As the NFL regular season and fantasy leagues begin to wind down, we can begin to turn our attention to the busy months ahead. Just because there aren’t any fantasy matchups to set our lineups for during the offseason doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep working to improve our rosters. A successful offseason can turn a pretender into a contender, and there are plenty of events to follow in order to find the necessary information to help turn your team around.
NFL Free Agency can obviously be a large factor in changing player values, but nothing quite beats the NFL draft. The NFL draft has simply become a huge part of the league year, and for owners in dynasty leagues it has the added importance of determining where the next generation of fantasy stars will land. The rookie draft in dynasty leagues is often the most exciting event of the year as contenders look to add the final young piece, and rebuilding teams try to secure a critical building block.
Wherever your team sits, the draft is a great opportunity to take the next step towards a championship. That having been said, the draft won’t take place until late April. There are loads of rumors, trades, signings, workouts, pro-days, and even games to sift through before we get there. With that in mind, today I’m going to start looking at the first step of the process – college bowl season.
If you’re anything like me you’ll likely spend a good chunk of time over the holiday season watching the seemingly countless bowl games. So while you’re at it, you may as well get some scouting done! I assume dynasty players vary in the extent to which they follow the college game and the upcoming NFL prospects, but with the offseason on our doorstep I prefer to use my time in the bowl season to get a feel for this year’s draft prospects.
Below are some of the games starring a notable draft prospect that you’ll want to be sure to catch.
- Las Vegas Bowl, 3:30 PM
- Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Freeman is a 5’11”, 238 pound senior running back for the Oregon Ducks. With over 5,000 career rushing yards (and counting) for the Ducks he has certainly proven to be productive as a workhorse back. Whether that can continue in the NFL remains to be seen, but the Las Vegas Bowl may offer a good glimpse of what he can do at the next level.
- DXL Frisco Bowl, 8 PM
- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton, a 6’4”, 216 pound receiver who may end up a first round pick in a few months. With that kind of size and impressive game tape, I’m interested to see how he fares at the combine. Good numbers there and Sutton may be a very high rookie pick.
- Cactus Bowl, 9 PM
- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is expected by many to leave UCLA after the season and head to the pros where he’ll likely be a top pick. Rosen boasts prototypical size and a great arm. Unless you play in a Superflex league, quarterbacks likely aren’t too valuable in your league, but Rosen is one of the few worth keeping an eye on.
- Camping World Bowl, 5:15 PM
- James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Washington has now had three straight 1,000 yard seasons and has averaged just under 20 yards per catch in his career in Oklahoma State’s wide open offense. Regardless of the offense, I’m curious to see how Washington’s game translates to the NFL. I won’t be surprised if he ends up a first round rookie pick, however.
- Valero Alamo Bowl, 9 PM
- Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
The Stanford Heisman finalist has had a monstrous year. The knock on Love is that he may be a bit small to really dominate at running back in the NFL (he weighs under 200 pounds), but the production he’s had this year is hard to ignore. At the very least he has earned my attention come December 28th.
- Tax Slayer Bowl, 12 PM
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Lamar Jackson is a special talent. He may never end up a productive or successful NFL quarterback, but the talent and upside is there to make him well worth looking into. As a runner, Jackson reminds me of Michael Vick. There have been fast quarterbacks since Vick, but Jackson is the first to really capture his elusiveness and quickness as well. If Jackson can thrive as a passer in the NFL, his upside is enormous making him my favorite dynasty QB in the class at the moment. Even if Jackson disappoints in the pros, I’m sure he’ll make his likely last college game a blast to watch.
- PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, 4 PM
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The likely crown jewel of this year’s draft class, there is hardly a bigger star than Barkley. He’s big, fast, strong, and elusive. He can run between the tackles, break runs to the outside, hurdle defenders with ease, run downfield routes, and even return kicks. Barkley is simply the best rnning back prospect I can remember in a long time. He’s as close to a lock for the rookie 1.01 as you can be in December and if you own that pick I’d be sure to tune in and watch Penn State.
- Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s, 1 PM
- Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Guice seems to be the only running back I have heard talked about on the same level as Barkley. While I think Barkley is the better player, that’s no knock on Guice. Guice is a physical and elusive do-it-all runner. Its early yet, but I expect him to be the 1.02 behind Barkley in most leagues.
- Equanimious St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
St. Brown doesn’t appear to be receiving a ton of hype as a high draft pick in the NFL Draft yet, but I have to admit that I’m already becoming a fan. Every time I watch St. Brown he just looks so smooth. I’ll be sure to catch him in the Citrus Bowl.
- Rose Bowl, 5 PM
- Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
- Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Georgia boasts some of the best running backs in college football, and there’s a good chance we’ll be watching two of them chew up yards on Sundays next fall. Both are extremely solid, well-rounded, potential work horses for NFL teams and have a chance to be early to mid-first round rookie picks this year in your leagues.
Mayfield meanwhile, has been one of the most exciting players in college football all year. A Heisman candidate, Mayfield will have a tough test ahead of him against Georgia in a college football playoff game. A big performance and Mayfield may end up as an early first round pick in the NFL draft.
- Allstate Sugar Bowl, 8:45 PM
- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
- Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
- Bo Scarborough, RB, Alabama
I don’t think anybody is shocked to hear that Alabama-Clemson will be stocked with future NFL talent, but these three are the ones I’m most interested in watching. Harris and Scarborough lead a talented Alabama rushing attack. While I’m higher on Michel and Chubb, Harris and Scarborough could still be rookie picks to target come time for your draft.
Ridley, meanwhile. will turn 23 in December and is only a junior, but has already earned talk as a high first round pick in April. If that happens, expect him to be taken in the first half of your ensuing rookie draft.
That about does it for the games I’m sure to be watching with an eye on draft prospects, but it is only the beginning of the process. I think watching prospects in this manner can be helpful. I believe in owning “your guys”. If you find you really like a player now, make note of it and follow along during the draft season. Even if some of these players don’t enter the draft, watching these games may alert you to a new draft crush.
A lot may change as we learn players measurements, teams, and draft positions, but with these games you should be able to start picking out which players have traits that appeal to you now.
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