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Ahead of the Game - College Devy Prospects to Watch (Week 1)


Let's be very clear about something. Last week was a great appetizer, but the entree that is the college football season has just arrived.

Not only is there a strong slate of college football games lined up for this weekend, featuring several top 25 matchups, but we're also treated to some college football talent that will likely join the pro ranks within the next 12 months.

So while you're enjoying the first full week back, keep an eye on these potential NFL prospects. These top college football players can have future fantasy impacts for dynasty football owners.

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Quarterback

Khalil Tate, QB Arizona

Week 1 - vs. BYU

It's easy to lump all running QBs into one category, but Tate isn't Lamar Jackson. At least, not yet.  Tate broke onto the national radar with his running ability, but he'll need to increase his passing production to become a true NFL prospect.

Year G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int
2016 7 18 45 40 243 5.4 3.7 3 3
2017 11 111 179 62 1591 8.9 8.2 14 9

An adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) of 8.2 is noteworthy because it does exceed the 7.0 threshold that you'd typically look for from a pro prospect. But with rushing yards factored into the equation, it reinforces the idea that he leans some on his ability to make plays with his legs rather than passing first. With the exit of Rich Rodriguez and entrance of Kevin Sumlin as head coach, he should have an opportunity to pass more. In 2017, Sumlin's QBs combined for 449 pass attempts. If Tate can get the 300 attempts, he'd hopefully be able to eclipse 2500  passing yards and if he maintains a 62 percent completion rate, then he could be a legitimate pro prospect.

Year Att Yds Avg TD
2016 49 237 4.8 1
2017 153 1411 9.2 12

While I do think his rushing production overvalues Tate as a prospect, there's no denying the success he had on the ground. His 9.2 average per rush shows an ability to create plays that most pro prospects don't have. Tate is listed at six-foot-two and 215 lbs. If those are accurate, then size won't be a concern. Tate's 2018 season will be critical to demonstrate his abilities as a passer rather than simply a playmaker. And if Arizona hopes to compete in the PAC12 conference, it will likely be on the back of Tate. He's a player to watch, this season, and if he's a true Heisman trophy contender, there's a chance this could be his last college season.

 

Running Backs

Rodney Anderson, RB Oklahoma

Week 1 - vs. Florida Atlantic

Anderson is among the top five or six RB prospects coming into the 2018 season. And that makes sense when you consider the fact that he was a four-star high school prospect and was a meaningful part of a playoff team in 2017.

Rodney Anderson G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2015 2 1 5 5 0 0 0 0 0
2017 13 188 1161 6.2 13 17 281 16.5 5

Anderson was considered an all-purpose back when he entered school in 2015 so his usage in the passing game is somewhat disappointing. He averaged over 15 yards per reception in 2017, but handled just over one reception per game. Lincoln Riley proved to be a creative play caller in his first season as Oklahoma's head coach so there's reason to be optimistic about Anderson's potentially larger workload. If that reception average can move closer to two or three per game, Anderson can stand out in the crowd.

He's yet to handle a bell cow workload, but Anderson is highly productive on slightly limited usage. The best case scenario for his pro prospects would include a slight offensive shift to take pressure off of the new QB. If Anderson can eclipse 200 carries and 30 receptions, there's a strong chance that he'll be among the top RB prospects in the class.

 

Devin Singletary, RB Florida Atlantic

Week 1 - at Oklahoma

One of the perks of Lane Kiffin becoming the head coach of a small program is that he helps bring new eyes to the program. And a big beneficiary of the extra attention is Singletary who became a workhorse in the system.

Devin Singletary G Rush Att Rush Yds Yards per Carry Rush TD Receptions Rec. Yds Yards per Reception Rec. TD
2016 12 152 1021 6.7 12 26 163 6.3 0
2017 14 301 1918 6.4 32 19 198 10.4 1

Not only was he among the rushing yards leaders in college football, but he was one of only three players to reach 300 carries in 2017. While his receptions dipped below two per game, he still managed over one per game and improved his efficiency substantially. Another season of similar workload may raise some minor questions about the mileage on his legs, but he's proved capable of handling any workload he's given.

