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 offseason and season, we will look at a different set of devy rankings.
We began the season looking at the top devy players, beginning with the Top 10 devy quarterbacks overall without regard of position or class. This week, we are looking at running backs. In general, we value the players entering the 2018 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. Since it is still early in the season, we expect these rankings to be fluid and there to be some fluctuation as the year progresses.
10. De'Andre Swift (Georgia) – Swift has elite athleticism and his role as a receiver and runner will grow after the veterans leave for the NFL. The Bulldogs have Sony Michel and Nick Chubb exiting after the season and Swift could inherit the top spot on the depth chart. While just a few games into his true Freshman campaign, Georgia is getting Swift involved in the offense. Swift is short (5’9”) but not small (at 215 pounds). He had a stellar pedigree coming into college named as a USA Today First-Team All-America team and Prepstar Magazine 5-star prospect, number 48 player nationally on the Top 150 Dream Team.
9. John Kelly (Tennessee) – The Junior has emerged to be discussed in the conversation to the third-ranked in the list of NFL Draft-eligible backs. He is a little smaller than ideal (5’9”, 205 pounds) but runs with power. After totaling just 795 rushing yards combined in his first two seasons in Knoxville, Kelly already is closing in on 300 yards. In the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Kelly carried the ball 19 times for 128 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 42-41 (double overtime) win over Georgia Tech. He scored the game-tying touchdown in regulation and both Tennessee scores in overtime. With Alvin Kamara now with the Saints, Kelly will be the primary ball carrier for the Volunteers.
8. Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M) – Williams is solid back who makes big plays. The Aggies rely on him to anchor the offense. The Sophomore missed Saturday’s game with an injury. He was nicked up and unneeded against Louisiana Lafayette. On the season, the 5’9”, 200-pounder is averaging 7.8 yards per carry (33 carries for 256 yards and 3 touchdowns). Williams was special in the season opener against UCLA. Even in the heart-breaking loss, Williams carried the ball 22 times for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Aggies ball carrier runs hard and with power but has NFL-level elusiveness.
7. Ronald Jones II (USC) – Jones is fast and elusive. He is thin (6’0”, 200 pounds) but reminds some on campus of Reggie Bush. Jones hits the hole hard and is able to break open big plays. These big plays have been on display in all three of USC’s games (against Western Michigan, Stanford, and Texas). In 2016, the talented Junior carried the ball 176 times for 1,082 yards, and 12 scoring runs. This was good for a 6.1 yards-per-carry average. He should top those numbers in 2017.
6. J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) – Dobbins was one of the top 2017 recruits at the position, landing in a solid situation with only Weber as competition on the depth chart. The youngster enrolled early (in January) and committed to the Buckeyes without ever stepping foot on the Ohio State campus. He has excelled this season. Dobbins shows great quickness at the line of scrimmage. His jump cuts allow Dobbins to escape the linebackers in the hole and break big plays to the outside. The true Freshman has already had several “highlight reel” runs and his career is just beginning.
5. David Montgomery (Iowa State) – The Sophomore is a bigger back (5’11”, 219 pounds) who can make tacklers miss or run over them. After only 109 Freshman carries, Montgomery is quickly becoming the main weapon for the Cyclones. He is expected to accumulate close to 300 carries this season. In the in-state rivalry game against Iowa, Montgomery carried the ball 20 times for 112 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground. He added 5 receptions for 53 yards as a receiver. Behind Montgomery, Iowa State almost pulled off the upset. As a three-star recruit, Montgomery chose Iowa State over Purdue, Illinois, and Marshall, but was named Honorable Mention Freshman All-America by Campus Insiders. He is a player on this list few are acquainted but will soon enough.
4. Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) – The 5’11”, 214-pound true Freshman has quickly jumped into the national spotlight. He has already been named Big 10 Co-Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman Player of the Week for his monster outing against Florida Atlantic. In that game, Taylor carried the ball 26 times for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was his first career start. He was just the fourth true Freshman in school history to record a 200-yard. Taylor is the main play-maker for the Badgers. He should easily top 225 carries and has elite potential.
3. Cam Akers – Florida State – Akers was considered the top running back recruit in 2017 class. In just one game, against top-ranked Alabama, he has already shown the ability to be special. With good size and patience, the 5’11”, 213-pound ball carrier will be a household name very soon. He is a star in the making while still a true Freshman. Akers played quarterback and running back Clinton High School in Clinton, MS. As a high school Senior, Akers rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns, and passed 3,128 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. With the quarterback change, Akers will be relied upon even more as the season progresses.
2. Derrius Guice (LSU) – Even as a Freshman last season, Guice garnered carries behind superstar Leonard Fournette. With Fournette injured for a few weeks in 2016, Guice shined. For example, 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 contest, Guice toted the rock 16 times for 162 yards and a pair of scoring runs. With Fournette now in the NFL, Guice is the focal point of the Tigers offense. It will be up to him to carry the load and be responsible for the team’s success like his predecessor. 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. He is a star who will be in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race. Expected to go professional after the season, Guice will be only 20 years of age at the time of the 2018 NFL Draft.
1. 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 and has been a star ever since. 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 last year, running for 99 yards on only 12 carries. Anchored by a strong running game, Penn State has a chance to win the Big 10 this season. We expect the talented running back to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and be a first-round pick.