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.
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 2019 NFL Draft.
10. Justice Hill (Oklahoma State) – The 5’10”, 185-pound Sophomore runs with more power than his size might indicate. He was noticeably better than teammate Chris Carson (who starred with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season) a year ago. As a Freshman, Hill garnered the following honors: 2016 FBS Freshman Rushing Leader, 2016 Freshman All-America First Team (FWAA), 2016 Freshman All-America First Team (USA Today), 2016 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year (Associated Press), 2016 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (Coaches), and 2016 Second-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches). At a school which produced two NFL Hall of Famers (Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas) at the position, it is impressive that Hill set the top Freshman rushing season in Oklahoma State history with 1,142 yards. Hill has been over 100 rushing yards in every game this season except two blowout victories early in the year which he only had 11 carries in each contest and Saturday when Hill missed much of the game when he was held out of action due to injury. Against West Virginia, Saturday, Hill gained 86 yards and scored twice on 12 carries. He would have easily eclipsed 100 rushing yards if not for the injury. Hill excels running between the tackles with great vision and cutbacks in the hole. On the season, he has 151 carries for 836 yards and 7 touchdowns. Hill has added another 128 yards and a score as a receiver.
9. Devwah Whaley (Arkansas) – At 6’0”, 216 pounds, many do not appreciate the burst and agility of Whaley. He still has maintained his burst, even after gaining 20 pounds since coming to the Razorbacks out of high school. Many schools recruited him as a defensive back due to his fluid hips and short-area quickness. Whaley ran for 1,530 yards and 21 touchdowns during his Senior year in high school. The poor Arkansas offense has overshadowed the runner. After a strong Freshman season, Whaley was named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List and the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List. This season has been a disappointment as Arkansas has struggled on both sides of the ball. He has gained 347 yards on 80 carries and added 3 touchdowns. Whaley has added another 29 yards and a touchdown through the air.
8. Myles Gaskin (Washington) – Gaskin is an elusive runner who will be considered under-sized (5’10”, 191 pounds) by NFL standards. Coming off consecutive 1,300-yard campaigns, expectations were high for Gaskin coming into 2017. 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. He had another HUGE outing against UCLA Saturday. In that game, Gaskin ran the ball 27 times for 169 yards and a score. 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 131 times for 795 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has also hauled in 12 receptions for 14 yards and 2 of touchdowns. While he is draft-eligible, we hope Gaskin does not go pro after the season. He should stay in school, add size, and come out in 2019.
7. John Kelly (Tennessee) – The Junior emerged earlier this season to be discussed in the conversation toward the top 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 600 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 a member of the New Orleans Saints, Kelly has been the primary ball carrier for the Volunteers. He is the focal point of the offense. For 2017, Kelly has carried the football 125 times for 615 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has added another 255 yards on 26 receptions. After starting the season off in a spectacular fashion, Kelly only has 165 rushing yards combined in his last three contests, all losses. He missed this week’s game against Kentucky due to getting caught with marijuana. After the suspension stemming from the citation for possession of marijuana, we hope Kelly stays in school to rehab his draft stock. Waning production and a suspension are not the recipe for NFL success.
6. Nyheim Hines (North Carolina State) – The Junior from Garner, NC, is a versatile player who has a great chance to play on Sundays. In high school, Hines totaled an amazing 6,242 rushing yards, 7,299 total yards, and 126 touchdowns. Even though he may be undersized, (5’9”, 197 pounds), Hines is very fast. Last year, he competed with the Wolfpack track squad and he won All-American honors as the leadoff leg for the 4x100m relay squad (outdoors) that also won the ACC title. Hines also earned All-ACC honors in the 100m (outdoors) and the 60m (indoors). He excels as a kick returner and is becoming the primary ball carrier this season. On the year, Hines has 118 carries for 654 yards 6 touchdowns. He has added another 89 yards touchdowns as a receiver. The game Saturday against Notre Dame was a little bit of a letdown after consecutive three dominant performances against Syracuse, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. In those three outings, Hines 53 carries for 357 yards and 4 scores. He added two receptions in each of those contests. Hines is a player to watch the remainder of the season.
5. Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M) – The smallish back (5’9”, 192 pounds) has been very impressive since playing as a true Freshman. After a strong opening to his career, Todd McShay said that he has been "really impressed" with the youngster’s "raw ability, particularly his burst and top-end speed." Williams was named to the True Freshman All-American team by ESPN. He was the first Aggie Freshman in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards. Williams started off 2017 well, too. In the season-opening loss to UCLA, Williams carried the ball 22 times for 203 yards and scored twice. It was a remarkable performance, overshadowed by the tremendous comeback by the Bruins and Josh Rosen. On the season, Williams has carried the ball 101 times for 472 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has added another 116 yards through the air. When projecting his potential in the NFL, Williams will need to add mass if he is to be anything other than a scat back. But, there is no denying his ability to make plays.
4. Josh Adams (Notre Dame) – Even though he had accumulated at least 835 rushing yards his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Adams was thrust into the national spotlight after the breakout performance against USC a couple of weeks ago. In that contest, the 6’2”, 225-pound Junior ran the ball 19 times for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns. The game against the Trojans was not a fluke. He had another monster game against North Carolina State Saturday afternoon. In that contest, Adams ran for 202 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries (7.5 yards-per-carry average). For such a big runner, Adams has excellent speed in the open field. Against a solid Boston College defense earlier in the year, Adams ran the ball 18 times for 229 yards as the Fighting Irish dominated the Eagles. He has enjoyed several big games in 2017. On the season, Adams has 1,169 yards and 9 touchdowns on 132 rushes. His great season is amazing considering the mess that was the Notre Dame offense just a year ago. We hope he stays in school another year given the talent in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
3. Mark Walton (Miami) – The 5’9”, 205-pound speedy runner was lost for the season in early October after suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the win over Florida State. The Junior had a breakout 2016 season with 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 209 rushes (5.3 yards-per-carry average). The injury will ensure that Walton cannot repeat those gaudy numbers. He is another player on this list who we hope stays in school another season. If so, he has a legitimate chance of being the top back selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
2. Damien Harris (Alabama) – The Junior has been the best back in the Alabama backfield this season. While others get more press, it is Harris who consistently makes plays. Harris has been oft-injured in his three years at Alabama. He is from small-town Berea, KY, but he was highly recruited out of high school. Many recruiting services had the 5'11”, 220-pound runner as the top back in the recruiting class. He came into college more polished than most youngsters, possessing speed, explosiveness, and the vision to cut back and find a lane to break open a big play. As crazy as it sounds, we had Harris ranked closely with Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice last season. He can be THAT good. After rushing for 1,040 yards on only 145 carries in 2016, Harris is having a big season this year. Against Vanderbilt, earlier this season, Harris carried the ball 12 times for 151 yards (13 yards-per-carry average) and scored three times. The Crimson Tide dominated the contest. On just 81 carries this season, he has gained 697 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Harris has added another 46 yards as a receiver. Like a couple of others on this list, Harris could turn professional after the season, but we think he stays in school another year. If he stays, Harris has a chance to be the first back drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
1. David Montgomery (Iowa State) – The stout (5’11”, 222 pounds) Sophomore has carried the Iowa State offense this season. The Cyclones are in control of their BIG12 destiny after the upset over TCU Saturday. Opposing defenses put eight or nine players near the line of scrimmage and still cannot stop the star tailback. Montgomery was not highly recruited. He was evaluated as a three-star recruit by Scout and ESPN and was the 67th-ranked running back nationally by Scout. He will need to continue to improve his vision and ability to pick up big plays, but Montgomery already looks like an NFL running back. He is a very good receiver out of the backfield and possesses a physical running style. For the season, Montgomery has carried the ball 156 times for 716 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has added 207 yards on 25 receptions. Much of the country has never heard of this hard-running, powerful tailback playing in Ames, IA.