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Noah Fant
AP
Prospect Comparisons

Fun with Comps

by Mark Lindquist
Updated On: March 12, 2019, 12:02 pm ET

If the draft is more art than science, the same can be said for player comparables. In a world of incomplete information, we look for guideposts to ground us. That is the purpose of comps. They are understandable. They are never 1:1, of course. Kyler Murray is not a mini-clone of Michael Vick. He’s Kyler Murray. Still, we try to approximate as best we can. Art, not science. So let’s have some fun with comps, friends!

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Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray is comparable to: A) Right-handed Michael Vick B) Smaller Russell Wilson C) None of the above

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
Kyler Murray Oklahoma 5'10 207 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Russell Wilson Wisconsin 5'11 204 4.53 34 inches 118 inches 4.09 6.97 n/a
Michael Vick Virginia Tech 6'0 210 4.38 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

 

Our preferred comp: Smaller Michael Vick with an advanced passing processor

The comparison to Wilson makes sense on the measurement front -- Wilson weighed into the combine at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, Murray at 5-foot-10, 207 pounds (unless you believe he faked his height in which case, we’ve got a lunar soundstage to sell you) -- but Murray’s got Russ beat in terms of foot speed. We know that even without watching him run in Indianapolis. All you had to do was turn on the Orange Bowl this past winter to see Murray sprinting past an Alabama defense stocked with NFL athletes to the tune of 109 yards rushing to see his otherworldly speed at its finest. Wilson hit a very sharp 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash back in 2012. We would wager that Murray would have been at least 0.15 seconds faster than that had he run. We’ll never know definitively, but he has spoken in the past of hitting 4.38 seconds in the run.

Vick fits snugly on the athletic front, capable of completely flipping games with his speed, which played out to a 4.33-second sprint through the 40-yard dash during his pro day in Blacksburg. That’s faster than Murray, but at a certain point, you’re just talking about degrees of speed. Vick was speed-of-light fast, Murray mere just-slower-than-speed-of-light fast, say. Where Vick flags behind Murray in our minds comes in his feel and acumen as a passer. Vick threw for a total of 21 touchdown passes while at Virginia Tech, a mark which (coincidentally) stands as his high-water mark for a season in the NFL. Part of this is that Vick came into the league before the league was truly ready for him. He was a rookie in 2001, at a time when the NFL was just barely getting accustomed to the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf. Schemes have advanced ten-fold since then.

Murray stepped into an all-universe Oklahoma offense tailored by an all-universe offensive mind in a conference which bleeds points. But perhaps even more importantly, he stepped onto the football field in the year 2018, when the game of football was ready for him. The difference between Murray’s singular statistical season and Vick’s two years’ worth of stats under Frank Beamer with the Hokies are stark. In 22 games at Virginia Tech, Vick threw for 3,299 yards with a 56-percent completion percentage and a 21/11 TD/INT ratio. Vick rushed for 1,299 yards in that space. Murray’s lone season starting in Norman? 4,361 passing yards with a 69-percent completion percentage and a 42/7 TD/INT ratio over 14 games. Murray rushed for 1,001 yards last season.

Plop Vick into Lincoln Riley’s system and he probably crushes, but what we know concretely is that Murray DID crush.

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Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson is comparable to: A) Cam Newton B) Josh Allen C) Ryan Mallett

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
Tyree Jackson Buffalo 6'7 249 4.59 34.5 inches 120 inches 4.28 7.09 95.10%
Cam Newton Auburn 6'5 248 4.56 35 inches 126 inches 4.18 6.92 n/a
Josh Allen Wyoming 6'5 237 4.75 33.5 inches 119 inches 4.4 6.9 85.70%
Ryan Mallett Arkansas 6'7 253 n/a 24 inches 103 inches n/a n/a n/a

 

Our preferred comparison: Josh Allen

 

We actually haven’t seen the Josh Allen comp tossed around, but it’s the one that our mind sticks on. Allen and Jackson are peas in a pod in their physical traits, notably their monster arms, and likewise peas in a pod in terms of their tendency to fail to hit the proverbial barn door. Newton and even Mallett both showed off considerable more accuracy than Jackson in their final seasons of collegiate ball, hitting on 66.1-percent and 64.7-percent of passes respectably. Jackson completed all of 55.3-percent of his passes in 2018, a very Allen-ish mark given that Allen hit on 56.3-percent of his own passes the previous autumn.

