The off-season is always an exciting time for dynasty owners. This goes double if your league also has a devy aspect. Between depth-chart shuffling, recruiting season, and spring ball, there is a lot going on in the college football world.
This comes with the disclaimer reiterating fantasy football is an inexact science. This is exacerbated when you throw college talent into the mix. Many guys not on this list are sure to breakout and become notable NFL prospects. But these are in my estimation the individuals with the most next level potential.
90 – WR Blake Lynch, Baylor Bears
Depth has been an issue in Baylor’s post-scandal era, but it is said lack of depth which allowed Blake Lynch to flaunt his versatility throughout the 2016 campaign. A former high school quarterback, Lynch spent time at running back when needed, a testament to the athleticism of a 6’3”, 200+ pound receiver. With excellent feet and a large frame, Lynch is merely scratching the surface of his potential. He’s locked in as the top receiver for Baylor in 2017 and we should see his breakout season.
89 – RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Justice Hill exploded onto the Big 12 scene as a true freshman, offering the Cowboys their own variation of the Big Three with quarterback Mason Rudolph, Hill and receiver James Washington. For his part, Hill proved dynamic in space and is incredibly decisive at the line of scrimmage, resulting in him making a living at the second level of the defense. He’s listed at 171 pounds, which is hugely problematic. If he cannot add good weight, we may looking at a Donnel Pumphrey type of prospect: elite producer whom you want to see succeed, but one who lacks the frame to do really thrive in the NFL.
88 – WR Jalen Reagor, TCU Horned Frogs
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The 2017 recruiting class is loaded with smaller receivers who are nearly unstoppable with the football in their hands, and none in my estimation offer more upside than Jalen Reagor. In addition to having at least adequate size (5’11”, 185) Reagor is comfortable in space or going up and getting the football. A truly dynamic athlete with ball skills galore, I expect him to make an immediate impact for the Horned Frogs as they attempt to kick-start what became a rather moribund offense in 2016.
87 – RB John Kelly, Tennessee Volunteers
You could make the case John Kelly is a one speed running back, but his one speed is fast. An aggressive runner with an insatiable desire to pick up extra yards, Kelly took advantage of Jalen Hurd’s bizarre season and actually led all Volunteer running backs in total rushing yards during the season. There’s always some concern with maximum effort running backs as it is tough to tell how well their overall skills translate, but Kelly has maximized his opportunities and should be one of the SEC’s better backs in 2017.
86 – WR Trent Irwin, Stanford Cardinal
A one-time highly regarded devy asset, Trent Irwin has become an afterthought, though I feel much of this is outside of his control. He played sparingly as a true freshman – actually a notable accomplishment for a school which redshirts quite a bit – and was hindered by backwards quarterback play in 2016. A remarkably polished young receiver with excellent deep speed, I expect better things ahead.
85 – WR Kevin Stepherson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The least decorated of all incoming freshman receivers, Kevin Stepherson nonetheless surpassed his peers in production as he posted 462 yards and five touchdowns. Looking like a natural replacement for the departed Will Fuller, Stepherson got on top of defenders with his speed and showed an ability to make plays in traffic at times as well. He has things to work – adding bulk would be a good start – but it was a promising debut from the Jacksonville native.
84 – QB Jacob Eason, Georgia Bulldogs
Securing the commitment of Jacob Eason after Mark Richt was fired was paramount for Kirby Smart and his staff, and Eason’s progression remains the catalyst for any early success Smart experiences in his tenure. The plus traits with Eason are obvious; he’s tall with a monster arm and despite not being an elite athlete, he can move comfortably around in the pocket and buy time with mobility. He held his own as a freshman in the SEC, though him taking the next step is what stands between the Bulldogs and a return to the SEC title game.
83 – WR Quadree Henderson, Pittsburgh Panthers
The NFL has long been a copycat league, and with the recent success of Tyreek Hill (a popular comparison) a multi-purpose weapon like Quadree Henderson will surely pique the interest of NFL evaluators. Henderson averaged an absurd ten plus yards per carry this year and offers dynamic skills in space. He’s not going to be a conventional weapon in the NFL – teams will have to be savvy with how they utilize him – but his combination of athleticism and return ability should have teams intrigued by his potential.
82 – RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa Hawkeyes
It is easy to write Akrum Wadley off as another productive Iowa tailback without a ton of long-term potential. I have done this myself. Dig a bit deeper, however, and Wadley is more than just a grinder built for 16-14 games. He’s adept at working in tight spaces and carried the Iowa offense against an elite Michigan defense in their late season upset. A well-built, versatile back has a role in the NFL and Wadley checks all the boxes.
81 – WR Tyler Vaughns, USC Trojans
Despite being a five star recruit per several recruiting systems, it is no surprise Tyler Vaughns did not make an impact early. The Trojans had an established depth chart and a slight frame was Vaughns’ biggest question mark out of high school. Fast forward to 2017, however, and both Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers are gone and opportunity is ample with Sam Darnold under center. A smooth route runner with impressive ball skills, Vaughns may be the most talented receiver on the roster and is a prime breakout candidate in the Pac 12.