Senior Bowl: 4 Pass-Catchers With Fantasy Football Dynasty Value

The 2016 Senior Bowl was a coming-out party for some undervalued receivers and tight ends.

When I returned from Mobile, Alabama, I was a changed man. I am firmly convinced that the “Azalea City” is one of the best-kept secrets in America.

When somebody says “Mardi Gras” to you, what city comes to mind? I’d bet dollars to donuts that you’re envisioning New Orleans, Louisiana, right now. The Mobilian locals, however, are quite proud of their heritage as having the oldest organized Mardi Gras (or Carnival) celebrations in the United States.

And even that history pales in comparison the incredible hidden gem that is the Saucy-Q Bar-B-Que restaurant, where ribs, pulled pork, and greens flow aplenty.

The main secret I went to Mobile to uncover, however, was the 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl: a week of the top senior college football talents in the nation practicing and then playing in an all-star game. At Ladd-Peebles Stadium, there were some interesting nuggets revealed on the football field as well, especially in the class of senior wide receivers and tight ends that may be drafted this May.

Which pass-catchers came out of Senior Bowl week as some of Mobile’s best-kept secrets?

Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri State

There are very few elite “big receiver” talents in this year’s draft, but Southeast Missouri State’s Paul McRoberts has the baseline physique and athleticism needed to be an NFL number-two wide receiver. During the week I saw him in Mobile, he demonstrated the ability to use his bigger frame to box out opposing cornerbacks and win at the catch point with strong hands and quick separation. This came despite his lack of elite top-end speed and unrefined route-running skills. Coming from an FCS school, he performed admirably against tougher competition and didn’t back down.

One big knock on McRoberts was not how he performed against top FBS talent in the Senior Bowl -- like LSU cornerback Jalen Mills -- it’s his stat record against lesser talent in the FCS. He put together just 2,297 receiving yards in his three years as a starter, and his Yards Per Reception (YPR) slipped drastically in his senior year. His senior year stats are below, as well as his ranks among FCS wide receivers where applicable. This also includes his team Target Share (Targ%), average Yards After Catch (aYAC), Yards Per Route Run (Y/Rt), and Drop Rate, per Pro Football Focus.

Player Targ% Rec YPR Rec TD% aYAC Yd/Rt Drop%
Paul McRoberts 29.0% 12.4 (t-74th) 11.8% (t-43rd) N/A 1.7 0.0%

McRoberts came in at a strong 6'1", 202 pounds at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, with 9 3/4-inch hands and 33 1/2-inch arms. With a projected 4.43 to 4.64 40-yard dash, his closest draft comps in recent years include James Jones, Justin Blackmon, Marvin Jones, and Corey Fuller. He’s likely to be a bit slower than the latter three, but the possession receiver nature of the two Joneses seems like a fair comp for the small-school standout.

Charone Peake, Clemson

Draft fans have been high on Clemson receivers recently, and for very fair reasons. Charone Peake is merely the next in a line of Tigers wideouts, and -- while he’s not nearly as polished as the other alumni from his alma mater -- he does have the physical tools typical of a Clemson receiver. Those were on full display in the Senior Bowl practices.

His straight-line speed is impressive to say the least, but his really shocking trait was his ability to create space between himself and the cornerback with lateral agility and short-area burst. Peake is a rocked-up player, but he has the electric quickness one would expect from a wideout half a foot shorter than him. He struggles with route precision and hands catching at points, but I see those as coachable skills.

The table below shows Peake’s rate production in his 2015 senior season, as well as his ranks among the 206 college receivers with at least 40 targets.

Player Targ% Rec YPR Rec TD% aYAC Yd/Rt Drop%
Charone Peake 22.0% 14.3 (t-59th) 10.0% (t-84th) 5.4 1.9 4.0%

Peake weighed in at 6'2", 208 pounds, but with 8 1/2-inch hands, and 34 1/2-inch arms. He has a fascinating and unique physical profile, being this big -- with tiny hands -- and projected to run a 4.32 to 4.54 40-yard dash. His closest physical draft comps include Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith, Terrance Williams, and Sammy Watkins. Peake has major upside with his size and speed combo, but he may settle into being a deep threat role player in the NFL. That kind of profile still has fantasy value.

K.J. Maye, Minnesota

Our next wide receiver has speed in droves, but size is not his strength. K.J. Maye of Minnesota also impressed in Mobile, showing his ability as a reliable slot receiver along with precise routes run. In 1-on-1 receiver drills, he had a few moments where he got jammed on the line of scrimmage -- due to his size -- but he continued to fight and would continually adjust his routes to solve the defense. He may present more than a slot presence too; Maye showed an incredible double-move to shake his coverage and deep catch in the end zone in one drill.

In his senior year, Maye monopolized the anemic Golden Gophers’ passing attack, soaking up 134 targets, catching 77 of them for 790 yards. Due to Minnesota’s lack of prowess as a top-notch offense, he may get knocked for that as well as his size in the pre-draft process. The table below shows his senior year rates and ranks.

Player Targ% Rec YPR Rec TD% aYAC Yd/Rt Drop%
K.J. Maye 32.0% 10.6 (t-181st) 6.8% (t-147th) 3.1 1.9 9.0%

Maye did not tip the scales at the Senior Bowl, at 5'8", 194 pounds, with 8 1/2-inch hands and 30 1/4-inch arms. He’s projected to run a 4.40 to 4.59 40-yard dash, His best physical comps with all of these parameters include Darius Reynaud, Bruce Ellington, and Albert Wilson, but he has smaller hands and shorter arms than all of them. It could take a strong team fit for Maye to really stick in the pros, but his lateral agility makes him a compelling prospect.

Darion Griswold, Arkansas State

One of the more obscure prospects I saw all week was Arkansas State tight end Darion Griswold, who filled in for Florida tight end Jake McGee midweek, joining the Senior Bowl after already dazzling at the Shrine Game. Griswold was primarily used as a blocking tight end in college, but he showed that he has the athleticism to do much more than that in Mobile. He displayed plus speed for his size, shaking defensive backs and linebackers to pummel the seams -- despite a few misses on passes out of his reach. Most impressive, though, was his catch radius -- which was on display with his adjustments to poor passes from the South team’s quarterbacks.

Due to being used as a blocker, Griswold has a weak statistical pedigree. Since he was added midweek to the roster, too, there are no advanced stats for him. What we do have is displayed below.

Player Targ% Rec YPR Rec TD% aYAC Yd/Rt Drop%
Darion Griswold -- 14.4 (N/A) 15.4% (N/A) -- -- --

Griswold did weigh in at 6'3", 253 pounds at the Shrine Game, with 9 1/2-inch hands and 33 3/4-inch arms. He’s projected to run between a 4.70 and 4.90 40-yard dash, putting him in the collected company of the following tight ends: Benjamin WatsonEd Dickson, and Virgil Green. These athletic tight ends all also excel at blocking, making them great style comparisons for Griswold too. He could cement himself a position in the league with his blocking skill and still surprise people with his receiving ability in time.