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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.
As the final article in series, we will look at the top overall players for devy leagues without assessing any positional premium. There are dozens of talented college players who could be NFL stars, especially at the wide receiver position.
This series of articles has focused on players who should be considered on their respective NFL prospects not college production. Below are the top devy players without regard to their NFL Draft eligibility or expected position for the NFL.
5. Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) – Elliott emerged in 2014 after quarterback Cardale Jones took the reins of the offense, giving the Buckeyes a threat to throw the ball down the field. He totaled over 2,000 yards in the championship campaign. Elliott is not big (6'0”, 200 pounds), but is not afraid of contact. The runner possesses great vision, seems to hit the right hole every play, and breaks many tackles per game. He is a star. Also of note, Elliott is one full year younger than other players ranked on this list who are eligible to go to the NFL after this season. During this Junior season, Elliott averaged over six yards per carry on his way to 1,672 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He has already announced his decision to turn pro and enter the NFL this coming year.
4. Corey Coleman (Baylor) – The redshirt Junior has put up huge numbers this season, even with the injuries to the Baylor quarterbacks. Many wondered whether his Sophomore season numbers (1,119 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns) were a fluke. Well, that is settled now as Coleman caught 74 passes 1,363 yards, and a whopping 20 touchdowns in Baylor's 12 games. He is very fast, but lacks the prototypical size NFL teams desire. Coleman stands 5'11”, 190 pounds and will need to show that he can be more than a speed receiver. The Baylor offense has produced several NFL receivers and Coleman is expected to be selected high in the 2016 NFL Draft. Coleman was honored as an All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award so it was sad to see that he will miss the bowl game with a sports hernia. He had the surgery last week and should be healthy for the NFL Combine.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) – The youngster has been impressive this season. He quickly emerged onto the national scene this season. In 13 games, Smith-Schuster caught 85 passes for 1,389 yards and ten touchdowns. He has put up big numbers almost every week, even as the focal point of opposing defenses. The Sophomore just turned 19 years of age on November 22. Think about that for a moment. At the beginning of the season, he was still just 18 years old. In addition, if Smith-Schuster leaves when eligible after the 2016 campaign, he will only be 20 years old until halfway through his rookie campaign. Smith-Schuster has good size, 6'2”, 200 pounds, and runs great routes. He is able to get open with ease. This is one prospect who will continue to get better and better.
2. Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi) – Treadwell is still extremely young, just turning 20 years of age this past June. He burst onto the national scene while catching 72 passes as a Freshman in 2013. As a Junior, Treadwell reeled in 76 passes for 1,082 yards, and eight scores through twelve games. He is a physical specimen who uses his imposing size (6'3”, 215 pounds) to out-muscle defenders. Many compare Treadwell's game to that of Alshon Jeffery with his solid routes and ability to separate. The one concern is whether Treadwell has the speed to be a top NFL receiver. But, we have faith in his physical ability to dominate defensive backs. Plus, Treadwell is a very good run blocker. This will aid the youngster in catching the eye of teams watching tape.
1. Leonard Fournette (LSU) – The bruising runner was the odds-on favorite for the Heisman Trophy over the first half of the season. He still finished as a Consensus All American. 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. Through the regular season, Fournette 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 for good reason. Unless injured, he will star in the NFL, just like he has in college.
Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Rosen has possibly been the best quarterback in the country this season. As a true Freshman, he has shown the poise and a strong arm of an upperclassman. Rosen has NFL size (6'4”, 208 pounds) and has excelled as a pocket passer. In his Freshman season, Rosen threw for 3,350 yards and a 20-9 TD-INT ratio this season, and added two more scores on the ground. The most impressive statistic may be the almost 60% completion percentage. Considering the impressive start to his collegiate career, we expect Rosen to develop further and become the unquestioned top devy quarterback by next season. Given that Rosen is still a true Freshman, he should easily surpass those listed above. Rosen has the look of a NFL star. He is our top-ranked devy quarterback.
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. Henry looks to be the next Alabama running back to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, especially if he runs well at the NFL Combine.
Dalvin Cook (Florida State) – The 5'11”, 197 pounder played the best football of his collegiate career in 2015. 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, coming up a little short. Cook finished seventh in his run for the Heisman Trophy. He has been able to break off big plays a few times each game. A compact frame, elusive open-field moves, and breakaway speed were 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.
