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 wide receivers without regard for the draft class. We value the players who will contribute at the professional level higher than the younger players.
10. Deon Cain (Clemson) – Cain could be the next in a long line of Clemson receivers to splash big in the NFL. The Tigers receivers seem to produce better as professionals than as collegiate. Clemson spreads the ball around to several pass-catchers each week. 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 should be the best pro. He benefited in 2017 with both Mike Williams and Artavis Scott now in the NFL. The Tigers have a solid group of incoming Freshmen, but the big receiver is the top play-maker. Cain always had the physical ability and has vastly improved his route running in the past year. For the season, he has 620 yards and 5 touchdowns on 49 receptions. The numbers are a little lower than expected with Deshaun Watson now in the NFL. He could turn professional after the season.
9. Tyler Vaughns (USC) – The 6’2”, 185-pound redshirt Freshman is a former four-star recruit out of Bishop Amat High School in La Luente, CA. He was ranked as the nation’s third-best receiver in the 2016 recruiting class and has played very well for the Trojans. With a slender build, Vaughns will need to fill out his frame in the next year. He had a big game against Arizona State a few weeks ago. In that contest, the youngster caught 6 passes for 126 yards (21 yards-per-carry average) and 2 touchdowns. Lately, he has been able to get on the same page as quarterback Sam Darnold. It was only a matter of time for the star passer to synch up with his best receiver. For the season, the two have hooked-up for 48 receptions for 664 yards and 4 touchdowns.
8. A.J. Brown (Mississippi) – The stocky (6’1”, 225 pounds) Sophomore from Starkville, MS, has made plays this year. Brown was a consensus four-star prospect by the major recruiting services. He was ranked player number 45 overall by Scout.com, player 47 by 247Sports.com, player 53 by Rivals.com, and player 66 by ESPN.com. Both 247Sports.com and Scout.com listed Brown as the fifth-best receiver in the country and he garnered an Under Armour All-America selection. Brown has enjoyed several huge games. To start the season, Brown had 8 receptions for at least 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in each of the first two games (against South Alabama and UT-Martin). He also grabbed 10 receptions for 109 yards against Auburn a few weeks ago. Against arch-rival Mississippi State last week, Brown hauled in 6 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown to lead the Rebels over the in-state rival. For the season, Brown has 75 receptions for 1,252 yards (17 yards-per-reception average) and 11 touchdowns.
7. Ammon Richards (Miami) – Richards committed to Miami after playing high school football in Wellington, Florida. He put up quality numbers as a true Freshman with Brad Kaaya throwing him passes. In the 2016 campaign, Richards caught 49 passes for 934 yards and three scores. The 19-yards per reception average was exceptional. Further, Richards, picked up at least 20 yards on 13 of those receptions and 38 of the 49 receptions went for a first down. It was a great year for the Freshman. He set a school Freshman record for receiving yards and was named Freshman All-American by most media outlets. This season, Richards has 24 catches for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns, including scores in the last 2 weeks. The injuries and youth on the Hurricanes’ offense have led to a down season for Richards. Plus, he has battled a hamstring injury for much of the year. He has solid size (6’1”, 190 pounds) and is strong in the air. Given the rich history of receivers from Miami, any youngster who can set records must be considered legitimate.
6. 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. Several members of the Buffaloes defensive secondary are playing in the NFL. 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 4,000-yard mark in receiving yards and could come close to 4,500 after the bowl game. After averaging almost 20 yards per reception in his first three seasons in Stillwater, Washington is averaging 20 yards per reception this season. He has 69 receptions for the year, gaining 1,423 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. These are great numbers through twelve games. Washington has also added a touchdown on the ground. It has been a tremendous final season in Stillwater for the Senior.
5. Auden Tate (Florida State) – Tate was expected to burst onto the national scene this season. He delivered. Tate 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 in our viewpoint. He is showing great toughness playing through the shoulder injury. Tate has 33 receptions for 441 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season. Notice his reception-to-touchdown average of over 20%. He will likely play through the shoulder injury all season. Florida State super safety Derwin James 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. 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 55 passes for 896 yards and just 3 touchdowns.
3. 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. This was evident Saturday evening as St. Brown took a short pass for a 75-yard touchdown against Stanford. It was not enough for the Fighting Irish to pull off the victory. 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 be replaced soon. He is not a great passer. If there is a passer upgrade, St. Brown will another large step in his development this season and be a big-time star in 2018. For 2017, St. Brown has 468 yards and 4 touchdowns on 31 receptions.
2. N'keal Harry (Arizona State) – Harry is a big receiver (6’3”, 210 pounds) who has made a big impact early in his college career. In the loss to Utah last year, the true Freshman had his best game of the season, hauling in 8 passes for 114 yards. For the season, Harry caught 58 passes for 659 yards and 5 touchdowns. In high school, Harry grabbed 119 passes for 2,715 yards and 25 touchdowns. In the upset victory against Oregon earlier this season, Harry reeled in 7 passes for 170 yards and a score. He had almost half of his team’s 347 passing yards. For the year, Harry has 73 receptions for a cool 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns after catching 2 scores against Arizona Saturday. Rivals ranked Harry as the top wide receiver and the 18th best prospect in the country. His stellar pedigree and quality play as a Freshman vault Harry to the top of our list of players available for the 2019 NFL Draft. He has an exciting future. With Junior Manny Wilkins at quarterback, Harry could see his number rise significantly in 2018 as the two have another year playing together. The Arizona State offense should be potent in the next two years.
1. 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 62 receptions for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.