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. These players I am seeing for the second time, unless I indicate otherwise in their individual write-ups. Here are some of the players I watched during the National Championship Game:
DT/DE-Jonathan Allen, Alabama: He is my favorite defensive lineman in this year’s draft. Allen can play either as a three or five tech, has a good first step, and gets penetration immediately on the line of scrimmage while never taking his foot off the gas. If you blink, the defender can swallow up the pocket all by himself. It might be a swim move, a bull rush, or a rip and go that gets him into the quarterback’s hip pocket. I love the way he anchors the edge and always puts his arms up to knock down passes.
OLB-Ryan Anderson, Alabama: Once again, Anderson outperformed his more illustrious counterpart Tim Williams. I don’t know what it is about the national spotlight that brings out the best in Anderson, but his draft stock will feel it. The Bama backer gets across the line and breaks on the pigskin quickly. He can get to the quarterback with a swim or spin move, he can power rush and rushes from either the middle or outside. His open field tackling is awesome and is the king of the big play with two turnovers against Clemson: a strip fumble and recovery run along with a bad snap snag. Anderson should only be a fantasy target in sack heavy formats.
ILB-Reuben Foster, Alabama:
Just call him the tackling machine. He flies around from sideline to sideline terrorizing anyone holding the ball utilizing his good vision and anticipation. The backer’s motor is constantly running as he chases plays 20 yards or longer downfield. Foster punishes the ball carrier with a powerful hit and wrap up. Rushing the passer is something that he is also effective at, although he isn’t asked to do it often. This former Crimson Tide defender should be the first linebacker selected in the NFL and your rookie draft.
RB-Wayne Gallman, Clemson:
The junior runner had a mixed performance to end his college career with 46 yards on the ground on 18 carries and three receptions for 39 yards. Gallman works so much better in space using his quick feet and burst in open space making defenders miss. When the back gets asked to run between the tackles, he is not powerful or low enough to the ground to get away from defenders once they latch onto him. Gallman had some ball security issues and got knocked around too much in pass protection.This might force him into a running back by committee role when he gets to the next level. Don’t be discouraged if you like his play as there are plenty of opportunities for his slashing, spinning, and jump cut hurdler moves combined with his soft hands out of the backfield or lined up out-wide. I have him just inside my top twelve rookie backs.
TE-OJ Howard, Alabama:
Howard continued to impress with his bowl performance, four catches for 106 yards; that included a 68 yard touchdown reception where he tracked the ball well in the air and got behind his defender while snaring the ball in stride. The tight end was used all over the formation: on the line, in motion, split wide, and in the slot. He is a willing blocker who can seal the edge or lead block down the field making him a great two-way tight end option. The way he can make a catch in double coverage is the reason why I have him ranked as my top tight end in his draft class.
TE-Jordan Leggett, Clemson: The senior tight end stepped up with a huge seven catches for 95 yards night; this made up for his one grab for four yards in the semi-final game. Leggett plays on the line, as an h-back, split out wide, or in the slot and gets sent into motion a lot which dictates easier coverage. My criticisms are that he isn’t physical as a pass blocker and that he does have concentration issues (dropped a pass in the flat that he would have gone for 25+ yards). He uses his 6’5” 260 lbs well as he boxes out defenders shielding them from the pigskin (including bucket catches with his soft hands) and can sustain run blocks at the line of scrimmage when asked. Unlike most tight ends, Leggett contorts himself to make the difficult catches and snare the ball without breaking stride. The playmaker finds soft spots in the zone and can get loose in the middle of the field. This senior Tiger might be a draft day bargain with Howard taking much of the spotlight and I have him in my top four available tight ends.
WR-ArDarius Stewart, Alabama: Although his receiving statistics were not that impressive (two grabs for twelve yards), the young playmaker had an impressive jet sweep from the wideout position for 25 yards that demonstrated how dangerous of a runner he is in the open field. Stewart, when used as a kick returner, saw the field well and it might be the way he gets onto the field at the next level. He does have a few issues concentrating and getting out physicalled in coverage; however, the athletic receiver stepped up, took a pitch back, and threw a 30 yard rope to Howard with less than three minutes left which set up a score. I like his versatility and believe his fantasy prowess will be more determined on location than his skill level.
QB-Deshaun Watson, Clemson:
This kid has moxy, throwing the ball 56 times and running with it another 21 times to defeat Alabama for the national title. His 420 yards passing and three touchdowns came against a defense that is filled with NFL caliber talent, but he still is getting dogged by draft pundits. Perhaps it’s his 21 carries for 43 yards that is the issue. Watson put his Tigers on his shoulders and didn’t let go. Yes, the young quarterback is quite dangerous with a clean pocket when he can step up and find an open receiver; those aren’t so prevalent at the next level. He doesn’t throw short very often, instead over-sails passes and against a wise NFL safety Watson might get picked off a lot. Right now, youth is on his side so he can take a beating from 21 carries and 56 drop-backs and still come back from it at the college level. In the NFL, his 6’3” 215 pound frame will not take the more physical game play style where only the superstar quarterbacks are protected by the officials. The young signal caller will need to adjust his ability to see the field from under center when he is more comfortable using the shotgun formation. Hopefully Watson will take advantage of his Senior Bowl invitation to show his ability to take professional coaching. Despite the criticisms, I have Watson as my clear number one passer in his draft class.
WR-Mike Williams, Clemson:
This future NFL and fantasy rookie draft first rounder had a rough beginning to his final game as an amatuer after getting hit helmet to helmet early on. He doesn’t always play to his physical 6’3” 225 lbs. frame, sometimes allowing defenders to almost choke him out in coverage. Other times, the wideout throws his weight around boxing out defensive backs. Williams has big, soft hands that he uses to snare the ball at its highest point and gets to the highest point of the ball’s trajectory by out-leaping his coverage. He has good concentration and can be devastating with a bucket catch that is hard to defend. I love his willingness to make the ball his and that is why I believe he is the best wide out of this year’s rookie class.
OLB-Tim Williams, Alabama: The backer got good penetration off the snap with a quick first step. He has powerful hands that keeps blockers off his body. Williams did not register much on the stat sheet the last two games, but did put up nine sacks his senior year. I like him in IDP formats that reward big plays, instead of the traditional tackle heavy scoring.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to discuss my 2017 NFL Draft prospects with you throughout the next several months, so keep checking the site for more content. You can find my review of previous bowl game players down below. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.