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. For the last three weeks, we will 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. After looking at players 30-21 last week, we will look at players 20-11 this week.
20. D'Onta Foreman (Texas) – The Junior put the nation on notice with his powerful performance against Notre Dame in primetime Week 1 of the 2016 season. Foreman had 131 yards and a touchdown in that game. He is a big back (6’1”, 249 pounds) who has topped the 100-yard rushing mark every game this season and has carried the Longhorns offense. Texas has had several backs make it in the NFL and Foreman definitely looks the part. After the victory over Kansas State, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein said that it's "impossible to ignore" Foreman's "talent and NFL potential." Zierlein went on to say, "Foreman is a big back who runs behind his pads and is able to create yardage with power, but don't sleep on his wiggle … Foreman has shown he can operate as a downhill back and an off-set back. He has the speed to get the edge and the burst to live between the tackles. He continues to impress scouts." Foreman had a few monster outings this year, including three games with at least 250 rushing yards. On the season, the Junior totaled 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns on 323 carries. The high usage led to Foreman going professional. He is very good in pass protection and should contribute on Sundays.
19. Jake Butt (Michigan) – We have the Senior tight end ranked higher than most. He has NFL size (6’5”, 250 pounds) and is both a very good blocker and receiver. Daniel Jeremiah compared Butt to Jason Witten, "I really like the comparison to Jason Witten … Both guys are physical, instinctive and catch everything." We agree with the former scout. The other thing Butt has in common with Witten is his competitiveness. Mel Kiper had this to say about the Michigan star, "I thought Butt could have pushed his way into second-round consideration had he entered the 2016 draft, and his return gives the Michigan offense a pretty big weapon … When he makes catches in space, he can turn it up and will run through tackles. While he's not a very good blocker, the effort is there. He's a weapon who is certain to be catching NFL passes next fall." We disagree with Kiper and think Butt has improved significantly as a blocker this season. What makes Butt unique, like Witten above, is his ability to run great routes and make catches in traffic. Coach Harbaugh has his tight end ready for the NFL.
18. John Ross (Washington) – The redshirt Junior had only 24 receptions coming into the 2016 season. He was a relative unknown before the season but is now thought to be in contention for a first-day selection in the NFL Draft. The 5’11”, 190-pound receiver missed the 2015 season due to a knee injury. He entered college as one of the fastest players in the country (clocked at 4.25 in the 40-yard dash) and still has the same burst after the knee injuries. Quarterback Jake Browning has built a great rapport with Ross. His position coach, Butch Hamdan, recently was quoted as saying, "the game’s slowing down a little bit [for Ross], for sure, from a route-running standpoint … Just understanding when to use his speed, when he’s got to kind of trust his technique and slow down a little bit … I think he’s become a stronger player, better against press coverage. Just overall a more complete player." Bucky Brooks, of NFL.com, wrote last month about Ross, “He has always intrigued scouts with his combination of speed and quickness, but I've been impressed with his route-running ability and ball skills … Ross is a natural pass-catcher with outstanding explosiveness, as evidenced by his three-touchdown effort against Oregon … Ross' ballerina-like toe tap on his 15-yard touchdown on a post route will definitely intrigue scouts looking for a dominant WR1 on the perimeter." The huge game against Cal late in the season was very impressive. In the first half, alone, he caught three passes for over 100 yards and all three catches went for scores. He ended the contest with 6 catches for 208 yards and the trio of first-half touchdowns. While the numbers were huge, no doubt, the Cal defense is a sieve. On the year, Ross caught 76 passes for 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was consistent. These are great numbers for a receiver who only topped the 100-yard mark three times.
17. Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) – All throughout his football career, people have been discounting Kirk due to his smallish frame (5'11, 190 pounds), but the true Sophomore is one of the better receivers in the country. 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 whose versatility will be viewed as a positive in the NFL. To us, he looks like a young DeSean Jackson, able to get open with ease any time he desires. Plus, like Jackson, Kirk is dangerous on screen passes, able to make big plays even on the most innocuous of passes. As a Freshman, he totaled 80 catches for 1,009 yards and 7 touchdowns. This year, with the change at quarterback, he caught mostly short passes earlier in the season. As the season progressed, the Aggies strove to get the ball into the play-maker’s hands. For 2016, Kirk hauled in 77 passes for 842 yards and 9 scores. His yards-per-reception average dropped due to the downgrade at quarterback. Trevor Knight is not a great downfield passer.
16. James Washington (Oklahoma State) – The 6’0”, 205-pound Junior emerged in a huge way last season, averaging over 20 yards per reception in 2015. He had 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns on 53 receptions. Even with the likes of Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, and Sterling Shepard playing in the conference, Washington led the in Big 12 receiving yards per game and touchdowns. The conference had many receivers who possess more straight-line speed, but Washington always finds a way to get open deep. Against Pittsburgh earlier in the season, the Oklahoma State star caught 9 passes for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns. Referring to the big performance, Pauline said, "The junior was dominant and could not be stopped from the get-go … He made several difficult catches with defenders draped on him, displayed better than advertised speed and generally looked like an overall receiver stud." Remember, this is a Pittsburgh defense that held several great players in check this season. On the year, Washington totaled 1,209 yards and 9 touchdowns on 62 receptions. This was good for a 19.5 yards-per-reception average. Several other pass catchers receive more attention, but Washington has the potential to be a very good pro. There was a report Monday indicating that the talented receiver will stay in Stillwater another year. Nothing has been stated officially, yet.
