Saquon Barkley not only combine star to get fantasy players thinking about 2018

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Penn State running back <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/256698/" data-ylk="slk:Saquon Barkley">Saquon Barkley</a> runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The NFL scouting combine is a proving ground for prospects, but it’s also a chance to start scouting the future fantasy stars. Let’s take a look at some of the players who stood out.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

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Already a top-five prospect heading into the Combine, Barkley owned Indianapolis and showed doubters why he should be the No. 1 overall pick at next month’s NFL draft. From the 40-yard-dash (4.4 seconds) to the bench press (29 reps) to the vertical jump (41 inches), the Penn State standout led his position with an historical showing. Which is fitting, since he’s been compared to two of the league’s most historic players, LaDanian Tomlinson and Barry Sanders. Barkley’s tape proves that he’s an every-down stud, but his performance at the combine illustrates his generational potential. Come this fall, he’s nearly guaranteed to be a first or second round fantasy selection.

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

Carrying the positive momentum that he created at the Senior Bowl into the combine, Penny continued to improve his draft stock. Mount West Offensive and Special Teams Player of 2017, the Aztec proved he has the breakaway speed necessary to succeed at the next level. Clocking a 40-yard-dash time of 4.46, Penny was the third-fastest running back in Indy (just behind Saquon Barkley). As expected, his work in the passing drills continued to impress, confirming that his 19-135-2 receiving stat line from last year wasn’t a fluke. He’ll be a target player for PPR enthusiasts, and in leagues that reward points for return yards.

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D.J. Chark, WR, LSU

Coming from a rich tradition of productive receivers, the Tiger pounced at the combine, leaving scouts slack-jawed after blazing through the 40-yard-dash in 4.34 seconds. The fastest wideout in the 2018 class, the 6-foot-3 and 199-pound (yup, size and speed) Louisiana native didn’t just impress draftniks, he also nabbed himself an endorsement deal with Nike. With a glut of teams needy at the receiver position (CHI, WAS, GB, AZ, BAL, DAL, CAR, JAX), there’s a solid chance Chark could see an expanded role early, which is always a plus for fantasy footballers.

Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State

After bringing the boom to Mobile in January, chatter surrounding Ballage’s NFL potential reached deafening levels. At 6-foot-1 and 228-pounds, the 22-year-old looks the part of a workhorse back. He’s a versatile player who can catch, return kicks, and even rushed for seven scores in one contest (vs. Texas Tech). His production as a Sun Devil, however, has been inconsistent. We won’t know if he’s a better athlete than football player until after September, but his ability to be a top performer in numerous events at the combine (40-yard-dash time of 4.46 seconds, broad jump score of 122 inches, three-cone-drill time of 6.91 seconds) certainly has scouts – and the metrics community – intrigued.

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

He may be a sub-six-footer (5-foot-10 inches) and more quick than fast (4.47 second 40-yard-dash), but Kirk is tough. Starting 25 games over the last two seasons as an Aggie, the 21-year-old has proven to be durable. He further showed off his strength in Indy, notching 20 reps at the bench press, placing him among the top-five strongest WRs in the 2018 class. Whether it’s the liver shakes or his massive mitts (9 7/8”), the Arizona native (who has a longstanding relationship with Larry Fitzgerald and has been linked to the Cardinals) is a competitor who can catch the ball, as evidenced by his performance in the gauntlet drill. Similar in size and style of play to Golden Tate, Kirk as the potential to be PPR machine and after-the-catch stud on the right squad.

Bonus

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

Rob Gronkowski and, more recently, Evan Engram notwithstanding, most TEs don’t make a substantial impact in their rookie outings. It’s fair, then, to temper one’s immediate expectations of Gesicki. Still, the basketball and volleyball standout had himself a time in Indy, earning stellar marks in every drill. The top performer at his position in the vertical (41.5 inches) and broad (10-feet-9-inches) jumps, Gesicki further wowed in the 40-yard-dash, hustling his 6-foot-6 and 247-pound frame past the finish line in 4.54 seconds. An athletic freak and mismatch nightmare, the New Jersey native could be a boon to a TE needy team like the Ravens or the Steelers (with whom he’s already met).

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