Fantasy Football 2019: Ranking Top Rookies After Combine

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2019

Mississippi wide receiver D.K. Metcalf runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The NFL's stars of tomorrow could be your fantasy anchors of today—or of this fall, at least.

Fantasy production is tough to project, and the difficulty grows when it comes to first-year players.

For example, if you paid up on rookie running back Saquon Barkley last season, you might have been counting your fantasy winnings at year's end after his electric 15-touchdown debut.

But if you tied your backfield hopes to Ronald Jones II instead, you probably spent the season cursing out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff for his lack of involvement or meaningful production of any kind.

We're here to give you an early push in the right direction, though, by breaking down the top-five fantasy football rookies coming out of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.


1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

The diminutivebut not as short as we feared!—quarterback might have too much boom-or-bust potential to top most rookie rankings.

He was only a full-time starter in one collegiate campaign, could land with a starting-from-the-bottom rebuilder on draft night and might need the perfect offensive system built around him to succeed.

But if he pans out, the possibilities for a fantasy monster are staring you in the face.

That lone season as the Sooners' starter was capped with a Heisman Trophy win and featured 4,361 passing yards, 1,001 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns. The efficiency was just as impressive as the volume, too, as he connected on 69.0 percent of his passes and threw just seven interceptions.

If he really winds up as this year's first overall pick, his next employer might want to involve him as early as possible and should hand him the keys to the franchise.


2. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

While he may not have been the talk of the combine, Harry quietly emerged as one of the biggest winners.

We knew going in he was big, strong, physical and super productive. He became Arizona State's primary receiver as a true freshman and never relinquished the role. Over his three seasons with the Sun Devils, he caught 213 passes for 2,889 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"When I watched him at Arizona State—not that he's going to be this guy—but I always thought DeAndre Hopkins when I watched him," Gary Gramling said on the Monday Morning NFL Podcast. "He really doesn't separate but he's so acrobatic and his hands are so strong and he's so competitive. ... I feel he has such an incredible understanding of how to leverage defensive backs at the catch point and basically, just overall, his ability to play with someone on his back."

The knock on Harry was supposed to be a lack of speed. Then, he knocked out a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. If that gets him back into first-round discussion, then opportunity shouldn't be an issue as a rookie. And we've all seen what he can do when the ball is coming his way.


3. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Metcalf's performance in Indianapolis was...let's go with interesting.

He measured in at 6'3" and 228 pounds with less than two percent body fat. That's bananas. Then, he threw up 27 bench-press reps, blazed through a 4.33 40-yard dash and skied 40.5 inches on the vertical jump.

All of the above helps explain how explosive his numbers were whenever he was healthy at Ole Miss. Over parts of three seasons, he turned 67 receptions into 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's 18.3 yards per catch with more than 20 percent of his touches finding the end zone.

But his change-of-direction work wasn't great: 7.38 seconds in the three-cone, 4.5 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle. That might limit the scope of his NFL route tree. That said, if he's running go routes all game, he only needs to catch a couple balls to put up big numbers.


4. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

It's debatable whether Fant or his college teammate T.J. Hockenson should be the first tight end off the board during the NFL draft. But fantasy owners should lean toward the more athletic, more explosive Fant.

He's a home run waiting to happen. The 6'4", 249-pounder ran the 40 in 4.5 flat, broad jumped 127 inches and recorded a 39.5-inch vertical.

Sparingly used as a freshman, Fant burst onto the scene with 30 receptions for 494 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore. He followed that up with a 39-reception, seven-score season as a junior.

He could be more physical, and he may never be an asset in the running game, but fantasy owners can live with that, as the matchup nightmare could prove too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties.


5. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

While a groin injury kept Jacobs from doing any athletic testing at the combine, he still helped himself by measuring in at 5'10" and 220 pounds. In other words, he looks like he could hold up if an NFL team opted to give him the featured role he never held with the Crimson Tide.

Despite not being first on the depth chart, though, Jacobs often hinted at having the most pro potential. Good things usually happened when he was involved, be that as a rusher (251 carries for 1,491 yards and 16 touchdowns), a pass-catcher (48 receptions for 571 yards and five scores), a returner or even a blocker.

"Josh's game truly pops out," Alabama lineman Ross Pierschbacher told USA Today's Nate Davis. "He does everything right, kind of a freak running back—he blocks, pancaking guys, he became like our lead blocker later on in the season."

Jacobs has the best chance of any running back to be drafted in the first round, and if he is, he'll likely join a team with an immediate need for his skills. He has bell cow ability, especially for clubs that aren't as stacked with running backs as Alabama has been.