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Devy Weekly: Alpha Receivers and Unique Running Backs

Welcome to the fifth installment of the 2019 Devy Weekly series! If you’ve been following along, we’ve been covering top college football players who recently helped their case for a shot at an NFL future. And we’re back at it again! We’ll break this down by position, giving you players to target in all areas of need for your dynasty rosters.

If you’re new to Devy Leagues, the long and short of it is this: You get to draft college football players and roster them long before they are drafted to an NFL roster.

Some of these players will be names that you recognize. Others might be the kind of player you didn’t know until yesterday. Regardless, the point is to provide you with some names to tuck away for draft day or give you potential trade targets in your leagues.

There were so many players that killed it in Week 4 of college football! It certainly makes it tough to pick which players to highlight, but just like last week and every week here are seven players who absolutely dominated their respective games.


Joe Burrow, LSU

Finally! It took 126 years of LSU football to do it, but they finally have both an offensive scheme and a quarterback that doesn’t completely waste the elite wide receiver talent they always seem to have. Thank you Steve Ensminger (offensive coordinator), Joe Brady (passing game coordinator), and Joe Burrow (newfound QB legend, Joey Football). But before we talk about the Tigers’ new offense, let’s look at where Burrow came from.

Burrow is one of several recent transfer quarterbacks to find immense success. For those unfamiliar, Burrow sat on the bench for THE (*rolls eyes*) Ohio State Buckeyes for three years before deciding it was time to geaux to the Tigers. But when he did finally start in 2018, Burrow immediately found some success.

It was clear that coaches wanted to ease him into his new starting role given his average depth of target and number of pass attempts early last season. However, by the end of the season Burrow looked comfortable perhaps bordering on elite. He finished the last four games of the season with 10 passing touchdowns versus just one interception. He also added 156 rushing yards and three rush TDs over that stretch.

Now in 2019, the training wheels are completely off for Burrow. LSU’s new offensive scheme spreads receivers three- and four-wide. Last Saturday Burrow even went to an empty set on a few occasions, going five-wide with the running back at right WR. This new-age Tigers offense creates space for Burrow to operate cleanly in the pocket, and he’s lighting up defenses early.

Last Saturday Burrow destroyed Vanderbilt for 398 yards passing and six TDs on just 34 pass attempts. Two weeks before that, he threw for almost 500 yards against Texas. He’s nearly doubled his adjusted yards per completion year-over-year1 and is looking nearly perfect from a metrics point of view.2 If he continues to improve — hitting his elite receivers with anticipatory throws and showcasing his acumen as a field general — Burrow could sneak into first round discussions next spring.

Running Back

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Sometimes it’s fun to look back at the very beginning, before we knew players would blow up. In late August 2017, Jonathan Taylor had already earned the moniker “Beast Mode” from his teammates as a true freshman. So I decided to add a little suggestion to watch for him as a breakout candidate in my old #TouchdownTime series.

Troy Fumagalli didn’t end up hitting like I thought, but Taylor has essentially broken college football from the day he stepped on a Wisconsin football field. Many of you already know this by now, but let’s break down some of the ridiculous things that essentially guarantee Taylor goes early in the NFL Draft.

– Taylor just cracked the top 50 in collegiate career rushing yards, and he’s only three games into his third season.

– He’s currently on pace to post his third consecutive season with 2,000 yards from scrimmage.

– Taylor has played 30 college games. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards 25 times.

– He has averaged 162 rushing yards per game against Big Ten teams (not just cupcake teams).

– Taylor already ran a 4.42-second forty-yard dash and posted NFL-level agility and burst scores in high school. He’s going to kill the NFL Combine.

Plus, on top of all that, Taylor just rushed for 200 yards in three quarters against Michigan this past weekend. The accolades just continue to pile up. Taylor may be the best back in the nation. Good luck adding him to any and all the dynasty squads you can!

Max Borghi, Washington State

In case you missed it, Washington State likes to pass the ball. And as a result, elite rushing numbers are nearly impossible for any Cougar running back. However, Borghi is an elite producer in a rather unique way. As a freshman, 53 of his 125 touches3 were receptions. His 2019 split is a little bit different, but Borghi is what the new-age all-purpose back could look like in the near future. Still, don’t let his receiving usage downplay his rushing ability.

Borghi tallied 123 rushing yards on 15 carries this past weekend against UCLA.  This was his first career game with more than 10 carries (normal for Washington State backs), so this was significant. Many backs lose efficiency over a large sample, but Borghi consistently delivered positive yardage. In fact, Borghi failed to gain yardage on only one carry in the entire contest. On top of that, thanks to his alleged 4.38-forty speed, Borghi almost won the Cougars the game late with a 65-yard reception. When you combine Borghi’s speed, efficiency, receiving acumen, and running ability, it’s clear he should receive some serious NFL Draft consideration. He remains a late-round target in devy drafts right now, but his value should continue to grow this year.

