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There is a growing movement in the Dynasty community toward “devy” players. The term “devy” refers to developmental players carried on the dynasty league rosters. These devy players are usually college players but can even be high school athletes. Each week, we will look at a different set of devy rankings.
Many times, it is easy to spot the superstar running backs, without regard of their year in college. Many on this list have the potential to be fantasy RB1s as long as they land in good situations. This is a great group of devy tailbacks.
This series of articles focuses on players who should be considered on their respective NFL prospects not college production. In this article, we will take a look at the top collegiate running backs prospects without regard for their eligibility for the NFL Draft. Also, keep in mind that one or more of the players eligible to turn pro when eligible will actually stay in school.
5. Nick Chubb (Georgia) – Before he tore his PCL in Georgia's sixth game, Chubb was included in the conversation for the top spot on this list. At 5'11”, 213 pounds Chubb combines strength to run between the tackles and a burst to break off huge runs. Thankfully, Chubb will have a full year to recover from the knee injury. He should be able to get back to full speed some time during the 2016 season, allowing him to showcase his skills for draft evaluators.
4. Dalvin Cook (Florida State) – The 5'11”, 197 pounder is playing the best football of his collegiate career. His legal issues are now in the rear view mirror. Florida State made a push for the playoffs on the legs of the talented Sophomore. Cook finished seventh in his run for the Heisman Trophy. Cook has been able to break off big plays a few times each game. His compact frame, elusive open-field moves, and breakaway speed are a lethal combination for Seminoles opponents. For the season, Cook ran the ball 211 times for 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those are very impressive numbers. He still added another 218 yards and a score through the air. In just 11 games, Cook averaged 161 total yards and almost two touchdowns per game.
3. Derrick Henry (Alabama) – Henry ran away with the Heisman Trophy race. He is a physical runner who has the speed and elusiveness to pick up big yards. We expect the runner to leave for the NFL Draft after the big season. Henry is a big (6'3”, 243 pounds) ball carrier who will have much NFL appeal. Through 13 games this season, Henry carried the ball 339 times for 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns.
2. Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) – Elliott emerged in 2014 after quarterback Cardale Jones took the reins of the offense. He ran totaled over 2,000 yards in the championship campaign. Elliott is not big (6'0”, 200 pounds), but is not afraid of contact. The Buckeye star possesses great vision, seemingly to hit the right hole every play, and breaking many tackles per game. He is a star. Also of note, Elliott is one full year younger than other players ranked on this list. During this Junior season, Elliott averaged over six yards per carry on his way to 1,672 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
1. Leonard Fournette (LSU) – The bruising runner was the odds-on favorite for the Heisman Trophy over the first half of the season. Just like Adrian Peterson, Fournette was physically able to enter the NFL coming out of high school and is tearing up all defenses, even the strong defenses of the SEC. He has to wait the NFL-mandated three years out of high school before turning pro. This means Fournette will enter the 2017 NFL Draft. At a whopping 6'2”, 227 pounds, Fournette is thought to run a 4.40 40-yard dash. He runs over, through, and around defenders. On the season, Fournette has carried the ball 271 times for 1,741 yards and 18 touchdowns. He did this damage in just 11 games. Fournette ranks as our top devy player overall. Unless injured, he will star in the NFL, just like he has in college.
Saquon Barkley (Penn State) – While not as highly touted as many on this list, Barkley has been studly as a true Freshman. The 5'11”, 215 pounder is fast, earning the gold medal in the 100 yard dash for Eastern Pennsylvania. In his first collegiate year, Barkley carried the Penn State offense with the struggles of Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. After the game against Northwestern, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah (a former NFL scout) said Barkley is "going to be really, really good." We concur. He is producing big numbers even when opposing defenses know Barkley is the only weapon in the Nittany Lions offense. In just ten games this season, Barkley ran the ball 165 times for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns. He added another 148 yards and a score through the air. Barkley was the Penn State offense.
Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) – The son of former NFL star receiver Ed McCaffery, the Stanford star tore up the Pac12 conference, and most other opponents. He stands 6'2”, 212 pounds and runs a 4.48 40-yard dash. The Sophomore ran for 243 yards in a recent game against UCLA. The 243 yards broke the Stanford record of 223 yards previously held by Toby Gerhart. McCaffrey has been a workhorse, leading the Cardinal offense. Through 13 games, the Sophomore carried the ball 319 times for 1,847 yards and added another 540 on 41 receptions. Plus, the shifty McCaffrey scored 12 times on the year. It was quite a season. The NFL scouts will notice his improvement as a receiver over the last half of the season. He could be a great fantasy option if landing in the right NFL offensive scheme.
