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 players at each position without regard to draft class. 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. This week, we will look at the Top 10 devy running backs eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft.
10. Bo Scarbrough (Alabama) – Scarbrough showed speed to go with his mammoth size in the title game earlier this year. The monstrous (6’2”, 235 pounds) Junior splits time with several others in the Crimson Tide backfield. For his pro prospects, Scarbrough needs to stay healthy. His bruising style leads to punishment for both he and opposing defenders. Against Vanderbilt earlier this season, Scarbrough carried the ball 11 times for 79 yards and 2 scores. The whopping yards-per-rush average will be attractive to NFL evaluators. The upside for Scarbrough is that he does not get overworked. In the game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Scarbrough tied his season-high high for rushing attempts with 15. On the year, he has toted the rock 65 times for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is not used much as a receiver with only 10 receptions for 78 yards.
9. Myles Gaskin (Washington) – Gaskin is an elusive runner who will be under-sized (5’10”, 191 pounds) by NFL standards. He is a good receiver out of the backfield, catching 19 balls a year ago. Gaskin tore up the Colorado Buffaloes earlier this season. In that contest, he ran the ball 27 times for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. Playing on an underrated team, Gaskin does not get the notoriety of many on this list due to playing in the Pacific Northwest. He is a quality player. For the season, Gaskin has rushed the ball 90 times for 559 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has also hauled in 9 receptions for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
8. Royce Freeman (Oregon) – At 230-plus pounds, Freeman combines size and speed. The Senior combines size and burst but lacks vision and ability to make defenders miss. He has averaged over five yards per rush in every game this season. In the heavily-anticipated game against Wyoming, Freeman had a great game. He ran the ball 30 times in the lopsided victory. Those carries led to 157 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 50 yards. This game capped an awesome three-game stretch (against Southern Utah, Nebraska, and Wyoming) to begin the season. In those three contests, Freeman carried the ball 82 times for 460 yards and 9 touchdowns. In three games. For the season, he has 115 carries for 654 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Freeman has reeled in 10 receptions for an additional 136 yards. He has enjoyed a solid 2017 campaign.
7. Kalen Ballage (Arizona State) – Ballage is a huge (6’3”, 230 pounds) back who is very fast and nimble for a man his size. He will be a difficult evaluation for many due to his lack of involvement in the Arizona State offense. There are few running backs with the athleticism and receiving ability of Ballage. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Ballage totaled just 251 carries and 56 receptions. On the year, he has 70 carries for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns. In addition, Ballage has added 10 receptions for 53 yards.
6. John Kelly (Tennessee) – The Junior has emerged to be discussed in the conversation to the third-ranked in this 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 has already passed 500 rushing yards in 2017. 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 in New Orleans, Kelly will be the primary ball carrier for the Volunteers. He is the focal point of the offense. For 2017, Kelly has carried the football 97 times for 494 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has added 22 receptions for 229 yards.
5. Bryce Love (Stanford) – The Junior has taken over the role Christian McCaffrey vacated by leaving for the NFL. In his first two seasons at Stanford, Love ran the ball just 141 times. He has been a workhorse this season but is still averaging over ten yards per carry. In the game against UCLA a few weeks ago, Love ran the ball 30 times for 263 yards and 1 touchdown. He was the main difference in the victory. Love is very good at making defenders miss in tight and open spaces with the speed to take carries to the house. Possessing adequate size (5’10”, 196 pounds), Love will continue to add weight as he prepares for the NFL. He will need to be bigger in order to remain healthy under such a large workload. For the year, Love has 118 carries for 1,240 yards and 9 touchdowns. He is not used much as a receiver, only reeling in 4 receptions for 19 yards. The turnover at quarterback as led to a lesser-than-expected role in the passing game. There is a very real chance that Love ends up in the top two or three on this list by season’s end.
4. 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 can break open big plays. These big plays were on display in the first two USC games (against Western Michigan and Stanford), amassing 275 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. 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. With quarterback Sam Darnold garnering most of the attention, Jones has been stellar this year. He has 85 carries for 529 yards and7 touchdowns. Underused in the passing game, Jones has added 5 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
3. Nick Chubb (Georgia) – Chubb’s comeback has been nothing short of amazing. Before he tore his PCL in Georgia's sixth game in 2015, the Senior 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. Last 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 (Fromm) to throw to make big plays. At 5'11”, 213 pounds, Chubb combines the strength to run between the tackles and enough burst to break off huge runs. He is averaging almost seven yards per carry this season, carrying the ball 91 times for 618 yards and 8 touchdowns.
2. Derrius Guice (LSU) – Even as a Freshman in 2015, Guice carved out a consistent role 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. LSU is not a good team this year which has hindered his success. 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 not be in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race due to the state of the Tigers. Expected to go professional after the season, Guice will be only 20 years of age at the time of the 2018 NFL Draft. On the season, Guice has carried the ball 82 times for 364 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has added 4 receptions for 28 yards. The lacking Tigers squad has left Guice with less upside this year compared to last. Plus, it appears he is playing through an injury.
1. Saquon Barkley (Penn State) – While not as highly recruited 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. That season, his first collegiate year, Barkley carried the Penn State offense through the well-chronicled struggles of Christian Hackenberg. 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. The 5'11”, 215-pounder possesses a solid combination of size and speed. 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. 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, gaining 1,898 total yards scoring 22 times. In fact, Barkley led the Nittany Lions to the upset over Ohio State last year, running for 99 yards on only 12 carries. Barkley is on pace for another monster campaign with over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns already this season. Anchored by a strong running game, Penn State has a chance to win the Big 10 this season and possibly contend for the National Title. We expect the talented running back to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and be a high first-round pick after the season.