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 wide receivers 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 wide receiver, then this season is their chance.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC
Trying to find one GIF to highlight all of the things JuJu does well was too hard. So instead I chose this somewhat funny one. The thing is, it does capture JuJu’s playing style. At 6’2″, 215 pounds, he’s tenacious, tough, and often invites contact with defenseless defensive backs. He has the speed to get open, with the strength and awareness to finish.
In just his first two seasons at USC he bullied his way to 143 catches for 2178 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those are insane college numbers for a player who just turned 20.
That being said, this year could be a challenging one. Cody Kessler (JuJu’s QB last year) is now (sadly) a member of the Cleveland Browns. JuJu will now have to establish rapport with a new quarterback in his most important season.
JuJu is already considered by many to be the best wide receiver eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft; that much is true. If he doesn’t miss a beat this year and puts up similar numbers, he could sneak into the top 10 picks of the NFL Draft next year. However, if he struggles early, it could cost him several draft spots & millions of dollars in his rookie contract.
Keep an eye on this guy that some are already considering a possible future Dez Bryant.
Mike Williams – Clemson
Mike Williams is an easy 6’3″, 205 pounds. He plays even bigger than that. Big Mike absolutely embarrassed Georgia Tech’s D.J. White on this fade for a touchdown. This is just what he does. He goes up and takes it away from defenders. Not only that, but he can take it and run after the catch. Many big guys are red zone threats, but Williams can adjust at the point of the catch and finish for a long touchdown. His long stride allows him to eat up a lot more ground than defensive backs expect.
The only potential question mark with Mike heading into this season is whether or not his prior neck injury will have any effect on him.
Tragically, last year Mike fractured his neck on a collision with the goal post after catching a touchdown in week one. of 2015. He missed the remainder of the season.
Watch for Mike to bounce back with the same confidence he had when he was dominating the competition prior to the injury. If he can stay healthy, another full season with Heisman favorite, Deshaun Watson, could jettison him into the conversation for an early 1st-round NFL draft pick.
Malachi Dupre – LSU
Wow, what an adjustment, right?
Yes, at first glance Malachi Dupre does some amazing things. He often uses all of his 6’3″ height to go up and get the ball really well. He does great when it comes to the deep ball. This is made evident by his average of 17.8 yards per reception in college. He doesn’t always have a ton of opportunities in an LSU offense dominated by the run game, but many scouts love what he brings to the table.
However, Malachi is going to need to clean some things up this year if he wants to hear his name called on day one of the NFL draft next spring.
You may notice, if you look closely, that Dupre actually bobbles and double-clutches the ball in the GIF above. Yes, it was a tough catch, but he does this quite often, even in his “highlight” reels. If he can’t learn to make consistent hands-catches (instead of using his body, or double-catching), with his scrawny frame he’ll struggle at the next level. This is probably really getting too picky with his game but it’s just one thing I, and many NFL scouts, will be watching for him to improve upon.
Overall Malachi does a lot of things well, especially down the field. Just make sure and watch if he improves on catching technique if you watch him this season.
Isaiah Ford – Virginia Tech
Speaking of needing to make more hands-catches (instead of using your body), let’s talk Isaiah Ford. The catch featured in the GIF above was an absolutely insane one-handed grab on a deep throw for a score. Isaiah was a true freshman when he made this play. For many scouts though, they want to see a lot more of this before jumping on the band wagon.
To many in the devy and dynasty community, Isaiah Ford is a body-catching unimpressive athlete who needs to add some weight. This may be true, but he’s also arguably the second best wide receiver in the ACC, behind only the aforementioned Mike Williams.
In his two seasons at Virginia Tech Isaiah Ford has accrued 131 catches for 1873 yards and 17 touchdowns. This past season, Ford accounted for over 30% of his teams receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s trending in the right direction.
However, when it comes to earning truly elite status, it’s all going to come down to this year for Isaiah. If he wants a shot at being anywhere near a 1st-round pick he’ll need to start making more catches with his hands (instead of his body). On top of that, he’ll have to do it while weathering the storm of a new coach and quarterback. It’s a lot to ask, but Isaiah is an under-the-radar future NFL wide receiver that just might be up to the task.
Darren Carrington – Oregon
Last, but not least, we have the troubled Darren Carrington. He’s a cocky little Oregon Duck, but he can back it up when he’s not suspended for alleged drug use.
In just seven games last year, Darren put up 32 catches for 609 yards and 6 touchdowns. If you didn’t do the math, that’s an average reception of 19 yards and a touchdown every 5.33 catches.
The talent is there with Carrington, but he needs to play a full season. He’s already stated this off-season that he deeply regrets not being available for his team due to some unfortunate decisions, and can’t wait to make up for it.
Due to his intermittent absence from the Oregon lineup Carrington has stayed below the radar in many fantasy football circles. However, his value could absolutely explode if his numbers hold the pace they began last year.
Do yourself a favor and watch some Oregon football this year. Darren Carrington is ready to put on a show.