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Ahead of The Game - College Devy Prospects (Preseason Edition)

College football is back! And even more than just that enjoyment of football being back on your TV, it's an early opportunity to see potential NFL talent before your league-mates.

The opening week of college football is typically filled with tune-up games for collegiate powerhouses and a myriad of random non-conference games. So rather than exploring the top prospects in college football, I'm going to start the season off with a few prospects who aren't on your radar now but could become deep sleepers in rookie drafts in 2019.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to start the season off with a player or two at each of the fantasy positions.

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McKenzie Milton - QB, Central Florida
Week 1 - at Connecticut (August 30)

McKenzie Milton was arguably the second most fun player on the most exciting team in the country in 2017, but with changes to the coaching staff, he'll have to prove that 2017 wasn't a fluke if he wants to remain one of the nation's most productive QBs.

Year G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int
2016 10 194 336 57.7 1983 5.9 5.6 10 7
2017 13 265 395 67.1 4037 10.2 11.1 37 9

The significant improvement to his AY/A and completion percentage will be worth watching in 2018 because regression is the expected outcome. But if he can repeat or possibly improve his efficiency, there will be buzz about him at the end of the year. Milton's biggest offensive loss, outside of his coach, is Tre'Quan Smith who is making waves at the New Orleans Saints' camp and he'll likely need to develop a rapport with his new group of receivers if he wants to keep his

Because he only stands 5-foot-11, Milton is fighting an uphill battle as an NFL prospect. He'll likely need a Russell Wilson or Baker Mayfield-like final season to elevate himself as a prospect. And in his first season without the offensive-minded Scott Frost leading his team, he'll have one more challenge facing him as he tries to stand out.


Running Back

Marquis Young - RB, Massachusetts
Week 1 - vs Duquesne (August 25)

Sometimes the biggest reason why a player is a sleeper in drafts is that he's a small school player who fantasy players haven't seen. Marquis Young is a three-year contributor as Massachusetts who is one strong season away from being a draftable candidate for NFL teams.

Marquis Young G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 12 154 973 6.3 7 14 66 4.7 0
2016 12 197 898 4.6 4 26 147 5.7 0
2017 12 182 982 5.4 9 35 280 8 2
Career 533 2853 5.4 20 75 493 6.6 2

Nothing from Young's statistics stand out as phenomenal. His rushing average is below the ideal 6.0 yards per carry. He's never eclipsed 200 carries for a season. His 6.6 yard per reception average is significantly below the target threshold of 10. And lastly, he's not an extreme TD producer despite playing a lower level of competition. But there a few real positives. He been a consistent contributor with three seasons over 150 carries and his usage in the passing game has increased each season and his near three catch per game 2017 season also came with increased yardage efficiency.

Young's 6-foot-1, 215 lbs size is ideal for becoming a notable NFL prospect. Young didn't immediately jump from high school to college, but he took a pit stop at prep school. But he used that season to increase his prospect pedigree and became a three-star prospect. If his rushing usage increases to 200+ carries and he gets closer to six yards per carry, there's reason to be moderately excited about Young as a super deep sleeper to monitor.

Rodney Smith - RB, Minnesota
Week 1 - vs New Mexico State (August 30)

Rodney Smith isn't my favorite prospect on this Minnesota roster, but he has two seasons with workhorse usage and it appears unlikely that the team will be pass-heavy in 2018.

Rodney Smith G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2014 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 12 157 670 4.3 2 16 124 7.8 0
2016 13 240 1158 4.8 16 23 188 8.2 0
2017 12 229 977 4.3 3 17 107 6.3 0
Career 626 2805 4.5 21 56 419 7.5 0

Smith lacks efficiency in the rushing game and receiving game, but he continues to be used in both. He's averaged more than one reception per game for three consecutive seasons and while he's below the ideal 10 yards per reception, his usage stands out as noteworthy.

For Smith to become draftable or even receive a combine invite, he'll need his second season over 1,000 yards rushing and that will require an average over 4.5 yards per carry. If he breaks out with a strong season, there's a chance he'll end up on an NFL roster as a priority UDFA, but that's likely his ceiling.


Wide Receiver

Keelan Doss - WR, UC Davis
Week 1 - At San Jose State (August 30)

It's disappointing that you likely won't be able to watch this game because Doss is THE small school prospect to watch in 2018. After racking up 1499 yards in 2017, he enters 2018 as one of the best "unknown" draft-eligible WRs in the class.

Rec Yards YPR TDs MS Yards MS TDs Dominator
2014 22 325 14.8 2 0.13 0.08 0.10
2016 66 911 13.8 10 0.35 0.53 0.44
2017 115 1499 13 7 0.39 0.24 0.32

Doss broke out as a redshirt sophomore with a 0.44 dominator rating and then followed it up with a bigger yardage season and a 0.32 dominator. Because he was three years removed from high school in 2016, he won't have an elite breakout age, but if he manages a strong final season, his prospect status will rise because of his market share numbers. Barring something surprising, he's going to surpass a career market share of yards greater than 29 percent and if he can dominate yardage with over 42 percent in the final year, he'd finish in an elite group of prospects based on his production.

Doss will be an older prospect as he's five years removed from high school. While draft age might be a slight concern for Doss as a prospect, his size is not. He's listed at 6-foot-2, 206 lbs and when you combine that with his TD production in college, he appears to be a potential red zone option at the next level. Keep an eye out for highlights of this game and definitely check out the box score because Doss will almost assuredly be featured.

Preston Williams - WR, Colorado State
Week 1 - vs Hawaii (August 25)

Preston Williams is one of the tougher prospects in the class to make a decision and also one of the more intriguing. Transferring from Tennessee, the former four-star prospect is joining a team that has elevated WR prospects into meaningful draft prospects in recent years.

School Rec Yards YPR TDs MS Yards MS TDs Dominator
2015 Tennessee 7 158 22.6 2 0.06 0.12 0.09
2016 Tennessee 9 89 9.9 0 0.03 0.00 0.01

The initial word out of camp is excitement for Williams' potential, but he'll need his first season of production to be massive if he wants to become a pro in 2019.

Williams was a major touchdown threat during his high school career with 32 combined scores over his final two years, but he's failed to make a similar impact at the collegiate level. Because he's mostly a question mark, he's going to be a player to primarily just monitor this year. But if he can make a similar impact as Rashad Higgins or Michael Gallup during his time with the program, there's a chance he becomes a future asset.


Tight End

Josh Oliver - TE, San Jose State
Week 1 - vs UC Davis (August 30)

Josh Oliver isn't likely to turn himself into an early round selection, but he has NFL size and 2017 showed a capacity to contribute in the passing game.

Year Rec Yds YPR TDs MS Yards MS TDs Dominator
2015 4 36 9 1 0.01 0.05 0.03
2016 3 26 8.7 1 0.01 0.06 0.03
2017 35 296 8.5 1 0.11 0.06 0.09
Career 42 358 8.5 3 0.04 0.05 0.05

At 6-foot-5, you'd hope for more TDs over three seasons and that may be what ultimately halts Oliver's NFL prospects. 2017's breakout usage was a start and hopefully, he builds upon it.

Going into the 2017 season, Oliver was considered one of the top underclassmen TEs in the country by Mel Kiper so there's some national recognition for his abilities. If for no other reason, that makes him a player worth monitoring. When you're checking out the game highlights for Keelan Doss, keep an eye on number 89 for San Jose State.

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