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. 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.
It’s rivalry week, which is always fun but it also means the season is winding down. For us in the dynasty world, the clock is ticking on 2017 rookie drafts. You’ll be on the clock before you know it! Hopefully this series has helped introduce you to — or helped you know when to watch — some of the top college players, and at DLF, we’ll really get into the 2017 class over the next several months.
Usually, we just cover Saturday games, but with the unusual holiday schedule, I wanted to switch it up a bit to cover Friday’s Apple Cup game. Let’s get to it.
No. 5 Washington at No. 23 Washington State (FOX, 3:30)
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Not only does Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach give some of the more entertaining press conferences in the country, but he can coach. In the four seasons prior to Leach arriving in Pullman, the Cougars won a total of nine games. Since 2012, Leach has gone 25-31, building up to this season’s 8-3 mark.
Leach’s Air Raid attack, as it usually does, boasts a receiver and a quarterback who have NFL aspirations. Senior wideout Gabe Marks and junior quarterback Luke Falk are those two players this season.
Marks, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds, has put up some prolific numbers in his career. He made 49 catches for 560 yards and two scores as a freshman, and he followed that up with a 74-807-7 line in his sophomore season. Marks really exploded as a junior, going for 104 receptions, 1,192 yards and 15 scores, but he opted to stay in school for his senior season. This year, he’s made 74 grabs for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Falk has the stigma of an Air Raid quarterback, but the dude can play. At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, he has great size for the position, and Falk is on pace for his second straight 4,000-yard season. He’s completed 71.4 percent of his passes in 2016, tossing 36 touchdowns and seven picks. For his career, Falk has thrown 87 touchdowns to 22 interceptions with a 69.3 percent completion percentage. Leach has had several quarterbacks put up great college numbers without doing much in the NFL, but maybe Falk will break the mold.
Senior receiver River Cracraft is having a big year, totaling 53 catches for 701 yards and five touchdowns. It’s his fourth straight year with at least 600 receiving yards. Washington State features two running backs — freshman James Williams (86 carries, 6.2 YPC) and junior Jamal Morrow (82 attempts, 6.6 YPC) — who are averaging more than 6.0 yards per carry.
For Washington, their playoff hopes rest on this game (and the ensuing Pac 12 Championship game should they win this week).
Sophomore signal caller Jake Browning is turning in another exceptional season. In his career, he owns a 63.7 percent completion percentage with 53 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. This year alone, Browning has thrown 37 touchdowns to just seven picks.
Sophomore running back Myles Gaskin paces the Huskies’ backfield. After gaining 1,302 yards with 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, as a freshman a year ago, Gaskin has upped his efficiency this year. On 182 carries, Gaskin has run for 1,130 yards and nine scores, gaining 6.2 yards per run.
After fairly quiet freshman and sophomore seasons, junior receiver John Ross has been one of the game’s breakout players this year, thrusting himself up the wide receiver rankings. Ross has hauled in 64 passes for 991 yards and 15 scores. Junior wideout Dante Pettis has been a touchdown machine, too, scoring 12 times with 46 catches and 701 yards.
Other notable teams in action Friday, along with some players to focus on, include:
• North Carolina State (RB Matthew Dayes) at No. 17 North Carolina (RB Elijah Hood, QB Mitch Trubisky, WR Ryan Switzer, WR Bug Howard), ESPN, 12:00
• Arkansas (RB Rawleigh Williams III) at Missouri (RB Damarea Crockett), CBS, 2:30
• No. 19 Boise State (RB Jeremy McNichols) at Air Force, CBSSN, 3:30
• No. 16 Nebraska (WR Alonzo Moore, WR Jordan Westerkamp) at Iowa (RB Akrum Wadley), ABC, 3:30
• TCU at Texas (WR John Burt, RB D’Onta Foreman, QB Shane Buechele), FS1, 3:30
• Toledo (RB Kareem Hunt) at No. 21 Western Michigan (WR Corey Davis) ESPN2, 5:00
• Baylor (QB Seth Russell, WR K.D. Cannon, RB Shock Linwood, RB Terence Williams, WR Ishmael Zamora) at Texas Tech, ESPN, 6:00
• Arizona State at Arizona (RB Brandon Dawkins, RB Nick Wilson), ESPN, 9:30
Wake Up and Watch
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (ABC, 12:00)
The big game this week is the rivalry showdown between Ohio State and Michigan. The Buckeyes hold a huge edge in devy talent, but Michigan has some quality skill-position players, too.
For Ohio State, junior wide receiver/running back Curtis Samuel is an incredible all-around weapon. As a running back, Samuel has run it 84 times for 650 yards (7.7 YPC) and seven scores. As a pass catcher, he’s also hauled in 61 passes for 790 yards and seven more touchdowns.
Freshman running back Mike Weber, the seventh-ranked back in the 2015 high school class, has been as advertised. He’s carried the ball 166 times for 1,046 yards and eight scores, picking up 6.3 yards per run. Weber has added 18 catches for 90 yards. Fellow freshman runner Demario McCall has shown well in limited action, posting a 49-270-3 line.
Michigan’s top 2017 prospect, for my money, is tight end Jake Butt. A senior, Butt would’ve been one of the first tight ends taken had he declared early, but in a fairly deep 2017 wideout class, he’s just one of the many good prospects. Butt had 51 catches for 654 yards and three scores a year ago, and he’s put up a 38-460-4 line this year.
