Make sure there is room on the DVR and double check the battery power in the remote control because this is a great Saturday for college football! I’m just going to apologize right now for how long this is, but the slate is loaded with star-studded matchups. I just couldn’t help myself. Red-hot Michigan plays Michigan State, Florida travels to LSU, Notre Dame hosts USC and Alabama tangles with Texas A&M, just to name a few. I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it.
In this series, we take a look at NFL prospects with a focus on the offensive skill positions to help those of you in developmental (devy) leagues. We’ll give you several games to watch, along with some key devy players in action. For those in regular dynasty formats, this gives you a chance to start checking out some of the players who will be available in 2016 (and beyond) rookie drafts.
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Wake Up and Watch: West Virginia at No. 2 Baylor (FOX, Noon)
Baylor, with all their talent, has yet to be featured in this weekly piece. I may fire myself!
The Bears are rolling teams this year, averaging 64.2 points per game — you read that right. They’ve yet to score under 56 in a game, granted allergic-to-defense Texas Tech has been their toughest opponent. Just for fun: Baylor’s basketball team, far from a pushover, scored 69 points per game last season on their way to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Baylor has a plethora of weapons, but junior receiver Corey Coleman is the Bears’ top devy prospect. Coleman, a junior, has emerged as one of the premier wideouts in the upcoming draft class. This certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, as he totaled 64 receptions, 1,119 yards and 11 scores last season, but he’s taken it to a new level this year.
Coleman, at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, has become a true all-around force, amassing 13 touchdowns and 678 yards on 31 receptions. We rank Coleman as the No. 10 receiver for 2016, but his status will likely only rise as the season progresses.
Corey Coleman isn’t the only draft prospect running routes in Waco as three Bears pepper our 2017 receiver rankings. K.D. Cannon (No. 5), Ishmael Zamora (No. 10) and Davion Hall (No. 13) give Head Coach Art Briles a comically deep group of weapons. Cannon has caught 13 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Zamora has hauled in seven passes for 103 yards and two scores. Hall has totaled just four receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown. Even for an offense as prolific as Baylor, there’s only one ball to be passed around.
Shock Linwood, our No. 20 running back for 2016, has carried the rock 75 times for 722 yards and seven touchdowns. If I had any guts, I’d name my next kid Shock and just watch the greatness happen. Junior quarterback Seth Russell, in his first year as the starter, is doing a masterful job pulling the strings for Briles. Russell is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,527 yards while tossing 22 touchdowns and five picks.
West Virginia, with Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, isn’t afraid to put up points, either. The over/under is set at 74.5 points, so if you like defense, maybe do some yard work around noon.
Wendell Smallwood is West Virginia’s best devy prospect. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound dynamo mainly plays running back, but he also splits out wide a fair amount. Smallwood has rushed for 589 yards and five touchdowns on 89 carries. As a receiver, he’s hauled in 16 passes for 94 yards. Running back Rushel Shell is another Mountaineer worth monitoring.
Other teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:
- Louisville at No. 11 Florida State (Dalvin Cook, Travis Rudolph, Jesus Wilson, Everett Golson, Ermon Lane, Auden Tate, George Campbell, Jacques Patrick), ESPN, 12:00
- Mississippi (Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell, Markell Pack, DaMarkus Lodge) at Memphis (Paxton Lynch), ABC, 12:00
- Eastern Michigan at No. 22 Toledo (Kareem Hunt), ESPN3, 12:00
- Louisiana Tech (Kenneth Dixon) at Mississippi State (De’Runnya Wilson, Dak Prescott), SECN, 12:00
Midday Marquee: No. 10 Alabama at No. 9 Texas A&M (CBS, 3:30)
Texas A&M has flown a little under the radar this season in the loaded SEC West, but with two double-digit wins over ranked foes (Arizona State and Mississippi State), the 5-0 Aggies are legit. Although nothing could prove it better than a win over Alabama.
