This week we get to highlight a pair of highly-touted prospects, running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Tyler Boyd, who are already highly-cherished devy assets and will be major players in 2016 rookie drafts. Hunt and Boyd will be among the first players taken at their respective positions in the 2016 NFL Draft, assuming both leave the college ranks after this season.
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 who will be 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.
We have in-depth rankings for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 classes, which we update throughout the season. We also have a breakdown on what the heck a devy league is, in case it’s foreign to you.
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Wake Up and Watch: No. 25 Pittsburgh at Syracuse (ESPNU, 12:00)
This game, at least for our purposes, is all about Tyler Boyd. While Laquon Treadwell has been the consensus No. 1 wideout in this class for quite some time, Boyd is right there in the mix with Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Mike Williams and Michael Thomas (among others) to be the second receiver off the board in 2016. Our devy rankings have him as the third-best college prospect, behind Williams and Treadwell.
A 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior, Boyd has produced from day one for the Panthers. He racked up 1,174 yards and seven scores as a freshman and followed it up with 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Through five games, he has totaled 41 grabs for 396 yards and four touchdowns.
Boyd has stellar hands and is a great route runner. He excels at the nuances of the position, which is rare for a college wideout. He will have to run precise routes at the next level, because he isn’t gifted with an elite combination of size and speed. In my eyes, he’s fairly similar to Nelson Agholor, the Philadelphia Eagles 2015 first-round pick.
Pittsburgh also has highly-rated running back James Connor, but he’s out for the season after tearing his MCL in the Panthers’ season-opening game. Connor, a junior, is rated as our No. 3 back for the 2016 class of draft-eligible prospects. Before the injury, he was a pretty safe bet to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, but he’ll have a tough decision on his hands now.
Other teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:
- No. 6 Clemson (Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, Deon Cain) at Miami (Joseph Yearby, Brad Kaaya, Stacy Coley), ABC, 12:00
- Iowa State (Allen Lazard) at No. 12 Baylor (K.D. Cannon, Seth Russell, Davion Hall, Corey Coleman, Ishmael Zamora), ESPN, 12:00
Midday Marquee: No. 19 Toledo at Massachusetts (ESPN3, 3:00)
Much like the first game was all about Boyd, this matchup also is a one-man show, as far as our devy prospect interest goes. Toledo junior running back Kareem Hunt is the one to watch.
Hunt is our No. 6 running back for 2016. Barring injury, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry will be the first two backs off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, as well most rookie drafts. Hunt is squarely in the next tier of runners and is certainly in the conversation as 2016’s No. 3 running back.
Hunt missed the first two games because of a suspension and he missed two more games with a hamstring injury. When he’s been on the field, he’s been his usual explosive self. He has 259 yards and three touchdowns on 49 attempts. Hunt had a solid freshman year (866 yards, six score) but he really exploded onto the scene last year, in his sophomore season, totaling 1,631 yards (163 yards per game) and 16 touchdowns while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. He was able to put up those numbers despite missing three games with a high ankle sprain.
Hunt, who is 6-foot tall and weighs 225 pounds, is the complete package as a runner. He has elite change-of-direction ability and balance. Hunt succeeds both inside and outside the tackles, and he combines good speed with hard-nosed running.
As far as negatives, he has missed five games the past two years with injuries, which could also be attributed to bad luck, but the wear and tear on his body is only going to increase when the jerseys on the opposing defenses read Denver Broncos and not Ball State. Receiving isn’t a big part of Hunt’s game right now, or at least he’s not being asked to do much of it. He’s made just 23 receptions in two-plus seasons.
Other teams in midday action, along with some players to watch, include:
- Indiana (Nate Sudfeld) at No. 7 Michigan State (Connor Cook, L.J. Scott, Macgarrett Kings), ABC, 3:30
- Tennessee (Alvin Kamara, Joshua Dobbs, Josh Malone, Marquez North, Jalen Hurd) at No. 8 Alabama (ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster, Damien Harris, Calvin Ridley, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake), CBS, 3:30
- Texas Tech at No. 17 Oklahoma (Sterling Shepard, Joe Mixon, Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, Michiah Quick), ESPN2, 3:30
Primetime Play: No 1 Ohio State at Rutgers (ABC, 8:00)
Despite being unbeaten, Ohio State hasn’t been the runaway freight train most people expected, but it’s certainly not for a lack of talent. The Buckeyes boast top-end devy prospects at quarterback, receiver and running back.
