I usually like to watch college football spring games before I dig too deeply into recruits so I can get a feel for the early enrollees and how they are meshing with their college teammates. Obviously that isn’t going to happen this spring, so I’m basing my evaluations off of the UA All-American game and videos from high school.
#1 Julian Fleming – WR – OSU
4.45s forty. 6’2” and 200 pounds. Elite skills catching the ball. From the high school videos of him catching the ball and running past everybody and the UA game video of quarterbacks feeding him the ball, he looks ready for the college game. With fellow teammates Garrett Wilson, who is a tactician of the position, and Chris Olave, one of the Big 10 leading receivers, Julian should get some great advice. A year of having a top college quarterback in Justin Fields should mean lots of good throws to work from. A lot of people say a good comparison is Julio Jones, but I see a college Alshon Jeffery running by players, but also making the tough catches in traffic.
#2 Darnell Washington – TE – Georgia
Darnell’s ranking has moved down by some sites, but after committing to Georgia, I think he will stay a top 3 CFF asset. 6’7.5” and 250 pounds as a TE just pushes the envelope of athletic measurements. Measuring a 4.75s forty puts him right next to T.J. Hockenson and Drew Sample. Video shows a player that can catch at the line of scrimmage and run past defenders and then run over the secondary who gets in the way. Basketball background is a huge plus and it shows in his red zone positioning. Run blocking will be the biggest weakness but TE can be drafted very late in fantasy and stashed for a while.
#3 Arik Gilbert – TE – LSU
Could be listed as the #2 player, but shoulder surgery in February gives me pause. 6’5” and 250 pounds gives him perfect size for the position. The 4.73s forty means Gilbert is not slow around the field. High school video shows Gilbert lined up outside, in the slot, and in a 3-point-stance during games. Smooth runner that runs past the secondary, but also shakes off linebackers during tackles. Worked as a defensive end in high school so he has some understanding of blocking so he has a great chance of being one of the best players in this class.
#4 Bryce Young – QB – Alabama
Young shot up the rankings list from June 2019 to now. Some sites have him ranked as the 20th best recruit of all time. Standing 5’11” and 185 pounds puts him in the Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield range. His ranking change happened after backing out of his commitment to USC and enrolling at Alabama. Video shows a player that can make 20-30 yard passes on the money and a shifty quarterback that can get away from pressure in the pocket. The success of shorter quarterbacks means he will get a chance to play and even though it is unlikely he will get the job this year, due to the shortened offseason, he might blow up on the scene in 2021. Smart Devy / CFF players will draft Bryce due to the scoring he is likely to get in the Alabama offense, and hope he follows the route that quarterbacks like Wilson, Mayfield, Murray, and Brees have done before him.
#5 Zachary Evans – RB – Undecided
The curious case of Zachary Evans does not need to be rehashed here, but safe to say that the early #1 recruit has had to do a lot of public apologizing to get himself back to a solid footing. At the UA All-American game, he looked like a solid runner that could get yards against good competition. I’m not a huge fan of his running style, but at 5’11” and 200 pounds he has good size. A 4.51s forty means he has speed, even if it isn’t field breaking fast. I see a mixture of a Kenyan Drake and Sony Michel which bodes well for whichever college he goes to. The latest frontrunner was Florida, but Georgia is also in the mix.
#6 Tank Bigsby – RB – Auburn
While watching the UA All-American game, Tank stood out as a great runner who got yards even when dealing with pressure in the backfield. 6’ and 210 pounds is great size, but the 4.55s forty is slightly slower than Zachary Evans. If he adds a little weight he runs like a Jay Ajayi with his aggressive stance and balance through contact. There isn’t a lot of NFL success in the running back department at Auburn, but Kerryon Johnson is an example to look up to. Tank has a chance to start with Whitlow transferring out, if the offseason goes well.
#7 Bijan Robinson – RB – Texas
Unofficial forty times range from 4.50s to 4.70s which is not what you see on tape. Robinson is not a bruiser at 6’ and 200 pounds. Video shows a runner that is elusive and fast in open space. Robinson’s game looks like it is pulled directly out of the 49er’s 2019 season. A runner like Tevin Coleman just hits open holes and is gone. Robinson caught passes in the open field and had moves to get the ball into the end zone. Texas should be able to find ways to move the ball and Robinson looks to be pressed into service right away. A CFF player will want to draft Robinson since the running back stable at Texas was very shallow last year.
#8 DeMarkcus Bowman – RB – Clemson
Speed and lots of it. 4.47s in the forty is not massively better than the other running backs in the list but on the field it looks vastly different. 5’9” and 190 pounds reminds me of Matt Breida, but Bowman should have a better chance of getting drafted by going to Clemson. Bowman put up massive numbers in high school and was used in all phases of the offense. Clemson has stacked up their recruiting, so he will have some work to do to get on the field this year. Pass-catching will be the area that needs the most improvement.
#9 Rakim Jarrett – WR – Maryland
His first play on the 2018 high school video is him getting a penalty while running in a touchdown. I switched over to the 2019 video and was much more impressed. I usually start with highlights and work my way back to full games when I can find them. I’m glad I did because the speed I see on the kick returns does not always show up in the touchdown sequences. He works hard early in a route to get separation and by the time the ball gets to him, he is wide open. Open field movement is smooth and he keeps fighting for yardage when surrounded. Without an official forty time, I see a little bit of Amari Cooper but he might not be as fast.
#10 Kayshon Boutte – WR – LSU
Was a standout at the UA All-American game and showed skills against some of the best players in the country. Measuring at 6’ and 185 pounds reminds me of Calvin Ridley depending on the forty times. On the field he looks polished and could be a prototypical slot receiver at the next level. Highlights of his senior year show impressive speed not only while running routes but during kick returns and rushing. He might be able to get on the field early with special teams and then break into the LSU receiving core which has been a strength of the team.