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. Each week of the offseason and season, we looked at a different set of devy rankings.
As we survey devy prospects, we examine traits, abilities, and skill sets that will translate to the NFL. This week, our final edition of the season, we will look at the top 10 devy running backs eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft. We value the players who will contribute at the professional level higher than the younger players.
10. Michael Warren II (Cincinnati) – The 5-foot-11, 218-pounder has played very well this season but is not discussed much in devy circles. He was only a three-star recruit out of Toledo but Scout.com had him ranked as the second-best back in the state of Ohio. Warren is a physically-gifted runner. He is one of the main reasons the Bearcats are undefeated coming into the game against Temple. Warren has been over 100 rushing yards in all but two blowout wins. He is one of a select few running backs who have at least 750 total yards and 10 touchdowns, in just six games. Warren also adds value as a receiver. He is a complete back and should emerge to be more nationally known in the coming weeks. For the season, he has 664 yards and 11 touchdowns on 124 carries and has added another 122 yards and 11 touchdowns via the pass.
9. Kylin Hill (Mississippi State) – After averaging five yards per carry as a Freshman, Hill has averaged seven yards per carry as a Sophomore. He has put up stellar numbers against elite defenses, like Auburn just a couple of weeks ago. In that contest, Hill ran the ball 23 times for 126 yards to lead the Bulldogs over what was a Top 5 team in the country. He is a quality back who is able to pick up difficult yards between the tackles and make defenders miss in space. Hill was ranked as the sixth-best tailback coming out of high school by 247sports. He was the highest rated running back recruit since Jerious Norwood (back in 2002) for the Bulldogs. For his Sophomore season, Hill has 68 rush attempts for 474 yards (7.0 avg) and 3 touchdowns. He has added another 93 yards and 2 scores as a receiver. Mississippi State wins on the ground and Hill is the leader. Next week’s matchup against LSU will be a tough game for the youngster.
8. Najee Harris (Alabama) – Mired in a committee, Harris has flashed big-time potential. He averaged over six yards per carry as a Freshman and is doing so again this year. Harris is a bigger back (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) who has amazing elusiveness. He was a unanimous five-star recruit who was named the top overall prospect by Rivals, Scout, and PrepStar. Harris was an early enrollee who came to Alabama in January 2017. With the depth of the Crimson Tide backfield, none of the runners get a chance to showcase their talents as the offense rotates personnel. So, his stats are meaningless as Harris has topped ten carries in a game just thrice this season.
7. Darrell Henderson (Memphis) – Henderson is a Junior, but we expect him to stay in school another year. He had a monster 2017 season (1,154 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns plus 226 receiving yards and 2 more scores) averaging 8.9 yards per carry. Henderson has started off quickly in 2018 with over 1,000 rushing yards while leading the nation in yards-per-carry average. He was not highly recruited even though Henderson was the 2014 Gatorade player of the Year for the state of Mississippi. After the difficult game against Central Florida in front of a national audience, Henderson has 934 yards on 79 carries (11.8 avg.) for 12 touchdowns. He has added 178 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. It was a tough loss for Memphis. Expect buzz on Henderson to pick up as the season progresses.
6. Travis Etienne (Clemson) – The Tigers have gone through many changes this season, but Etienne has been the steady piece of the offense. He is short (5-foot-10), not small (200 pounds), and has elite speed. Last year, he was timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has showcased several runs this season where Etienne looks even faster than that time. He is explosive. Last year, he scored a whopping 13 times in 107 carries while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. That was an impressive true Freshman season. As a Sophomore, Etienne has averaged 9.2 yards per carry and scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game. For the season, he has carried the ball 83 times for 761 yards and 11 touchdowns. In addition, Etienne has hauled in 5 receptions for 23 yards and another score. These are impressive numbers given the difficult competition and the fact that Etienne shares the backfield with two other talented players.