Now, Tyree’s bigger than Allen (6-foot-7, 249 pounds to 6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and faster (4.59-second 40 to 4.75-second 40), but the speed difference is negligible to us. It’s not like he was stomping all over the MAC as a runner last season. Jackson finished the year rushing for 161 yards at 2.9 YPC. Allen is a willing runner -- two seasons over 200 yards rushing at Wyoming, including one of 523 yards in 2016 -- and we’ve seen him find success with the Bills on the ground.

Mallett matches up reasonably in terms of frame, but offered little of Jackson’s overt athleticism coming out of Arkansas. Maybe it’s the Buffalo-Buffalo connection, but we see so, so much in common between Allen and Jackson. For better and for worse. You need more than a huge arm to succeed in the NFL. A big body will only get you so far, too. Newton has his rough edges as a passer, but he was ready to start on Day 1.
 

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Alabama RB Joshua Jacobs is comparable to: A) Alvin Kamara B) Kareem Hunt C) Marshawn Lynch

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
Joshua Jacobs Alabama 5'10 220 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Alvin Kamara Tennessee 5'10 214 4.56 39.5 inches 131 inches n/a n/a 83.30%
Kareem Hunt Toledo 5'10 216 4.62 36.5 inches 119 inches 4.53 7.22 27.70%
Marshawn Lynch Cal 5'11 215 4.46 35.5 inches 125 inches 4.58 7.09 n/a

 

Our preferred comparison: Kareem Hunt’s athleticism with Marshawn Lynch’s power

 

Our largest frustration with evaluating Jacobs remains his incomplete profile. There’s relatively little film on the Alabama talent (251 career carries) and to compound the incomplete picture, he was dealing with a groin injury during combine week and was unable to test out. Kamara is the easy comparison as the Patron Saint of Underutilized Collegiate Running Backs, but Kamara tested at the combine and posted huge jumps while running a modest 4.56-second 40-yard dash. Kamara also posted 74 catches in just two seasons at Tennessee. In three years active at Alabama, Jacobs totaled 48 catches. Jacobs is very much a capable pass-catcher, but Kamara is from a different planet on that front. We view Kamara as a twitchier athlete on the whole. For all of the drawbacks of the combine, it at least allows us a chance for a uniform comparison. Jacobs as a prospect is just a 5-foot-10, 220-pound collection of question marks. But we’re not giving him the benefit of the doubt with an Alvin Kamara comp. We just don’t see that.

Drop down a notch from the too-twitchy-to-even-sneeze, catch-everything playing style of Kamara, and we rather do like the comparison to Kareem Hunt. Hunt -- like every back in this conversation -- saw more work in college than Jacobs (his 262 carries in 2016 are more than Jacobs took in his entire Alabama career), but setting that aside (it’s really difficult for us to set aside), their playing styles are very much symbiotic. Both players are adept one-cut runners who can bust through contact at the line and shimmy their way in the open field, if not to the insanely explosive degree of Kamara.

So we think the Hunt comparison fits, but if you’ll humor us, we’d like to throw in a little Marshawn, too, just on strength against contact front. While Jacobs might not have the pure speed to run away from a defense, like Williams, he is a bear to bring down, especially once he breaks through into the second level. You see Jacobs consistently finish his runs a la Beast Mode.

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Ed Oliver is comparable to: A) Aaron Donald B) Geno Atkins C) John Randle

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
Ed Oliver Houston 6'2 287 n/a 36 inches 120 inches n/a n/a n/a
Aaron Donald Pitt 6'1 285 4.68 32 inches 116 inches 4.39 7.11 97.20%
Geno Atkins Georgia 6'1 293 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
John Randle Texas A&M 6'1 287 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

 

Our preferred comp: He’s not Aaron Donald, but we don’t think it’s outlandish to say the name

 

Talk talk talk. There’s been all sorts of talk about Ed Oliver having to switch position. Even linebacker has been floated out there. We want this idea flushed from the internet. Oliver measured in at the combine at 6-foot-2, 287 pounds, just about dead even with Donald’s combine weigh-in of 6-foot-1, 285 pounds. Some of this could certainly be Oliver bulking up just before weigh-in (better than cheating on your height or no?), but it was an encouraging weigh-in. Oliver lacks Donald’s elite quickness -- he opted not to run the 40, the 20-yard shuttle or the three-cone drill -- but showed himself adept at creating backfield havoc right off the jump at Houston with 22 TFL as a true freshman. This is a monster defensive line class and Oliver has consistently found himself second fiddle in conversation with Nick Bosa, Josh Allen and Quinnen Williams. Be careful not to lose sight of him.

