2016 NFL Rookie Predictions: Daniel Lasco has dazzling upside

FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, file photo, California's Daniel Lasco (2) tries to evade the grasp of Washington's Budda Baker during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif. A potential first-round draft pick at quarterback, deep receiving group and potent running game will only carry California so far this season. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Bench presses have been counted, cone drills have been clocked, and tape has been reviewed. While NFL scouts have been scribbling in their notebooks for months, fantasy owners are just now examining this year’s incoming class. Through the end of March, I’ll be breaking down some under the radar prospects at QB, RB, and WR. Once April arrives, we’ll tackle the big names. All of this in the hopes of keeping fans of the virtual game fully informed and a step ahead of the competition. Today’s RB under the microscope is Cal’s Daniel Lasco.

[Other draft profiles: Dak Prescott | Paul McRobertsKeith MarshallPaxton Lynch ]

College Highlights: A high school All-American as a senior, Lasco redshirted his first year at Cal in 2011. Over the next two seasons, his production increased before exploding as a junior. In 2014, the Texas native started 11 of 12 contests and rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 TDs. He additionally caught 33 balls for 356 yards and two receiving scores. His breakout campaign earned him an honorable-mention All-Pac-12 selection. Heading into 2015, he was considered a top-ten prospect at the position. Unfortunately, a series of ankle and hip injuries sidelined the electric RB, preventing him from finishing his college career on a high note.

Pluses: Unafraid of contact, Lasco has dazzling speed and big play ability. Absolutely crushing the combine, the 6-foot and 209 pound back ran the 40-yard dash in an official 4.46 seconds. He also bested all other prospects at the position in the vertical (41.5) and broad jumps (11-3). Demonstrating impressive acceleration and lifting ability for a player of his size, Lasco is an athletic wonder. He’s also an above average pass catcher who can adjust on the fly and reel in some sad looking ducks. Thrilling in space, the Texas native showcases oodles of creativity and burst.

Minuses: While I personally love his gutty running style, Lasco’s desire to truck over defenders in tandem with his injury-prone past is a concern. Having suffered through a hip strain that cheated him from suiting up for five games last year, he needs to run smarter. Improved vision and a willingness to be satisfied with small gains, rather than homerun plays, could help this considerably. An upright runner whose movements are far from economical, Lasco’s technique needs refinement.

Pro-Comp(s): David Wilson, T.J. Yeldon

Team Fits: Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers

[Other draft profiles: Dak Prescott | Paul McRobertsKeith MarshallPaxton Lynch ]

Fearless Forecast: Lasco’s showing at the combine quieted critics who claimed he was nothing more than a “one-year-wonder.” Without question, his athleticism offers tempting upside. And while he did miss time last fall, his yards per carry (over 5.0 YPC in both 2014 and 2015) suggest potential productivity at the next level. Still, he’s not going to be a starting running back come September.

Furthermore, I’m not sure that given his running style (not to mention the pounding he’s already taken) he’ll stay healthy long enough to be more than a plug-and-play option for fantasy owners. Given Lasco’s tendency to bounce it outside and lack of toughness between the tackles, he projects to be one half of a tandem (and the half that probably won’t see much of the goal line). A player you’ll want to track, Lasco will have more value in PPR leagues, potentially putting up RB3 numbers in 2016.

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