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.
We start with what should be a high-scoring game in the Big 12, then we take a peek at the SEC, and we’ll finish with a devy-filled affair on the West Coast.
Wake Up and Watch
Baylor at No. 11 Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2, 12:00)
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If you like defense, tackle your to-do list during this game. The over/under is set at a cool 82.5 points on some betting sites, and there should be plenty of fireworks. While I love watching games like LSU against Alabama, where both teams boast a bevy of NFL-ready defensive talent, this matchup should give us a chance to see some devy assets in good form.
Starting with the Bears, receivers K.D. Cannon and Ishmael Zamora have gotten off to sluggish starts. Cannon, a junior, has made 40 grabs for 560 yards and six scores. After missing a chunk of games early on due to suspension, Zamora, a sophomore, has hauled in 25 passes for 292 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior Shock Linwood and sophomore Terence Williams have shared backfield duties. After averaging 6.3 yards per carry on 88 attempts as a freshman, Williams has run it 121 times for 691 yards (5.7 YPC) and eight scores. Linwood has been a big producer the past two seasons, going for at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 and 2015. Linwood owns a 100-594-2 line so far this year, gaining a solid 5.9 yards per rush.
For the Sooners, it’s been a very Oklahoma year. After losing two of their first three games, the Norman faithful raised their annual fuss about Bob Stoops, and then by the end of the year, the Sooners are in the top 15 and playing in a good bowl. It’s a different brand of football, though. Prior to this season, the last time Oklahoma allowed 40 points in a game was in 2014; they’ve given up at least 40 points in four games this year.
Only one receiver on the Sooners has over 360 yards, and it’s senior Dede Westbrook, who has put up 1,166 yards and 12 scores on 64 receptions. I guess you could say he’s their go-to guy. Sophomore Mark Andrews, who profiles as an NFL tight end, checks in with 25 catches for 359 yards and six touchdowns.
Tailback duo Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine — both of whom could declare for the draft after this year — are a load to handle. Perine is sporting an 88-475-6 line, picking up 5.4 yards per run. Mixon owns a 119-813-5 line (6.8 YPC). Mixon is also a big factor as a pass-game weapon, snagging 24 balls for 357 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, Mixon is a smooth runner who never looks like he’s running hard, but he doesn’t have much trouble busting off big plays — owning a 65-yard run and a 60-yard reception.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is a Johnny Manziel-type. He freelances and struggles from the pocket, at times, but he is mighty entertaining. He’s completing a pristine 71.2 percent of his passes with 31 scores and six picks. Those stats are plenty good enough to be a Heisman contender in a non-Lamar Jackson world, but Oklahoma losing two of its first three games didn’t help Mayfield’s case (fair or unfair).
Other notable teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:
• Mississippi State (WR Fred Ross) at No. 1 Alabama (RB Damien Harris, RB Joshua Jacobs, RB Bo Scarbrough, WR Calvin Ridley, TE O.J. Howard), ESPN, 12:00
• South Carolina at Florida (RB Lamical Perine, RB Jordan Scarlett, WR Antonio Callaway) CBS, 12:00
• Kentucky (RB Benny Snell) at Tennessee (RB Jalen Hurd, RB Alvin Kamara is questionable, WR Josh Malcone), SECN, 12:00
• SMU (WR Courtland Sutton) at East Carolina (WR Zay Jones), ESPNEWS, 12:00
• No. 16 West Virginia at Texas (WR John Burt, QB Shane Buechele), N/A, 12:00
• Rutgers at Michigan State (WR Donnie Corley, RB LJ Scott), BTN, 12:00
• No. 10 Penn State (RB Saquon Barkley, WR DeAndre Thompkins, WR Chris Godwin) at Indiana, ABC, 12:00
• Syracuse at North Carolina State (RB Matthew Dayes), ACCN, 12:00
No. 9 Auburn at Georgia (CBS, 3:30)
This game is heavy on devy running backs. Georgia features Nick Chubb and Sony Michel while Auburn has sophomores Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway.
Petteway has exploded onto the scene, helping the Tigers rip off six straight wins. Auburn has leaned on him heavily, saddling him with at least 25 carries in each of the last four games, including one insane 39-carry outing. Despite the heavy volume, Petteway has remained efficient, gaining 6.4 yards per carry while rushing for 1,106 yards and seven scores. Johnson started the year as the top dog but has since taken a back seat to Petteway. Still, Johnson’s 125-616-9 line is pretty good.
For Chubb, one of the top 2017 dynasty prospects, it’s been a little bit of a good-news, bad-news scenario. The good news is he’s healthy and playing after his 2015 season ended with a serious knee injury. The bad news is he’s not playing up to his normal level.
