Developing Assets: Week Three

Austan Kas

In this series, we take a look at future NFL players with a focus on offensive skill positions to help those of you in developmental (devy) leagues and prepare you for future dynasty league draft preparation. For those in regular dynasty formats, we’ll give you some of the key players to watch as you start preparing for 2017 rookie drafts.

We have in-depth rankings for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 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.

I’m not going to make you slog through a long intro. Here are the games and players to watch this weekend.

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Wake Up and Watch

No. 2 Florida State at No. 10 Louisville (ABC, Noon)

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is destroying college football. The dude is putting in work. In fact, by the numbers, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore has been the best quarterback in college football through the early part of the season.

In just two games, Jackson has thrown for 697 yards and seven scores, which is basically a full season for an LSU signal caller. He’s averaging 11.24 yards per attempt and completing 59.7 percent of his passes with one interception. With his legs, Jackson has added 318 yards and six more scores, meaning he’s already accounted for 13 total touchdowns.

He’s pretty athletic.

[arve url=”” title=”Lamar Jackson” description=”Lamar Jackson Hurdles Syracuse Defender On TD Run”]

Charlotte and Syracuse, though, aren’t Florida State, so this is a chance for Jackson to show he’s the real deal against a top-notch foe. As far as we’re concerned in the devy world, Jackson, as fun as he is to watch, isn’t really on our radar. Right now, he’s more of an athlete than he is an NFL-type passer. He could certainly improve, but he projects as more of a Trevone Boykin.

Jamari Staples and James Quick are Jackson’s top two targets. Quick, a big-time recruit who went to high school in Louisville, is a highly-rated wideout in the 2017 class despite not having a big statistical season yet. Quick’s 2015 totals of 39 grabs for 624 yards and five touchdowns are all career-best clips. The 6-foot-1, 191-pounder already has 140 yards and two scores this season.

Like Jordan Howard for Indiana a year ago, Staples is a transfer from UAB who left when the Blazers’ program folded. After making 37 catches for 638 yards a year ago, he’s hauled in nine passes for 219 yards in 2016.

On the other sideline, Florida State boasts an insane amount of devy talent. Travis Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Jacques Patrick, Auden Tate, George Campbell and Ermon Lane can all be found in our devy rankings. I could write about them for a while, but let’s focus on Cook, one of our top-ranked running backs for 2017.

In fact, our devy rankings have Cook as the top running back and second-ranked overall player behind receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. A prodigy in high school, Cook was Rivals’ second-ranked back (behind Joe Mixon) for the class of 2014. He’s produced from the moment he stepped foot on campus in Tallahassee. After starting his first year backing up Karlos Williams, Cook ended up leading the ‘Noles in carries in 2014, racking up 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman. He followed that up with 1,691 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He’s got 174 yards and two scores this year, and for his career, Cook has averaged 6.6 yards per attempt on 433 carries.

[arve url=”” title=”Miami vs. Florida State Football Highlights ” description=”Miami vs. Florida State Football Highlights “]

A 5-foot-11, 213-pounder, Cook has some serious jets. In the highlights above, on the second play, check out the way he turns the corner after catching the checkdown pass. He makes those Miami players look slow, and slow usually isn’t Miami’s thing. His feet and vision — which can be seen best at the 2:03 mark — are superb, and he has a knack, a slippery-ness, for rarely getting popped by someone.

It sounds hyperbolic to compare anyone to Ezekiel Elliott, a running back who was pretty unanimously loved by all, but I think Cook is the same caliber of player — although they are very different backs. In my eyes, Cook is a more gifted, more natural runner, but Zeke is more physical and superior between the tackles. Cook may not be as ready-made to handle the physicality of the NFL as we all think Elliott is, but I think Cook could produce more explosive plays. Hopefully we get to have this debate down the road after both have had full, five-year — I kid (hopefully) — careers.

