Once the 2023 NFL Draft concluded, the prospect community immediately turned its attention to next year’s prospects. With the advent of DEVY and College Fantasy Football (CFF) leagues, enthusiasts already have a deep understanding of the next group of prospects, who aspire to play in the NFL with the increased exposure to college fantasy sports.
Fantasy Football 201: 2023 DEVY Rankings
Ever wonder what it would be like to go back in time to buy stock in Tesla or Apple? Playing in a DEVY league is the fantasy football equivalent of making an early investment before it skyrockets. When you play in a DEVY league, one of the components of the hobby is the ability to draft players currently in college football for a roster spot (taxi squad) in the future on a fantasy team.
Alternative-reality managers select players similarly to a regular draft, only the players don’t amass any fantasy points until they are drafted in the NFL ie., a taxi squad. Just like any investment, there could be some huge returns while other times, those selections just never meet expectations. That is what makes DEVY leagues so exciting.
While building a team that competes now from NFL players, fantasy diehards are stocking DEVY rosters with players from college to help teams win in the future. It obviously requires a deeper level of knowledge to your fantasy football acumen, but one that will increase your enjoyment for all things football; from the NFL to NCAA.
I was never a huge college football fan before starting to play in DEVY leagues, but now I have a vested interest in college football as I look to see how my DEVY roster players are currently doing and how they may impact my NFL roster in the future. Fantasy footballers have their favorite college players from QB Caleb Williams, USC to RB Raheim Sanders. Arkansas to TE Brock Bowers, Georgia. In each, fantasy fanatics know they each have expectations that are sky high.
It is easy to start a DEVY league. Assign four DEVY spots to each team’s fantasy roster and draft college players in a snake format for four rounds. In a 12-team league, 48 college prospects will be selected. When the college season ends, fantasy managers promote two players to their active rosters. All the players promoted (24 maximum) are no longer in the upcoming rookie draft. It is a great way to add another layer of skill and fun to fantasy.
Who are the skill players working toward playing on Sundays, yet are not already at the top of everyone’s boards? Let’s look at those players at each of the skill positions and explain why these players, if not already, should be on your radar for DEVY drafts and beyond.
DEVY Quarterback Rankings
|2||Drake Maye||North Carolina|
|5||Drew Allar||Penn State|
|13||Kyle McCord||Ohio State|
|15||Jordan Travis||Florida State|
Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee
How is the 2023 No. 2 prospect considered “under the radar?” Well, first of all, No. 1 is named Arch Manning. And even the most casual fan is familiar with the name “Manning.” Second, Nico is not slated to play on the field this year for Tennessee; Joe Milton will take over the starting position from Hendon Hooker. So, while Nico comes in as a top prospect, we will have to wait to see him play in 2024 barring any injuries to Joe Milton.
Nico Iamaleava can make every throw required of a quarterback. One area where Nico really shines is his ability to throw some passes with zip to get through small windows and take a little off when more touch and finesse are needed. And with all the talent, every indication points toward Iamaleava being an excellent leader with high character. With all those traits combined, Nico Iamaleava has all the potential to be special. In DEVY drafts, take him now. And in three years, you could very well have the first-overall pick in the 2026 NFL Draft.
JJ McCarthy, Michigan
For those casual college football fans who may only watch Ohio State vs. Michigan at the end of the regular season, JJ McCarthy is the name they know. With 263 yards and three touchdown passes, McCarthy helped lead Michigan to a decisive victory over Ohio State last fall. Michigan went on to play TCU in the College Playoff but ultimately lost 51 to 47 in an instant classic.
In his first two years at Michigan, McCarthy has thrown for 3,235 yards, rushed for 430 yards, and has 34 total touchdowns. At 6’3’’ and 196 pounds, McCarthy thrives when a play breaks down. The talented Wolverine may project as a second-rounder in the NFL Draft at this current time. If he is able to improve his consistency, he may be in the conversation as a first-rounder in the NFL; all while rewarding those managers who drafted him to their DEVY roster in the third round.
