Devy Running Back Rankings: Quarter Season Update

Scottie Phillips: Stock Rising

Scottie Phillips is quickly becoming my favorite Devy prospect. He transferred from Junior College and burst onto the scene at Ole Miss and became an integral part of a stacked offense from day one of his junior year. Through just 4 games, he has rushed for 467 yards and scored 6 times with one coming through the air. He has been extremely efficient with his touches even with only around 16 touches per game.

The fact that Phillips has been able to carve out a role on a team with this many NFL level playmakers (including DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Damarkus Lodge and Dawson Knox) is very impressive.

Benny Snell: Stock Rising

Benny Snell is a guy who I will admit, was not high enough in my rankings.  Watching him this year has been an absolute treat. Following up 32 scores over the last two season is not easy to do, but through four games this year, Snell has stepped it up.  From scoring 4 times in Week 1 to rushing for 175 to lead his Wildcats to a big upset over the Florida Gators, Snell has looked great every week.

Handling a workhorse load, and remaining efficient when the defense knows he is getting the ball have been the biggest takeaways from my time watching him. Especially in this weak running back class, he is vaulting up the board.

Travis Etienne: Stock Holding

Travis Etienne is the most talented running back I will talk about here. The only significant challenge his Clemson Tigers have faced this year is Texas A&M. Etienne didn’t see much of the ball in that game and hasn’t been heavily relied upon at all this year.  

In the games against lesser competition, he has shown what you need to see. He has been dominant in 3 games against that lesser competition averaging almost 10 yards a carry. Etienne continues to show explosiveness and quick change of direction ability. We will likely get to see limited work going forward for Etienne as Trevor Lawrence steps into the starting quarterback role. What can continue Etienne’s slow rise up my board though is an increase in usage in the passing game out of the backfield.

David Montgomery: Stock Dropping

There are some foils to those who are rising. Some big names who have not had the start to the season that you would like to see.  David Montgomery was my RB1 for 2019, and, spoiler alert, he still is. However, his struggles can’t continue if he wants to stay there.  Montgomery has all the traits and he has a go to ability in his agility, specifically his jump cut, that fuels my love for him, but that has not carried him in a couple of tough games against Oklahoma and rival Iowa.

The schedule is difficult for the rest of the season for these Cyclones and they need Montgomery needs to step it up if they want to have a successful season and especially if he wants to maintain his fairly consensus top 3 RB status.

Bryce Love: Stock Falling

Bryce Love is also falling for me. Following a strong outing against USC, he struggled mightily against San Diego State. Love hasn’t been consistent even behind a solid offensive line. Stanford has also opened up the passing game and been more successful than they have been previously.

 Love was draft eligible after his Heisman level season last year and it is looking more and more like he should have declared. I don’t see much of any way he will come close to matching that year and what he has been putting on tape this year hasn’t been all that exciting. Ever since the decision to stay in school, he has been fading, before long, it might seem like Thanos got to him.

Damarea Crockett: Stock Falling

While Love is falling hard and fast, there is a guy who has fallen further.  Damarea Crockett was a guy I was high on after a strong showing his freshman year.   After struggling with injury all through his sophomore year, Crockett has let his job go full committee with Larry Roundtree III.  He has not regained his freshman form. Crockett may not even be draftable and I could certainly see him staying in school for his senior year after proving he has not truly recovered.

Rodney Anderson: Stock Holding

Unfortunately, we are waiting on another recovery from a big name. Rodney Anderson went down with a knee injury against UCLA and will miss the rest of the season. This is the second season he has lost to injury. He was another lock to be a top 3 RB in 2019, but this injury could mean another year at school before NFL teams will even touch him. Patience will be key for those who already own Anderson in Devy.  Now is not the time to panic and sell. The talent is there and another year of waiting won’t kill you.

Week 3 Devy Review

Stock Up: Travis Etienne

Etienne is a guy who needs to be talked about sooner than later. The Clemson running back sits among the loaded top 5 backs for the 2020 eligible class. He had a dominant day against Georgia Southern which is what you need to see against lesser opponents like this.  16 carries for 162 yards returning over a 10 yard per carry average checks that box emphatically for me. Add in two trips to the end zone and he showed why he already belongs in the first round conversation next year.