Other notable teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:

  • Ohio at Tennessee (QB Joshua Hobbs, WR Josh Malone, RB Jalen Hurd, RB Alvin Kamara), SECN, Noon
  • Iowa State (WR Allen Lazard) at TCU, FS1, Noon
  • South Carolina State at No. 6 Clemson (WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett, QB Deshaun Watson, WR Deon Cain, WR Artavis Scott, WR Wayne Gallman), ACCN, Noon
  • Temple (WR Ventell Bryant, RB Jehad Thomas) at Penn State (RB Saquon Barkley, WR Juwan Johnson, WR Chris Godwin), BTN, Noon
  • Georgia State at No. 9 Wisconsin (RB Corey Clement is questionable), BTN, Noon
  • No. 25 Miami (QB Brad Kaaya, WR Stacy Coley, RB Joseph Yearby, RB Gus Edwards) at Appalachian State, ESPN, Noon
  • Idaho at Washington State (QB David Falk, WR Gabe Marks), PAC12N, 2:00

Midday Marquee

No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 Ole Miss (CBS, 3:30)

These two teams have given us some pretty memorable games — and plays — over the past few years, and hopefully we’re in store for another good one. However, if it goes anything like the last time Alabama played a ranked team — when the Tide smashed USC, 52-6 — then we’ll get a long look at some backups.

Ole Miss, though, has won two straight against Nick Saban’s unrelenting monster of a program. This Mississippi team is solid, but they don’t feature the same amount of NFL talent Rebs’ coach Hugh Freeze was putting on the field in 2014 and 2015.

Mississippi does have quarterback Chad Kelly, our seventh-ranked passer for 2017. Kelly had an outstanding junior year, breaking out by completing 65.1 percent of his passes and throwing for 31 touchdowns and 13 picks.

It’s Alabama who has the skill-position talent — and, well, just gobs of talent everywhere. Running backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, receivers ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard are all enticing prospects.

Ridley is a true sophomore, but he’s old for his grade. He’ll turn 22 in December. In fact, he’s only six months younger than Amari Cooper. He led the Crimson Tide in receiving last year with 89 grabs, 1,054 yards and seven scores. Stewart, a junior, made 63 receptions for 700 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Howard, possibly the best tight end in the 2017 class and a player who balled out in the title game win over Clemson, finished 2015 with 38 catches for 602 yards and two touchdowns. All three pass-game weapons — Ridley (11-138-1), Howard (5-68) and Stewart (9-203-3) — are off to good starts this season.

Scarbrough was thought to be the lead back heading into the fall, but Harris has outplayed him early on. A true sophomore, Harris was the top back in the 2015 class, per Rivals. He’s excelled so far in 2016 with 20 carries for 183 yards (9.2 YPC). Scarbrough has just 55 yards on 16 attempts (3.4 YPC), but he has scored twice.

Other notable teams in midday action, along with some players to focus on, include:

  • Fresno State at Toledo (RB Kareem Hunt), ESPN3, 3:00
  • San Diego State (RB Donnel Pumphrey) at Northern Illinois, CBSSN, 3:00
  • Colorado at No. 4 Michigan (TE Jake Butt, WR Jehu Chesson), BTN, 3:30
  • No. 22 Oregon (RB Royce Freeman, WR Darren Carrington, TE John Mundt, TE Pharaoh Brown) at Nebraska (WR Alonzo Moore, WR Jordan Westerkamp), ABC, 3:30
  • James Madison at North Carolina (RB Elijah Hood, WR Ryan Switzer, WR Mack Hollins, WR Bug Howard), ACCN, 3:30
  • Pittsburgh (RB James Conner) at Oklahoma State (QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington), ESPN, 3:30
  • Boston College at Virginia Tech (WR Isaiah Ford), ESPNU, 3:30
  • Western Michigan (WR Corey Davis) at Illinois, ESPNU, 4:00
  • Idaho State at Oregon State (WR Jordan Villamin), PAC12N, 5:00

Primetime Play

No. 12 Michigan State at No. 18 Notre Dame (NBC, 7:30)

We wrap up a pretty sweet slate of games with Notre Dame hosting Michigan State. The Irish have officially named redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer their starting quarterback and he didn’t really give them much choice. Through two games, Kizer is 30-for-42 for 371 yards, seven touchdowns and one pick. He’s added 112 yards and two more scores as a runner. Since taking over early last year for an injured Malik Zaire, Kizer has been stellar, and he’s completed 63.8 percent of his passes for his career. If Kizer was under center for the entire Texas game in the first week (instead of splitting time with Zaire), the Irish might be 2-0.

