This is the second annual edition of my Top 100 developmental player rankings. As detailed in more depth last year’s version, the six factors considered in ranking players are (1) Production, (2) Size and Speed, (3) College Program, (4) Pedigree and Depth Chart Status, (5) Character, and (6) The Eye Test. Having set criteria makes the near-impossible task of ranking players with a diverse range of experience and competing against a wide range of competition (both on-field opposition and against teammates for playing time) more manageable.
The goal is to provide as much context and information as possible and then allow you to adjust the rankings to make them your own based upon how the players pass the "eye-test" for you when you watch them. To that end, we have provided a link to a highlight video of as many players as possible in the Top 100 so you can take a look and make your own judgments.
Separate Rankings for Quarterbacks and Tight Ends
One small change to this year’s rankings is the decision to separate out quarterbacks and tight ends from the overall rankings. The Top 75 below is made up entirely of wide receivers and running backs and is then followed by the Top 15 quarterbacks and Top 10 tight ends.
The Top 75
1. RB Saquon Barkley (Penn St., Junior) As Penn State head coach James Franklin said, Barkley is the total package — with “attitude, demeanor, work ethic, leadership, speed, vision, quickness, strength, and size.” Fresh off of an incredible sophomore season, Barkley has added another five pounds of muscle this offseason and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash in a video released by the Nittany Lions earlier this year. Barkley is the top developmental prospect in years and is a better prospect than the guy who was #1 on this list last year, Leonard Fournette. As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said recently, “Barkley compares favorably to LSU All-American Leonard Fournette. But I think he’s a little more elusive than Leonard is. He’s a special dude.”
2. RB Derrius Guice (LSU, Junior) In many years, Guice would be an easy choice as top devy prospect. He was the consensus top RB recruit in the country in 2015 and flashed in a huge way on his 51 carries as a true freshman (when he averaged 8.5 YPC). When Leonard Fournette went down with an ankle injury in 2016, Guice stepped in and didn’t miss a beat with an eye-popping 7.6 YPC on 183 attempts. He rushed for 160+ yards in half of his eight SEC games, including a monster 285 yard, 4 touchdown game against Texas A&M in the regular season finale. He has an incredible combination of power and game-breaking ability (8 of his 15 touchdowns last season came from 20+ yards). One of the few areas where Barkley has an advantage is in the passing game. While Guice has looked fine catching the ball, he has just 14 career receptions and hasn’t shown the same game-breaking ability as a receiver. Reported 40 times are all over the place for Guice, with a 4.61 at a high school combine but also some reports of hand times in the 4.3 range. He showed last season he is plenty fast and has a great shot at going in the Top 10 overall of the 2018 NFL draft.