The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. It’s important for daily fantasy players to know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
Here are 20 notable skill position prospects to watch in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game, which is being played at Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, FL, on Saturday, Jan. 20.
Riley Ferguson, Memphis: Senior | 6’4″ and 210 Pounds | Born January 19, 1995 (Age: 22)
Context is always important, but with Ferguson it’s really important. An All-American four-star recruit in high school, Ferguson committed to Tennessee in 2012 when Derek Dooley was coach, but when he arrived as a freshman in 2013 Dooley had been replaced by Butch Jones. Although Ferguson was given a chance to compete for the starting job right away, he never warmed to Jones and his staff, and a leg injury in practice forced him to take a medical redshirt his first year. He again competed for the starting job in the 2014 spring practices, but after Ferguson’s academic year was over he left Tennessee and sat out the season, instead working for a car dealership and custom fence company. Wanting to get back into football, he in 2015 enrolled at Coffeyville Community College — a popular school for players who take the junior college route to the NFL — and he played like a stud, completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,942 yards and 35 touchdowns (to six interceptions) in nine games. A popular JC recruit, Ferguson enrolled at Memphis in January of 2016 and immediately earned the starting job. In his two years as a Tiger, Ferguson completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 7,955 yards and 70 touchdowns, good for a smoking 9.3 adjusted yards per attempt.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Redshirt Senior | 6’2″ and 220 Pounds | Born January 23, 1995 (Age: 22)
Barrett is a tough player to evaluate. His numbers are objectively good — or at least good enough: He was 26-4 as a starter. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 8.4 adjusted yards per attempt. For his career he rushed for 3,274 yards and 43 touchdowns. As a dual-threat producer, he was highly impressive, but Barrett wasn’t even invited to the Senior Bowl, and he’s not among Pro Football Focus’ top-14 draft-eligible quarterbacks. Despite finishing fifth in Heisman voting and scoring a Big Ten record 45 touchdowns for a national championship team as a freshman, Barrett is now being ignored by the draftnik community. If he wants to stick in the NFL, he might need to consider switching positions, perhaps to wide receiver à la previous OSU quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor. Per RealGM’s Jeff Risdon, Barrett has been the best quarterback in practices, but “that’s more about the other guys around him.”
For more, see Barrett’s player profile.
Quinton Flowers, South Florida: Senior | 6’0″ and 210 Pounds | Born December 2, 1994 (Age: 23)
Flowers might be thought of as the discount version of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Although he’s not as tall as Jackson, Flowers as a collegiate producer was comparable to the Heisman-winning quarterback. For his career, Jackson completed 57.0 percent of his passes for 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt; Flowers, 57.7 and 8.7. Of course, neither Jackson nor Flowers are known primarily as passers, and as a runner the more impressive player was clearly Jackson (108.7 yards and 1.32 touchdowns rushing per game), but Flowers still shined on the ground with a running back-like 94.6 yards and 1.08 touchdowns rushing per game in his three years as a starter. And it’s a good thing Flowers produced like a running back, because that’s what he might have to be if he wants to play in the NFL. Given his physical profile and prolific production, Flowers is in the mold of other recent quarterback-to-halfback converts such as Jerick McKinnon, Denard Robinson, and Keenan Reynolds.
For more, see Flowers’ player profile.
Update: Flowers will miss the game due to a death in the family.
Chase Edmonds, Fordham: Senior | 5’9″ and 210 Pounds | Born April 13, 1996 (Age: 21)
A favorite of Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, Edmonds is perhaps the 2018 version of Tarik Cohen — a smallish big-time producer from a small school. Although Edmonds had an injury-impacted down year on an underperforming team as a senior, across his four-year career he still averaged 150.7 yards and 1.67 touchdowns from scrimmage per game. A four-year starter, Edmonds was immensely productive as both a runner (5,578 yards, 65 touchdowns) and receiver (85 receptions, 900 yards, seven touchdowns). Before an injury cut his Shrine Game week short, he received positive remarks from Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst and Charlie Campbell of Walter Football.
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: Redshirt Senior | 5’10″ and 202 Pounds | Born November 24, 1994 (Age: 23)
Webb hasn’t gotten much (if any) hype during the Shrine Game practices, which isn’t a good sign, but he was a productive four-year lead back at a Southeastern Conference school. Over his three final seasons he averaged 1,269.3 yards and 10.33 touchdowns per year. He might be able to catch on in the NFL as backup.
Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa: Senior | 6’1″ and 210 Pounds
No one has done more for his draft stock during Shrine Game practices than Fountain. Risdon, Pauline, Campbell, and NFL Media’s Mike Mayock and Chase Goodbread have all highlighted Fountain as the winner of the week. Earning Kenny Golladay comparisons with his size, speed, and dominance over defenders, Fountain is now firmly in the Day 3 conversation. Fountain served as NIU’s No. 1 receiver since his sophomore season, and as a senior he had 943 yards and 12 touchdowns as his team’s primary playmaker.
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: Grad Student | 6’1″ and 206 Pounds | Born March 10, 1995 (Age: 22)
If not for Fountain, more people would probably be talking about Hamilton. As a freshman he led the Big Ten with 82 receptions and Penn State with 899 yards. As a sophomore and junior he had middling campaigns, but last year he returned to form with a team-leading 857 yards and nine touchdowns receiving. Per Pauline, Hamilton created good separation in his routes and made contested catches throughout the week of practice.
Justin Watson, Pennsylvania: Senior | 6’3″ and 225 Pounds
A Freedman favorite, Watson is a big-bodied small-school dominator. He’s got everything. After playing as the No. 3 receiver as a freshman, he dominated the Ivy League for his three final years, averaging 120.6 yards and 1.07 touchdowns per game across that time. Most impressively, he improved each year, and by the end of his senior year he had an unreal market share of Penn’s aerial production.
- 2014: 16.0 percent of receptions, 18.1 percent of yards, 13.3 percent of touchdowns
- 2015: 35.7 percent of receptions, 44.5 percent of yards, 36.0 percent of touchdowns
- 2016: 44.1 percent of receptions, 49.0 percent of yards, 44.4 percent of touchdowns
- 2017: 47.6 percent of receptions, 50.5 percent of yards, 70.0 percent of touchdowns
Mayock and Goodbread both highlighted Watson this week as a player who stood out. Mayock in particular noted his ability to play in the slot. Not every uber-productive FCS receiver makes his way to the NFL, but Watson looks like a Day 3 pick.
Cam Serigne, Wake Forest: Redshirt Senior | 6’3″ and 240 Pounds | Born August 6, 1994 (Age: 23)
Serigne hasn’t gotten a lot of hype, but he was a productive four-year starter for the Demon Deacons. As a freshman he led the team with 54 receptions, 531 yards, and five touchdowns, capturing 41.7 percent of the team’s receiving scores. As a senior, Serigne led the team with nine touchdowns, and he finished third among draft-eligible FBS tight ends with a 76.9 percent catch rate in the slot (per Pro Football Focus).
Damon Gibson, Minnesota State-Moorhead: Senior | 6’4″ and 236 Pounds | Born April 24, 1996 (Age: 21)
A collegiate wide receiver, Gibson is looking to play as a move tight end in the NFL, which is probably a smart move: Coming from Division II, Gibson probably lacks the athleticism to separate from NFL cornerbacks, but he might have the physical profile to hang with linebackers and safeties. Although Gibson had just 651 yards and four touchdowns last year in an injury-shortened eight-game campaign, as a junior he balled out with 90 receptions, 1,549 yards, and 17 touchdowns in 11 games, capturing 48.2 and 51.5 percent of his team’s receiving yards and scores.
Jeremiah Briscoe, Sam Houston: Redshirt Senior | 6’3″ and 225 Pounds | Born August 15, 1993 (Age: 24)
Briscoe is an old small-school passer who started out at Alabama-Birmingham but had to transfer after the program closed. On the plus side, in his two years as the full-time quarterback at Sam Houston he threw for 355.7 yards and 3.8 touchdowns per game. On the negative side, he completed just 60.1 percent of his pass attempts against subpar FCS competition.
Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech: Redshirt Senior | 6’3″ and 225 Pounds | Born August 22, 1994 (Age: 23)
A one-year starter who redshirted his first two seasons in college (first at Iowa and then at Tech as a result of NCAA transfer rules), Shimonek backed up Patrick Mahomes for two seasons before finally getting a chance to start in his final season. He played well, completing 66.5 percent of his passes for an 8.5 AY/A, and on his 54 deep passes of 20-plus yards his 135.4 passer rating led all FBS quarterbacks (PFF). Shimonek has no draft hype and hasn’t distinguished himself in Shrine Game practices, but he might be drafted on Day 3 as a speculative project player.
