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 wide receivers eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft.
10. Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) – At 5,11”, 200 pounds, Kirk is stronger than most view him. There are plenty of NFL receivers his size. He is physical and offers the ability to contribute in a variety of ways. Kirk would have better numbers if not for the poor quarterback play the last two seasons for the Aggies. He is a versatile weapon, able to contribute on special teams as a returner, receiver, and from the backfield. Kirk’s worst-case prospect comparison would be Tavon Austin for me, but it needs to be acknowledged that his professional upside is tied to the ability of the team to use his talents correctly. This is evident with Austin as well. After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Kirk is doubtful to hit that threshold in 2017. He has topped 100 receiving yards just once his season, the overtime contest versus Arkansas. For the 2017 season, Kirk has 29 receptions for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has added another 27 yards on the ground. Still young, Kirk will turn 20 years of age in November. A five-star prospect, Kirk was highly recruited after being named All-American by Under Armour, MaxPreps, PrepStar; named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona; and surpassing the 3,000-yard level in all-purpose yardage, including nearly 1,700 as a rusher and 1,200 as a receiver his Senior year. He offers big-time upside to devy owners.
9. Anthony Miller (Memphis) – Miller has burst onto the national scene this season, his last in a Memphis jersey, even after hauling in 95 catches for 1,434, and 14 touchdowns in 2016. Miller is a redshirt Senior who has gelled with quarterback Riley Ferguson. He had no written scholarship offers after leaving high school and so he walked on at Memphis. It is amazing how much Miller has developed. He and Isaac Bruce are the only two 1,000-yard season receivers in school history. The 5’11”, 190-pound Miller has enjoyed several solid games already this season. Against the University of Connecticut, Miller caught 15 passes for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yes, the game was lopsided, but Miller simply overmatched the Huskies defenders. A few weeks prior, Miller lit up the UCLA Bruins for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 receptions. For the season, he has 45 receptions for 606 yards and 9 touchdowns. Memphis has had two games canceled for weather or his season numbers would be even better. Miller runs good routes and makes plays after the catch. He is a player to watch as the season progresses.
8. Dante Pettis (Washington) - The combination of big speed and great routes will get Pettis noticed come draft season. With John Ross now in the NFL, Pettis is getting ample targets to show off his star power. The Junior also is a valuable member on special teams. Pettis is tied for two NCAA records: 8 career punt returns for a touchdown and punt returns for touchdowns in three consecutive games. While thinly built (6’1”, 188 pounds), Pettis is not afraid of making tough catches across the middle of the field. He needs to gain weight in order to have the same build as his father, Gary, a former Major League Baseball player for 11 seasons. In a recent game against Oregon State, Pettis showed off his play-making ability with 3 touchdowns and 105 yards on 12 catches. The Huskies force Pettis the ball often on short passes, leaving some small yards-per-reception averages against quality teams. It is ok. The offense needs to go through its best player and get the ball in his hands. For the year, Pettis has 44 receptions for 472 yards and 6 touchdowns.
7. Deon Cain (Clemson) – Cain could be the next in a long line of Clemson receivers to splash big in the NFL. Many people who follow and write about college recruiting had Cain as one of the top players in the entire 2015 recruiting class. He has the size and speed to make draft evaluators salivate. The biggest concern for Cain is his off-field decision-making. The off-field issue early in his Freshman campaign meant missing the National Championship game after the 2015 season. The former high school quarterback has been clocked at 4.44 40-yard dash. Cain is a physically impressive player (6'1”, 210 pounds), with great speed, and is quickly learning how to become a star at the receiver position. Lance Zierlein wrote about the future NFL star, “Cain was a prominent contributor on a Clemson offense that was loaded with weapons. Keep in mind that Cain was a high-school quarterback, and has had very limited time at the wide receiver position. As he continues to get more comfortable at the position and learns the nuances of route running, his stock should steadily rise as he has the size and speed that NFL teams covet.” We very much concur. On a squad last year with three NFL pass catchers, Cain could be the best pro. He benefits with both Mike Williams and Artavis Scott now in the NFL. The Tigers have a solid group of incoming Freshmen but the big receiver has a great chance to have a big year. Cain always had the physical ability and has vastly improved his route running in the past year. For the season, he has 299 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 receptions.
6. Richie James (Middle Tennessee State) – Many question the size (5’9”, 176 pounds) of the redshirt Junior, but he plays much larger than his size would indicate. He is able to boast consecutive 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons (108 catches for 1,346 and 8 touchdowns as a Freshman in 2015 and 105 catches for 1,625 and 12 touchdowns as a Sophomore in 2016). Profiling as an NFL slot receiver, James looks to be a star in the making. There are few players able to make the catches he hauls in and then pick up yardage after the reception. For the season, James has 26 receptions for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pro Football Focus had this to say about the star slot receiver, “He’s been especially dangerous once he’s had the ball in his hands. His 953 yards after the catch in 2015 were the most in the nation. In 2016, he was No. 2 with 875 yards after the catch.” James is fun to watch.