DEVY Running Back Rankings
|1||Treyveon Henderson||Ohio State|
|3||Nick Singleton||Penn State|
|6||Cedric Baxter Jr||Texas|
|9||Reuben Owens||Texas A&M|
|11||Trey Benson||Florida State|
|15||Frank Gore Jr||S. Mississippi|
Trey Benson, Florida State
After a 990-yard, nine-touchdown season, Trey Benson has surged on the DEVY radars of most analysts. One of the key traits Benson possesses is his ability to make tacklers miss. Since being tracked in 2014, Benson recorded the highest rate of missed tackles per rush at 0.51; the previous high was 0.48 per rush. Trey also notched a 6.46 yards per rush average.
Although not used heavily in the passing game, Benson has shown he can catch out of the backfield after making 13 grabs for 144 yards in 2022. The Florida State runner should test very well at the Combine, as he is 6’1” and 215 pounds with some speed. If Benson performs well this season, he could challenge the better-known names in this draft class (Treveyon Henderson, Braelon Allen and Will Shipley) to hear his name called early in the 2024 draft.
Twitterverse on Fire!
In a DEVY draft, who are you targeting at running back in the middle rounds?
- Jarquez Hunter, Auburn: 13%
- Blake Corum, Michigan: 29%
- Damien Martinez, Oregon State: 16%
- Trevor Etienne, Florida: 42%
John Laub’s Selection: I am going against the voters by highlighting Damien Martinez. Why is he being overlooked? Is it that Martinez plays at Oregon State in the PAC-12? Only a three-star prospect coming out of high school? At 6’0” and 216 pounds, the Beavers’ ball carrier passed the eyeball test last year, and my DEVY model likes the early breakout age as a true freshman with over 1,000 yards, averaging 6.1 ypc. One of the best values in current DEVY drafts.
“Man I love Trevor Etienne…but I’ve got this feeling that Jarquez Hunter will just take over this year after averaging 6.2 ypc. at Auburn. A new head coach (Hugh Freeze), undecided QB room, good hands out of the backfield, and Cadillac Williams (RB coach) is back! Hunter will be a Top 5 runner at the end of year.” @NinoBrown_T2T
“Blake Corum is still a guy, but was never a high-end DEVY asset to begin with. He is a third- or fourth-round pick in 2024.” @zackzander
“I’m likely in the minority, but I love what I see from Damien Martinez.” @aceholesrule
“If you are still targeting Blake Corum in DEVY drafts, you are playing the format incorrectly.” @Daboys_22
“Not enough people defending Damien Martinez. Workhorse size, with some high-end build-up speed. I’d like to see footwork improve, show a little more in the lateral & short area department. Production profile is going to be nice.“ @FF_DirtyMike
Reuben Owens, Texas A&M
In the 2023 recruiting rankings for running backs, Cedric Baxter was No. 1 and Reuben Owens was No. 2. While Baxter heads off to Texas to “try” and replace the production from Bijan Robinson, Owens has the ability to play under less scrutiny while adjusting to the college game at Texas A&M.
One of Owens’ greatest attributes is his way of moving in unconventional paths. I am not making the comparison, but to give you context, Barry Sanders moved in unconventional ways. If Owens can make tacklers miss with high frequency, the sky’s the limit for Owens’ long-term potential. I love him as a fourth or fifth-round DEVY pick this year. If you think of waiting till next year, his value will be much higher.
DEVY Wide Receiver Rankings
|1||Marvin Harrison||Ohio State|
|2||Emeka Egbuka||Ohio State|
|6||Evan Stewart||Texas A&M|
|10||Johnny Wilson||Florida State|
Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, Washington
Those familiar with DEVY or CFF leagues are most likely familiar with the potency of the Washington Huskies’ offense. Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan have both excelled with Michael Penix Jr. as their quarterback. With the offense being as explosive as it is, both receivers have a lot of value now and in the future.
Last year, McMillan made 79 receptions for 1,098 yards and nine touchdowns, and Rome Odunze had 75 receptions for 1,145 yards and seven scores. As a receiver, it makes things a little easier when you have a Heisman Trophy candidate—Michael Penix, Jr.—throwing the ball.
Odunze, at 6’1” and 211-pounds, is currently regarded as a higher NFL prospect based on a bit more size. McMillan is 6’1 ” and 189-pounds. In DEVY drafts, Odunze will require more draft capital to acquire; I would project a second-rounder. However, McMillan, for the value, may return a higher yield on investment; most likely a fourth or fifth round DEVY pick. Having stock in this high-potent offense, with a top-tier quarterback, make Odunze and McMillan valuable assets in both DEVY and CFF leagues.
