The combine has passed, the draft is yet to happen which leaves us in a free agency frenzy… that is unless you are interested in “devy” leagues, short for developmental leagues. In this setup, managers can select players who are still in college (or high school) and stash them on a separate, inactive roster until they are drafted into the NFL.
For the devy manager, there is truly no offseason as we must take the months with no NFL to update our devy ranks and prepare to dig deep and draft some unknown lottery tickets hoping that you can pick up the next Jonathan Taylor or CeeDee Lamb before your league mates even know their name.
Since devy players have even less data behind them than incoming NFL rookies, we are somewhat hamstrung in what to look at. Modifying my methods that I use to evaluate rookies, I will rank collegiate players taking into account the following:
Breakout Age (BOA) – I want players who earn at least 20% of their team’s receiving production, and the earlier they do that the better. Since we don’t have verified birthdates for many of these players, the assumption is they played their true freshman year at 18 years old.
Best Market Share (MS) – Not only should they breakout early but they also need to eventually earn 30% of their team’s receiving production.
BMI – Ideally, an elite prospect should fall between a 26-27 BMI.
Proximity to NFL – I will typically elevate players closer to getting drafted simply because we have more data on them and less uncertainty. However, some younger players can leapfrog older ones if they show exceptional production or potential early.
Projected Draft Capital – This is very nebulous, especially when looking at players years away from being eligible for the NFL, however a few things can be baked in such as school prestige and level of dominance. I admit at this point, it’s subjective but I do take this into account.
On to the Rankings!
|WR1||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
This is what a stud looks like. Chase would have been my WR1 in the 2020 rookie class had he been eligible. When you watch him he just has an extra gear over everyone else on the field. Buttery smooth adjustments and true breakaway speed define his game. He already checks all the boxes as a sophomore but it will be interesting to see what happens when the Joes (Burrow and Brady) depart the bayou.
|WR2||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Here we have another gentleman who as a sophomore has no more data points to achieve. Bateman broke out as a true freshman even with an established Tyler Johnson on the field. He has elite size and makes acrobatic catches the norm. Although Minnesota is not a big name brand, if he continues on this path in 2021 I don’t see any way he’s worse than a 2nd round pick.
|WR3||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Moore burst onto the scene as a true freshman, planting his flag with an astonishing 114-1258-12 campaign for the Boilermakers. He immediately shot up all devy lists and was probably many analysts WR1 for 2021. Unfortunately a season ending knee injury cost him almost all of the 2019 season. At this point we have to wait and see if he’s the same dynamic force that he showed us as a freshman.
|WR4||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
This may be a little high for some tastes, but I am hard pressed to rank Williams lower. His excellent sophomore campaign was overshadowed by all the other fireworks in the SEC West, but while playing with a true freshman QB he established dominance in the Tiger WR room. He is an imposing figure, with true alpha WR1 size, and I don’t see a flaw in his profile from a numbers standpoint. I think he can still be had relatively cheap in devy drafts but expect a surge in his junior year with additional growth from his quarterback.
|WR5||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
After a 1000 yard freshman year, Ross was tracking to challenge Moore as the 2021 WR1. However, he took a step back as a sophomore. He led Clemson in receptions but yards and TDs were second to Tee Higgins and he wasn’t able to earn 30% of a market share. Ross is a great talent, but his second year concerns me a smidge. While we can argue that Higgins was a worthy player to cede production to, I don’t think the truly great players need excuses. Case in point is my WR1 dominated as a sophomore even while sharing targets with a very good Justin Jefferson.
|WR6||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
At this time, Pickens should be considered the top WR in the class of 2022 after a strong finish to 2019. He led UGA in yards and TDs en route to a 27% market share as a true freshman for a national title contender. Such an accomplishment is so rare, and Pickens may prove to be a once-in-a-long-time type player. Only 18, I hope he will put some meat on those bones before it’s all said and done.
|WR7||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Someone needs to explain to me how Purdue has 2 of the best receivers in the country. I don’t get it, but neither Moore nor Bell are randos who came out of nowhere, they were both 4 star recruits out of high school. When Moore went down, Bell showed up in a big way and torched the B1G for 86-1035-7 as a true freshman. Granted, that’s not quite what Moore did at 18 years old, but still quite impressive. Next season will be interesting with both playing together for the first time, and I think they will thrive in 2020.
|WR8||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Tylan Wallace||Oklahoma State||2021||19||36%||72/185/25.1|
Wallace has some of the best statistical production you’ll find, but I have concerns about his ability to run a full route tree. He’s as much a deep threat as anyone but has a slighter frame than I’d prefer when shooting for a NFL WR1. He won’t be an early declare which in general isn’t a great sign but we know injury is why he chose to return for his senior season. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s one of the fastest WRs in the 2021 class but that doesn’t convince me he’s going to be a stud for fantasy at the next level.
|WR9||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
One of the few bright spots for an abysmal FSU offense, Terry elevated his atrocious QBs and has proven to be a dangerous weapon ever since shedding his redshirt. He share some similarities with Wallace, with a relatively thin frame, a game that emphasizes the deep ball and a 4 year college tour. It would be nice to see him develop a more well-rounded game in 2020.
|WR10||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
We have to take notice any time a teenager commands 30% of his team’s receiving production. Brown came out of the (powder) blue to lead the Tarheels in yards and scores. As Sam Howell’s best deep threat, he averaged a whopping 20.3 yards per reception. If he can build on this sensational sophomore season, Brown will shoot up everyone’s devy rankings this fall.