Sleepers: Darius Anderson & Squally Canada

Two guys you probably haven’t heard much from fared extremely well against high ranked opponents.  While this performance alone won’t get them an NFL opportunity, it certainly puts them on the radar to perform at a high level against NFL caliber defenders.  Darius Anderson of TCU only carried the ball 12 times against Ohio State. The result? Oh, just 154 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against #4 Ohio State. On a strong TCU team, Anderson becomes one to watch as the season rolls onward.  As does Squally Canada, who leaps to the top of the most fun names in college football list. My man Squally gashed #6 Wisconsin for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns and much like Anderson, on only 11 carries. Again, this type of performance against a highly ranked team really shows a lot.  I will be looking for more big performances from both of these backs against their future, lesser opponents.

Stock Staying Solid: Justice Hill

Justice Hill is a guy who was already on radars for NFL scouts and fantasy players alike. He put up 123 yards and a touchdown against #17 Boise State. His quarterback also stole a couple running touchdowns inside the 10. This is a guy many expect to be a scat back at the NFL level.  I agree with this take to an extent. His size will restrict his workload, but he can make a high level impact. We have not seen a lot of pass catching out of him, but with his athleticism and profile, I don’t expect him to have much of an issue finding a role on an NFL offense.

A Trio of Wide Receiver Impact

Three big name wide receivers had big games as well, including Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.  He is Oklahoma’s top receiving option and he showcased his talents against Iowa State putting up 9 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.  His biggest attribute is his speed. He is a major burner who can beat you deep on any given play. He is a small receiver at 5’10” and only 160 lbs, but he reminds me a little bit T.Y. Hilton.  If he can continue to evolve his route tree and use short area quickness to create separation closer to the line of scrimmage, then he will succeed as an NFL wideout. In terms of big play ability, it is not hard to see Tyreek Hill in Hollywood Brown.

Jerry Jeudy only caught three passes against Ole Miss.  They went for 136 yards and a pair of scores. The Tide rolled over the Landsharks (dumb mascot name) but Jeudy stood out making some big plays.  Standing 6’1” and 192 lbs, he profiles as a possession type guy at the NFL. This game shows a deep threat ability that was great to see from him. Strong testing at the combine (which remains a long way out) will be big for Jeudy.  He has plenty of room to rise in the ranks before then.

His classmate Donovan Peoples-Jones had a huge week as well catching 4 balls from Shea Patterson for 90 yards and three, count ‘em, 3 touchdowns against SMU. He profiles differently from Jeudy because, while he is only slightly larger (6’2”, 207 lbs), he plays and profiles as a red zone receiver type of player.  He uses his body well and plays big. Tarik Black, the wolverines other big name receiver, missing the rest of the season gives DPJ a window of opportunity to shine in a big way. I expect a significant rankings rise from him by the end of the season.

Week 2 Devy Review

Some exciting running back performances stood out this week starting with Benny Snell who, despite not finding the endzone, toted the ball 27 times against a ranked Florida team for 175 yards. That is a good day in my book and a good look for Snell who is proving he can handle the workload in a grind it out type of game. As the season rolls on, keep looking for Snell to handle significant workload. If he can maintain this level of efficiency, he has a little room to rise fantasy wise.

Scottie Phillips had a big time Week 1 scoring twice and followed that up this week with another two touchdown game.  He also broke 100 yards for the second week in a row. It may have been against a lower level opponent in Southern Illinois, but I am excited to see what Phillips can do for the rest of the year. He transferred from JuCo coming into this season.  More solid production that continues to look good on film, plus a solid combine could get him to the league in this weak running back class.

Bryce Love had a bounce back week after that abysmal week 1 showing.  He ran for 136 and a score against USC. There wasn’t any reason to worry about Love for a poor showing and this is proof that he is going to be just fine going forward. While I am not huge on Love due to size and workload concerns, he has the talent to contribute at the NFL level. He will make on to a team and he will be worth drafting in dynasty when rookie draft season rolls around.

Johnathan Taylor had a big boy week that makes these other guys look sad.  33 carries for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns against New Mexico was the performance of the week stat wise. The competition was not great, but the production is undeniable. Taylor is a stud who doesn’t have to do much outside of stay healthy to be a top 5 rookie pick in 2020. Behind this Wisconsin offensive line, he will be in the conversation for the Heisman trophy, not only this year, but likely next year as well.

