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. During each week of the season, we will look at a different set of devy rankings.
We began the season looking at the potential 2017 NFL Draft class, beginning with the quarterbacks. All positions in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 draft classes were addressed this season. For the last three weeks, we took a look at overall devy rankings without any regard for draft class. We value the players entering the 2017 NFL Draft higher than future classes just due to the added risk associated with projecting into the future.
As we survey devy prospects, we will be looking at traits, abilities, and skill sets that will translate to the NFL. This week, we will look at the Top 10 devy players without regard to draft class.
10. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) – The versatile back is so good that most evaluators are searching for comparable players. For us, the 6’0”, 200-pound back will likely be relegated to passing-down specialty and sub-package player. McCaffrey does run a 4.48 40-yard dash and is quick. We also admire the way he runs hard, even in the middle of the field. But, it is our belief that he is too light in weight to touch the ball more than 200 times in an NFL season. Going for him is age. McCaffrey is just 20 years old and will not have a birthday until after the NFL Draft, assuming he declares. Versatility and play-making ability on special teams may help move McCaffrey up to the first-round territory. His fit in the right offense could still put up viable fantasy numbers, but we doubt there is huge fantasy upside unless in leagues rewarding return yardage. McCaffrey posted monster numbers down the stretch. He finished the 2016 season with 1,603 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on just 253 carries. McCaffrey added another 310 yards and 3 scores through the air. The Junior has an amazing two-year total of 3,622 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, plus another 955 yards and 8 scores through the air.
9. N'keal Harry (Arizona State) – Harry is a big receiver (6’3”, 210 pounds) who has made a big impact early in his college career. In the loss to Utah last month, the true Freshman had his best game of the season, hauling in 8 passes for 114 yards. For the season, Harry caught 58 passes for 659 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sadly, the Sun Devils lost six consecutive games to close out the season, and are not in contention for a bowl game. In high school, Harry grabbed 119 passes for 2,715 yards and 25 touchdowns. Rivals ranked Harry as the top wide receiver and the 18th best prospect in the country. His stellar pedigree and quality play as a Freshman vault Harry to the top of our list of players available for the 2019 NFL Draft. He has an exciting future.
8. Calvin Ridley (Alabama) – Ridley enjoyed an impressive Freshman season. The 6'0”, 180-pounder easily seized the WR1 duties for the Crimson Tide in 2015. 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 incredible 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 Sophomore receivers, and two years older than one or two top pass catchers in his draft class. He turned 22 years of age this past week (December 20). He still is a great prospect, nonetheless. After catching 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns as a Freshman in the Alabama offense, Ridley had another great season in 2016. In the victory over Kentucky earlier in the year, Ridley caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. It was an impressive showing. The stable of tailbacks and an athletic quarterback have been awesome for the Crimson Tide. There is reason Alabama has thrown less this season. A nagging knee injury and the run-oriented offense have limited the pass targets, but Ridley has still been strong. He has hauled in 66 passes for 727 yards and 7 touchdowns this year.
7. Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist) – Sutton was only a three-star player (Rivals) coming out of Brenham, TX, but he has shown how that was a mistake. As a redshirt Freshman, Sutton broke Emmanuel Sanders Freshman record for receiving yards (862) and tied the record set by NFL veteran with nine touchdowns as a Freshman. This strong season earned Sutton a spot on the USA Today All-Freshman team. He is a mountain of a receiver, (6’4”, 215 pounds) and uses his size well. SMU uses the tall receiver in the red-zone, but he is much more than a one-dimensional threat. As if Sutton’s athleticism was not chronicled enough, he played basketball last year for the Mustangs after the football season was finished. Sutton is eligible to turn professional at the season. For the 2016 season, Sutton has 76 receptions for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns on 76 receptions. This included an awesome two-game stretch (against East Carolina and South Florida) with 25 combined receptions for 418 yards and four scoring grabs. This means that the youngster grabbed one-third of his season-long receptions and yardage in just two games. Make of that what you will.