15. O.J. Howard (Alabama) – The 6’6”, 251-pound Senior is a player who should be the top NFL tight end drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. While he has enjoyed a strong career for the Crimson Tide, the National Championship game against Clemson thrust Howard unto the national stage. In the victory, Howard caught 5 passes for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was very impressive in the game. Then, in the Alabama team testing last spring, Howard showed off his speed and strength, running a 4.65 40-yard dash, 425-pound bench press, 500-pound squat, and most-impressive a 9’11” broad jump. Those are great numbers for such a big tight end. When Daniel Jeremiah polled five NFL executives of their preference between Howard and Michigan’s Jake Butt, all five favored Howard. Jeremiah wrote about his discussion with the executives, ‘"Howard is the better prospect," the first said. "He's faster and a bigger playmaker. However, Butt is a better blocker and he catches the ball more consistently." Another comped Butt to Jason Witten but sided with Howard anyway. A third chose Howard because he "gives your offense more mismatch opportunities because of his athleticism." The fourth said Howard is "a better blocker and he plays much faster" and the fifth said he "would take a chance on the skill set of Howard over the steadiness of Butt."’ Howard will be selected high in the NFL Draft next spring. He has all of the athleticism and ability to be a great professional player. Do not let his lack of involvement in the passing game influence opinion. Alabama is a run-oriented offense, leaning on good blocking by Howard and the receivers.
14. Saquon Barkley (Penn State) – While not as highly touted coming out of high school as many on this list, Barkley was studly as a true Freshman in 2015. The 5'11”, 215-pounder possesses a solid combination of size and speed. In 2015, his first collegiate year, Barkley carried the Penn State offense through the well-chronicled struggles of Christian Hackenberg. In that season, Barkley carried the ball 182 times for 1,076 yards and 7 touchdowns. He added another 161 yards and a score as a receiver. It was an impressive Freshman season. It was enough to be ranked No. 1 in Pro Football Focus' elusive rating. This is a great indicator for his professional prospects. Also, ESPN's Kevin Weidl was effusive in his praise for the Penn State star’s combination of power, agility, burst, competitiveness and strength as a 220-pound runner. Considering Barkley has enjoyed some big outings in his short career, we agree with Weidl’s analysis. Barkley topped the 1,000-yard mark as a true Freshman playing in a one-dimensional offense and topped those numbers again in 2016. In fact, Barkley led the Nittany Lions to the upset over Ohio State earlier in the year, running for 99 yards on only 12 carries. In the game against Purdue earlier this season, Barkley ran the ball 18 times for 207 yards and 2 scores plus he added another 70 yards on three receptions. Yes, that is correct. Barkley totaled 277 yards and a pair of scoring runs in the lopsided victory over the Boilermakers. For the 2016 season, Barley has 1,302 yards and 16 touchdowns on 247 carries. He had another 347 yards and three scores as a receiver. With one more year before he is eligible to enter the NFL Draft, we expect Barkley to continue his development and gain supporters throughout the NFL Draft community.
13. Damien Harris (Alabama) – Earlier this season, Harris was just starting to assert himself when an ankle injury popped up. He injured the ankle against Kent State. But, since his return, the young back has been great. He has topped 100 rushing yards in the big games this season. Harris is from small-town Berea, KY, but he was highly recruited out of high school. Many recruiting services had the 5'11”, 205-pound runner as the top back in the recruiting 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. In the big wins against Texas A&M and Arkansas, Harris was VERY impressive, topping 100 rushing yards in each contest while splitting carries with two other backs. Many had Bo Scarbrough penciled in as the Alabama starter coming into the season, but Harris has seized the starting role and playing well. For 2016, Harris has 986 rushing yards and two scores on just 131 carries (7.5 ypc average). He has another 105 and two scores through the air.
12. Nick Chubb (Georgia) – Chubb’s comeback has been nothing short of amazing. Before he tore his PCL in Georgia's sixth game last year, the Junior was included in the conversation for the top spot on this list. Many thought he was as good of a prospect as Leonard Fournette. Chubb was playing at that high of a level. Earlier this season, he put everyone on notice in a huge way, rushing for 222 yards and 2 scores on 32 carries, leading Georgia to a victory over North Carolina. The Bulldogs are in a rebuilding mode and lack talent on both sides of the ball. This has allowed opposing defenses to stack the box and dare the Freshman quarterback to throw. At 5'11”, 213 pounds, Chubb combines the strength to run between the tackles and enough burst to break off huge runs. Chubb has already announced a return to Georgia for his Senior season. While there is a risk of another injury, a return of the pre-injury player could vault Chubb to the top back in the 2017 NFL Draft class.
11. Evan Engram (Mississippi) – Engram is a star in the making but will need to be drafted by the right organization in order to live up to lofty expectations. The Senior is undersized (6’3, 227 pounds) for an NFL tight end but is very athletically gifted. He fits the mold of Jordan Reed in terms of potential. Engram has had a few monster outings already this season. One such game was against Alabama. He hauled in 9 passes for 138 yards and a score in the loss. His quarterback, Chad Kelly, had this to say about the tight end, "He’s a freak athlete, and he has great hands … He makes plays when the ball is in his hands. I think this year we’ve really got to get him the ball a lot more." Engram gives effort as a blocker but lacks the size to be effective. He has the short-area quickness of a slot receiver and will be able to abuse linebackers. The talent and upside are there. The only question is which team will draft the Senior. For the season, Engram caught 65 passes for 926 yards and 8 touchdowns.
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