Wide receiver play was not lacking either as Tee Higgins helped his team stave of the upset hungry Aggies with 3 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. He showed off his downfield prowess averaging 41 yards a catch on the day. He brings an extra dynamic to this Clemson offense. He is going to bring the Clemson wide receiver line back to prominence after Deon Cain slipped down draftboards last year. Higgins is looking like every bit of a top 3 receiver in the 2020 class.

We won’t have to wait until 2020 to see Bryan Edwards in an NFL uniform and thank goodness for that. Edwards is a guy who is getting a lot of hype lately surrounding his sky-high potential. Well last week against Georgia, he proved he has more than the potential to be great with 7 receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns against one of the nations top defenses.  His team got stomped 41 to 17 but Edwards shone brightly. This game will be enough for him to move up slightly in my rankings. More production at this level will force me to continue that rise.

We will wrap this up with Kyler Murray, who you might know as the successor to one Baker Mayfield. Murray looks like a stud already and put up over 300 yards to go with 3 touchdowns and that was just through the air. He added 69 (nice) yards on the ground and two more touchdowns. He looks like Heisman candidate as well and the only problem that can be seen is that he wants to play baseball. Murray is a phenomenal two sport athlete and the general feeling seems to be that he will take a crack at baseball prior to declaring for the NFL draft. I will be rooting for his success either way, but I would love to see him play quarterback at the NFL level.

Devy Stock Up: Prospects To Get Excited About After Week 1

Big names, as well as some smaller ones, were doing big things in Week 1 as college football returned with a full slate.

Don’t Get too Excited…Yet

There are a couple of categories of these performances based mostly on level of competition.  Some guys put up some studly statlines, but they did so against a bunch of nerds and 17 year olds.  Justin Herbert put up 6 total touchdowns against Bowling Green and Trayveon Williams blew up for 240 and 3 scores against Northwestern State. Sweet numbers, but I certainly take them with a grain of salt.  Rodney Anderson straddles this category and the next because he was playing Florida Atlantic, but he only needed the 5 touches they gave him to rack up triple digit rushing yards and 2 touchdowns and that’s nasty.

Stock Up Performances

The next category is the big names who showed out to a point that it may affect their draft stock, especially in fantasy.  Guys like Will Grier, who shredded the Tennessee defense for 425 yards and 5 touchdowns, really showing us what he can do and putting it all together to start this draft eligible season off right.

Mike Weber scored 4 times, with 3 on the ground and 1 through the air against Oregon State. This is a big game for me proving that he provides the best option for Ohio State in that backfield with JK Dobbins breathing down his neck. If Weber can hold on to that starting spot all year and keep even a semblance of this level of production, he will jump right up my draft board in a big way.

The guy though, who has peaked my interest and put himself firmly on my must watch list for the rest of the season, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. A guy I wasn’t terribly fond of after watching a few games. He didn’t jump off the page athletically despite substantial size and good production last year with 9 scores. In the first week, against a San Diego State team that isn’t terrible, Arcega-Whiteside put up 226 yards and 3 touchdowns, but that isn’t even the most impressive stat. The man did it on 6 catches. That is an average of almost 38 yards per reception. Damn.  With the rushing game bottled up, the Cardinals looked to the air and this man delivered in a huge way. While I still don’t think he will test well, he has proven to be a prospect worth further investigation. Any improvement in the athletic numbers could send this guy up my draft board in a hurry.

Players You Don’t Know, That You Need Too Know

The final category is a couple players who weren’t even on the radar. This could be for a number of reasons.  Underclassmen, guys who weren’t heavily recruited, or just guys who haven’t had other chances to break out. A freshman wideout for the Maryland Terrapins, Jeshaun Jones, was only a three star recruit and he balled out. This man ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and threw a damn touchdown all in the first half. Say hello to Mr. Jones everybody.

 Scottie Phillips is a transfer from Junior College to Ole Miss and he had a day against Texas Tech rushing for over 200 yards. He posted good numbers in JuCo and is already showing he belongs at the next level. It looks like there should be no worries surrounding athletic testing. More high level production could plant him firmly in fantasy rookie draft conversations after Bowl season.

And finally, a guy who stood out who may have a shot at the NFL was true freshman Rondale Moore who I watched in person break the Purdue all-purpose yardage record in his first game against Big Ten opponent Northwestern. Moore rushed for 80 yards and caught 11 balls for 109 scoring once in each category as well. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to win for the Boilers, but Moore was a revelation even for us fans who knew his name and what he might bring to the table. He is burner fast and unbelievably quick and shifty in space. He is on the small side, but he gave a Big Ten defense the business in the first game of his college career. Color me stoked.

