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.
Today, we have some of the nation’s top running backs playing in feature games, and we get an SEC showdown between Texas A&M and Alabama.
Wake Up and Watch
No. 10 Wisconsin at Iowa (ESPN, Noon)
For us in the devy world, this game is really all about one player — Wisconsin running back Corey Clement. After his first two years, Clement looked like a surefire NFL star. He showed a ton of promise as a freshman, and the dude was extremely efficient as a sophomore.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
Since then, however, things have gone downhill. Clement battled injuries last season, getting just 48 carries, and he hasn’t been nearly as efficient this year, although he’s dealt with on-again-off-again injuries this fall.
While he hasn’t received a huge workload yet in his career — he will this year if he stays healthy — Clement has gone through a troubling decline in efficiency. In his defense, four of Clement’s games this season have come against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and LSU, four teams with stout defenses.
In last week’s loss to Ohio State, Clement balled out. He carried the ball 25 times for 164 yards (6.6 YPC), adding one grab for 18 yards. It was a promising performance. In such a loaded running back class, Clement likely needs more showings like this to ensure his status as a Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft.
In searching for other prospects in this game, we find Wisconsin wideout Jazz Peavy. A 6-foot-1, 184-pound junior, Peavy is seeing consistent playing time for the first time in his career. He’s racked up 21 receptions for 357 yards and three scores this season, putting up a 4-76-1 line against the Buckeyes.
For Iowa, junior running back Akrum Wadley — who splits touches with LeShun Daniels Jr. — is trending in the opposite direction of Clement, showing good year-to-year improvement and putting together a breakout campaign this year. After posting 5.6 and 6.0 yards per carry, respectively, the past two seasons, he’s up to 7.4 yards per rush this year, turning 80 carries into 592 yards and eight touchdowns.
[arve url=”https://youtu.be/-g7LFQoGzeM” maxwidth=”1000″]
Wadley runs with good balance, and he has good feet and acceleration. He’s not a back who runs through a lot of contact, but he can make a guy miss. Wadley is also a capable pass catcher, making 11 grabs for 116 yards and one score. There is a lot to like here, and Wadley could keep elevating his draft stock if plays well against the Badgers.
Other notable teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:
• North Carolina State (RB Matthew Dayes) at Louisville (QB Lamar Jackson, RB Brandon Radcliff, WR James Quick, WR Jamari Staples), ABC, Noon
• Oklahoma State (QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington) at Kansas, FS1, Noon
• Central Michigan at Toledo (RB Kareem Hunt), ESPN3, Noon
• Texas (WR John Burt, QB Shane Buechele) at Kansas State, ESPN2, Noon
No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama (CBS, 3:30)
Alabama is so dominant. Coming off a 49-10 beatdown of Tennessee in Knoxville, the Crimson Tide opened as a 17.5-point favorite over the sixth-ranked Aggies, who are unbeaten. It’s the largest spread for a game between top-10 teams in 12 years.
The Tide have three backs — Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Joshua Jacobs — who have received at least 30 carries and are gaining at least 6.0 yards per attempt. Harris, a sophomore, is leading the way, going for 572 yards on 69 attempts (8.3 YPC). At 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, Harris was the top-ranked running back in the 2015 class, per Rivals. He’s been at his best in Alabama’s biggest games this year, especially against Arkansas and Ole Miss.
The Crimson Tide — as they do as pretty much every position — have big-time weapons on the outside. Sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley (39-477-4), junior wideout ArDarius Stewart (26-379-3) and tight end O.J. Howard (14-209-1) are Alabama’s best pass-game options. Ridley is our top-ranked receiver for 2018, and Howard comes in second among 2017 tight ends.
Texas A&M boasts a trio of enticing wideouts, led by sophomore Christian Kirk, who trails only Ridley in our 2018 rankings. Kirk has made 40 catches for 352 yards and four touchdowns after making 80 receptions for 1,009 yards and seven scores last year as a true freshman.
