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 wide receiver, part one.
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Malachi Dupre, WR LSU Tigers
A devy darling from the moment he stepped on campus, Malachi Dupre’s production has been modest (57 receptions, 1,016 yards, 11 touchdowns over two seasons) yet his upside remains immense. A pogo-stick in pads, Dupre excels in elevating over coverage and coming down with the football in high traffic situations. He was a bit more mobile in 2015 as well, showing some yet unseen skills after the catch. He’s still a bit of a straight-line athlete but Dupre is an excellent prospect who would explode if LSU got anything resembling decent quarterback play.
Courtland Sutton, WR Southern Methodist Mustangs
One of your out of nowhere stars for the 2015 college football season was Courtland Sutton. I am not going to pretend as though I knew anything about him until late in 2015. However, throw on the highlight reel and you’ll come away thinking Sutton is a NFL talent playing against woefully overmatched defenders. Big, physical, and without many athletic limitations, it is hard to believe Sutton landed at SMU and as a safety no less. Sutton is a man amongst boys right now and has soared into the upper echelon of 2017’s receiver prospects.
Deon Cain, WR Clemson Tigers
It was a productive season on the field for Deon Cain, and he eventually replaced Mike Williams as the Tigers big play threat in the passing game. Unfortunately, a late season suspension clouded his future, and while things look promising for a return to the team come fall, it was an unnecessary interruption of a promising start to his career. The former high school quarterback showcased plus RAC skills, and despite lacking dominant explosive athleticism he was able to beat defenders deep and use his developed frame to make a play on the football. Cain needs to play a bit faster in 2016, but the foundation is there and the expectation is he continues to grow as he gains experience.
DeKaylin Metcalf, WR Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels
DeKaylin Metcalf may have the most exciting tape of any 2016 receiver recruit. He will sacrifice his body to make any play and his long, leggy strides make him entertaining to watch in the open field. Physically, there may not be a receiver with more upside, as Metcalf’s combination of size and physicality are hard to beat. Early production is unlikely given the depth of Ole Miss’ receiver group but come 2017 he could be one of the nation’s elite receivers.
Trenton Irwin, WR Stanford Cardinal
True freshmen contributing for David Shaw’s group is rare, and when a player is talented enough to eschew the redshirt label, you need to take notice. This precipitated Christian McCaffrey’s breakout campaign and could be an indicator Trenton Irwin is poised to breakout in 2016. The Cardinal lose a lot of passing game production and the former top prep recruit really has few weaknesses. He’s arguably the top offensive recruit David Shaw has nabbed during his tenure and it should show during the 2016 campaign.
Tyler Vaughns, WR USC Trojans
There is nothing Tyler Vaughns does which is not smooth. He glides past defenders and effortlessly gesticulates his body to make tough catches look routine. His only real weakness is less than ideal athletic tools; he’s very slight and is not a particular dynamic athlete. If he can add weight and in turn add explosiveness, he will be an absolute terror for Pac 12 defenses.
Collin Johnson, WR Texas Longhorns
Recruits often slide in the rankings for no reason other than they were hurt and missed a chunk of their senior season and/or All-American camps. Collin Johnson fits the bill, as this tall, lanky receiver with elite ball skills became an afterthought thanks to a shoulder injury which knocked out most of his season. The early entry could quickly emerge as the Longhorns best playmaker and prove his 2015 fall in the rankings to be foolish.
Simmie Cobbs, WR Indiana Hoosiers
Despite a few untimely drops, Simmie Cobbs is a serious weapon and continues Indiana’s trend of having big, intriguing wide receivers; let’s just hope is career arc brings him to greater heights than James Hardy or Cody Latimer. Much like the other big receivers on this list, he has top notch ball skills and can easily transition from route runner to pass catcher. He’s quietly one of the nation’s best prospects at the position.
Allen Lazard, WR Iowa State Cyclones
Allen Lazard predictably had a transition period to the college game. His high school competition was not exactly littered with division one talent. However, as his game comes around, you can see the talent and his rare ability to make plays in traffic. A jumbo receiver at 6-foot-5, 223, his game is predicated on the ability to beat people with sheer size, though he is no De’Runnya Wilson; no hourglass is needed to measure his straight line speed. Lazard is athletic enough to return punts for the Cyclones, and added mass should help him become at least an average athlete who can effectively use his size to win at the catch point.
Austin Mack, WR Ohio State Buckeyes
Another early enrollee with massive opportunity is Austin Mack, a well-built and fluid athlete who can dominate a football game in numerous ways. An effortless accelerator, Mack is a well-rounded talent who uses his hands effectively both as a receiver and route runner. Early buzz is positive and he could start for a loaded offense.