Seductive title to this piece, no? Yeah, I liked it too. On the eve of many fantasy football drafts it’s easy to forget about the future and just live for the now. Who should I take, Duke Johnson or Gio Bernard? Who should I keep, DeAndre Hopkins or Allen Robinson? Should I use Zero WR or Zero RB for my draft Saturday? These are all great questions, but let’s just slow down for a minute.
Let’s not forget that another season is about to start. Yes, a season that will end up impacting your future fantasy football teams. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of fantasy draft season we sometimes forget that the NFL studs of the future are about to take the stage in college football.
I don’t care if you’re a casual fantasy player or my kind of fanatic that is buried neck-deep in devy leagues where you get to roster college players. One surefire way to have a leg up on all of your league mates is to pay attention to the college game.
Today we’re going to do just that. This way you can be the league mate in the know, for this year and beyond.
Let’s start with five running backs who are more than likely destined to be in the NFL next year. Yes, they’ve already put their talent on display, but still have plenty to prove. If they want to make that jump or solidify themselves as an NFL ready, 1st-round worthy running back, then this season is their chance.
Dalvin Cook is a fantastic home run hitting running back, but don’t misunderstand me here. He is much more than that, but when he turns the burners on, just like in this GIF, it’s over.
Dalvin has already put on a show over the last two years at Florida State. He’s averaged 6.8 yards per carry all the way to 2699 yards and 27 scores on the ground. Cook has also shown he can be an adequate receiver in a limited sample. He’s the whole package.
On the run above, Dalvin does what he so often does. He bursts through the line, finds his man to beat, and embarrasses the defense. If he doesn’t make his man miss, he’ll just use his fantastic balance to bounce off the contact while somehow maintaining speed. Defenses can only hope to get at least two bodies in front of Dalvin. If not, he’ll wind up finding pay dirt.
This is a huge year for Dalvin to put up even greater numbers than last season. His first year at Florida State, Karlos Williams was still sapping his opportunities, but after a year like last year, Dalvin’s assuredly going to be the workhorse once again. Many believe Dalvin could be a first round talent, but this year could solidify his status.
He’s got balance, vision, amazing burst, long speed, and cuts for days. If he could just show a little bit more in the passing game, NFL teams are going to have a hard time letting him slip past the 20th pick next year.
What. A. Beast. Yes, that’s the appropriate reaction to this run. And yes, we have another stud Georgia running back to be excited about. His name is Nick Chubb.
You’ll notice (in this GIF above and in any tape of his) that Nick Chubb is incredibly strong, well-balanced, flexible, and has a knack for finding the smallest little seam in the defense, punishing anyone in his path. You should also know that his gaudy stats put him in a nearly untouchable category of elite.
His 7.4 average yards per carry over the past two years against primarily SEC competition is just out of this world. When you add that with his 21 touchdowns in just a season and a half of action, you get a future NFL running back worth salivating over.
If this is all true, what does Nick Chubb have to prove going into his first year of draft eligibility? Well, sadly he has to prove that he can come back from an excruciatingly awful knee injury. I won’t share that GIF. Nobody wants to see that. According to several reports last fall, Chubb damaged “multiple ligaments” (including his PCL) and would need surgery.
If Nick can truly come back at 100% this fall, look out SEC. That’s one big “if” though. Chubb could go as high as the first round next year, or have a monumental drop in draft stock like Jay Ajayi & Marcus Lattimore if his knee doesn’t completely cooperate.
The latest news on Chubb suggests that he may be ready for Georgia’s first game on September 3rd. He was purposefully tackled for the first time since the injury on August 13th in a scrimmage, and apparently he’s still in one piece. Let’s hope he stays that way. If he and teammate Sony Michel (also most likely a future NFL RB) can both regain full health, the Georgia backfield is going to be hard to contain this year.
So what’s so fantastic about that run? That’s not really my point, but let’s break it down because it demonstrates what makes Wayne Gallman so good. He is an incredibly decisive running back with great burst, agility and vision.
Before he even breaks the line of scrimmage he makes a very important decision. He nearly cuts the run outside, but sees the narrow crease that allows the play to take off. If he had cut outside it’s clear he would have been forced to make the linebacker miss near the line of scrimmage. However, by choosing to cut and burst through the whole he didn’t have to avoid contact until 9 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Next, he does what he does quite often, he makes a full-speed cut earning himself another ten yards or so. Then what did he do? He fought through contact for the last few yards with an extra little dive.
Yes, it’s just one play, but it tells the story of who Wayne Gallman is as a running back. Once he earned the job after an excellent showing in 2014 Gallman took advantage in 2015 with the second most rushing yards in the ACC.
If he blows up even further with another season in Deshaun Watson’s Clemson offense he could definitely earn a look from teams on day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. I’m looking forward to seeing his pro-ready vision, cuts and nearly patented spin move in the pros here soon.
Most devy fantasy football nerds I talk with are all over the place on Hurd’s maximum potential. He’s definitely a future NFL running back, but is he really going to be a pro starter? Some say he’s one of those big backs that won’t last that long. He’s doesn’t have elite speed. He doesn’t have the agility to make people miss. Yeah.
I love this play because it negates a few worries on Hurd. It’s true, he is a massive 6’3″, 230+ lb monster, but he doesn’t exactly play like it. He’s got the strength you would expect to bounce off of contact and stiff arm when needed. However, this play shows his speed and agility.
He is forced way outside, stiff arms one defender, and causes another defender to take a bad angle with his deceptive speed. Then wait, he’s not done. He embarrasses another defender, cutting at full speed, then finishes the run strong sprinting into the secondary.
Obviously if every play went this well Jalen would be a future NFL stud without any reservations. There are some bad plays to watch where he gets stuffed, or can’t finish a long run because it is true he doesn’t have “elite” speed.
However, don’t let that discourage you. Hurd is a one-of-a-kind running back in college football right now. He has a place as a starter in the NFL. His absolute ceiling is up for debate, but take a look at the monster in Tennessee this year.
Imagine Jeremy Hill, but maybe more wiggle in the hips. That would give you something like Royce Freeman. Like Hill, Freeman is not an elite athletic specimen by NFL standards. He’ll probably run somewhere around 4.65 in the 40 next year. That’s not why you like Royce Freeman.
You like Royce Freeman because also like Hill, his vision and technique are ready for the next level. On this play above he hits the cutback lane hard. He bounces off contact as if it never happened at the second level. Then of course you see his top speed that often can’t finish, but he gets every yard possible.
That’s what he does well. He gets every yard possible.
The top speed is something to think about, but in the end, his production at Oregon can’t be denied. He finished with the fourth most rushing yards in the country last year while averaging just under seven yards per carry. He even demonstrated that he could be a receiver with 26 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns.
The only thing that will need to change about Royce when he makes it to the NFL next year will be his tendency to out-athlete defenders on the outside. He will lose that fight at the next level.
Royce will be a fine NFL running back in the near future. He may need the right situation and coaching to make him a productive fantasy RB2, but it’s definitely a possible outcome.