Aggies’ Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has landed three straight top-11 recruiting classes, according to Rivals’ rankings. Those big-time recruits have made Texas A&M’s transition to the SEC a lot smoother than most assumed. Sumlin has landed a whole mess of offensive talent, led by quarterback Kyle Allen and receiver Christian Kirk.
Since taking over under center midway through last season, Allen has looked every bit the top recruit he was hyped up to be. Allen, a sophomore and our second-ranked 2017 quarterback, is completing 64 percent of his throws for 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. With his legs, he’s added 136 yards and two scores.
Kirk, a true freshman, is Allen’s favorite target and our No. 1 receiver in the 2018 class. Rivals’ No. 3 wideout in the 2015 high school class, Kirk has caught 32 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Six-foot-four junior receiver Josh Reynolds is averaging 21.3 yards per reception, totaling 18 grabs for 383 yards and three scores. Six-foot-five, 235-pound sophomore wideout Ricky Seals-Jones has 128 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions.
There’s one more receiving weapon for Texas A&M – Speedy Noil. The ballyhooed five-star recruit the Aggies stole from New Orleans — where LSU and Head Coach Les Miles have raked in recruit after recruit in recent years — racked up 583 yards and led the team in all-purpose yards in his freshman campaign a year ago, but he’s missed considerable time this season due to injury. Noil played sparingly in the first three games before not suiting up in the previous two contests. Sumlin has confirmed Noil’s absence is injury related, but he hasn’t specified what’s ailing the (I have to) speedy receiver.
Alabama has been featured quite a bit so far this season, already playing three top-20 squads, so I’ll try not to spend quite as much time on them. They’re loaded, though, so it’s not easy.
Since losing to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide have beaten Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia and Arkansas by a combined score of 99-24. Derrick Henry (No. 2) and Kenyan Drake (No. 11), both ranked among the top 2016 draft-eligible running backs, have been overpowering.
As it stands now, Henry will likely be the second back off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, behind Ezekiel Elliott. He’s rushed 120 times for 665 yards and 10 touchdowns through six games. Drake, an all-purpose threat, has 244 rushing yards and 178 receiving yards. He profiles as more of a third-down back, but at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he isn’t limited to a receiving role at the next level. Damien Harris, a true freshman who was Rivals’ top-ranked running back in the 2015 high school class, may be the next star in the assembly line of stud Alabama backs, but he’s been a complimentary piece thus far with 105 yards on 31 carries.
Freshman wideout Calvin Ridley has emerged as the Crimson Tide’s top weapon in the passing game. Over the past two contests, Ridley has accumulated 260 yards and two touchdowns, breaking out for a 9-140-1 line in last week’s win over Arkansas. Junior O.J. Howard has 16 catches for 200 yards, and he is listed as our No. 3 tight end for 2016. With 25 receptions for 239 yards and two scores, sophomore receiver ArDarius Stewart is another player to watch.
Other teams in midday action, along with some players to watch, include:
- No. 7 Michigan State (Connor Cook, L.J. Scott, Macgarrett Kings) at No. 12 Michigan (Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith), ESPN, 3:30
- No. 19 Oklahoma (Sterling Shepard, Joe Mixon, Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, Michiah Quick) at Kansas State, ABC, 3:30
- Rutgers (Leonte Carroo) at Indiana (Nate Sudfeld), BTN, 3:30
Primetime Play: No. 3 TCU at Iowa State (ESPN2, 7:00)
When putting this article together, I try to provide you with different teams on a weekly basis, and it’s nice to include players who aren’t on perennial powerhouses. LSU has been featured plenty. Everyone this side of the Atlantic knows about the human freight train which is Leonard Fournette, so that’s why their showdown with Florida wasn’t anointed as the “Primetime Play.” I could’ve went with Penn State vs. Ohio State or USC vs. Notre Dame, but I wanted to shine the spotlight on Iowa State sophomore wideout Allen Lazard, our No. 4 receiver for 2017.
