Spring is a popular time to embrace #StartupSZN. For devy owners, it is an opportunity to pore through data on incoming recruits and reflect on the previous season which was. Of course, 2020 came with unpredictable and challenging circumstances overall, and we saw this manifest itself on the gridiron.
College athletes were particularly challenged, as delayed or truncated seasons along with contact limitations led to a season not seen in our lifetimes. As such, I am giving it a bit of leeway to true freshmen who failed to make a significant impact. More than any year I can recall, your view of the individual’s talent level plays a bigger role than what we may have seen during a brief 2020 season. These are not excuses to butcher the rankings (unless you buy it as a reasonable excuse) but more an illustration of the unique outlook this past year was approached with.
As always, your mileage may vary. Beyond the very elite, devy rankings are going to be incredibly fluid and unique and the differences should be embraced. Hate mail can be delivered on Twitter, to @FF_TravisM.
30: Spencer Rattler, QB Oklahoma Sooners (2022 Draft Eligible)
Profile: The next product of the Lincoln Riley quarterback factory, Rattler showcased the natural talent of a future number one pick in 2020. His arm talent is undeniable. He effortlessly fires footballs all around the gridiron, showing the type of effective arrogance which is the hallmark of true gunslingers.
While he was not unleashed as a runner in 2020, Rattler is a fantastic athlete who can navigate the pocket and extend plays with his legs. He has some of the warts you’d expect from a quarterback who can do whatever he wants with his arm, but the combination of arm talent and athleticism make him a high-upside fantasy asset with tools to make the NFL smitten.
2021 Outlook: In his second year in Riley’s system, Rattler is a Heisman favorite. The Sooners are well-stocked at the skill positions and are routinely one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. It would be an upset if Rattler was not leading the Sooners in a College Football Playoff battle as he flirts with college football’s ultimate individual prize.
29: Devon Achane, RB Texas A&M Aggies (2023 Draft Eligible)
Profile: Achane was a revelation in the Aggies’ bowl game against North Carolina, taking over for an injured Isaiah Spiller to torch the Tar Heels for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has the type of speed that makes your generic fast collegiate player look stuck in mud. He hits the gas pedal and gets to top speed in a hurry, showcasing outstanding feel and elusiveness once he hits the second level. He only caught five passes in 2020, but demonstrated soft hands and the ability to make plays after the catch.
Achane is small (listed at 185) and you wonder how much weight his frame can carry. But it is the only black mark on his resume right now, and I’ll gamble on the skills translation as his body matures.
2021 Outlook: Spiller is unquestioned starter for the Aggies, and they’re deep at running back, especially with the highly-touted LJ Johnson Jr hitting campus. Achane figures to mix in behind Spiller once again and hit on explosive plays. The true breakout is unlikely to come until he splits work with Johnson in 2022.
28: Agiye Hall, WR Alabama Crimson Tide (2024 Draft Eligible)
Profile: Some receivers simply look the part. Hall is one of them, a tall, sinewy receiver with excellent length and a natural ability to overwhelm defenders at the catch point. He is the complete physical package, with room to grow into a 200 plus pound alpha. Despite a tall frame, He is smooth off the line and quickly gains top speed. He can breeze past defenders, allowing his size and ball skills to do the work in the vertical game.
Like most young receivers, Hall still has work to do on the technical aspects of his game. Yet few programs are churning out high-end receivers like Alabama, and he is not going to be asked to handle too much early on. It is a fantastic situation for him to mature.
2021 Outlook: While the Tide return John Metchie, they lose Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and top-ten pick Jaylen Waddle. As we have mentioned in other Alabama receiver blurbs, opportunity is present. It remains to be seen which pass catcher steps up. Hall was the Spring Game star yet still has to prove he is the right on the outside as Metchie’s running mate.
27: Ainias Smith, RB Texas A&M Aggies (2022 Draft Eligible)
Profile: Runner? Receiver? It really does not matter for Smith, as he has become the do-it-all piece within Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Smith got a lot of work in the slot, utilizing his plus athleticism and toughness to pace the Aggies in receiving yards while still chipping nearly 300 yards on the ground.
His ability to learn the running back position on the fly in 2019 was impressive, and it helped turn him into intriguing if undersized receiver prospect into a true chess piece with immense potential. While players who migrate all over the formation can be hard to value when projecting to the next level, I am bullish enough on Smith to believe he will be coveted by NFL teams.
2021 Outlook: The Aggies are deep at running back, but as mentioned above, Smith cannot be painted as a mere runner despite it being his listed position on the official team site.He will continue to touch the ball in a variety of ways, eschewing concerns there is no oxygen for him in an offense with Spiller, Achane, and Johnson.
26: EJ Williams, WR Clemson Tigers (2023 Draft Eligible)
Profile: Clemson has a lot of young wide receivers who have the upside to breakout, and I may be in the minority of viewing Williams as the best of the bunch. He came on late in 2020, demonstrating the ability to dominate along the sideline in the manner of Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins before him.
Williams is a big, powerful receiver who can tap dance in tight spaces and uses his long frame wisely. Clemson has done an excellent job of developing big receivers and getting them to play big, and Williams shows the ability to be the next supersized star on the perimeter. The early returns are promising, even if he will have to fight for looks in the Clemson offense.
2021 Outlook: The anticipated return of Justyn Ross muddies a depth chart which looked to be opening up following the departure of veterans Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell. A healthy Ross leads this charge, though he will need a running mate between Williams, Joe Ngata, and Frank Ladson. My money is on Williams, though a three-headed attack is well within the realm of possibilities.
- The Devy Fantasy Football Top 100: 75-71 - March 26, 2023
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- The Devy Fantasy Football Top 100: 85-81 - March 12, 2023