After just finishing the NFL combine, we know at least the athleticism of the 2020 class is living up to the hype. There’s some discussion that we won’t have elite players at the fantasy-relevant positions and the depth of the class is what’s most appealing. I don’t disagree with the later, especially when thinking of the receivers available in the second and third rounds of rookie drafts, but there are a few players who will fill elite vacancies for your teams within the next two years. That’s not to say there won’t be others, but I don’t mind one bit putting my money down on these guys.
Cam Akers – Florida State University, Running Back
We saw exactly what we wanted to see from Akers in Indianapolis and more. He was able to check off things like the 40-yard dash (4.47), bench press (20) and shuttle run (4.42), which was just what we needed to give us temporary amnesia regarding his college production. Then the Duce Staley drill happened and we lost our collective marbles. Not just because the drill was such a breath of fresh air and needed for the combine, but because Akers was able to show off an elite ability.
When going back to film, it’s easy to see there was an elite quality needed in a running back to succeed with FSU’s offensive line. With more than good enough speed and vision, it’s the footwork that separated him from defenders and from the rest of this rookie class. There are no wasted movements with his feet. It gets him into gaps, out of reach of defenders, and because of his feet, he has the ability to use an economy of moves to create more yards.
At this point, I believe Akers is behind only Jonathon Taylor and D’Andre Swift when considering backs in rookie drafts. He can step right into a role at a place like Atlanta, or perhaps Seattle brings him in to compete with their veteran running backroom. Regardless of where he lands, Akers will be thrilled to have competent line play in front of him and not having to always create for himself. I have this vision of watching Akers approach second and third levels of defenders – without being touched by defensive linemen first – I hope we all get to see it.
Bryan Edwards – South Carolina, WR
Full disclosure; I was a big Deebo Samuel guy last year. However, I was a Samuel guy because of the tape I was watching on Edwards. When Edwards decided to return for his senior season my focus shifted to Samuel. I like Samuel, but I think we’re looking at something a bit more special in Bryan Edwards.
Edwards suffered a broken foot right before the NFL combine and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for him – or perhaps the most advantageous time for dynasty players and their rookie drafts. At 6’ 3” and 215 lbs, he has the size to be the lead receiver on any team and watching his film from 2018, he has the skills to earn the role. He commanded attention deep and over the middle, and this allowed his teammates to operate on the outside and underneath. However, look at the tape from 2019 and Edwards was filling both roles from the previous year – including the jet sweeps Kyle Shanahan later utilized with Samuel on the 49ers. Edwards will be a giant chess piece who can be moved all over the board.
Edwards’ ability to locate, adjust and highpoint a ball is second only to CeeDee Lamb. It’s not even always a highpoint catch, as Edwards does an amazing job of utilizing his size to boxout defenders while the ball is in the air and can stack a pressed defender when he gets by him. Again like Lamb, Edwards likes to run after the catch as well. He’s not as elusive as Lamb but doesn’t need to be, as he punishes defensive backs who try to arm tackle; I’ve watched him carry or push a defender into the endzone on multiple occasions.
We are lacking combine measurables and we’re still not sure about a pro day, because Edwards himself said he would be out a couple of months and South Carolina’s pro day is March 13th. However Edwards broke out as a freshman, so we have four years of film and production to look back on. Because of the foot injury, his stock will no doubt fall and he may not break out immediately like he did in college. I see a path very similar to Michael Gallup, where Edwards can get healthy on a team and not be pressured to play right away. When called upon, he can be an instant red zone threat or lined up in the slot and beating up on weaker defensive backs. If we see Edwards get drafted to a team with an established lead receiver and a competent quarterback – Green Bay and Detroit seem like very legitimate landing spots – I’m going to go out of my way to get him where I can.