After Deshaun Watson, if someone wanted to tell me Kizer was the second-best quarterback in the 2017 draft-eligible class, I wouldn’t put up a big fight. He’s 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, so size isn’t an issue, and he has a big arm. While he’s athletic enough to make plays as a runner, he’s an adept pocket passer, as well. There is a lot to like.

On the outside, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown has gotten off to a promising start. A sophomore, St. Brown is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and he’s made 11 catches for 160 yards and two scores. Fellow wideout Torii Hunter Jr. is expected to play after suffering a concussion in Notre Dame’s season opener.

Running backs Josh Adams and Tarean Folston are sharing the load. Adams has 149 yards on 21 carries — adding four receptions for 45 yards and a score — while Folston checks in with 115 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. Adams is a player to watch. A sophomore who is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, he was just a three-star recruit, but Adams contributed 835 yards and six touchdowns on 117 carries as a true freshman, averaging 7.1 yards per tote.

Michigan State doesn’t boast similar offensive talent, but it’s Michigan State — they’ll probably win 10 games anyway. The Spartans have only played one game, a 28-13 win over Furman. In that one, sophomore LJ Scott rushed 105 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Scott is the Spartans’ top prospect, and he was quite a recruiting coup for Mark Dantonio. Scott, who went by the first name Larry in high school, was Rivals’ sixth-ranked back in the 2015 class. Despite getting an offer from the in-state Buckeyes, he went north to East Lansing, also spurning Alabama.

As a freshman in 2015, Scott totaled 699 yards and 11 scores on 146 carries. Not great, but he was a true freshman. He’s a power back who is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds. As Iowa found out in last year’s Big Ten title game, Scott is every bit as hard to tackle as his measurements would suggest. (Warning: Gus Johnson is getting ready to yell at you.)

[arve url=”” title=”LJ Scott Go-Ahead TD vs. Iowa” description=”LJ Scott Go-Ahead TD vs. Iowa”]

Scott is very limited in the passing game right now. Either he’s not a good receiver or the Spartans don’t want to deploy him that way, because he’s made just three career catches for 15 yards. He’s a bruising back, though, and he could be the next great Michigan State runner, following in the footsteps of Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Langford.

Other notable teams in evening action, along with some players to focus on, include:

  • Liberty at SMU (WR Courtland Sutton), ESPN3, 7:00
  • Mississippi State at No. 20 LSU (RB Leonard Fournette, RB Derrius Guice, WR Malachi Dupre, WR Travin Dural), ESPN2, 7:00
  • No. 17 Texas A&M (WR Josh Reynolds, WR Speedy Noil, WR Christian Kirk) at Auburn (RB Kerryon Johnson), ESPN, 7:00
  • South Alabama at Louisiana Lafayette (RB Elijah McGuire), ESPN3, 7:00
  • No. 16 Georgia (RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Chubb, WR Terry Godwin, TE Jeb Blazevich) at Missouri, SECN, 7:30
  • No. 3 Ohio State (QB J.T. Barrett, RB Mike Weber, RB Curtis Samuel) at No. 17 Oklahoma (RB Joe Mixon, WR Dede Westbrook, RB Samaje Perine, QB Baker Mayfield, WR/TE Mark Andrews), FOX, 7:30
  • USC (WR Juju Smith-Schuster, QB Max Browne, WR Darreus Rogers, RB Justin Davis) at No. 7 Stanford (RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Bryce Love), ABC, 8:00
  • Portland State at No. 8 Washington (RB Myles Gaskin), PAC12N, 8:00
  • UCLA (RB Soso Jamabo, QB Josh Rosen, WR Kenneth Walker) at BYU (QB Taysom Hill, RB Jamaal Williams), ESPN2, 10:15
  • No. 11 Texas (WR John Burt, QB Shane Buechele) at California, ESPN, 10:30
  • Hawaii at Arizona (RB Nick Wilson), PAC12N, 10:45

Enjoy a great Saturday of prospect watching!