5. A.J. Dillon (Boston College) – Dillon was incredible the first five games of the season, amassing 652 yards and 6 touchdowns on just 106 carries before missing the past two contests. For a large back (6-foot, 245 pounds), Dillon displays nimble feet and the ability to make big plays. Dillon has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury suffered in the third quarter of the September 29th game against Temple. He was a big-time recruit who changed his commitment from Michigan to Boston College after growing up in Connecticut. Dillon only played in four games as a high school Senior due to a broken leg but still had 635 yards and 12 touchdowns. The year before, Dillon rushed for 1,887 yards and 26 touchdowns. He is a very talented player who is sometimes forgotten as he plays on a team outside of the national spotlight.
4. D’Andre Swift (Georgia) – One of the nation’s top recruits, Swift was named to the 2016 USA Today All-USA First Team. Departed coach, Mark Richt, was an incredible recruiter. Last year, as a true Freshman, Swift was impressive even while splitting time with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. That season, Swift had 618 rushing yards while averaging 7.6 yards per carry and scored three times on the ground. He added 153 additional yards and a score through the air. Swift has a compact build (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) and is able to make plays as a runner and as a receiver. He splits time with other talented ball carriers in the Bulldogs offense. On the season, Swift has yet to top 100 total yards and is used as a scat back more than an every-down runner. He has just 290 rushing yards and 4 scores with 109 more yards and another touchdown coming through the air. Swift profiles as an explosive NFL back who could have a role similar to Alvin Kamara if drafted into the right situation.
3. Cam Akers – Florida State – Akers was considered the top running back recruit in 2017 class and still looks the part, but he ranks third because the two ahead of him are playing at a high level. With good size and vision, the 5-foot-11, 213-pound ball carrier is the anchor to the Seminoles offense. He is a star even in a crowded backfield. Akers played quarterback and running back Clinton High School in Clinton, MS. As a high school Senior, he rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns and passed 3,128 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. Akers played well against Virginia Tech on Labor Day as the Seminoles were blown out by the Hokies. He has struggled some weeks as Florida State struggles to move the football. The below-average quarterback situation has only added to his troubles.
2. J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) – Dobbins was one of the top 2017 recruits at the position. The youngster enrolled early (in January) and committed to the Buckeyes before ever stepping foot on the Ohio State campus. Dobbins shows great quickness at the line of scrimmage. His jump cuts allow him to escape the linebackers in the hole and break big plays to the outside. The true Sophomore has already had several “highlight reel” runs and his brief career is just beginning to take flight. He excelled as a Freshman last season. During last season, Dobbins ran for 1,403 yards and 7 touchdowns on 194 carries. He added 22 receptions for 135 and another score. Dobbins put up these gaudy numbers while playing behind Mike Weber, a talented runner himself. The Buckeyes have a loaded backfield with these two ball carriers and a solid group of incoming Freshmen. As a Sophomore, the running game has been less impressive for the Buckeyes. It could be the emergence of a legitimate quarterback (Haskins) or the loss of key members of the offensive line. Even with the lack of carries and yards, Dobbins has been impressive at times. For the year, he has 462 yards and 4 scores on 99 carries, adding 125 more yards and an additional touchdown as a receiver.
1. Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) – The 5-foot-11, 214-pound true Sophomore quickly jumped into the national spotlight last year after abusing Florida Atlantic in the first game of the 2017 season. He quickly became the focal point of the Badgers offense and still put up monster numbers. Taylor was just the fourth true Freshman in school history to record a 200-yard game. He had three such games in 2017 as a Freshman. While not the highest-rated recruit coming out of high school on this list, Taylor showed off his talent last year. He has kept the momentum flowing with dominant performances every week this season, topping the 100-yard mark every week. Against New Mexico in Week 2, Taylor established a career-high 253 rushing yards. In his short career, Taylor has 2,927 and 21 touchdowns a few games into year-two of his college career. So far this season, Taylor has 950 yards and 8 touchdowns on 143 carries, good for a 6.6 average. Even in the big loss to Michigan on Saturday, Taylor was effective, but the Wolverine defense did not respect the Badgers quarterback play and swarmed Taylor.