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An Early Look at the 2013 Draft Class: Volume Three

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a growth in the popularity of developmental dynasty leagues. These leagues add another element of strategy to traditional dynasty competition. In these leagues, you generally have two drafts. You have your traditional rookie draft and later (generally sometime in August), the league holds an additional draft to include a NCAA draft eligible player.

This player generally gets stashed on your taxi squad, thus not counting towards your regular roster limit. Obviously, the more you know about future NFL draft prospects, the better off you’ll be in these drafts.

I play in a few of these leagues and I have to say they are my favorite ones. I’m sure my passion for studying college prospects and the draft has something to do with it. That passion also gives me a built in advantage, because no matter where I’m slotted in the developmental draft order, I feel I am able to make an informed draft pick.

Playing in these leagues the last few years brought to light that there’s very little information out there for them. It’s too early for draft experts to come to any conclusions with another year of college tape yet to digest – that leaves owners to either draft based on their own knowledge of college football or go to an NFL draft site that has an evolving rankings list. This list will change drastically throughout the upcoming season, as it should. Even then, the information is real life football specific.

It’s not a problem for me since I do all of my own film study and prep anyway, but it presents a challenge for many owners.

This year I decided to do something about the information gap. I’m going to share my research with the DLF premium content menbers!

I’ll study about 40 players and narrow it down to about 20 or so players that I’ll write about. The ultimate goal is to give you a very early top 12 list by mid-August. Understand this is a preliminary look, but at least you’ll be a little more prepared for the upcoming draft class. If you don’t play in a developmental league, this will give you a head start for next year’s rookie class as well. I do it so you don’t have to. With that said, I’ve already posted volume one and two, so let’s get started with volume three.

Justin Hunter, WR Tennessee

2012 Class: Junior
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 200 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.49

Overview: Two games. That’s the number of games it took for me to be absolutely blown away by the talent and athletic ability of Justin Hunter. Unfortunately, in the third game of last season, Hunter tore his ACL and was out for the rest of the year. That’s unfortunate because just from those two games I saw a special talent who’d likely be the number one ranked receiver of this class if he had a full season under his belt.

Hunter is a big, rangy receiver who can run. He’s very quick with his breaks, and honestly he’s so quick and sudden, it’s freakish for his 6’4” frame. He creates separation with his explosive cuts on routes. He possesses very good hands and has good field awareness – able to find the soft spot of the defense. With his size and range, it’s extremely difficult to throw him a bad pass. Hunter is also a gifted run after catch receiver, using his explosive cutting ability to make tacklers miss. There’s no doubt in my mind, if healthy, Hunter will be in the “who’s the best receiver” conversation this year.

Early conclusion: Yes, there is very limited tape on Hunter. Having played in only two full games last season due to injury, it will make me pause and think twice before I label him the top receiver. However, I saw enough “wow” from his tape to say he has unlimited and unrealized potential and has all the makings of becoming a true superstar caliber receiver. Hunter is a WR1 talent, and in my mind, he has a much higher ceiling than either Robert Woods or Keenan Allen. Looks like my DVR will be filled with Tennessee Vols games this year.

Terrance Williams, WR Baylor

2012 Class: Senior
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 190 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.49

Overview: There’s a discrepancy in Terrance Williams listed size. According to ESPN, Williams is 6’ 3” 190 while CBS NFL Draft site has him listed at 6’ 1” 205 lbs. I’ll say from film he looks closer to ESPN’s listing, so that’s what I’m going with.

Williams is a good vertical and crossing route runner. He possesses good speed and quickness for his size (again this is why I bring up the size difference because at 6’ 3” he moves well but at 6’ 1” it’s closer to average). He’s a versatile receiver, able to effectively run routes from the outside as well as the slot. He catches the ball well in traffic, and though he has inconsistent hands at times, it’s not a chronic issue because he seems to prefer to body catch the ball. He does that both effectively and consistently. He works well along the sidelines, and if left unchecked at the line, he runs very clean routes and gives his QB a good open window.

On his inside routes, he’s very effective at finding the soft spot in the middle of the defense. He’s very good at catching the ball even when he knows he’s about to take a hit. By using his body to cradle those in-traffic catches, he does it the way Michael Irvin has always preached to receivers on the most effective way to catch when facing a collision. That’s what impresses me most about Williams. His knack for keeping his concentration when facing hits. Upon further review, I found Williams to be quicker and a better route runner than I gave him credit for going into his evaluation.

