Johnathan Franklin could end up being the top running back in the 2013 class
Well, this should be easy.
The first round of the 2013 NFL draft was dominated by the big uglies. Offensive tackles occupied the top two spots for the first time in modern NFL history and Lane Johnson made it three tackles in the first four picks. In total, five offensive tackles were selected in the first round. Four interior linemen came off the board.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were six defensive linemen, five linebackers, four cornerbacks and three safeties selected.
That left room for just one quarterback (E.J. Manuel), three wide receivers (Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson) and one tight end (Tyler Eifert).
That means there are plenty of fantasy football difference makers still hanging around for day two of the draft. Here’s a look at the five who are most likely to make a fantasy impact in 2013 and beyond.
Lacy shouldn’t last too long when things get going again tonight. The Bengals (No. 37) and Jets (No. 39) should have him near the top of their boards. Lacy won’t get by the Steelers at No. 48.
Lacy will have a significant 2013 role regardless of where he lands. This is a rocked-up 5’11", 231-pounder with nifty feet and surprising giddy-up. His 6.8 career yards-per-carry average at ‘Bama topped Trent Richardson’s 5.8-yard mark. T-Rich went third overall last year.
Lacy is also underrated as a pass-catcher and blocker. He hauled in 22 balls for 189 yards and two scores this past season.
Simply put, this is an NFL-ready power back. Concerns about a lingering hamstring injury and mediocre 4.65 40-time have dropped Lacy into the second round. He’ll be a steal for whoever lands him on Friday night.
Lacy is the bigger name, but Franklin might have the more productive NFL career.
He set UCLA career records with 4,403 rushing yards and 4,920 all-purpose yards, zooming well past Maurice Jones-Drew. Franklin averaged a gaudy 5.6 yards per carry across four seasons.
2012 was the pinnacle of his Bruins career. Franklin took on a workhorse role, carrying 282 times. His 1,734 rushing yards ranked seventh in the nation. He averaged 6.1 yards-a-pop and scored 13 times on the ground.
He was just as good in the passing game. Franklin racked up 323 yards and a pair of scores on 33 grabs.
This is a well-rounded back who will contribute on all three downs at the NFL level. On top of his versatility, scouts love his burst, change of direction and vision.
Now, Franklin’s measurables don’t jump off the page. He goes 5’10" and 205 pounds with 4.5 speed. But those numbers are right in line with Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, a guy who Franklin’s game reminds us of.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Franklin or Lacy is the first RB off the board on Friday. Landing spot will determine which guy has more short- and long-term fantasy value.
Ball doesn’t have the long-term fantasy upside of Lacy or Franklin. But he’s just as capable of contributing this season.
Ball took home the 2012 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. He finished third in the country with 1,830 rushing yards. His 22 touchdowns ranked sixth.
It took Ball 356 carries to get there, though. That followed a 307-tote 2011 campaign. Ball totaled a whopping 924 carries across four college seasons. That’s a concern as he starts his pro career.
Then there’s the fact that Ball simply isn’t a special running back. He checks in at 5’10" and 214 pounds. His 4.66-second 40 time ranked 19th among running backs at the Combine. His ten-yard split (1.59 seconds) ranked 16th and his broad jump (118 inches) was 12th. This isn’t a particularly fast or explosive back.
We can’t discount Ball’s college production, though. He proved capable of handling a workhorse role. And he definitely has a nose for the end zone as the NCAA’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (77) and total touchdowns (83).
Ball might not have the skill set to emerge as a fantasy stud. And all those college carries figure to shorten his NFL career. But this guy is plenty capable of contributing right out of the gate. We’ll see who lands him on Friday night.
It wasn’t long ago that Allen was considered the top wide receiver in this draft class. Then Tavon Austin happened. And Cordarrelle Patterson. And even DeAndre Hopkins.
Of course, Allen didn’t do much to save his fledgling stock. An October knee injury cost him the final three games of his college career and most of the pre-draft process. He finally worked out for teams on April 9, but disappointed with a 4.71 40-yard dash. He also had a medical re-check on an ankle that required surgery back in March of 2012.
Concerns abound, but we’re also talking about a polished and productive wide receiver. Allen broke out in 2011 with 98 catches and 1,343 yards. Both marks ranked ninth in the country.
He took a step back this past year, finishing with 61 receptions for 737 yards. Shaky quarterback play and that knee injury were mostly to blame.
Still, this looks like one of the more NFL-ready wide receivers in the class. Allen isn’t a burner, but the 6’2", 206-pounder runs tight routes and has a wide catch radius. Plus, he’s versatile, with the ability to line up outside the numbers or in the slot.
Allen has the makeup of a classic possession receiver. He’s drawn comparisons to Reggie Wayne and Anquan Boldin. Wayne went for just 27 catches and 345 yards in his rookie campaign. But Boldin exploded for a 101-1,377-8 line.
Allen won’t reach those lofty heights. But if healthy, he has a chance to be the most productive rookie wide receiver in 2013.
Plenty of people will tell you Hunter is a better pro prospect than teammate and first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson. While Patterson was toiling in the junior college ranks in 2010 and 2011, Hunter was making a name for himself at Tennessee. He scored seven times in 2010 as a true freshman. His sophomore season started with a bang—16 catches, 302 yards and two scores in his first two games. But he blew out his ACL in the third.
Hunter returned in 2012 to rack up 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Those marks all bested Patterson’s. Still, most scouts didn’t think Hunter was the same player he was before that knee injury. He looked a half-step slow and afraid to go over the middle. He also struggled with drops.
Hunter recharged his draft stock this offseason, though. He blazed a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine, while also ranking first among wide receivers in the vertical (39.5”) and broad (11’4”) jumps. This is an explosive receiver. And Hunter checks in at a long, lean 6’4" and 196 pounds.
NFL Films guru Greg Cosell considers Hunter the “most physically talented” wide receiver in the class, even comparing his “body type and fluid strides” to Pro Bowler A.J. Green. “He is, without question, the most explosive as a route runner with his long body, route fluidity, vertical speed and playmaking ability at the catch point,” Cosell says.
Hunter has the size and athleticism to make an immediate impact as a deep threat and red-zone option. The Lions (No. 36), Jets (No. 39), Bills (No. 41) and Panthers (No. 44) could all target him early in Round Two.