Wide Receiver

Michael Pittman Jr., USC

USC has been looking for a true alpha wide receiver since JuJu Smith-Schuster left campus in 2017. They’ve tried to feature Deontay Burnett. They’ve tried to turn Tyler Vaughns into a lead receiver. Last year they even tried to let a true freshman lead the way. But now it looks like USC has finally found their alpha in Michael Pittman Jr.

When Pittman began his career at USC, the receiver room was crowded and he struggled to find the field. But even when opportunity loomed shortly thereafter, Pittman found ways to get himself hurt, leading to less-than-stellar results. But 2019 is a new story, and just by looking at his receptions per game you’ll see that there’s a clear difference in his progression and expectations.

Pittman just destroyed Utah’s above-average defense last weekend for 10 receptions, 232 yards, and a TD with a third-string QB slinging the rock.

But this is exactly the type of season Pittman had to have going into his final collegiate year. As I covered in my College Receiving Production Analysis this summer, Pittman’s production profile was not ideal entering 2019. He was going to have to drastically improve his overall performance by nearly double to post draft-friendly numbers. It looks like he’s on pace for that now. He currently boasts a 33.5% dominator rating and an even more important 65th-percentile yards per team pass attempt by NFL prospect standards. If Pittman’s hot streak continues, his combination of size, speed, and body control could sneak him into Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

As I covered this summer, LSU has become the real “WR U” over the past five seasons. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and now even D.J. Chark are all producing in the NFL. And it looks like Ja’Marr Chase is just one in a trio of current LSU receivers that could join the growing legend of elite Tiger wideouts.

Oh, and if you’re upset about me calling LSU “WR U,” then here are NFL PPR Fantasy Points by university from 2014 to 2018:

Chase just dropped 10 receptions, 229 yards, and four touchdowns on Vanderbilt’s already-crushed hopes and dreams last weekend. Coming into the game, Chase had only 10 total receptions in his three previous contests. So where did this explosion come from?

Well, for starters, Justin Jefferson (LSU’s lead WR through three games) injured his ankle in the first half. Then after the game, we found out that Terrace Marshall Jr. had been struggling with a stress fracture and actually had minor surgery earlier in the week. So, when the other two beasts in the three-head LSU WR monster go down, where do the targets go? Apparently they all go to Chase. With Jefferson operating at less than 100% and Marshall set to miss time, Chase is going to get an extended look with alpha receiver target share. If he takes advantage of his newfound opportunity, Chase’s stock should blow up in devy and dynasty leagues. Keep an eye on this former four-star stud.

Tight End

Cole Kmet, Notre Dame

Before last Saturday’s bout between Notre Dame and Georgia, Cole Kmet had career totals of 17 receptions, 176 yards, and zero touchdowns in 13 games. On Saturday, Kmet grabbed nine receptions for 108 yards and a score against one of the best teams he’s ever faced.

So where did that come from? Why didn’t Notre Dame take advantage of this 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound monster before? Well, Notre Dame sent two tight ends to the NFL recently in Alize Mack and Durham Smythe — each of whom earned more snaps than Kmet prior to this season. Kmet also broke his collarbone this summer, forcing him to miss the Notre Dame’s first three games.

However, now that he’s back and healthy, this former top-100 recruit should start to make a splash. The Fighting Irish only have one proven receiver (Chase Claypool) right now, so Kmet’s implied market share could easily reach 25%. If he posts that kind of dominator rating, Kmet will fly up NFL Draft lists.

IDP (Individual Defensive Player)

Joe Bachie, Michigan State (LB)

This is actually my third time writing about Joe Bachie in an IDP Devy piece. He’s been dominating the Big Ten for three seasons now and his NFL Draft stock continues to rise. If he keeps posting ridiculous performances like he did against Northwestern last week, this stud linebacker could work his way into top-50 overall conversations.

Bachie wrapped up 14 total tackles,4 a sack, an interception, and two passes defended in last week’s game alone. Bachie is absolutely everywhere on every snap. He may not be quite as athletic, but his game is very reminiscent of Luke Kuechly. He gets downhill quick and rarely misses a tackle. Plus he can get after the quarterback and stay with receivers in coverage. Bachie’s going to make some NFL team extremely happy one day.

I hope you enjoyed the fifth Devy Weekly of 2019! Expect more future NFL prospect coverage throughout the season. Find me @FF_TravisM on Twitter if you have any questions. And until next time, keep living that Dynasty Life!

Image Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Jonathan Taylor.

  1. now 14.3 AY/A.  (back)
  2. 80% completion rate, 13.7% TD%, 1.6% INT%  (back)
  3. This translates to a 43% clip.  (back)
  4. 13 of them solo, two for a loss  (back)

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