Last time the Buckeyes were featured in this series it was the opening weekend, and Head Coach Urban Meyer hadn’t yet settled on a starting quarterback. Well, in nearly two months, not much has changed in nearly. Meyer did announce J.T. Barrett as the starter for this game, which will be Barrett’s first start of the season, but it’s likely both Barrett and Cardale Jones will play, just as they have so far this year.
Jones’ college career is one of the more bizarre and memorable in recent history. His insane three-game run at the end of last season propelled the Buckeyes to the title and shot Jones, who started the year third on the depth chart, up draft boards. He has the size and arm strength scouts drool over, and he likely would have been the third quarterback taken if he declared for the 2015 Draft. Instead, he came back to Ohio State and has lost his job. While his play hasn’t resembled his late-season tear from a year ago, he still possesses the size and arm strength to be an early-round pick in the upcoming draft, regardless of whether or not he regains his starting role.
Barrett, a redshirt sophomore, fits Meyer’s mold of quick, mobile quarterbacks who are decent enough passers to survive at the college level. He doesn’t profile as an NFL quarterback.
While Jones’ play certainly stole headlines on the Buckeyes’ run to the championship last season, it was really running back Ezekiel Elliott who spearheaded the offense in the two-game playoff. The junior, who is likely to be the first back off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, has rushed for at least 100 yards in all seven of Ohio State’s games, including a massive 274-yard, three-touchdown effort against Indiana. He has 998 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. I would rate him as a superior prospect to Melvin Gordon, who the San Diego Chargers took 15th overall in 2015.
Redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas is right in the fold with Boyd and others in the tier of wideouts below Treadwell. Thomas, who is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, is a better all-around receiver than 2014 teammate Devin Smith, and Smith was taken 37th overall last year by the New York Jets. Thomas finished 2014 with a team-high 54 receptions for 799 yards and nine scores. He has made 30 catches for 433 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Rutgers star receiver Leonte Carroo came into the season as one of the top-rated wideouts in the class, but he hasn’t helped his stock with an off-field issue. Carroo was suspended for two games after being charged with assault. The charge was eventually dropped, but Carroo will no doubt have to answer plenty of questions from teams in the pre-draft process.
Off-field stuff aside, Carroo is a special talent. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Carroo is physically imposing and has dominated when he’s been on the field this season. In four games, he’s amassed 21 catches for 472 yards and nine scores. A testament to his big-play ability and red-zone prowess, almost half of his receptions have resulted in touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Carroo left Rutgers’ last game with an ankle injury and is questionable for this contest. If he does go, it’ll be a great opportunity to watch him square off against Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple, one of the top corners in college football.
Other teams with evening games, along with some players to focus on, include:
- No. 15 Texas A&M (Kyle Allen, Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Christian Kirk at No. 24 Mississippi (Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell, Markell Pack, DaMarkus Lodge), ESPN, 7:00
- Western Kentucky at No. 5 LSU (Derrius Guice, Leonard Fournette, Brandon Harris, Travin Dural, Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre), ESPNU, 7:00
- Florida State (Dalvin Cook, Travis Rudolph, Jesus Wilson, Everett Golson, Ermon Lane, Auden Tate, George Campbell, Jacques Patrick) at Georgia Tech, ESPN2, 7:00
- Utah (Devontae Booker) at USC (Juju Smith-Schuster, Cody Kessler, Isaac Whitney, Justin Davis, Adoree Jackson), FOX, 7:30
- Washington at No. 10 Stanford (Kevin Hogan, Christian McCaffrey, Trenton Irwin), ESPN, 10:30
- Dynasty Capsule: Indianapolis Colts - January 17, 2019
- 2018 Summer Sleeper: Los Angeles Chargers - July 31, 2018
- Four Receivers to Sell this Off-Season - April 24, 2018
Don’t forget to watch Tajae Sharpe WR UMASS. He’s in my top 10 WRs for the 2016 draft and is in the top 10 in all of FBS in yards. Tall, but lean frame and he’s technician. Love his game and he’ll be a WR2 for an NFL team.