Twitterverse on Fire!
In a DEVY draft, who are you targeting at wide receivers in the middle rounds?
- Dont’e Thornton, Tennessee: 3%
- Rome Odunze, Washington: 44%
- Devontez Walker, North Carolina: 9%
- Antonio Williams, Clemson: 44%
John Laub’s Selection: Over the past decade, I have been a proponent of the Clemson receiver factory: I graded DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Mike Williams and Tee Higgins highly as pre-draft prospects. While recent drafts have not provided elite competitors, coach Dabo Swinney has uncovered another fascinating playmaker. As a freshman last year, Antonio WIlliams was the best receiver at Clemson and looks to be on a great trajectory for future success.
“Antonio Williams led Clemson as a freshman with 50-plus receptions and the team now brings in Garrett Riley’s Offense. Add a full offseason with Cade Klubnick. and Williams will burn brightly in 2023.” @NinoBrown_T2T
“I’ve got Antonio Williams 10 spots higher than the other dudes here. He’s gonna be great. A certain parent is gonna show up with his burners now that I’ve said that.” @devydeets
“I dropped Dont’e Thornton last year, I have no faith.” @BigDougie83
Jacob Cowing, Arizona
One thing is for sure when evaluating Jacob Cowing, he understands what it means to be the focal point of the offense. In the last two years, Cowing has been targeted a total of 234 times with 154 catches that totaled 2,388 yards; that’s over a 15-yards per catch average.
At 5 ’11” and 175 pounds, what Cowing does not possess in height and weight, he makes up for in speed and technique. Cowing is already a CFF star, and in time, will win over managers of pro fantasy football. Draftniks love to “project” a player by height, weight, strength, and speed, but sometimes elite-level production against elite-level talent has to trump projections.
Cowing has a lot of Wes Welker/Danny Amendola vibes. Cowing does not require a huge investment in draft capital. He will reward managers with consistent performances week in and week out. Cowing is not high on a lot of DEVY lists yet, but he is one of my personal favorites. I always put a premium on a player that has the experience of being the player opposing teams try to limit, and still find a way to succeed. That is why Jacob Cowing is a great last-round target in DEVY drafts in 2023.
DEVY Tight End Rankings
|5||Cade Stover||Ohio State|
|7||Jaheim Bell||South Carolina|
|9||Bryson Nesbitt||North Carolina|
Bryson Nesbit, UNC
At 6’5” and 235 pounds, Nesbit is more of a downfield threat than other tight ends; his average depth of target was almost 12 yards. With Josh Downs and Antoine Green having departed for the NFL, Drake Maye will be in search of a favorite target. Nesbit will gladly step in and take on the responsibility.
If he sees an increase in volume, last year he had 35 receptions for 507 yards, Nesbit will have a lot of fantasy value coming off a season where he was favored by the Heisman Trophy candidate, Drake Maye. Nesbit’s ranking may be lower right now but should skyrocket by Fall. If possible, grab a share now and benefit from the investment.
Oronde Gadsden, Syracuse
Before the 2022 season, Oronde Gadsden was a wide receiver in the Syracuse offense. Wisely, Gadsden switched to tight end and then broke the yards and receptions records by tight ends at Syracuse. Last year, Gadsden had 61 receptions for 969 yards and six touchdowns.
Gadsden is the model for a new breed of tight ends that plays more like a receiver than a blocker. Oronde is “only” 215 pounds; the average NFL tight end is closer to 250 pounds. What Gadsden doesn’t bring in size, he makes up for in route running and catching ability.
Gadsden’s value in DEVY leagues is somewhat diminished based on being a situational player. Nonetheless, the tight end position does not have many guaranteed impact players in college beyond Brock Bower. So, grabbing a share of Gadsden in the middle rounds could pay huge dividends in the long term.
The number of players that currently play college football is over 70,000. And the amount of data and analysis is plentiful on just about every one of those players. The rise of DEVY leagues has meshed fantasy players’ love for football from the professional ranks to the amateur ones.
And with it, filling up the cups of everyday fantasy managers with more and more information. Use our DEVY rankings as a guideline to bring to your attention the players we believe deserve your attention. Laub’s complete DEVY rankings (0ver 150 players by position) and model are available on the Patreon Rookie Big Board page.