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 January 2nd bowl games (and one I didn’t):
RB-Corey Clement, Wisconsin:
The 5’11” 227 lbs back muscled his way to 99 combined yards and a rushing touchdown on 24 touches in his bowl game. He had a tendency to bounce plays outside that aren’t blocked well. Clement has quick feet and good leg drive, but at times doesn’t pick up his feet near the line of scrimmage and came down with a few arm grabs. The runner does his best work out in the open field on sweeps and pass patterns in the flat that allowed his explosive burst to shine through. The Badger is a patient back that uses stiff-arms or juke moves to keep defenders away. In the passing game, Clement did nothing as a blocker, but showed off soft hands and caught the ball in stride. On his best day, he is a Doug Martin-type back, but he is more likely an Alfred Blue player (a second or third string back on an NFL team).
WR-Corey Davis, Western Michigan:
The bucking Bronco went out blazing with six receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown against the press coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. He spent his day split out wide or in the slot and had little difficulty getting open. Davis showed off his physical talents by boxing out defenders, using a mean stiff-arm, and blocking well downfield. The wide out came back to bail out his quarterback and snared a rainbow in the endzone for his lone touchdown on a desperation fourth down play. He made his first catch in stride racing down the middle of the field making the first man miss and demonstrated his big catch radius on a third down play. Clemson receiver Mike Williams is a great prospect and I have Davis only slightly behind him in my rankings.
ILB-Jarrad Davis, Florida: Confession time, I didn’t see him play in his bowl game. My local Maine ABC affiliate is in a dispute with Directv so I couldn’t watch the game. Instead I used draftbreakdown.com to watch Davis’ 2016 game against Alabama. The inside backer breaks on the ball quickly, sees the field well, and knows how to tackle. However, Davis was all over the place against the Crimson Tide. He got knocked around near the line of scrimmage, had issues disengaging from blockers, guessed a bit too much for my liking and didn’t take good angles to the ball. The Gator backer attempted to force a fumble, only to miss the tackle and let the back rumble for another five yards down the field. This was the first game he was back from an ankle injury and he tweaked it during this game, which may be a reason why he wasn’t at his best. I will need to view more Florida games to get a better account of his abilities.
DE/OLB-Carl Lawson, Auburn:
The good tackling defender anchors well on the line of scrimmage forcing the play back inside, usually playing at a two point outside linebacker overhang or sometimes lining up at the five gap (outside shoulder of the last man on the line) in a three point stance. He has a great first step which he uses with good balance to work up and down the line looking for the ball. Lawson has a great motor working just as hard to get to the pigskin in the last five minutes of the game as he did in the first five minutes, never giving up on making plays even 10 to 20 yards downfield. His hard, quick striking hands kept blockers off his body and allowed him to use swim moves to get around them. I’m not sure whether he will play outside backer or a defensive end as it will depend on the team that drafts him. Lawson appears to be at full strength this season after coming back from a torn ACL in 2014.
RB-Joe Mixon, Oklahoma: Violence towards women should not be tolerated, no “ifs ands or buts” about it. The video of him breaking several bones in his female victim’s face was unsettling; however the young man did face the media with zero excuses for himself almost two and a half years later. Mixon is the leaps and bounds the more athletic playmaker than his Sooner teammate Perine, which you can see with his production in both the running (1274 yards on 187 carries with ten touchdowns) and passing games (37 receptions for 538 yards and five touchdowns). He leaves you wanting as a pass blocker (barely throws a shoulder and doesn’t anchor his body). I’ve been playing fantasy for a long time and during this game the young, troubled playmaker reminded me of former Chief Priest Holmes with his quick stutter-step feet, gliding lateral agility, burst in the open field, vision, and jump cuts. Also the back is a solid receiver tracking the ball well in the air and catching it in stride with soft hands. All he needs is a crease and can run to daylight. Auburn defender Carl Lawson got in his head a few times which caused him to drop the ball on the ground. If Mixon stays in school for one more year, he might improve his draft stock that was crushed with the release of the video. Talent-wise I have him in my top five rookie runners, but have my doubts he would get drafted before the fifth round this year in the NFL Draft if he chooses to come out.
RB-Samaje Perine, Oklahoma:
Despite missing three games with a hamstring injury, the talented, hard running RB finished with over a thousand yards rushing with twelve touchdowns and a handful of catches. Perine is a physical force because he keeps chopping his enormous legs into the meat of the defense and uses his shoulders as a battering ram to get additional yardage. The back has a low center of gravity, runs under his pads, and is a goal line/short yardage threat. The runner has decent lateral agility, jump cuts at times (much slower than Mixon), uses a mean stiff-arm to keep defenders off him and is versatile enough to grab a few snaps at wildcat near the goal line. Perine is a decent pass blocker with a solid base and a powerful punch that could easily be coached up at the next level.
WR-Juju Smith-Schuster, USC:
Let me get this out of the way, I am biased against USC receivers: Keyshawn Johnson was the last good one (sorry injury prone Robert Woods) and neither Nelson Agholor nor Marqise Lee have done enough to prove otherwise. While Smith-Schuster had seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown, the Rose Bowl was basically a videogame with no defense with a final 52 to 49 score. The young receiver runs crisp routes, catches the ball at its highest point, tracks the pigskin well in the air while adjusting his body to it, and can outjump most defenders grabbing it always knowing where the sideline is. His physicality is lacking as he got the ball swatted out of his hands, didn’t show much as a blocker, and got tangled up more than a few times running down the field. He caught the ball well if it was targeted to his waist and above, but did not dig for low passes. Smith-Schuster runs well after the catch, has the quickness to get behind the defense, and is a solid red zone threat. From what I have seen and heard, I am comfortable ranking him in just inside my top five rookie wideouts. I have a lot more film work to do to convince me that he can be a difference making fantasy factor despite his 80 catches this season for over 1500 yards and 17 touchdowns.
WR-Tony Stevens, Auburn: He is definitely a guy that you should only stash in leagues with taxi squads as he is wicked (Maine term) raw and skinny. Stevens was on the field for about half the snaps, and was not impressive in run blocking (got in the way for a second or two). Stevens skied above a defender to make an outstanding catch near the sideline on one play. Then the next series, the wideout got targeted a few times near the end zone, but waited for the pigskin to arrive and let his coverage wrestle the ball away from him to make the interception.
WR-Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma:
Here is another troubled Sooner playmaker who has a series of domestic violence arrests relating to the mother of his children. Along with the troubled baggage he brings to the next level, Westbrook is rail thin at 175 lbs with his 6’ height. The wideout got sent in motion a lot to dictate coverage, and uses quick feet to start and stop on a dime. He has soft hands and shows good concentration making receptions while being double covered. In the Sugar Bowl, the Sooners gave him the ball on a jet sweep and reverse which demonstrated his wiggle in the open field. Westbrook saw time as a kickoff and punt returner, which might be the way he makes an impact initially at the next level. I currently have him in my Dural and Chesson wideout tier, aka outside my top 12.
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 down below. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.