Senior Josh Reynolds is having a nice year, posting 25 grabs for 488 yards and four scores. Junior Speedy Noil has dealt with injuries this year, and he’s made just eight catches for 116 yards and one touchdown, continuing to disappoint after being a big-time recruit.
True freshman running back Trayveon Williams has been a breakout star for Texas A&M. He has run it 82 times for 705 yards and five touchdowns, gaining a pristine 8.6 yards per carry. He has also hauled in 13 passes for 71 yards. Williams is coming off a monster outing against Tennessee two weeks ago, racking up 217 yards and one score on 28 carries. He’ll face a stiff test in this one, but it’s a chance for him to show what he can do against college football’s premier defensive team.
Other notable teams in midday action, along with some players to focus on, include:
• Colorado at Stanford (RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Bryce Love), PAC12N, 3:00
• North Carolina (RB Elijah Hood, WR Ryan Switzer, WR Mack Hollins, WR Bug Howard) at Virginia, ACCN, 3:00
• Illinois at No. 3 Michigan (TE Jake Butt, WR Jehu Chesson), BTN, 3:30
• Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan (WR Corey Davis), ESPN3, 3:30
• Purdue at No. 8 Nebraska (WR Alonzo Moore, WR Jordan Westerkamp is questionable), ABC, 3:30
• No. 19 Utah at UCLA (RB Soso Jamabo, QB Josh Rosen), FOX, 4:00
• Middle Tennessee at Missouri (RB Damarea Crockett), SECN, 4:00
No. 2 Ohio State at Penn State (ABC, 8:00)
This game features several quality running backs, led by Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who is our top-ranked runner for 2018. Barkley, a sophomore, has run for 582 yards and eight touchdowns this year while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. This comes after a freshman season where he totaled 1,076 rushing yards and seven scores on 182 attempts. Barkley has also caught 31 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns in his career, displaying all-around ability.
For Ohio State, the Buckeyes have three talented backs. Freshmen Mike Weber and Demario McCall are off to good starts. Weber leads the attack, racking up 612 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 94 carries (6.5 YPC). McCall owns just 20 attempts, but he’s gone for 133 yards and scored twice while gaining 7.2 yards per rush. Junior Curtis Samuel is running as Weber’s backup, carrying the rock 62 times for 456 yards (7.4 YPC) and three touchdowns.
Per usual for Urban Meyer teams, the Bucks don’t have a high-volume passing attack. Sophomore receiver Noah Brown burst onto the scene with a four-touchdown game in Ohio State’s win at Oklahoma earlier this season, but he has made just 16 receptions for 213 yards and six scores. Samuel actually leads the team in catches (29) and yards (403) out of the backfield.
For Penn State, wideouts DeAndre Thompkins and Chris Godwin have flashed some ability. A sophomore, Thompkins has hauled in 18 passes for 328 yards and one score. A 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior, Godwin has posted a 23-325-2 line this year after making 69 catches for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns a year ago.
Other notable teams in evening action, along with some players to focus on, include:
• No. 17 Arkansas (RB Rawleigh Williams III) at No. 21 Auburn (RB Kerryon Johnson), ESPN, 6:00
• Louisiana Lafayette (RB Elijah McGuire) at Texas State, ESPN3, 7:00
• East Carolina (WR Zay Jones) at Cincinnati, CBSSN, 7:00
• No. 11 Houston (QB Greg Ward Jr) at SMU (WR Courtland Sutton), ESPN2, 7:00
• Oregon State (WR Jordan Villamin) at No. 5 Washington (RB Myles Gaskin), PAC12N, 6:30
• Michigan State (WR Donnie Corley, RB LJ Scott) at Maryland, BTN, 7:30
• No. 16 Oklahoma (RB Joe Mixon, WR Dede Westbrook, RB Samaje Perine is out, QB Baker Mayfield, WR/TE Mark Andrews) at Texas Tech, FOX, 8:00
• No. 23 Mississippi at No. 25 LSU (RB Leonard Fournette, RB Derrius Guice, WR Malachi Dupre, WR Travin Dural), ESPN, 9:00
• Washington State (QB David Falk, WR Gabe Marks) at Arizona State, PAC12N, 10:00