Lazard, from Urbandale, Iowa, is by no means an unheralded prospect. Rivals ranked him as the No. 7 receiver in the 2014 high school class. Instead of taking the route traveled by most top recruits, Lazard turned down the likes of Stanford and Notre Dame to try and turn around the in-state Cyclones, who boast one winning season (2009) since 2005. It’s a noble pursuit, but one that will likely hinder his numbers as a mix of poor quarterback play and little else in terms of offensive talent stack the odds (and defenses) against Lazard.
The Cyclones haven’t had a player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in 42 years, which is not only the longest current drought among BCS conference schools, it doubles second-place Indiana’s 21-year run. In three of the past six years, Iowa State has failed to have a player taken in the draft, but that’ll certainly change when Lazard leaves for the pros. The 6-foot-5, 223-pound sophomore has mouth-watering size and he’s athletic enough to serve as the Cyclones’ punt returner. You don’t see many (if any) 6-foot-5 punt returners.
At times, he is physically and athletically dominant, even if he isn’t a burner. Sometimes he combines both of those traits in one play. Lazard made one of the more impressive catches of 2014, and he wrapped up his freshman campaign with 45 grabs, 593 yards and three scores. Not breaktaking numbers but solid nonetheless. In five games this season, Lazard has racked up 259 yards and two touchdowns on 24 receptions.
TCU, a 20.5-point favorite, will likely stomp the Cyclones, but it should give us an extended look at Lazard as Iowa State figures to play a majority of the second half in pass-happy mode.
The Horned Frogs feature a three-headed monster offensively in receiver Josh Doctson, quarterback Trevone Boykin and running back Aaron Green.
Full disclosure: I have a thing for Doctson. Tests are pending as to whether or not it’s sane. There is really no way to measure this, but I don’t think any wideout in college is more proficient at making contested catches than Doctson. The Internet is littered with evidence, so I won’t overdo it. Docston combines excellent hands with speed and cartoon-ish leaping ability. He has a chance to be a first-round selection next spring.
We have Doctson listed as our No. 9 receiver for 2016. It’s a pretty solid class, but that feels low. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, a solid source for prospect information, released his updated rankings this week, and he has Doctson third. Through six games, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior has caught — don’t laugh — 50 passes for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has scored multiple touchdowns in each of the past four games, including an (not a typo) 18-catch, 267-yard, three-score game against Texas Tech.
Boykin may win the Heisman trophy and he’ll certainly post video game stats, but he’s going to have a tough time transitioning to the NFL as a quarterback. Then again, Tyrod Taylor is playing like a solid signal caller, so maybe the transition will just take time. Boykin is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,103 yards, and he’s thrown 21 touchdowns to five interceptions. He’s also added 366 yards and four scores on the ground.
Green, our No. 15 running back for 2016, is an interesting story. A Rivals’ four-star recruit in 2011, he went to Nebraska for his freshman year before transferring to TCU. In Fort Worth, he’s turned his college career around. Green rushed for 922 yards and nine scores on just 129 carries last year, not taking over as the primary back until midway through the season. He’s continued the steady pace this fall, carrying the ball 98 times for 625 yards and eight touchdowns.
Other teams with evening games, along with some players to focus on, include:
- No. 8 Florida (Demarcus Robinson) at No. 6 LSU (Derrius Guice, Leonard Fournette, Brandon Harris, Travin Dural, Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre, ESPN, 7:00
- Boston College at No. 5 Clemson (Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, Deon Cain), ESPNU, 7:00
- Missouri (Nate Brown) at Georgia (Sony Michel, Malcolm Mitchell), SECN, 7:30
- USC (Juju Smith-Schuster, Cody Kessler, Isaac Whitney, Justin Davis) at No. 14 Notre Dame (Will Fuller, C.J. Prosise, Corey Robinson, Torii Hunter Jr), NBC, 7:30
- Penn State (Christian Hackenberg) at No. 1 Ohio State (Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett, Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller) at Indiana (Nate Sudfeld), ABC, 8:00
- Arizona State (D.J. Foster, Demario Richard) at Utah (Devontae Booker), ESPN, 10:00