As for the other two players in this comp conversation, Atkins weighed in at the combine at 293, a weight that’s probably not healthy for Oliver to shoot for (Atkins is playing at 300 pounds, now, again a mark we don’t think Oliver is physically made for), while Randle entered the NFL in 1990 and did not participate in the combine. Randle represents the high-water mark for Oliver's potential development. The former Vikings star was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

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N’Keal Harry is comparable to: A) A.J. Green B) Allen Robinson C) JuJu Smith-Schuster

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
N'Keal Harry Arizona State 6'2 228 4.53 38.5 inches 122 inches n/a n/a n/a
A.J. Green Georgia 6'4 211 4.5 34.5 inches 126 inches 4.21 6.91 n/a
Allen Robinson Penn State 6'2 220 4.6 39 inches 127 inches 4 7 99.70%
JuJu Smith-Schuster USC 6'1 215 4.54 32.5 inches 120 inches 4.18 6.93 65.40%

 

Our preferred comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s draft narrative coupled with Allen Robinson’s athletic profile

 

Ah, JuJu. Good luck with life as WR1 in Pittsburgh now that Antonio Brown’s split with the organization has reached its end conclusion with a trade to the Raiders. Smith-Schuster is not a perfect comparison for Harry, as the former USC standout came into his own combine years back measuring in at 215 pounds, a fair sight slimmer than Harry’s 228 pounds. Yet while Harry might have a little extra body armor, we see him as very much in the same phylum as Smith-Schuster for narrative reasons. Both were undersold in their own classes in the face of sexier options. For Harry, that’s D.K. Metcalf, who broke #DraftTwitter with his 4.33-second run through the 40-yard dash. For Smith-Schuster, it was John Ross, who broke the combine altogether with his record-tying 4.22-second sprint.

Ross went from a borderline first-round pick to a top-10 pick courtesy of that run, while Smith-Schuster was not scooped off the board until the Steelers snatched him at No. 62 near the end of the second round. Harry probably won’t fall quite that far, but the two players could have a similar draft story to share once Harry’s found his pro home.

Now, with Harry and Smith-Schuster, the biggest similarity we see comes in terms of narrative and how the draft itself might play out for the ASU star. In terms of an athletic comparison, we’re keen on Robinson, who posted nearly identical jumps at his combine and, like Harry, entered his draft year facing some speed questions, ultimately running the 40-yard dash in an even 4.60 seconds. Harry surprised with a run of 4.53 seconds.

We understand the allure of an A.J. Green comparison, here, but Green is more well-rounded on the whole, and that showed in his combine performance, when he went through an entire run of drills and did so to fine success. One last aspect to this comparison that we would like to add -- Harry reminds us in some ways of former New Mexico State WR Jaleel Scott simply in terms of his ability to extend for difficult grabs. He and Hakeem Butler in this class are monsters on that front.

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Noah Fant is comparable to: A) Evan Engram B) Eric Ebron C) Jimmy Graham

 

Player School Height Weight 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill SPARQ
Noah Fant Iowa 6'4 249 4.5 39.5 inches 127 inches 4.22 6.81 98.40%
Evan Engram Ole Miss 6'3 234 4.42 36 inches 125 inches 4.23 6.92 93.10%
Eric Ebron North Carolina 6'4 250 4.6 32 inches 120 inches 4.45 7.49 46.40%
Jimmy Graham Miami 6'6 260 4.56 38.5 inches 120 inches n/a 6.9 n/a

 

Our preferred comp: A more polished Jimmy Graham

 

If you are seduced by pretty testing results, Fant’s will have you in a tizzy. As you would expect for an elite athlete in his mold, he has drawn comps to move tight ends like Engram, Ebron and Graham. We’ll dismiss the Engram one out of hand. Engram is faster than Fant, but less agile and an even less able blocker. T.J. Hockenson may be the blocking darling in this position class, but Fant is capable (if imperfect) in his own right.

Between Ebron and Graham, it’s the latter comparison we prefer in this conversation. Graham’s 4.56-second 40-yard dash is slower than Fant’s 4.50-second jaunt, but Ebron was s a full tenth of a second slower than Fant. Fant has a step on Graham in one arena -- he enters the draft with far more polished. Graham, remember, had just one season of football under his belt coming out from Miami.

Mark Lindquist
Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.