5. Auden Tate (Florida State) – Tate was expected to burst onto the national scene this season. He has NFL WR1 size and is able to make big plays after the catch. After not being heavily recruited, Tate played in six games as a Freshman. He emerged as a Sophomore, hauling in 25 receptions for 409 yards and six touchdowns, in just ten games. So, hopes were high entering 2017. We were worried about Tate’s emergence never happening after the injury to Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama. But, Tate has been awesome with his high-flying catches and yards-after-the-catch big plays. Youngster James Blackman was starting to come on a few weeks ago against North Carolina State, allowing Tate to have a monster game, then Tate left the game with a shoulder injury after a long catch. As Tate exited the contest, he had 138 receiving yards of Blackman’s 192. Watching that game confirmed our belief that he is a future star. He has an NFL body (6’5”, 225 pounds) and has big-time potential. Tate plays in the mode of Alshon Jeffery. He is showing great toughness playing through the shoulder injury. Tate has 19 receptions for 312 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. He will likely play through the shoulder injury all season. Florida State super safety had this to say about his teammate, “His pain is different. He’s really out there hurting … He’s laying it on the line every game. I really take my hat off to him because no one goes through what he goes through. To be able to show up in big games like that and make those type of plays not at 100 percent, that’s great. That’s automatic respect.” Tate is a superstar showing his teammates how to play through injuries.
4. James Washington (Oklahoma State) – Possessing just average size (6’,0”, 205 pounds) and decent speed, it is remarkable the manner that Washington gets open deep and across the middle of the field. Some may contend the Senior’s success is due to the Cowboys spread offense, but Washington abused the vaunted Colorado secondary in last year’s bowl game. His long touchdown in the loss to TCU showed everyone that speed will not be an issue going forward. In addition, Washington is excellent tracking the ball in traffic and making the catch. Growing up in Stamford, TX (population 3,124), he was not highly recruited even though Washington was named to the All-Texas team. But, Washington already has passed the 3,000-yard mark in receiving yards and could come close to 4,000 by the time the season is over. After averaging almost 20 yards per reception in his first three seasons in Stillwater, Washington is averaging 26 yards per reception this season. Yes, that number is expected to come down to earth a little in conference play. However, it shows that Washington is making big plays even though opposing defenses scheme to slow him down. He has 34 receptions for the year, gaining 882 yards and scoring 6 touchdowns. These are great numbers through six games. In the victory over Baylor Saturday, Washington had catches of 43, 45, 58 and 68 yards out of only six receptions. These big plays sure help his yards-per-reception average.
3. 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. His 2016 season was not as prolific due to the run-oriented offense with Jalen Hurts under center. After catching 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns as a Freshman in the Alabama offense, Ridley saw his numbers decline in 2016. The run-oriented offense continues in 2017. In the victory over Kentucky early in his Sophomore season, Ridley caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. It was an impressive showing but Ridley caught six or fewer passes in the remainder of the 2016 games. 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 in traffic 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 Junior receivers, and two years older than one or two top pass catchers in his draft class. He turned 22 years of age this past December 20 and will be 23 at the time of the NFL Draft. Ridley still is a great prospect, nonetheless. He has hauled in 33 passes for 441 yards and just 2 touchdowns.
2. Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist) – Sutton was only a three-star player (Rivals) coming out of Brenham, TX, but he has far outplayed the ranking. As a redshirt Freshman, Sutton broke Emmanuel Sanders Freshman school 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 utilizes 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 in 2015 for the Mustangs after the football season was finished. Sutton was eligible to turn professional after last season but opted to return to school. For the 2016 season, Sutton grabbed 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 receptions. 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. Sutton is a very smart and articulate person who should transition to the NFL faster than most players. For 2017, he has 31 receptions for 489 yards and 7 touchdowns.
1. Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame) – St. Brown is a player who we have come around on as his route running and big plays are undeniable. Poor quarterback play hid his talent the past two seasons. After catching just one eight-yard pass as a Freshman, he exploded as a Sophomore. In 2016, St. Brown hauled in 58 passes for 961 yards and nine scores. The Fighting Irish offense was a mess but the youngster continued to shine. That season, St. Brown caught at least three passes in every contest and topped 50 receiving yards in all but three games. Hopefully, quarterback Brandon Wimbush will improve. We think he is going to take another large step in his development this season and be a star. For 2017, St. Brown has 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 15 receptions.