Devy Targets: 2020 Draft Class #1-4

Running backs?  Again? I don’t know where they will go, but a lot of these guys deserve workhorse type opportunity and could be absolutely phenomenal in that role.  Some of the receivers in this class have pretty slick profiles, and there are some guys in that list that I like a lot. However, the running backs are where the can’t miss talent lies.  Both Cam Akers and D’Andre Swift look like transcendent players. So again, let’s go down my list as it stands and layout what we should expect/look for while we are waiting for these guys to make the jump to the NFL.

Running backs?  Again? I don’t know where they will go, but a lot of these guys deserve workhorse type opportunity and could be absolutely phenomenal in that role.  Some of the receivers in this class have pretty slick profiles, and there are some guys in that list that I like a lot. However, the running backs are where the can’t miss talent lies.  Both Cam Akers and D’Andre Swift look like transcendent players. So again, let’s go down my list as it stands and layout what we should expect/look for while we are waiting for these guys to make the jump to the NFL.

Cam Akers – RB – Florida State – Sophomore – 5’11” 213 lbs
2017 Stats – 194 carries for 1025 yards and 7 touchdowns and 16 receptions for 116 yards and 1 touchdown

Akers is a monster, a transcendent talent, a terrific running back.  If there is a superlative out there, it can likely be used to describe this kid.  He is a strong runner with all the traits you are looking for in a bell cow back. He is quick and elusive in space.  He is willing to lower his shoulder and throw his weight around when necessary. He can really come at you any way he wants to.  His understanding of the game is special as he was a quarterback throughout high school. That also means he is still learning the running back position and has so much room to grow and improve on everything he has shown already.  Akers is in for a special season with quarterback Deandre Francois returning from injury and looking to rebuild his NFL draft stock. The Florida State offense is going to be something to see with those two in the backfield. One thing I will look for a little more of this season is him catching the ball out of the backfield.  He can and will improve on 16 catches in the next two seasons.

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D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia – Sophomore – 5’9” 215 lbs
2017 Stats – 81 carries for 618 yards and 3 touchdowns and 17 receptions for 153 yards and 1 touchdown

Two transcendent level guys in one class? It is absolutely possible that this is the case for 2020.  At the moment, it’s a fantasy player’s choice as to which guy you like better. I prefer Akers, but everything can change with two more years of film, two more years of football development and two more years of physical growth.  I like Swift a lot, but without seeing him in a workhorse role, I just can’t rank him above Akers. He will show out this year in another strong Georgia offense. Jake Fromm will open up the box by giving the offense a much more dynamic passing game than they ran last year.  While Zamir White tearing his ACL is sad and will take away a year of film for him, it will give us a big year for Swift. He will see a lot of volume and really take on that workhorse role that you want to see for a guy this talented.

Jonathan Taylor – RB – Wisconsin – Sophomore – 5’11” 214 lbs
2017 Stats – 299 carries for 1977 yards and 13 touchdowns and 8 receptions for 95 yards

Jonathan Taylor, as you can see, is a production machine.  He gets touches and then he gets his. While he isn’t a monster big play threat, he produces consistently and he produces at a very high level.  He reminds me quite a bit of Melvin Gordon honestly. All of this makes sense behind those Wisconsin offensive lines in that ground and pound system.  300 carries in a college season is an extreme workload. It equates to almost 400 carries in a 16 game NFL season which just doesn’t happen.

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Jhamon Ausbon – WR – Texas A&M – Sophomore – 6’2” 220 lbs
2017 Stats – 50 receptions for 571 yards and 3 touchdowns

Ausbon is currently the best receiver in this class.  He sneaks into my top 4 overall edging out JK Dobbins, though not by much.  Ausbon shows a lot of great traits despite lacking a little in the height department for a boundary receiver.  He is listed at 220 pounds, which, going into his sophomore season is impressive. Couple that with his quick feet and strong hand usage when running routes and he becomes a problem.  He has also shown an ability to high point the ball very well and be a threat down the field. He is a very complete receiver even at a young age with the athletic profile for plenty of growth.