Justin Jackson, Northwestern: Senior | 5’11″ and 200 Pounds
Jackson is unlikely ever to be a lead back in the NFL because of his size, but he has potential as a Day 3 prospect on account of his elite production (6,298 yards and 42 touchdowns in 51 games) and top-tier consistency (four seasons of at least 1,350 yards). What makes Jackson particularly intriguing is his pass-catching ability (122 career receptions), which could help him stick in the league for a while as a change-of-pace and third-down back.
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado: Redshirt Senior | 5’8″ and 190 Pounds | Born July 24, 1994 (Age: 23)
A committee player and kick returner in his first season, Lindsay was the lead back for the Buffaloes in his three final campaigns, averaging 111.5 yards and a touchdown per game in that span. A strong third-down back, Lindsay had 53 receptions for 493 yards as a junior, and last year he was seventh in pass blocking among FBS draft-eligible backs with an efficiency rating of 96.5 (PFF). Goodbread mentioned Lindsay as a player who stood out this week in practice.
Jordan Chunn, Troy: Redshirt Senior | 6’1″ and 235 Pounds | Born January 2, 1995 (Age: 23)
A goal-line and committee back early in his career, Chunn served as Troy’s workhorse for his two final seasons, averaging 108.4 yards and 1.13 touchdowns per game since 2016. He missed three games and portions of others in 2017 with a leg injury, but his 30-carry, 191-yard performance against LSU highlighted his potential. A powerful downhill runner, Chunn has underappreciated ability as a three-down back: In his two lead-back years, he averaged 29 receptions for 216 yards per season.
Jake Wieneke, South Dakota State: Redshirt Senior | 6’4″ and 215 Pounds
Wieneke is basically this year’s Cooper Kupp (the intriguing and super productive non-FBS receiver) except he has less hype and is (probably?) younger and definitely bigger. With four straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, Wieneke averaged 99.9 yards and 1.13 touchdowns per game across his career, capturing 36.0 and an astounding 50.0 percent of the team’s aerial yards and scores. Norris sees Wieneke as a Mike Evans-esque receiver who wins big. For him the question will be whether he’s athletic enough to get separation from defensive backs in the NFL.
Jeff Badet, Oklahoma: Redshirt Senior | 6’0″ and 178 Pounds
Risdon and Goodbread both identified Badet as a practice standout. A slot receiver type, Badet has good athleticism and the ability to separate from defenders, but only once in his three years at Kentucky did he lead the team in receiving yards (670), and last year at OU as a graduate transfer he was a minor part of the offense with 26 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Players with his production profile tend to have low NFL ceilings.
Jordan Thomas, Mississippi State: Senior | 6’5″ and 280 Pounds | Born August 2, 1996 (Age: 21)
Thomas is a fascinating player and a project without a position. After spending two years at East Central Community College, Thomas enrolled at Mississippi State as the No. 1 junior college tight end recruit in the country, but due to injuries on the team he played most of his senior year as a wide receiver and is attending the Shrine Game as a receiver even though he looks more like a tackle than a wideout. Some scouts have reportedly talked about him as a future offensive lineman because of his wingspan. In the words of Mayock, “Everybody knows he’s a tight end except for him.” He feels like the kind of player the Patriots would draft in the seventh round.
Blake Mack, Arkansas State: Senior | 6’3″ and 229 Pounds | Born April 24, 1996 (Age: 21)
More of a big-bodied slot receiver than a tight end, Mack led the Red Wolves in receiving as a junior with 652 yards, and as a senior he posted a 48-618-7 line. Mack has almost no draft hype, but he might be able to catch on in the NFL as a multi-functional H-back who plays at fullback and tight end.
Andrew Vollert, Weber State: Redshirt Senior | 6’5″ and 245 Pounds | Born March 25, 1995 (Age: 22)
Vollert is a well-traveled prospect. He spent the first two years of college at San Jose State, where he redshirted and served as a backup and also played on the basketball team. After attending San Francisco City College for a year, Vollert settled at Weber State, where he accumulated 123 receptions for 1,613 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two final years. His team’s leading receiver as a senior, Vollert might be able to catch on in the NFL as an upside backup.
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