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. He has THAT level of talent. At 5'11”, 213 pounds, Chubb combines the strength to run between the tackles and enough 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. If Chubb can prove himself healthy, a first round selection is within reach.
Deshaun Watson (Clemson) – Watson is one of the more electric players in college football. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was named Consensus All American. Watson is a star, leading his team into the college playoffs. He has a rifle for an arm and is not afraid to throw the ball into tight spaces. His size (or lack thereof), 6'3”, 188 pounds, is a worry for many after Watson's lengthy injury history. The Sophomore is a weapon as a runner and passer. His lack of size has stirred debate due to Watson's willingness to run in the open field. Watson is young, turning 20 years old earlier this season. Shockingly, Watson completed almost 75% of his passes through the first four games of the season, a truly remarkable statistic. He ended the season with a 70% completion percentage and a 30-11 TD-INT ratio. In addition, the Sophomore has added another 887 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. It has been quite a year for Watson. Injury is the only thing standing in the way of a Top 5 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has been awesome as a Sophomore. The bevy of great receivers will only help the cause.
Malachi Dupre (LSU) – The Sophomore possesses optimal size (6'3”, 195 pounds) and makes huge plays in the air. Dupre is tall and a tremendous leaper. He will grow into a redzone threat. Dupre is not relied upon as much as he could be due to his team having Leonard Fournette lined up in the backfield. Those who just look at box scores will be disappointed in Dupre. However, he has performed well when targeted in the passing game. Middling play from quarterback Brandon Harris has further limited Dupre's production. The Tigers also have the talented Travin Dural at receiver. Dupre is a Louisiana product who stayed home to play for LSU even though he was highly recruited. As teams load up to stop the run (Fournette and Guice), we expect Dupre's role to increase next year as a Junior, and the targets to follow, especially if the quarterback play improves. In 2015, Dupre caught 39 passes for 602 yards and six scores. While the TD-to-reception percentage seems high, it was even higher a year ago as Dupre caught five touchdowns out of 14 receptions in 2014. His athleticism allows for big plays, especially in the red zone.
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 produced big numbers even when opposing defenses knew Barkley was 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.
Jared Goff (California) – Goff put up gaudy numbers a year ago and topped them in 2015. As a Sophomore, Goff completed 316 of 509 passes for 3,973 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. This year, as a Junior, he completed 316 of his 492 passes for 4,247 yards, 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In addition, his completions percentage has climbed each year, all the way up to 64% in 2015. He is big (6'4”, 205 pounds) and has great pocket presence. Many will discount Goff's production as a product of coach Sonny Dykes' pass-happy offense. But, Goff has been elite all the way back to his play at Marin Catholic High School. At this point, he should be considered the favorite for the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The NFL is hungry for quarterbacks who put up monster college numbers and have prototypical size. Goff fits the bill on both.
Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) – Before the season, many discounted Kirk due to his smallish frame (5'11, 190 pounds), but the true Freshman has been the best receiver for the Aggies this season. He played wide receiver, running back, kick returner, and defensive back in high school and his versatility has helped Texas A&M. Kirk is an elite athlete. His quickness allows Kirk to get open with ease, even against strong defenses. He topped 1,000 total yards this season, which is quite an accomplishment given the poor showing by the Aggies. As a high school Senior, Kirk ran for 1,700 yards and added another 1,200 more yards receiving. The true Freshman has caught 70 passes for 925 yards and six touchdowns this season, and added 80 more on the ground. We do worry about the quarterback position. Both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray have transferred out of Texas A&M in the past three weeks.
Evan Engram (Mississippi) – Engram's NFL outlook will be determined by which team drafts him. At only 6'3”, 220 pounds, Engram is a hybrid wide receiver/tight end. Many overlook Engram in the Mississippi offense, but he is a talented play-maker. But, let's state the obvious, any team that drafts the undersized tight end prospect has to have a plan on how best to take advantage of his skill set. In addition, Engram is not strong enough of a blocker to line up as an inline NFL tight end. He is talented enough for us to overlook these obvious deficiencies because the upside is immense. After catching 38 passes for 662 yards in 2014, hopes were sky high for 2015. He disappointed in grand fashion, only grabbing 32 balls for 368 yards. Yes, there were flashes of brilliance, but a player of Engram's caliber needs to assert himself more. Engram would be a great fit in Indianapolis or Atlanta.
Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) – As 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 conference 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. He had widespread support for the Heisman Trophy, but came up short to Derrick Henry (see above). However, McCaffery was named Associated Press Player of the Year. 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) – Even in year one, Guice was able to get 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. Guice only had 397 rushing yards on the season. The Freshman was ranked RB2 by Rivals and has proven that to be an accurate ranking. He flashed immense potential in limited duty this season. 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 in the making.
Josh Doctson (Texas Christian) – Doctson started his collegiate career at Wyoming before transferring to Texas Christian. This was a great move for his pro prospects. Doctson is a red-zone star with the ability to go up and get high passes on fade routes. He uses his height (6'4”) to easily jump over smaller defensive backs. Doctson will shine at the NFL Combine with his explosive ability, but will need to add weight to his 190-pound frame before the beginning of the 2016 season. As a Senior, Doctson reeled in 78 passes for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdown grabs. We are very interested in knowing which team will draft Doctson. His fantasy outlook would be sublime in either New Orleans or New England due to his after-the-catch ability. We are expecting Doctson to be a late first round pick, which would improve his chance for success. Due to a wrist injury, he will not play in the Alamo Bowl. Doctson originally broke the wrist early in the Oklahoma State game, starting a downward spiral for the Horned Frogs.
Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) – After breaking the single-game rushing record a year ago, Perine entered the 2015 season with high expectations. This strong outing propelled 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, going into the playoffs. 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 small-town Berea, KY. But was highly touted out of high school. Many recruiting services had the 5'11”, 205-pound true Freshman as the top back in the recruiting class. His choice of Alabama should solidify his confidence and ability to succeed. 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.
Corey Davis (Western Michigan) – Davis is the younger brother of Titus Davis, who starred at Central Michigan before playing a little in the NFL. Even as a Junior, Corey Davis is still very young (just turned 21 years of age) but a mature route-runner who understands how to give his quarterback space to throw the ball. Davis uses his big frame (6'2”, 205 pounds) to shield defenders away from the ball. There are two questions Davis must answer for the NFL: Is he fast and explosive enough to create separate? and were the outstanding college numbers due to playing against inferior competition? We expect Davis to positively answer both questions as a professional. He put up spectacular numbers in 2014 and 2015. As a Sophomore last season, Davis caught 78 passes for 1,408 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns. He followed that up with 81 receptions for 1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns. That is a great two-season stretch for Davis. He has yet to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Deon Cain (Clemson) – Many people who follow and write about college recruiting had Cain as one of the top players in the entire class. The former high school quarterback has been clocked at 4.44 40-yard dash, which is impressive for a player of his size. For Clemson, Cain emerged to fill the void left by Mike Williams was lost for the season after suffering a broken neck. Cain is a physically gifted player (6'1”, 210 pounds), with great speed, who is still learning how to become a star at the receiver position. The top-ranked Clemson Tigers were expected to utilize Cain's play-making ability in the playoffs. He is an emerging wide receiver star who is building buzz nationally. However, he was sent home from the bowl game on Monday due to a failed drug test. We are hoping the true Freshman can get his life on track.
Calvin Ridley (Alabama) – Ridley has enjoyed an impressive Freshman season. The 6'0”, 180-pound Freshman has taken over the WR1 duties for the Crimson Tide. We expect Ridley to continue to add bulk to his slight frame. He is a dangerous receiver down the field and with the ball in his hands. But, Ridley has impressed most with his ability to win contested passes. He has an impressive ability to high-point the ball and aggressively attack it. This is a trait which will translate well in the NFL. For those who track the age of the incoming rookies, Ridley is one year older than most of the other Freshman receivers, and two years older than one or two top pass catchers in the draft class. The age is a concern if looked at in the context that his ceiling might not be as high as an 18-year old incoming Freshman. He still is a great prospect nonetheless after catching 75 passes for 893 yards and five touchdowns, even in the run-oriented Alabama offense.
Thanks for reading this season. We look forward to having the devy ranking conversations over the offseason as some on this list enter the NFL and are offset by the incoming Freshman and emerging players.
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.