Many dynasty championships are won with quick thinking and more times than not a great deal of research. I get excited each year during bowl season, perhaps it’s the optimism in the air as a few good prospects that go under the radar can make all the difference in the world to building a competitive fantasy squad of tomorrow. Most of these players I am seeing for the first time, unless I indicate otherwise in their individual write-ups. Here are some of the players I watched during the second week of the 2016-2017 bowl games:
RB-James Conner, Pitt: This young runner has fought back against cancer, but had his day limited to the first half due to a helmet to helmet hit with concussion concerns and nothing more to prove in a meaningless bowl game. Conner is explosive with good vision and a nice jump cut that helps him reach the second level. He follows his blockers well while keeping his legs driving. The now former Panther has soft hands, but did not anchor well as a pass blocker. His combine health check will answer many of his health concerns.
LB-Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt: Perhaps I choose the wrong game to start with to scout this defender as he finished with six total tackles with three of those solo. Cunningham sees the field well, and does a good job stepping up to fill the hole at the line of scrimmage. The backer had some issues disengaging from blockers and would, at times, over-pursue while taking poor angles getting to the ball carrier. He drops back into coverage quickly and changes directions well flowing to the pigskin. I will definitely do more film work on him.
RB-Matthew Dayes, NC State: Here is another incomplete report as the young back only got ten touches (a fourth of his team’s carries) to create 60 yards of offense. Dayes has loose hips that allow him to change directions without slowing down, good vision that allows him to follow his blockers, and abuse defenders once he finds the cutback lane. He accelerates well in open space, while spinning or wiggling away from danger with a great center of gravity. Not all was wonderful as the back did not move the pile and had some ball security issues. NC State did use him well with direct snaps and occasionally had him split out wide. I’m not sure he can become a lead back at the next level.
DE/OLB-Harold Landry, Boston College: This athletic defender has an explosive first step, which he likes to combine with an underneath dip to get around blockers. Landry fires out of a three or four point stance mostly as a seven tech (just outside of the last man on the line of scrimmage), but lined up in all four defensive line spots for the Eagles. His motor never stops and he can chase plays down the line of scrimmage or even twenty yards down the field with good open field tackling. The defender is great at getting his arms up deflecting passes or using them to maintain space between himself and the blockers. He did not anchor as well as I would have liked, but the junior Eagle reminded me a bit of a shorter Jason Taylor (former Miami Dolphin DE). His mitts are so big, the defensive lineman easily snared a pass and used a stiff-arm on the return. There is some hope for him to become a outside backer at the next level; he got to the flat very quickly, so it could be in his wheelhouse.
RB-Jeremy McNichols, Boise St: The junior declaring for the draft before the bowl game showed some intestinal fortitude, especially after his 24 touches for 70 yards performance on Tuesday night. The young runner has quick feet, spins away from defenders, falls forward, and uses a stiff-arm to create room to glide around. I saw some hesitancy as to when to hit the hole, got over-emotional at times, and he showed little effort when the play did not involve him. He uses his soft hands well and flies out to the flats in a hurry. McNichols runs under his pads and keeps his legs churning to gain additional yardage. The former Bronco reminds me more of Doug Martin in regards to his playing style than of Jay Ajayi, so keep that in mind during your rookie drafts.
OLB/DE-Haasan Reddick, Temple: The defender looks too skinny to play defensive end and lined up mostly in a two point stance (many times at an outside backer spot), but occasionally moved to a three point stance. He was lightning quick off the snap, while using active hands and spin moves to keep blockers off his body. Reddick dropped smoothly into pass coverage and shows good pursuit down the line of scrimmage or ten yards away. There were a few times he over-pursued and got off-balance. The Owl played equally well on the strong and weak sides of the formation and tackled well in the open field.
ILB-Anthony Walker, Northwestern: After watching Walker play against Pittsburgh, I wanted to be more excited about his prospects at the next level. He drops back quickly into coverage and flows towards the ball by seeing the entire field well while moving side to side. The backer is more of a two down thumper as it takes him too much time to get where he wants to go. This Wildcat also does not disengage with blockers easily. This defender is a good run stuffer as shown on his goal line stand against James Conner where he grabbed him mid-air and forced him back. Walker rushes the passer well and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to discuss my bowl observations with you throughout the next few weeks, so keep checking the site for more content. You can find my review of previous bowl game players here, here and here. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.