Out wide, Michigan has two good receivers. Senior Amara Darboh has made 44 grabs for 758 yards and six touchdowns, marking his second straight year with at least 700 yards. Senior Jehu Chesson has disappointed after a solid junior year, totaling a meager 29 receptions for 458 yards and two scores.
At running back, senior De’Veon Smith has handled most of the work. He’s run it 144 times for 750 yards and 10 scores, averaging 5.2 yards per run. Freshman Chris Evans has looked really good in a limited role. A rather unheralded recruit, ranked as the No. 32 running back in the 2016 high school class, Evans has carried the rock 74 times for 547 yards and three scores for a pristine 7.4 yards per run.
No. 13 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (CBS, 3:30)
This game features some really outstanding talent at the running back position, starting with a trio of Alabama backs who are all averaging at least 5.8 yards per carry.
Sophomore Damien Harris has emerged as the top back, running the ball 114 times for 853 yards (7.5 YPC) and two scores. Freshman Joshua Jacobs has gained 481 yards on 73 carries (6.6 YPC), scoring three times. Sophomore Bo Scarbrough has totaled 62 carries for 358 yards (5.8 YPC) and five touchdowns. All three are underclassmen, so if you are the one guy in the world who is worried about the future of Alabama’s run game, you can rest easy.
On the outside, Alabama sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley is definitely in the mix to be one of the top picks in 2018 rookie drafts, although it’s obviously very early. He’s had a little bit of a disappointing season, though, averaging a modest 11.2 yards per catch while catching 57 passes for 640 yards.
Junior ArDarius Stewart has become the Crimson Tide’s big-play weapon, gaining 17.5 yards per catch and posting a 39-683-7 line. Similar to Butt, senior tight end O.J. Howard could’ve left early and probably been a Day 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he returned to school. In a low-volume passing attack, he’s made 30 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
For Auburn, they boast two solid running backs. In his first year of action, sophomore Kamryn Pettway — who hasn’t played the past two weeks but will play in this one and got some nice praise from Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban — has carried the ball 173 times for 1,106 yards and seven scores. Sophomore Kerryon Johnson has taken a backseat to Pettway, but he’s still a good player. Johnson is sporting a 165-823-11 line and is gaining 5.0 yards per run.
Auburn is a run-oriented attack, but quarterback Sean White has given them stability at the position. The sophomore is completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 1,644 yards, nine scores and three picks. At this point, he’s not really a prospect, but he’s made big improvements from last season so he’s at least a name to watch.
Other notable teams in Saturday action, along with some players to focus on, include:
• Georgia Tech at Georgia (RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Chubb, WR Terry Godwin, TE Jeb Blazevich), SECN, 12:00
• Kentucky (RB Stanley Williams, RB Benny Snell) at No. 11 Louisville (QB Lamar Jackson, RB Brandon Radcliff, WR James Quick, WR Jamari Staples), ESPN, 12:00
• Virginia at Virginia Tech (WR Isaiah Ford), ESPN2, 12:00
• Arkansas State at Louisiana Lafayette (RB Elijah McGuire), ESPN3, 12:00
• Syracuse at Pittsburgh (RB James Conner), ACCN, 12:30
• Duke at Miami (QB Brad Kaaya, WR Stacy Coley, RB Joseph Yearby, RB Mark Walton, WR Ahmmon Richards), ESPN2, 3:30
• Mississippi State (WR Fred Ross) at Mississippi (TE Evan Engram, QB Shea Patterson, QB Chad Kelly is out), SECN, 3:30
• Notre Dame (QB DeShone Kizer, RB Tarean Folston, RB Josh Adams, WR Equanimeous St. Brown) at No. 12 USC (WR Juju Smith-Schuster, QB Sam Darnold, WR Darreus Rogers, RB Justin Davis, RB Ronald Jones II), ABC, 3:30
• No. 25 Navy at SMU (WR Courtland Sutton), ESPNU, 3:30
• No. 18 West Virginia at Iowa State (WR Allen Lazard), FS1, 3:30
• Michigan State (WR Donnie Corley, RB LJ Scott) at No. 7 Penn State (RB Saquon Barkley, WR DeAndre Thompkins, WR Chris Godwin), ESPN, 3:30
• Minnesota (RB Shannon Brooks, RB Rodney Smith) at No. 6 Wisconsin (RB Corey Clement), BTN, 3:30
• Oregon (RB Royce Freeman, RB Tony Brooks-James, WR Darren Carrington, TE John Mundt, TE Pharaoh Brown) at Oregon State, PAC12N, 4:00
• UCLA (QB Josh Rosen is out, RB Soso Jamabo) at California, ESPN2, 7:00
• South Carolina at No. 4 Clemson (WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett, QB Deshaun Watson, WR Deon Cain, WR Artavis Scott, RB Wayne Gallman), ESPN, 7:30
• Tennessee (RB Jalen Hurd, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Josh Malone) at Vanderbilt, SECN, 7:30
• East Carolina (WR Zay Jones) at Temple, ESPNEWS, 7:30
• Rice at No. 24 Stanford (RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Bryce Love), PAC12N, 8:00
• No. 15 Florida (RB Lamical Perine, RB Jordan Scarlett, WR Antonio Callaway) at No. 14 Florida State (RB Dalvin Cook, WR Travis Rudolph, WR Auden Tate, WR Jesus Wilson, RB Jacques Patrick), ABC, 8:00
• Colorado State at San Diego State (RB Donnel Pumphrey), CBSSN, 9:00