weren’t for Barkley’s presence in the class, we’d likely be talking about how drool-worthy Chubb’s game-film is. The big man ate NCAA defenses alive, and with his size and explosiveness, he may just do the same at the next level. Stewart and Chubb may have been the closest overall comp of any duo in this article. That is good news for Chubb, because Stewart has already rushed for over 7,000 yards in his career and is only just starting to slow down.

Derrius Guice (RB) vs Jordan Howard

  • Size – 224 lbs to 230 lbs
  • Forty – 4.49 to 4.59
  • Bench – 15 reps to 16 reps
  • Vert – 31.5 to 34.0

Takeaway: The comp isn’t perfect, but the database is unsurprisingly short on big backs who were fast, but not all that strong. That isn’t to say Guice is bound to fail at the NFL level, but that he is a unique player. That same is true for Howard, who may not be the greatest overall athlete, but shares impressive football instincts with Guice that just can’t be taught.

Rashaad Penny (RB) vs C.J. Anderson

  • Size – 220 lbs to 224 lbs
  • Forty – 4.46 to 4.60
  • Bench – 13 reps to 17 reps
  • Vert – 32.5 to 32.0
  • Broad 120 to 119

Takeaway: Anderson has had some success when he isn’t required to be a work-horse, which is most likely Penny’s weakness as well. While he’s got a nice size and speed combo and may tear it up on first and second downs, Penny is a dreadful pass blocker and hasn’t been required to help much in the passing game. His other comps were Lamar Miller and Eddie Lacy, which only confirms the notion that in small samples, Penny may look like a star, but that his upside is ultimately limited.

Calvin Ridley (WR) vs Antonio Brown

  • Size – 6’0″ to 5’10”
  • Forty – 4.43 to 4.56
  • Bench – 15 reps to 13 reps
  • Vert – 31.0 to 33.5
  • 3 Cone – 6.88 to 6.98

Takeaway: This comp is the exception to the exercise. It is not Ridley’s top comparison. That would be Laverneus Coles, who had a long productive career as a marginal athlete who fought for what was his. The reason I use Brown is merely to say that the combine is not everything. As my podcast co-host, Mike Tagliere, has fervently pointed out, Ridley’s 7 percentile combine is overcome by the eye-test and his makeup. The kid is a football player, and just like Antonio, that could go a long long way.

Christian Kirk (WR) vs Golden Tate

  • Size – 5’10” to 5’10”
  • Forty – 4.47 to 4.42
  • Bench – 20 reps to 17 reps
  • Vert – 35.5 to 35.0
  • 3 Cone – 7.09 to 7.12

Takeaway: If before the combine, I were asked to give the single comp I felt most confident about in this draft class, I would have said that Kirk is a mirror replica of Tate. As it turns out, the combine appears to validate that thought. While not the biggest receiver, Kirk should have a long career in the NFL catching loads of passes and making money with his ability after the catch.

Courtland Sutton (WR) vs Alshon Jeffery

  • Size – 6’3″ to 6’3″
  • Forty – 4.54 to 4.48
  • Vert – 35.5 to 36.5
  • 3 Cone – 6.57 to 6.71

Takeaway: Not only did Sutton smash the 3 Cone drill, but he was excellent in both shuttle runs, showing his freakish agility/size combo. Finding another big receiver with that level of quickness was impossible. There wasn’t a single one. Julio was the closest but is clearly faster and a better leaper. Alshon is a much closer overall match, but Sutton’s quickness is nearly even a full standard deviation above his. It will be interesting to see how this unique skillset plays out at the NFL level.

D.J. Moore (WR) vs Andre Johnson

  • Size – 6’0″ to 6’2″
  • Forty – 4.42 to 4.40
  • Bench – 15 reps to 17 reps
  • Vert – 39.5 to 39.0
  • Shuttle – 4.07 to 4.10

Takeaway: Not only is Moore obliterating the competition in analytical models, but apparently he is a very fine athlete as well. Moore may not be as tall as the future hall-of-famer, but he can compete on jump balls with anyone in this class and is able to beat his man deep like Johnson was famous for. While Moore might not be drafted until Round 2 or even Round 3, he is well worth keeping an eye on as he may just posses the largest upside of any receiver in the class.

D.J. Chark (WR) vs DeVante Parker

  • Size: 6’3″ to 6’3″
  • Forty – 4.34 to 4.45
  • Bench: 16 reps to 17 reps
  • Vert – 40.0 to 36.5

Takeaway: Clearly, Chark blows even Parker out of the water in terms of athleticism, but it may be telling that I had to search harder to find a comp who made any noise whatsoever in the NFL for Chark. There were plenty of hyped players who failed to live up to their athleticism, but it sure is exciting to dream on Chark never the less.

Mike Gesicki (TE) vs Jared Cook

  • Size: 6’5″ to 6’5″
  • Forty: 4.54 to 4.49
  • Bench: 22 reps to 23 reps
  • Vert: 41.5 to 41.0

Takeaway: You thought Gesicki was going to be paired up with some Hall of Famer based on his incredible combine, didn’t you? Yeah, me too. There were plenty of recognizable names in there like Jordan Cameron, Owen Daniels, Dallas Clark and Kellen Winslow, but believe it or not, none of those freak athletes ever turned into much more than a fringe fantasy asset.


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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro

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