Early conclusion: If Williams is indeed 6’ 3”, and I am grading him on that listing, then I see him being a very effective receiver at the next level. Fantasy wise, he has WR2-3 potential. I view him as a good receiver but still clearly a notch below the first tier of receivers.

Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina

2012 Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Height: 5′ 10″
Weight: 205 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.57

Overview: I’ve been following Giovoni Bernard’s career every since his senior year in high school (never too early to start scouting the talent). I’ve always liked his build and running style. Getting the starting nod at University of North Carolina as a redshirt freshman certainly helps his cause for going pro sooner rather than later.

Bernard is a stocky 5’ 10” multipurpose running back with good hands. He doesn’t quite have the homerun breakaway speed, or extra gear, but he does possess shifty, quick feet with nice agility and balance. He does have a tendency to bounce it outside at times, however, which is something he’ll need to correct. He doesn’t have the speed to get away with it at the next level.

He is very good at getting defenses to slant and over pursue in one direction while he subtly shifts to the other direction. This subtle move creates running lanes to the backside of defenses and penalizes fast defenses if they aren’t disciplined. I saw him pull that off time and time again last season. If he can hone that skill more, and stay away from bouncing it outside he’ll become a far more consistent runner.

Bernard also has a knack for making himself smaller in traffic and his shifty style makes him a hard target for tacklers to get clean shots on. Overall, Bernard is a crafty running back with the ability to be a three down back at the next level. He reads his blocking well and can be an asset in the passing game. I’ll give him a pass on his tendency to bounce outside for now, given it was his freshman season. I’m hopeful it will get coached out of him.

Early conclusion: Bernard is an underrated back going into what will be his sophomore season. Much of that can be attributed to his lack of top end speed. I really love his craftiness and the way he sets up his blocking. He’s ahead of the curve and is only going to get better in that department. Even if he’s only a redshirt sophomore he’s shown enough to be a third or fourth round pick in the NFL Draft, especially if he slightly improves in his second year as starter. Fantasy wise, he has the talent to be a RB3 with a chance to be even better in a good offense.

Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State

2012 Class: Junior
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 191 lbs.
Unofficial 40 Time: 4.50

Overview: Joseph Randle’s tape was a bit underwhelming. As an athlete, there’s a lot to like. He’s well built, has really good size, and can run. As for projecting his skills to the NFL level it’s a different story.

For one, his tape is a little difficult to digest because almost every carry came out of the shotgun formation in Oklahoma State’s spread offense. Looking beyond that, the good I saw was Randle is an adequate pass blocker. He looks every bit of his listed size, which is probably why his current ranking is as high as it is, and the fact he also has very good straight line speed for his size. He also is an excellent pass catcher and an adequate blocker in the passing game. What I didn’t like was that he doesn’t possess much in the way of elusiveness. He’ll get what’s blocked, and if he sees daylight he can break it, but he’s not going to create offense on his own. He reminds me of a slightly smaller and a less physical version of James Starks in terms of style and running ability.

Early conclusion: I like Randle ok, but that’s the extent of it for me. He’ll get a bump in draft value because of his size/speed ratio but he’s just an average back at the next level. He just doesn’t have enough elusiveness and lateral agility to excel as a running back in my view. In fantasy, I project him in the RB3-4 range. I’m not as high on him as others seem to be.

 Paymon Shokoohi can be found @setmyroster on twitter and in the forums as dlf_paymons. Special thanks to @Jmpasq on Twitter and YouTube user BrownOrBust’s for their YouTube video clips.

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Chris Crane
10 years ago

I 100% agree with you on Justin Hunter WR, Tennessee. Got lucky to see him play in Tiger Stadium in 2010. Just 1 catch, however, in 2011 I watched the first couple Tennessee games and I was also blown away by him. I was also upset when I saw him tear his ACL at Florida, but any good fantasy football dynasty owner writes the injured names down. I have been looking forward for Justin to come back and can’t wait. Hope he gets his explosion back and def needs to work on his route running. I see value here for sure.

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