6. Corey Davis (Western Michigan) – Davis is still young (turning 21 years of age this past January) even after he decided to stay in school for a Senior season. He is 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 keep defenders away from the ball. Coming into the season, Pro Football Focus’s Steve Palazzolo had Davis as his top draft-eligible receiver. Palazzolo said, "Davis combines nifty route running with good body control and after-the-catch ability … He projects as a strong intermediate threat, capable of separating on dig and comeback routes while sneaking behind the defense at times more due to his route running than his speed." He went on to say, "Davis is not a blazer, so if he can show an uptick in speed his senior year, that will be a bonus … While he has plenty of highlight-reel downfield catches on tape, making those contested catches more consistently while showing more strength at the top of his routes are two things that can improve his already-polished game." While we are not as high on Davis as Palazzolo, we still like him as an elite top dynasty rookie pick. Davis has had a great college career. He has topped 1,400 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons. In the last three years, Davis has a total of 259 receptions for 4,271 yards and 45 touchdowns. Wow!
5. JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) – The Junior turned 20 years of age on November 22. If he turns pro this spring, Smith-Schuster will be a 20-year old rookie, with plenty of upside and maturity. Smith-Schuster had a big season in 2015, catching 89 passes for 1454 and 10 touchdowns. The mess of an offense for the Trojans has led to a down year in 2016, but we are still believers. The monster game against Arizona State (7 catches for 123 yards and 3 touchdowns) gives us a taste of what is to come. For the year, the Junior has reeled in 63 passes for 781 yards and 9 touchdowns. Smith-Schuster has good size, 6'2”, 200 pounds, and runs great routes.
4. Derrius Guice (LSU) – Even as a Freshman last season, Guice was able to get carries behind superstar Leonard Fournette. With Fournette injured for a few weeks this season, Guice shined. In the game against Missouri, the Sophomore gained 163 yards and scored thrice on just 17 carries. He was impressive. Guice received the start the next game against Southern Mississippi as Fournette was not back from injury. In that game, Guice toted the rock 16 times for 162 yards and a pair of scoring runs. The 5'11”, 215-pound back was ranked RB2 by Rivals and has proven that ranking to be accurate. Guice was the MVP of the US Army All-American game. We think he is a star in the making who will be in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race. Expected to go professional after next season, Guice will be only 20 years of age at the time of the 2017 NFL Draft. One caution. There was an unconfirmed report this week that Guice may move to the safety position. This move would rock the devy world.
3. Mike Williams (Clemson) – After showing that he is back to full health, the dominant Williams jumped back to the top of this list. This is no small feat after the very serious neck injury. The 6'3”, 205-pound receiver is a superstar. Neck injuries for wide receivers are to be taken seriously so we will be watching him closely during the pre-draft process. Having possibly the best quarterback in the nation throwing the ball helps, too. Clemson receivers coach Jeff Scott recently said that he believes senior Williams can be every bit as good as fellow Clemson Tigers DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, and Sammy Watkins. That is some great company to be included. For the year, Williams has 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 scores. These are great numbers in an offense that spreads the ball around.
2. Dalvin Cook (Florida State) – The 5'11”, 197-pound tailback is a star for the Seminoles. He is now a year past the legal issues, but the NFL decision-makers will delve into the situation. A compact frame, elusive open-field moves, and breakaway speed make a lethal combination. Cook rushed for 1,691 yards in 2015. He has put up solid numbers in 2016, just not to the extent of last season. First and foremost, when Cook is running well, he attacks the line of scrimmage and gets up the field in a hurry. No dancing. When he struggles, Cook does not see the hole immediately and dances too much. This year, Cook has 1,620 and 18 touchdowns on 268 carries. He has added another 426 yards as a receiver. Earlier this season against South Florida, Cook had his best outing of the year. After not topping 100 rushing yards in a game Florida State’s first 3 games this season, Cook had 97 yards on his 3 carries (including 2 touchdowns). He had 185 yards on 9 first-half carries. USF was Cook’s slump-buster. He ended the contest with 329 total yards in the contest. We are interested to see how high Cook will be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, assuming he declares.
1. Leonard Fournette (LSU) –Fournette has already announced his intention to enter the NFL Draft this coming spring, and we expect him to be the first running back selected. At a whopping 6'1”, 227 pounds (we think he is actually heavier than this weight), Fournette has big-time speed (he’s been timed at 4.40 in the 40-yard dash). The Junior tailback had a monster game against Mississippi earlier in the year. In that contest, he rushed for 284 yards and a trio of touchdowns on just 16 carries. He will be a star in the NFL, just like in college. The lack of a passing game has allowed defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage and Fournette has still been very effective. We hope he lands on a good offense. It is sad to see the struggles of Todd Gurley compared to Ezekiel Elliott.
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.