Devy Targets: 2019 Draft Class #9-12

Draft day has come and gone.  Draft season however, never ends.  Time to get on board for next year.  Before the season gets started, before lineups need to be set, before trades need to be made, before championships need to be won, it is time to do your homework on next year’s possible rookies.  Oh, and while you’re there, why don’t you check out the 2020 eligible draftees? Sound like a lot of work? Well that’s what I’ve been up to and what I will continue to work on until (and let’s be honest, throughout) the season.  Ladies and gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, a quick Devy player update. And as always, tell me what you think, tell me how wrong I am, or ask me to expound upon my below pontifications.

See #1-4 in my Devy Rankings

Anthony Johnson – WR – Buffalo – Senior – 6’2” 207 lbs
2017 Stats – 76 receptions for 1356 yards and 14! Touchdowns

Anthony Johnson is not hyped enough headed into this year.  He obviously killed it last year racking up those numbers. He is a quality deep threat with top end speed and burst.

He profiles well as an athlete and he looks the part on film. The production is fabulous, but there is a reason that he is a this low at this point in the process.  The skills are all there, but the same was true with Antonio Callaway. The path to where we are now concerns me. A stint in Junior College is almost always a red flag. He has worked his way back and that can’t be taken away from him.

It will be interesting to see where the NFL values him as that will likely affect my feelings on his chances at the next level. I am certainly not writing him off completely, but another clean season with elite level production will do wonders for his NFL and fantasy draft stock.  The level of competition is low so the production will need to remain in that elite range to raise his stock much for me.

Bryce Love – RB – Stanford – Senior – 5’10” 196 lbs
2017 Stats – 263 carries for 2118 yards and 19 touchdowns, 6 receptions for 33 yards

Bryce Love might be the most recognizable name in this class.  He is a pre-season Heisman candidate and he is very likely to repeat a big time rushing line behind a strong offensive line for Stanford.

I don’t love Love as you can see by my rankings of 10 overall in this class. He is a solid player, but I think staying in school hurts his fantasy value overall for me.  He will be another year older and I don’t think he will given a chance to prove much that he hasn’t already shown with the way the offense is run. He only had 6 receptions last year and hasn’t had significant receiving volume since he was a freshman and played a much smaller role overall.  He made some big plays in the receiving game as a freshman, but volume and efficiency in that area have gone down each year.

I expect another big season on the ground and another lackluster one through the air which doesn’t do much for me in terms of a high level fantasy running back. He may be able to catch balls at the next level, but unless we see some more of that this year, I will not be as high on Love as many others will.  

See #5-8 in my Devy Rankings

Damien Harris –  RB – Alabama – Senior – 5’11” 221 lbs
2017 Stats – 135 carries for 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns, 12 receptions for 91 yards

Damien Harris is a pretty well-known name as well due to a strong showing last season and the fact that he was eligible to declare for the 2018 draft.  

Many have already done their homework on him and Bryce Love, but in case you haven’t. Harris is not an Eddie Lacy, Derrick Henry, Bo Scarbrough type of back that often hold the starting job at Alabama.  He is quicker and shiftier, though not quite as strong or powerful. He is still a formidable size but he doesn’t play the game like a battering ram. He is very efficient with his touches behind a strong offensive line.  He has good vision and a good understanding of his scheme and responsibilities.

We should see a solid year from him even with Najee Harris (who is a blue chip type prospect) and Josh Jacobs breathing down his neck. A strong year with that kind of competition would really move him up my board.

Noah Fant – TE – Iowa – Junior – 6’5” 232 lbs
2017 Stats – 30 receptions for 494 yards and 11! Touchdown

Fant is the only prospect on this list that I have had the privilege to watch live.  Akrum Wadley stole the show with over 200 yards against my Boilermakers, but Fant did have a pretty nice touchdown catch in the red zone.  

Fant is a red zone monster as evidenced by the 11 touchdowns on 30 receptions. That is certainly an unsustainable clip, but don’t be surprised when he puts up double-digit touchdowns again in a larger role.  Fant has also shown blocking as a strength even for a his slighter size. I like him as much as I liked OJ Howard and he was my 1.07 last year. He is a very complete player at tight end who can stay on the field in all situations.  I like him as a Zach Ertz type of player with good athleticism and strong receiving traits, but also the ability to block and willing to do whatever is asked of him.

He is a high character kid who I like a lot. For more on Fant and a fun back and forth between him and LJ Chaney of the Dynasty Football Factory check out the interview with Fant from episode 29 of the Devy Watch podcast here.