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 without regard for draft class. We value the players who will contribute at the professional level higher than the younger players.
10. 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 to 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 has shown THAT level of potential. 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 104 carries this season, he has gained 855 yards (8.2 yards-per-carry average) and scored 11 touchdowns. Harris has added another 46 yards as a receiver. 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.
9. 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. The 5’10”, 208-pounder from La Grange, TX was instrumental in the 39-38 victory over Penn State earlier in the season. He averaged almost seven yards-per-carry in that contest. For the year, Dobbins has carried the ball 149 times for 1,089 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has added another 123 yards and a touchdown through the air.
8. Nick Chubb (Georgia) – Chubb’s comeback has been nothing short of amazing. Before he tore his PCL in Georgia's sixth game of the 2015 season, the Senior was included in the conversation for the top running back in the draft class. Many thought he was as good of a prospect as Leonard Fournette. Chubb was playing at that high of a level. Early 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 play good defense and do not put too much pressure on the Freshman quarterback (Jake Fromm). This has allowed opposing defenses to stack the box and dare the Fromm to throw to make big plays. The Auburn defense did this a week ago for the victory. 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 six yards per carry this season, carrying the ball 166 times for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns. Chubb averaged 8.1 yards per carry in 2014 and 7.1 in 2015. Because of the decreased yards-per-carry average, there are some who think he has lost a step after the knee injury. We see if as defenses keying on the Senior. There was little doubt that the player we saw dominate Kentucky Saturday will be successful in the NFL.
7. David Montgomery (Iowa State) – The stout (5’11”, 222 pounds) Sophomore has carried the Iowa State offense this season. The Cyclones were in control of their BIG12 destiny after the upset loss to West Virginia. 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. Some might question his speed and burst but Montgomery makes big plays every game. He is a very good receiver out of the backfield and possesses a physical running style. For the 2017 season, Montgomery has carried the ball 230 times for 1,080 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has added 282 yards on 34 receptions. Much of the country has never heard of this hard-running, powerful tailback playing in Ames, IA.
6. Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) – The 5’11”, 214-pound true Freshman has quickly jumped into the national spotlight. He has already been named Big 10 Offensive Player of the Week, Big 10 Co-Offensive Player of the Week, and twice named Freshman Player of the Week. His first Freshman Player of the Week nomination came after his monster outing against Florida Atlantic in the second game of the year. 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. He now has three such games. Taylor is the main play-maker for the Badgers. So far during his Freshman season, Taylor has 238 carries for 1,657 yards (7 yards-per-carry average) and 12 touchdowns.
5. Ronald Jones II (USC) – Jones is fast and elusive. He is thin (6’0”, 200 pounds) but reminds some on the USC campus of a young 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 this season (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 has already topped those numbers in 2017 with a few games left. With quarterback Sam Darnold garnering most of the attention, Jones has been stellar this year. He has 212 carries for 1,346 yards and 16 touchdowns. Underused in the passing game, Jones has added 13 receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown.
4. Bryce Love (Stanford) – The Junior has taken over the role Christian McCaffrey vacated by leaving for the NFL. During his first two seasons at Stanford, Love ran the ball just 141 times. He has been a workhorse this season but is still averaging nine 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. The star tailback followed up that performance with a 301-yard rushing game and three touchdowns against Arizona State. 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. Love is very fast, though. In his youth, Love was also an outstanding sprinter specializing in the 200 meters and 400 meters, earning USA Track & Field Youth Athlete of the Year honors in 2009. He was elite as a runner and now as a football player. Love will need to be bigger in order to remain healthy under such a large workload. For the year, Love has 195 carries for 1,723 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Stanford ball carrier has a legitimate shot at 2,000 rushing yards for the season. He is not used much as a receiver, only reeling in 6 receptions for 33 yards. The turnover at quarterback has led to a lesser-than-expected role in the passing game. There is a very real chance that Love ends up as a Day-2 pick if he enters the NFL Draft after the season. If Love stays in school another year, he could be a first-round pick with another strong campaign.
3. 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 then-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. He has also battled injuries. 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 188 times for 1,026 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has added 14 receptions for 82 yards. Looking to finally be healthy, Guice has been awesome the past few weeks. Against Mississippi a few weeks ago, Guice picked up 276 yards and a score on 22 carries. He should finish the season strong.
2. 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 quality campaign with over 1,600 total yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns already this season. The huge game against Nebraska last Saturday propelled those number upward in a big way. We expect the talented running back to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and be a high first-round pick after the season. While many observers think Barkley has taken a step back this season, his yards-per-carry average is almost identical to 2015 and 2016 so it might be overblown.
1. 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 injuries and quarterback change, Akers is the center of the Seminoles offense this season. He had a huge game against Syracuse a few weeks ago, gaining 199 yards and scoring twice on just 22 carries. For the season, Akers has carried the ball 148 times for 779 yards and 4 touchdowns.