Singletary may be held back by the level of competition for Florida Atlantic so this week against Oklahoma will be important to serve as a showcase against a top team. His five-foot-nine frame could be a slight deterrent for teams looking for reasons to be concerned, but any durability concerns will likely disappear if he duplicates his 2017 output.

 

Wide Receivers

DeMarkus Lodge, WR Ole Miss

Week 1 - vs. Texas Tech (Houston)

It's true that he's not going to be a first round pick consideration like his teammates, but Lodge isn't a slouch. On many teams, he'd be the unquestioned top WR. Unfortunately, he's not even a top two WR on this team.

DeMarkus Lodge G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2015 1 1 12 12 1 0 0 0.02
2016 9 15 203 14 2 0.05 0.1 0.06
2017 12 41 698 17 7 0.18 0.3 0.22

By our normal thresholds, Lodge has yet to breakout during a college season and he's unlikely to reach the ideal career market shares. His TD share in 2017 may turn out to be his biggest selling point. At six-foot-two, his size will lend itself to becoming a big target in the redzone and if he can end his college career with more than ten TDs in his final season, teams may be able to overlook his low yardage totals.

Market share is one of the better indicators for future fantasy success. It's not foolproof, but there have been studies that have shown career market share of receiving yards to be the best statistic to use as a starting point during evaluations. Lodge could be an exception to the rule, but he'll likely need to be one of the combine stars to stand out because he's firmly the WR3 on his own team and without a special final season, it's unlikely he'll warrant a meaningful draft pick. He's worth watching because of his pedigree, but don't expect him to vault into the top 2 rounds of rookie drafts in a potentially deep 2019 class.

 

Hunter Renfrow, WR Clemson

Week 1 - vs. Furman

I'm getting the 3rd year senior, Hunter Renfrow, out of the way early because while he is a meaningful college WR, he's surrounded by a group of talented skill position players who are, primarily, too young to be discussed in this series. Renfrow has been a critical piece during this run of success for Clemson and while he's been a great player on the biggest stage, he doesn't really have much NFL buzz surrounding him entering the 2018 season.

Hunter Renfrow G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2015 13 33 492 15 5 0.11 0.14 0.13
2016 11 44 495 11 6 0.1 0.13 0.12
2017 14 60 602 10 3 0.18 0.18 0.18

Nothing really stands out in Renfrow's stat line. His six touchdown 2016 campaign was promising, but in a high-powered offense, his market share fails to live up to his peers. Barring a ten touchdown final season or a dramatic increase in his yardage efficiency, Renfrow's statistics aren't going to be his selling point.

Renfrow isn't a meaningful pro prospect, but another season productive season could turn him into a team's late round flyer. And if he gets on a roster, he's, seemingly, proven that he can earn a role among other talented receivers. His upside is likely becoming a highly targeted slot receiver in the NFL which will cap his dynasty prospects, but with another productive season, he could turn himself into a draft-worthy asset.

 

Tight End

Tommy Sweeney, TE Boston College

Week 1 - vs. Massachusetts 

Sweeney wasn't my original pick for this spot, but due to an injury elsewhere, I had to find a suitable replacement and Sweeney is to best TE to fill the hole. Tommy Sweeney led all returning TEs in receiving yards in 2017 with 512 on 36 receptions. He may be on a team that will look to feature the run, but his market share numbers put him alongside the best in the nation at his position.

Year G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2015 4 5 68 14 0 0.05 0 0.03
2016 11 26 353 14 3 0.19 0.2 0.2
2017 12 36 512 14 4 0.24 0.3 0.25

Not only did Sweeney lead his team in yards, but also receptions and receiving TDs. It would be ideal if the offense, as a whole, took a step forward for his raw totals, but another season with greater than 20 percent of receiving yards could turn him into a 2019's Hayden Hurst who emerged late.

Sweeney wasn't a four- or five-star prospect when he decided to join Boston College, but he's produced since being given an opportunity. His final season and post-season workouts will largely drive his NFL draft value, but he's already proven capable of being a valuable receiving option.

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