Derrius Guice (LSU) – Guice is already finding carries behind superstar Leonard Fournette. He will have to wait until after next season to be the primary ball carrier, but Guice has impressed. The 5'11”, 215-pound true Freshman was named the SEC Freshman Player of the Week after the game against South Carolina. He rushed for 161 yards in that game, three more than Fournette. He only had 397 rushing yards on the season. Guice was ranked RB2 by Rivals and has proven that to be an accurate ranking. Guice was the MVP of the US Army All-American game. In the summer of 2014, Guice – a local Louisiana player – attended a LSU camp. During the camp, he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash. This is impressive for a high schooler of his size. Guice is a star.
Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) – After breaking the single-game rushing record a year ago, Perine entered the 2015 season with high expectations. This strong outing led Perine to a 1,713-yard rushing season. The 5'11”, 243-pound ball carrier has seen fewer yards and fewer yards per carry average as a Sophomore compared to last year as a Freshman. Perine is big and fast (running a 4.48 40-yard dash). He has run the ball 211 times for 1,291 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. It is amazing that Perine has over 3,000 rushing yards through two seasons. He will be a factor in the 2017 running back NFL Draft class.
Damien Harris (Alabama) – Harris is from Berea, KY.. Many recruiting services had the 5'11”, 205-pound true Freshman as the top back in the class. He is more polished than most youngsters, possessing speed, explosiveness, and the vision to cut back and find a lane to break open a big play. Even though a knee injury limited Harris to just seven games as a high school Senior, he still rushed for 1,474 yards and 23 touchdowns. Alabama continues to have a pipeline at the running back position. Harris will need Henry and Drake to leave before starring.
Royce Freeman (Oregon) – The Sophomore has been the best asset on the Oregon offense this season. Earlier in the season, Freeman rushed for 264 yards and two scores on only 27 carries in the loss to Washington State. Freeman is a big runner at 6'1”, 220 pounds. After a strong Freshman season, Freeman was impressive as a Sophomore, gaining 1,708 rushing and 281 receiving yards, and 16 total touchdowns. The best part was Freeman upped his yards per carry average from 5.4 to 6.6 and his yards per reception average from 5.7 to 7.2. This progress is something devy owners should like a lot. He is relishing as the bell cow runner for the Ducks offense while the team searches for a replacement to Marcus Mariota.
Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) – Hurd is another young player, not turning 20 years of age until January. He is a big, tough runner who splits time with Alvin Kamara in the Tennessee backfield. The hard-running Hurd is 6'3”, 230 pounds and a tough runner. He went through streaks of strong and lacking play this season. In 12 games, Hurd carried the ball 253 times for 1,155 yards and 11 times. We wonder if he has enough burst to be a top NFL prospect. Hurd could still develop and mature given his age, so there is upside.
Elijah Hood (North Carolina) – The bruising 5'11”, 221 pound back does not get the ball enough in the North Carolina offense. Hood is averaging just above 100 rushing yards per contest on a bad offense, including a 6.6 yards per carry average. With only 11 receptions through 13 games could be a sign that the Tar Heels do not like Hood's ability as a receiver. The Sophomore runs hard and could profile into a two-down back in the NFL, at the best.
Jacques Patrick (Florida State) – Patrick is a big collegiate back, especially considering he played high school ball a year ago. While starting against Syracuse as starter Dalvin Cook was sidelined with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, the 6'1”, 232-pound true Freshman rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. He only had 315 yards on the entire season so the Syracuse game should give hope for devy owners. Patrick's future is bright. He was Rivals and ESPN RB3 in the class and named Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Florida. That is no small honor given the talent that originates in the state. Patrick will become a household name in the college football community next year.
Elijah McGuire (Louisiana-Lafayette) – McGuire might be the most electric back in college football, even though many fans have never heard his name before this season. He is on the smaller side (5'11”, 198 pounds) compared to the bigger backs on the list, but offers the ability to break off big plays almost every down. The Louisiana-Lafayette offense revolved around the tailback the past two seasons. McGuire has good speed and shiftiness, which will enable him to transition to the professional game quickly. Teams will be looking for the next Ameer Abdullah or Duke Johnson Jr to provide a spark to the offense. He profiles as a Day 2 or early Day 3 NFL pick.
That will do it for the running backs. Next week, we will look at the top overall devy wide receivers.
Feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with feedback. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIn, and Google+, so you can ask me questions on one of these as well.