Fantasy football is an inexact science. Numerous factors can conspire to make even the surest of things an uber-bust (looking at you, Trent Richardson). Take this one level down to the college ranks, and you’re really engaging in a mostly futile exercise which involves interpreting how college talent translates to the NFL. This leads to an incredibly high bust rate and immortalizes individuals like Jamie Harper in the Hall of Disappointment.
This is the third annual installment of The Devy 100, an endeavor which embraces the Sisyphus-esque journey known as a devy league. Rather than a standard, mundane numbered list, this breaks 100 players into tiers. As an ode to recruiting rankings, they’ve been assigned a star ranking. A brief description of each star ranking and how I perceive them below:
- Five Star: The elite. They look poised to become high NFL draft picks and have the skills to become annual fantasy contributors.
- Four Star: These are potentially elite players. They just have one flaw – be it inexperience, modest physical tools, or limited production – which prevents them from joining the top tier.
- Three Star: These are individuals I would not be actively pursuing in standard, smaller devy leagues. However, in larger leagues they merit a roster spot and at the least they’re someone worth monitoring.
There are, of course, players who don’t fit any of these criteria but we’re not talking about them in an article. We continue with four star players at running back, part two.
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Ronald Jones, RB USC Trojans
Ronald Jones is just an easy runner. He flashes a natural ability to weave among defenders and accelerate into the open field. He out-shined another talented back in Justin Davis as a true freshman, and despite a thin frame, has as much upside as any 2018 running prospect.
Elijah Hood, RB North Carolina Tar Heels
Elijah Hood had the look of a potential recruiting bust after a sluggish freshman season for the former five-star recruit, but he rebounded in a big way in 2015, piling up monster numbers despite a relatively modest 232 touches. Hood is incredibly compact, almost disappearing in the hole and using powerful legs to drive through arm tackles and churn out extra yardage. I feel there’s a bit more athleticism here than we have seen in Chapel Hill. He’s been mostly a grinder to date; there’s evidence he can cut loose when he gets out of traffic and showcase some dynamic speed and open field skills. If he fails to flash any more athleticism in 2016, he may top out as a day three pick. I am banking on him upping his stock this season.
Kareem Hunt, RB Toledo Rockets
2015 was a weird year for running backs. Some of its finest members had relatively down seasons due to a number of factors, Kareem Hunt included. During his first two years, albeit against sluggish competition, Hunt had the look of a rock solid running back prospect. His balance and competitiveness were otherworldly, and he had more than enough athleticism to toy with MAC defenses. During his junior campaign, warts were seen. Whether it was a series of injuries or just a general malaise, he was a different player. There’s still plenty of reason for optimism, and a return to form in 2016 should have Hunt right in the day two mix.
Wayne Gallman, RB Clemson Tigers
Wayne Gallman is exciting to watch, if only because he attacks the back seven of a defense as though they’ve seriously wronged him in some way. A decisive north-south running style is the hallmark of his game and it allowed him to surpass 1,500 yards in his first full year as a starter for Clemson. You can question his decision to return to school for another year, as he would have had a great shot to fly off the board as one of 2016’s top runners. However, despite a loaded group of backs in 2017, Gallman should be right in the mix in the second tier.
Derrius Guice, RB LSU Tigers
Derrius Guice is a supreme talent, and we’d be more aware of it if he were not behind one of college football’s best players. He’s also blessed with an insatiable desire to get better, one which took center stage after reportedly passing out during one of his strenuous routines. On the field, he is a heart-and-soul runner who refuses to leave yardage on the field. Combine desire with plus athleticism, and you have an intriguing prospect. He plays apprentice for one more year before exploding in 2017.
Marlon Mack, RB South Florida Bulls
Marlon Mack had a productive freshman year, yet it was not one which got me interested. Year two, however, was a different story, as Mack displayed a great burst and slashing running style which chewed up yardage in chunks. He also remained a contributor in the passing game, and while his style may not transcend all systems, he has ample talent to contribute in the NFL for a long time.
Elijah Holyfield, RB Georgia Bulldogs
For me, Elijah Holyfield is a great example of why watching high school prospects over both their junior and senior seasons is an important exercise. During his junior year, I saw a well-built, sturdy runner who should have a role in college yet not excel. During his senior year, I saw special acceleration, added power, and great feet for a big man. Granted, I am no film maven, but it was this improvement along with a balanced set of skills which led to Holyfield becoming my number one freshmen runner. Even with Georgia returning two talented runners, he should contribute as a freshman and become the lead dog (no pun intended) and one of the nation’s better runners in 2017.
Bryce Love, RB Stanford Cardinal
It may be aggressive to place an undersized back with only 44 career touches this high. But Bryce Love has some special qualities – namely long speed and light feet – which make him an incredibly intriguing long-term investment. He was a big play on demand during his freshman season, and his versatile skill-set and flair for switching on the afterburners make him an ideal complement for do everything back Christian McCaffrey. Touches will be limited in the short-term, but upside in the long-term is immense.