It’s bowl season, which means it’s time to get your last look at players eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft and your first look at promising young prospects. Team RotoViz will be bringing you previews of all bowl games with the players to watch at the fantasy-relevant positions. If you want to see the previews for other college bowl games, be sure to check out the 2014-15 RotoViz College Bowl Games Playbook. Also, if you want to hear discussion about some college bowl games and NFL draft prospects, be sure to listen to upcoming episodes of RotoViz Radio.
This preview will be slightly different than the work of College Football gurus Matthew Freedman and Jon Moore. We (the Kerrane brothers) aren’t die-hard fans of the College game, but are avid dynasty players who love researching the incoming rookie class. Consider this our first in depth look at which prospects to keep your eye on in 2015 rookie drafts.
Without further adieu, let’s look at the . . .
Autozone Liberty Bowl
December 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EST, Memphis, TN, Liberty Bowl Memorial, ESPN
West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Kevin White, WR
White is the crown jewel of this Bowl. As we sit here in December, he looks like a sure fire first rounder in both the NFL and your rookie drafts. More specifically, it looks like the early consensus has Amari Cooper as the #1 WR, Davante Parker as the #2, and Kevin White battling Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong to be #3. Interestingly, Parker, White and Strong are almost the exact same size: All three are listed at 6’3” and ranging between 209-212 lbs. There will doubtless be plenty of content on all of these WRs in the coming months, especially from the fine gentlemen here at RotoViz, but for now I thought it would be fun to take a quick peek at how Kevin White’s market share numbers stack up against his fellow 6’3” first round WR prospects.
In 2014, White posted 35% MS yards and 39% MS TDs, for a DR of 0.37. Those totals are pretty encouraging, and in fact, are better than what Strong (34% MS yards, 36% MS TDs) posted in 2014. It’s also better than what Parker posted in his last full season: 23% MS yards and 39% MS TDs. That was in 2013, as Parker missed seven games this year with a foot injury. However, in his five games in 2014 Parker was utterly dominant, recording ridiculous MS Yards and MS TD percentages of 54% and 56% respectively, which seem to help explain why he is the early favorite to be the second WR off the board come April.
As far as White, those numbers combined with his size and raw production (over 100 receptions, over 1,000 yards, and 9 TDs) give him the inside track to be the third WR off the board and a mid-first round pick. I’ll be watching him veeeeery closely on Monday. —Mike Kerrane
One potential red flag with White is his age. He didn’t breakout with West Virginia until his age 22 season (2014), which while very good, hasn’t been the commanding performance we’d like to see out of an older prospect. Then again, what if his breakout age isn’t 22, but 20? If we credit White for his .44 DR from his 2012 season at Lackawanna College, then he actually had his breakout season two years ago. From this perspective White broke out, transferred to a major program, and broke out again. Still, he’ll be 23 at the start of his first NFL season, so he’s not a perfect RotoViz WR prospect, but he’s big, productive and likely to be highly drafted, so he looks like a very solid first round rookie pick at this point in time. —Pat Kerrane
Dreamius Smith, RB
Dreamius Smith is a late round prospect with a first-round name. He has the size requisite size at 6’0” 217 lbs to be a pounder in the NFL, so add him to the long list of players who could really improve his draft stock by performing well at the speed and agility drills at the combine. However, even a strong combine showing wouldn’t erase concerns over Smith’s collegiate workload: 182 career carries, which are fewer than what 60 NCAA RBs had in just 2014, including all of the notable draft prospects (excluding Todd Gurley for obvious reasons). Having been career committee back in college, it’s hard to imagine Smith as anything else in the NFL, unless his measureables turn out to be truly transcendent. —Mike
In order to get a more complete picture of “the Dream Machine”1 I went back and looked at his JUCO stats from 2012. Good news: he produced 1163 yards from scrimmage and 19 TDs in 11 games. Bad news: he only accounted for a quarter of Butler Community College’s carries that season. He was their leading rusher, but did not lead the team in carries. Bottom line, if a RB was a committee back in JUCO, he’ll probably a committee back at best in the NFL. That said, based on his raw JUCO stats and solid size he could find his way to some playing time at some point, so he’s a name to stash away in the back of your mind2 particularly if he tests well athletically. —Pat
Texas A&M Aggies (7-5, 3-5 SEC)
Tra Carson, RB
Carson is a redshirt junior3 and shares one major concern in common with Dreamius Smith: lack of collegiate touches. Carson had only 107 in 2014, as Texas A&M had seven players attempt at least 15 rushes. However, one thing that Carson has over Smith is a potentially tantalizing size/speed combination. He’s 230 lbs but doesn’t look it, partly because his burst and cutting ability are pretty impressive. Typical caveat: we’ll have to wait until the combine to find out exactly how fast and agile Carson is, but if he runs in the mid 4.5s or better he becomes very intriguing. In a lot of ways Carson is the perfect name to know, under the radar because of his lack of usage and his likely draft slot (I’m predicting 6th/7th round). He will almost certainly go to an NFL team that has a nominal starter, which means he won’t be in the mix in the early rounds of your rookie drafts, but appears to have the potential to take over an NFL job. In some ways Carson reminds me of the last Texas A&M RB prospect: Christine Michael, who had 88 carries in his last collegiate season and posted a similar YPC (4.7) to what Carson posted this year (4.5). Of course, Michael epically shot up draft boards by blowing up the combine. Let’s see if Carson can do the same. —Mike
I’m with Mike on this one, Carson’s athleticism is the key. He certainly looks like he can accelerate and seems surprisingly agile as well. And he’ll need to be, because his college production is pretty pedestrian. With just 777 rushing yards in his Texas A&M career, it’s hard to imagine him making a big NFL impact unless he shows remarkable athleticism for his 6’0″ 230 lb frame.
An additional unknown with Carson is his pass catching ability. On one hand, he only has 12 career catches. On the other, 8 of his 12 reception came this season, and he wasn’t used substantially less as a pass catcher than other RBs in the offense. There’s a chance that Carson would be effective in an NFL passing game but his low usage makes it difficult to tell. If Carson gets a combine invite, I’ll be nearly as curious about his performance in pass catching drills as in his raw measurables–and I’ll certainly be looking to see if he receives any targets on Monday. —Pat