Devon Achane has not exactly been viewed as a premium devy asset by fantasy owners in the past. A running back who is 5’9 and 185 pounds is not very attractive. But, outperforming darling Isaiah Spiller in the SEC in 2021, he did turn some heads with elite speed and receiving ability.
This past year, Achane carried a full load for the Aggies and NFL teams took notice. Will top-50 draft capital change the minds of fantasy owners? Or is an RB this small never going to be a fantasy asset?
As A Recruit
Achane was a four-star all-purpose RB coming out of Marshall High School located in Missouri City, TX. According to 247 Sports Composite rankings, he was the 137th player in the 2019 class and the 29th-best RB in the country.
Courtesy of 247 Sports.
Achane was a two-sport star playing football and running track in high school. As a senior, he put up 2,266 yards rushing with 40 rushing TDs in total. He averaged 11.3 yards per carry! Add in 38 receptions for 768 yards and 10 TDs, and it was easy to see why Achane was highly recruited. In track, he led their 4 x 100m relay to the fastest time in the country. His individual 10.53-second 100m ranked in the top 25 of the entire country and made him the state champion. Suffice to say, he is fast.
Courtesy of Sports Reference.
As a true freshman in 2020, Achane played behind Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith, but he still saw some time on the field. He had the highest YPC on the team at 8.47 and showed off his speed with long plays against South Carolina and Auburn that year. With Smith moving to wide receiver for the Orange Bowl against North Carolina, Achane led the backfield with 20 carries for 140 yards and two TDs. This established him as an offensive weapon going into his sophomore season.
Despite the hype surrounding Spiller, Achane essentially split the backfield with him in 2021. He averaged seven YPC for the season and especially was used in the passing game, ending up as the third leading receiver on the team. Big games against Missouri and South Carolina showed that perhaps Achane can handle a leading role. He notched double-digit carries in his final six games of the season and paved the way for a starting role as a junior.
Achane started off a bit slow, but he came into his own in the third game against Miami. In Seven of his final eight games, Achane went over 100 all-purpose yards with nine total TDs. He had two seven-catch games back-to-back against South Carolina and Missouri. Most importantly, he carried the team to a big win over ranked LSU in the final game of the season with 38 carries for 215 yards and two touchdowns. His worst game was against Alabama however averaging under four YPC with only four catches for five yards on top of that.
- Exceptional long speed
- Top-notch receiver with great hands
- Elusive in the open field and rarely takes a big hit
- Elite cutting ability to get to the open hole
- Above-average vision when choosing holes
- Understands angle running well
- Explosive right off the snap
- Blocking is a plus despite his size
- Very undersized
- Lacks ideal patience when blocks take time to develop
- Can be thrown around by strong defenders
- Won’t run anyone over
- May only fit some schemes
Courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database.
Achane’s graph might be a little deceiving. He peaked in November after some big games getting discussed as the potential RB2 in the class. As other RBs rose up the mock draft boards, he started to settle down in the third round. Recent mock drafts have been placing him in the second-round range, however, and his graph is on the way back up. Expect Achane to be the third or fourth RB off the board in April and a divisive player for dynasty players.
Runners with Achane’s size at 5’9 and 185 pounds are usually not a great fantasy bet. The most productive RBs in the NFL are generally much bigger. Will an NFL team trust Achane to block incoming pass rushers? Will he be able to run up the middle through a pile? This seems doubtful and may limit his opportunities.
But, there are certain boxes smaller RBs can check to have fantasy production, and Achane checks them all. High draft capital? He seems to be trending to be a round two pick. Receiving production? He had it in college and grades out as a top receiving back. BMI? Him being short allows him to pack in muscle and have a solid BMI despite his weight. Rushing efficiency? His 6.5 career YPC is pretty darn good. Perhaps he is an outlier from the traditional fantasy RB.
Ultimately, it will come down to the risk you are willing to take for a PPR weapon who has upside to be a lead back that few others at his size have done. Sitting in the second round of your rookie draft, some league-mates may opt for RBs drafted in the third or fourth rounds who had more predraft fantasy hype. It might be the savvy move to take Achane and his high draft capital to take a plug-and-play, pass-catching RB to the bank.
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