Chubb gained 7.1 and 8.1 yards per run, respectively, in each of his first two season, but Chubb’s yards-per-attempt clip is down to 4.7 this year. It’s still likely he comes out after this season and is one of the first backs taken in both the real NFL Draft and 2017 rookie drafts. With that said, his pre-draft process will be interesting, especially with his knee issues.
Chubb could possibly benefit from staying at Georgia, putting up big numbers in 2017 and reclaiming his once-lofty draft stock. Then again, if he stays and gets hurt again, it could be a Marcus Lattimore situation. Chubb is a supreme talent and someone the dynasty community is very excited about, so hopefully he finishes the year strongly.
Michel had gotten some extra run this year and showed relatively well. A junior, he’s gained 5.1 yards per rush with a 95-487-2 line. Junior Isaiah McKenzie (32-459-6) and sophomore Terry Godwin (24-307) have been the top targets for freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.
Other notable teams in midday action, along with some players to focus on, include:
• Miami (QB Brad Kaaya, WR Stacy Coley, RB Joseph Yearby, RB Mark Walton, WR Ahmmon Richards) at Virginia, ACCN, 2:00
• Army vs Notre Dame (QB DeShone Kizer, RB Josh Adams, WR Equanimeous St. Brown), NBC, 3:30
• Pittsburgh (RB James Conner) at No. 2 Clemson (WR Mike Williams, TE Jordan Leggett, QB Deshaun Watson, WR Deon Cain, WR Artavis Scott, RB Wayne Gallman), ABC, 3:30
• Georgia Tech at No. 14 Virginia Tech (WR Isaiah Ford), ESPNU, 3:30
• Illinois at No. 7 Wisconsin (RB Corey Clement), ESPN3, 3:30
• No. 5 Ohio State (RB Mike Weber, RB Demario McCall, RB Curtis Samuel, WR Noah Brown) at Maryland, ESPN, 3:30
• Texas Tech (WR Jonathan Giles) at No. 13 Oklahoma State (QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington), FS1, 3:30
• Stanford (RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Bryce Love) at Oregon (RB Royce Freeman, RB Tony Brooks-James, WR Darren Carrington, TE John Mundt, TE Pharaoh Brown), PAC12N, 4:00
No. 20 USC at No. 4 Washington (FOX, 7:30)
We just recently hit up Washington, so let’s spend our time on the Trojans. After a 1-3 start, death and despair has quickly turned into a good season for USC, and things started looking up when redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold took over under center.
The 179th-rated recruit in the 2015 high school class, Darnold owns a 67.9 percent completion percentage with 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s helped unlock USC’s deep stable of talent at the offensive skill positions.
It starts with JuJu Smith-Schuster, a junior who will be a first-round pick in 2017 rookie drafts if he bolts for the NFL after this season. His overall stat line of 48-641-8 is a little underwhelming for a player of his stature, but Smith-Schuster has totaled at least 98 receiving yards in four of Darnold’s six starts. Senior wideout Darreus Rogers (38-487-2) and freshman Deontay Burnett (31-329-4) have given USC two other decent playmakers on the outside.
In the backfield, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II are having nice seasons. A sophomore, Jones has carried the rock 100 times for 679 yards and seven touchdowns. Davis, a senior, has run it 74 times for 476 yards (6.4 YPC) and two scores.
Other notable teams in evening action, along with some players to focus on, include:
• Wake Forest at No. 6 Louisville (QB Lamar Jackson, RB Brandon Radcliff, WR James Quick, WR Jamari Staples), ESPN2, 7:00
• No. 24 LSU (RB Derrius Guice, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Travin Dural, WR Malachi Dupre, WR D.J. Chark) at No. 25 Arkansas (RB Rawleigh Williams III), CBS, 7:00
• Ole Miss (TE Evan Engram, QB Chad Kelly) at No. 8 Texas A&M (WR Josh Reynolds, WR Speedy Noil, WR Christian Kirk, RB Trayveon Williams), SECN, 7:30
• Minnesota (RB Shannon Brooks, RB Rodney Smith) at No. 19 Nebraska (WR Alonzo Moore, WR Jordan Westerkamp), BTN, 7:30
• No. 3 Michigan (WR Jehu Chesson, TE Jake Butt) at Iowa, ABC, 8:00
• Oregon State at UCLA (RB Soso Jamabo, QB Josh Rosen), PAC12N, 9:00
• No. 12 Colorado at Arizona (RB Brandon Dawkins, RB Nick Wilson), FS1, 10:00
• San Diego State (RB Donnel Pumphrey) at Nevada, N/A, 10:30
• California at No. 23 Washington State (QB David Falk, WR Gabe Marks), ESPN, 10:30