|WR11||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Chris Olave||Ohio State||2021||19||24%||73/188/24.8|
I felt compelled to force Olave in here, but he really has one of the weakest profiles on this list. The only other player listed who is 19 and hasn’t broken a 30% MS is Justyn Ross, but at least he led his own team with 1000 yards as a freshman. Olave, however, has earned a decent MS on a team becoming known for spreading the ball around. Michael Thomas and Terry McLaurin famously never had high market shares and seemed to do well in the NFL. There’s still one more season for Olave to blow up and secure this ranking, but he’s also a risk to drop.
|WR12||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Garrett Wilson||Ohio State||2022||n/a||n/a||72/193/26.2|
Wilson is my best bet to pull a Ja’Marr Chase and usurp an established upper classman (Olave) as a soph. He was an elite prospect, already has great size, and produced admirably as a freshman. With the Buckeyes losing their 2nd and 3rd most productive wideouts, the door is open for Wilson to explode. It would not shock me if he becomes Fields’ top target and challenges Pickens for the top spot in 2021.
|WR13||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
There are tons of targets, yards and touchdowns that will be available in Norman next season. Like Wilson ahead of him, Haselwood was a 5 star recruit and possesses great size. He lands here in a devy list because of the immense potential, and when drafting devy players I like to swing for the fences. Who wants to stash a guy for 3 years to secure a “safe fantasy WR2”? I want guys who can be the premium WR1 in their own class and he could be that by the end of 2020.
|WR14||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Ngata rounds out the trio of rising sophomores I’m looking to buy before their breakout. They all share premium prospect status and a strong BMI as first year players. They also each enter a favorable 2020 situation with departing receivers ahead of them. Clemson loses Higgins and his production so Ngata has a shot to plant his flag with stud QB Trevor Lawrence also slinging it for one more year.
|WR15||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||USC||2021||19||21%||73/195/25.7|
This part of the list is where I think the ceiling gets lowered for the remaining prospects. Amon-Ra is the 2nd of 3 amazingly named St. Brown brothers to play FBS football, and he may end up being the best. Equanimeous showed promise as a sophomore for Notre Dame before regressing and becoming a 6th round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Osiris is currently toiling for targets at Stanford. But this is about Amon-Ra and he just barely qualified for a 19 year old breakout in 2019. He will have to take a major leap in 2020 before we start getting serious about calling him a future stud.
|WR16||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Before you read this, take a look at that BMI again. 29.4! As a true freshman! Of course these are all listed by their college so it could be fudged but that’s still an insane number. Combine that with an 18 year old breakout and CJJ is showing some rare potential. One thing that gives me pause is simply his college’s pedigree may limit his chances at being a first round NFL pick. He will really have to build on his initial dominance to force his way up draft boards, but even as a future 3rd round pick I’d be comfortable ranking him here.
|WR17||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Warren Jackson||Colorado State||2021||20||34%||78/219/25.3|
Colorado State has been a hotbed for underrated WR prospects over the last few years. First there was Twitter darling Rashard Higgins followed by Michael Gallup and then Preston Williams. While Higgins never popped, Gallup is now a solid fantasy WR2/3 in dynasty formats and Williams showed promise as an UDFA before getting injured. Jackson checks in at an exciting 6’6″ and blew up as a junior. While I’d like to see a teenage breakout, 20 years old is not a deal breaker. The fact he went for 34% also eases some concerns, although he will be a senior declaration when he comes out.
|WR18||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Smith caused a meltdown in the Twitter draft community with his sensational junior season in which his production eclipsed the great Jerry Jeudy. I have a hard time elevating Smith who still hasn’t earned a 30% MS, lacks ideal size and will stay all 4 years in college. His 68-1256-14 campaign can’t be ignored, however, and should he repeat that line a bump may be in order.
|WR19||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
Atwell is a difficult rank because his age adjusted production in 2019 should put him on an elite trajectory, but his size presents a real problem. He’s not just small, he’s impossibly small for an NFL player. A listing of 153 pounds may be a non-starter for many NFL teams come draft day and he oddly didn’t play in the return game for the Cardinals either. This ranking is optimistically hoping he puts on 30 pounds by the time it counts.
|WR20||School||Projected class||BOA||Best MS||Ht (in)/Wt (lb)/BMI|
|Sage Surratt||Wake Forest||2021||20||31%||75/215/26.9|
The Wake Forest offense was fun to watch in 2019, and Surratt was a big part of that before missing the last 3 games. Still, he managed to have a 31% MS even with those games missed. He did redshirt so the sophomore breakout was really his age-20 season, but it was noteworthy nonetheless. I like Surratt as a 2020 riser and potential impact receiver at the next level.
The remaining players may be unknown to most but present some intriguing upside.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas – 4 star prospect who lead team in receiving yards as true freshman. 27.9 BMI. Returned kicks.
Dontay Demus, Maryland – Quietly had 33% MS as a true sophomore in anemic Maryland offense.
Jake Smith, Texas – 6 TDs as a freshman from this highly rated recruit. Room to breakout after departure of Duvernay and Johnson.
Isaiah McKoy, Toledo – Broke 30% MS as a 19 year old. Needs to put weight on enticing 6’3″ frame.
Ahmarean Brown, Georgia Tech – 7 TDs and a massive 37% MS as a true freshman, but 21-396 line won’t turn heads. Returned kicks and punts.
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