A few weeks ago I wrote an article about three players I believed to be next in line to the great Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice at the RB position. Not only is it important to have a good grip on the top prospects at each position group going into your rookie draft but you should also know the players to target after them.
Let me set the stage for you, your wide receiver core is weak, and you are dead set on taking a WR high in this upcoming rookie draft. You pick somewhere between 1.07 and 1.12. Before your selection takes place, Courtland Sutton, James Washington, and Calvin Ridley are off the board…what do you do? Well, don’t panic, there are currently three WRs I have right behind those three that I believe could be immediate impact players.
Like I said in the article mentioned above when assessing rookie prospects not only do you need to take into account their talent but where they land is nearly as important. Clearly, at this time landing spot is unknown, so we work with what we have.
I began my scouting of 2018 rookie prospects about a month ago with the running back class. Let me tell you, it started with a bang. There are more than a handful of electrifying running backs entering the draft, and they had me quite entertained. After running backs, I then moved onto wide receivers. Being active in the Fantasy Football, College Football, and NFL communities on Twitter I have developed a pretty clear understanding of the consensus top three wide receivers in this year’s class. The order may change after the combine, but right now they are Courtland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, and James Washington. I began my scouting with these three, and I’ll be honest, I was not overly impressed.
My favorite of the three is Calvin Ridley due to his explosiveness off the line, his ability to get open and his sure hands. The reason I do not love Ridley as a prospect is his pencil-thin frame. This makes me doubt his longevity. My second favorite of the three is Courtland Sutton. At first glance, Sutton is easy to like. He looks the part of a star NFL wide receiver. Standing 6’4″ and weighing roughly 215 pounds, he has the frame to bully NFL defensive backs. What I don’t like about Sutton is I see some similarities between his game and Laquon Treadwell from a few years ago, and this worries me. Also, Sutton was outperformed this year by teammate Trey Quinn who had nearly 50 more receptions (Quinn is entering the draft as well). James Washington is the player that I have third out of these three. Washington is the most physically gifted of the three. The kid grew up on a farm and has strength and toughness ingrained in his DNA. He runs by defensive backs with ease and tracks deep balls like an All-Star center fielder. However, like many WRs to come out of the Big 12 before him, Washington has a limited route tree. Who knows how much teams will be able to get out of him in their system. By now, you can see that I have my doubts with this wide receiver class.
After continuing on, begrudgingly, with my scouting of the 2018 wide receiver class, I came across the three players I am going to be talking about in this article. Those players are Allen Lazard (SR WR out of Iowa State), Michael Gallup (SR WR out of Colorado State) and Christian Kirk (JR WR out of Texas A&M). Below I am going to explain to you what I like about each player and why I feel they are big-time dynasty assets.
Allen Lazard is the first player I will be discussing of the three. Lazard is 22 years old, he is roughly 6’5″ and weighs approximately 222 pounds. Lazard is expected to run a 4.58 which is also the estimated 40 time of top WR prospect Courtland Sutton. Lazard stands tall amongst the competition and has the alpha dog demeanor to go with it. When you watch Lazard play the game, he looks like a player who is all business, giving all-out effort play after play to bring home the win. Before I further describe Lazard, the player, here are some stats: Lazard has played in 47 games over the last four seasons totaling 231 receptions, 3,218 yards, 13.9 yards per reception and 29 touchdowns.
Lazard is a rare player, not only does he have the ability to do what big/physical wide receivers are expected to but he also plays with quick feet and has good change of direction. Where Lazard excels are jump balls, catching the ball in traffic and back shoulder routes. Lazard has excellent hands, and he has great body control when the ball is in the air, and he plays with a focus/concentration that allows him to keep track of the football in any situation. All of these traits remind me a bit of Keyshawn Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Being compared to these players is high praise, and I believe he is a bit of a hybrid between the two. I would like to see Lazard work on his routes a tad as at times he rounds them out. I have seen enough of his footwork to believe this can be improved on.
The next player I would like to discuss is Michael Gallup from Colorado State. Gallup is a player I’ve heard some buzz about lately, but I do not believe the average dynasty owner is aware of him yet. This could all change when the combine takes place and Gallup blows the roof off the joint like expected. Gallup is a 21-year-old senior. He is approximately 6’1″ and 205 pounds. Gallup is expected to run in the low 4.4s at the combine.
Gallup has only played 26 games over two seasons in his college career. Gallup totaled 176 receptions over those two seasons, 100 of which came in 2017. He recorded 2,690 receiving yards and averaged 15.2 yards per catch. Gallup had a whopping 14 touchdowns in 2016 but fell back down to earth a bit in 2017 with seven touchdowns. All of these numbers are quite impressive but if you really want to be impressed, turn on his film. Route running, quickness, explosiveness and yards after catch are all key components to Gallup’s game. I have not seen such an explosive wide receiver at the college level since I watched Odell Beckham, Jr. at Louisiana State University. The way Gallup gets off the line of scrimmage, explodes out of breaks and creates major separation is a thing of beauty. Gallup can change gears on the fly, and he uses this ability to toy with defensive backs even further and set them up to be beat.
Gallup is not just a finesse WR, he has good hands and has the strength to fight off the press at the line of scrimmage. At times Gallup does double catch the football so his hands are not elite but they can be improved. These skills are going to be highly sought after by QBs and offensive coordinators around the league come April. He has the ability to run all the routes so he could fit right into any offense day one.
The final player I am going to discuss is Christian Kirk from Texas A&M. Kirk is roughly 5’11” and weighs approximately 200 pounds. Kirk is another player expected to run in the low 4.4s at the combine. He has played in 38 games over the last three seasons. Over those three seasons, Kirk totaled 221 receptions, 2,667 yards, he averaged 12 yards per reception and totaled 23 receiving touchdowns.
Unlike the other two players listed before him, Kirk is also an elite punt returner. Kirk is #2 all-time in the SEC for punt return touchdowns with six. With those six punt return touchdowns, he is also #4 all-time in the NCAA. Think about that, that’s a historical number. I’m not saying that being an all-time great punt returner is going to make him a can’t miss prospect but those are definitely numbers to consider. What stands out to me when I watch Kirk is how often Texas A&M tries to get him the football in space. Kirk is used mostly out of the slot, he has quick feet, he runs solid routes, and he is dangerous after the catch. His feet are quick enough to make a defender miss, and he is strong enough to break tackles on a regular basis. It seems like at any moment, Kirk can take a pass to the house. You are not going to see Kirk taken down on first contact very often.
If I had to choose one player to have the same impact JuJu Smith-Schuster had for his team as a rookie, it would be Kirk. Both players are electrifying, and they just have a knack for producing the big play. The one knock I have on Kirk’s game is his ability to climb the ladder. He has a bit of trouble with balls out of his reach.
Picking which rookie is best suited to contribute to your dynasty roster is not always easy. There are always a few players who are can’t miss prospects, but after that, it gets a little cloudy. I’m hoping with this article, as well as the article I dropped about the RB prospects, you are now better suited to make those decisions.
I believe that numbers can lie, but the film does not. That is why I strongly urge you to watch these players and try to base your analysis on how they played and who they did it against rather than just listening to the pundits and viewing the combine results. Good luck in your 2018 rookie draft!
Make sure to tune into the @Dynastywarzone podcast this offseason. We are going to be discussing these rookies and many more.