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:
DE-Derek Barnett, Tenn: This was an impressive defender from his first snap until his last, he kept on battling to get to the signal caller. The defensive end was held, pulled down by his shoulder pads, tripped, and yet still disrupted several passes while besting Reggie White’s Tennessee college sack record. He mostly lined in seven tech (wide of the formation, almost in a sprinter’s starter stance at a 45 degree angle) and dipped underneath his blockers shoulder pads. His flexibility, spin moves, and immediate first steps made his presence felt on almost every snap. Barnett flipped sides with ease, anchored his spot against the run, and worked down the line of scrimmage looking for someone to smash. The Volunteer had some issues separating quickly from blockers, but he would always find a way to break free. He dropped back into coverage on designed plays, but I still think his more natural position is defensive end. I currently only have Bama’s Allen and Texas A&M’s Garrett as more dominant DEs.
WR-Isaiah Ford, Va Tech: Much like the entire Virginia Tech offense, this wide out started the game slowly only catching one pass in the first half; however he finished up with six receptions for 56 yards. He looked like a fantasy WR2 by creating separation, then tracking the ball well in the air while showing off a good catch radius that allowed him to make some difficult grabs both high and low. Ford caught the ball with his soft hands in stride and showed off some versatility running a jet sweep and a slip screen. Once the receiver had the pigskin in his hands, he fought for extra yardage with his leg drive and ability to stiff-arm defenders. The wide out looks like a second round rookie draft pick to me, depending on NFL team.
DE-Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: First I know this was one game out of many, but I did not come away after this bowl game with the super warm and fuzzies over this Aggie. I thought his counterpart, Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis (my current seventh best rookie defensive lineman) was better at anchoring the line of scrimmage, playing the run, and rushing the opposing quarterback. What bothered me the most was that Garrett did not appear to hustle on the field except during an extra point attempt (he blocked that kick by the way). Kansas State made a point to use their running game on the side opposite where he lined up. He lined up as a five tech (shoulder on outside tackle shoulder) or a seven tech, mostly in a bear crawl stance, but sometimes standing up. Garrett anchored ok, but didn’t protect his legs from chop blocks. It took him some time to disengage from blockers and used pass rush moves sparingly (bullrush, spins, and swim moves). The defender appeared tight hipped and almost overly muscular limiting his use of leverage. He demanded a few double teams, but seemed to get a little too winded at times. Perhaps the soon to be top three NFL selection was playing it safe, so I will need to watch a lot more game film before I make any judgements.
TE-Bucky Hodges, Va Tech: This young 6’ 7” 245 lb. athlete looks and plays more like an oversized wide out than a tight end. I don’t recall seeing him lined up anywhere other than split outside. Hodges caught the ball at its highest point, layed out to make the difficult reception, and did a good job shielding the defender from the pigskin. He got tossed the ball twice on jet sweeps and gained ten yards with his quickness. The tight end was very effective on tunnel screens that allowed him to use his physicality along with a jump cut or two. His play reminded me of a more athletic Kelvin Benjamin.
RB-Marlon Mack, South Florida: Out of all the backs I have watched this bowl season, Mack is the most gimmicky. What do I mean by that? He was best in open spaces, but could knife the ball up the middle when the defense wasn’t expecting him. The runner is good at making the defense think he has the ball, when he doesn’t. Mack glides effortlessly with the ball and uses a few jump cuts to get away from danger. In the passing game, the back shows off soft hands and decent vision, but merely dives at knees in pass protection. I thought he ran too high and showed little effort when he wasn’t involved with the play. This runner is currently my 15th ranked back and I’m not sure he should be that high.
TE-David Njoku, Miami FL: The 6’ 4” 245 lb junior just declared for the NFL Draft after putting on quite a show during his bowl game. While the young playmaker mostly lined up in the slot, he also played an inline tight end position as well. Njoku is a physical specimen who swatted defenders out of his way with his powerful, yet soft hands or used a mean stiff-arm to create separation. The tight end showed off good balance and open field burst combined with spin moves getting away from backers and safeties alike (even hurdling over them). His quick feet combined with loose hips make him a unique talent and possibly a fantasy steal in the late second or third round, once again depending on eventual location.
My first impression was this wide out is a skinny Plaxico Burress–type player at 6’ 4” 190 lbs. His twelve catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns show how much of a playmaker he truly is. The receiver lines up outside, has blazing speed, tracks the ball well in the air, and usually makes the catch in stride. Reynolds plays more physical than you would expect a man with his thin frame would as he swats defenders out of the way and fights for extra yardage. The Aggie contorts his body to make the difficult receptions which along with his huge catch radius makes him a dangerous downfield threat. He didn’t face any press coverage and mistimed a few jumps, so there is room to improve. The playmaker made a terrific bucket catch in the endzone as he has a knack for shielding the defender from the ball while tip-toeing to make a catch near the sidelines. His slight build might make some shy away from him, but I like him in my top ten rookie receivers!
QB-Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina: The junior signal caller almost led his team back to tie the game with Stanford if not for the standout defensive end Solomon Thomas’ constant effort. Trubinsky is a quick decision maker, who has a strong and accurate arm. He took all of his snaps out of the shotgun, which may be an issue at the next level. Despite the commentators liking his footwork, I thought he threw off-balance almost as much as he did from a solid base. The Tar Heel threw across his body too much for my liking and stares down his receivers more often than he should (two picks because of that). Trubisky is a willing runner, but needs to protect the pigskin better. He throws his wideouts open, especially when he rolls out in the pocket. I agree with the bowl commenters that there is a lot of Carson Wentz to his game. I hope he comes out as the Tar Heel will be my number one rookie quarterback.
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 here and here. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley