By Alex Kurpeski, Oz Jones, & Tzali Nislick
Before we get around to the intro for this piece I’d just like to thank Jesse Reeves @JesseReevesFF for inspiring this series and supplying us with some of his own data and research for future sections. If you haven’t checked out Jesse’s work then you’re missing out on some of the best insight there is. – Alex
Finding the right devy is arguably the toughest task imaginable in fantasy football, as your choice must depend on some combination of a player’s measurables, level of competition, college production, high school production, flexibility, floor, ceiling, median, injury history, off-field issues, athletic pedigree, etc, etc. It’s a tall task to determine all of these things accurately without the tools and advanced access allowed to NFL scouts (who are prone to making mistakes even with their resources). At a certain point, gut feeling needs to be placed on the back burner, replaced by the data-driven lizard brain that lives deep inside of our pink, squishy command center. Today, we here at 3CoSports are looking to provide you with a small sample size of devy prospect analysis, with fingers crossed that our self-scouting is as accurate as we believe it to be. There will be some aspects of this analysis that are a bit arbitrary, but we feel as though these parts are warranted. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at our finite list of devy targets for 2020 and beyond.
Rubric for Devy Analysis Grade
- Level of Competition → 1 (Big 10, SEC), 2 (ACC, Pac-12, Big 12), 3 (American, C-USA, MWC), 4 (other FBS conferences), 5 (Non-Div 1A)
- Athlete Scale → 1 (elite athlete), 2 (above average athlete), 3 (average), 4 (below average), 5 (poor athlete – rare)
- Production → 1 (elite-level production), 2 (above average production), 3 (average production), 4 (below-average production), 5 (poor production)
- Experience → 1 (played in > 75% of eligible games), 2 (75-65%), 3 (50-64%), 4 (25-50%), 5 (<25%)
- “Fit” (how well a player’s skill set translates to the NFL) → 1 (fits in any system), 2 (fits in the majority of systems), 3 (fits in certain systems), 4 (fits in few systems), 5 (fits in almost no system)
- Breakout Age (using Jesse Reeves data) → 1 (18), 2 (19), 3 (20-21), 4 (22), 5 (23+)
- “Help” (strength of team around them) → 1 (top tier team + coaching staff in all relevant areas related to player), 2 (above average), 3 (average), 4 (below average), 5 (poor)
- Grade Scale: (1-1.99 = A+ to A-), (2-2.99 = B+ to B-), (3-3.99 = C+ to C-), (4-5 = D+ to D-)
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Bryce Young, Alabama
D.J Uiagalelei, Clemson
Kedon Slovis, USC
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
You’re in luck today, as we’re going to be profiling five passers with first-round upside.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (ETA: 2021)
A great athlete with the arm strength required of an NFL quarterback, Mond’s experience as a long-term starter in the SEC is one of his top intangible qualities, as he understands the concept of big-game atmosphere. That being said, Mond is a player who may have a variety of different outcomes for his career, quite simply because he has yet to show his tools consistently, especially against the highest caliber competition. Though 2019, his second year as a full-time starter, saw him improve his completion percentage Mond’s total yards, TDs, and yards-per-attempt were all down from 2018. Moreover, against Texas A&M’s six ranked opponents in 2019 (including the bowl game) Mond topped 60% passing just twice (in a September loss to Auburn, and a Texas Bowl win against Oklahoma State). Mond had a 7:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in that stretch (though in fairness three of the picks came against LSU) – and perhaps most importantly, TAMU was 1-5 in those games.
While there were lots of underwhelming moments last season, Mond has continuously displayed an aggressive mentality as a passer that could allow him to take his game to a new level in 2020. Mond’s game has shades of a young Dak Prescott, who funnily enough managed to take the SEC by storm in his final collegiate season — something Mond will have to opportunity to do this year. Considering the NFL’s emphasis on mobility at the quarterback position, a player like Mond could easily parlay a strong senior season into an early selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Rushing yards per scramble among returning QBs:
1. Trey Lance – 9.9
2. Kellen Mond – 9.6
3. Trevor Lawrence – 9.3 pic.twitter.com/nGkY3uuSBj
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 24, 2020
The easiest thing to say about Mond is that it’s difficult to truly predict how good (or bad) he’ll be in 2020. As of right now his toughest opponents only look to be Auburn and Alabama. His schedule, frankly, looks packed with games that should allow him to show off his potential – and the undeniable talent around him at the skill positions should serve him nicely. If he can put it together this year, the draftable QB field behind Lawrence/Fields/Lance is wide open, and he could easily find himself jockeying to be the fourth QB drafted.
– Oz + Alex
Devy Analysis Grade: 1.85 (A-)
Ceiling: Jeff Garcia
Mond settles in as a mid-tier starter on a team with a decent infrastructure to set him up for success. Rushing upside gives him lower-end QB1 upside on his best days.
Median: David Garrard
Inconsistent but exciting, Mond becomes one of the bigger boom-or-bust QBs in the league.
Floor: Deshone Kizer
Mond’s upside is overshadowed by his lack of instincts and his tendency to turn the ball over.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State (ETA: 2021/2022)
Lance is a relative newcomer to the stage, as his hype train didn’t really kick-off until the conclusion of the 2019 season. Whether Lance’s performance to that point had been overlooked due to the record-setting season of Joe Burrow, the never-ending debate regarding Fields and Lawrence, or the headline dominating injury suffered by Tua Tagovailoa is open for debate, but it was clear in retrospect that his breakout season was something quite special. Perhaps the fact that he played for North Dakota State, a subdivision powerhouse that we rarely give attention to — until ESPN shows a clip of them blowing out their opponent in the championship game — is the primary reason why we took so long to realize Lance’s greatness. Regardless, Lance’s athleticism and mechanics are some of the best we’ve seen from a non-power conference passer in a while, leading many to believe that he will be the best passer selected in 2021 if he chooses to declare.
Not to brag, but I was in on the Trey Lance hype way before your favorite NFL draft analyst. https://t.co/2pKKUeVTLC
— Titans Tape (@TitansTape) August 3, 2020
While a one-year sample size from a guy who played against non-FCS schools is not the strongest base for a prospect’s portfolio, Lance’s skill set jumps out on tape in the same way that Carson Wentz’s did back in the day. While comparing Lance to the only other NDSU QB of note may seem like a cop-out, the two passers do have very similar play styles and build, though Lance may is a superior athlete.
The simple fact that Lance managed to play a whole season’s worth of games without throwing an interception speaks to his instincts as a passer. With a minuscule turnover worthy play rate of 1.2% on 288 passing attempts, the combination of athleticism and efficiency is the driving force behind the Lance hype train. Protecting the ball is a trait valued by every team in the league and being able to supplement that with an explosive running style and elite arm talent is essentially the design for the ideal modern QB. If Lance can sustain his performance from last season he may very well be the first QB off of the board in 2021.
Devy Analysis Grade: 1.85 (A-)
Ceiling: Lamar Jackson
Lance’s elite rushing upside and passing efficiency carry over to the NFL and he becomes one of the best up-and-coming passers in the league. Would be predicated on Lance landing with a healthy organization that possesses the infrastructure to build an offense for him.
Median: Mitchell Trubisky
Lance’s athleticism gets him a starting gig but his lack of experience playing against legitimate defenses shows up and ultimately dooms him to backup status.
Floor: Brett Hundley
Lance flops with the media’s attention on him and earns the label of “project”, leaving him to be “developed” in QB purgatory for the rest of time.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (ETA: 2022)
Next in line for the QB throne at Oklahoma, Rattler may very well be the most talented passer Lincoln Riley has gotten the chance to work with. A highly touted recruit, Rattler’s upside is apparent. If all (or most) goes right this year, the OU offense shouldn’t miss a beat, and Rattler’s development should only be helped by the quality receiving talent around him. While he’s undersized for the position at just over six feet, we’ve seen Riley turn smaller guys (Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield) into Heisman Award-winning passers. Being in a system that has catered to similarly equipped (and similarly limited) passers can only bring out the best in him. This will be necessary, as he’s only attempted 11 passes in his college career so far. Still, sitting behind and learning from Jalen Hurts last year must have certainly helped his approach to the game. Rattler is as exciting a QB prospect as there is in college football and his upside in Oklahoma’s system is worth chasing in Devy and C2C leagues.
— Brandon Drumm (@BrandonDrumm247) June 9, 2020
While Rattler is obviously a bit of a wild card in Devy drafts due to his almost nonexistent sample size of playing time, I find it reassuring that there has been little debate regarding his place as the team’s starter this fall. Though he won’t have CeeDee Lamb at his disposal, the Sooners will almost certainly put up a ton of points and yardage on offense regardless.
– Alex + Oz
Devy Analysis Grade: 1.75 (A-)
Ceiling: Drew Brees
Like Brees, Rattler projects to be an undersized passer with elite accuracy. It remains to be seen whether Rattler has the same intangible leadership abilities that Brees possesses, but I think his upside is as high as any of the passers who have come through Norman and that’s saying something.
Median: Nerfed Kyler Murray
While Rattler doesn’t quite have Murray’s wheels, he could become a similarly system-specific QB at the NFL level due to his size, shining in an offense with several college concepts.
Floor: Trevor Knight
Rattler ends up being the first starting OU signal-caller since Knight to go undrafted.
Sam Howell, North Carolina (ETA: 2022)
Howell showed out as a freshman, throwing 38 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions, looking much more comfortable than a typical 19-year-old college passer should when faced with some of the best defensive units in the nation. Howell’s thick frame should allow him to take hits that most young quarterbacks would not be able to shake off. At 6’2, 235 lbs, the young gunslinger is often reminiscent of Matthew Stafford, being unafraid to take risks while also managing to (mostly) avoid careless mistakes. But while Howell, like UNC, might have snuck up on some teams last season, this year the target is firmly on their back. They’ve already declared their intention to win the Coastal Division and (likely) play Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Howell can certainly get them there, and WR weapons Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown should help the cause immensely. If Howell is able to build on 2019’s performance, a year that saw him throw for over 3600 yards, he’ll likely be in the driver’s seat for top-touted draft-eligible QB come the 2021 season.
Bo Nix pic.twitter.com/H0sucJb0Cm
— matthew bruening (@SportsfanaticMB) August 5, 2020
While there are definitely some negatives that we can nitpick about Howell’s game, it’s hard to put much stock into those things when you consider the fact that our only season of work from him came as a true freshman. Barring an extreme regression in the next two seasons, Howell should be in-line for a run of dominance with the Tar Heels, during which he should improve the few flaws that he has in his game.
As impressive as the statistics may be, our favorite thing about Howell has to be his fearless nature. Taking risks is one thing, but taking calculated risks is another thing altogether. In this way, Howell’s game bears semblance to former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, particularly when he manages to create something out of nothing with his improvisation. It’s rare to see such a young passer possess the instincts that Howell showed off in his first season, though we’ve seen shining star freshmen quarterbacks deteriorate rapidly in the past (Christian Hackenberg), so it may be a bit early to call him a lock for sustained superstardom. Though he was surrounded by some dynamic weapons and a top tier coaching staff, some credit has to go to Howell for carrying the Tar Heels offense, which has often found itself in the middle of the pack.
The most valuable freshman QB in college football last season:
Sam Howell, North Carolina pic.twitter.com/h4LxF5lnq3
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 3, 2020
In both Devy and C2C Leagues Howell should be a coveted asset, as he has the tools and instincts to develop into a true QB1 at the NFL level.
– Oz + Alex
Devy Analysis Grade: 1.85 (A-)
Ceiling: Matthew Stafford
A big-armed QB who can put up a ton of points with the right weapons surrounding him, Howell develops into one of the better fantasy QBs in the league.
Median: Sam Darnold
Howell’s risk-taking limits his upside in an offense that doesn’t feature the weapons necessary to find success with that playstyle. His shortcomings get exposed as the starter on a subpar offense though his upside shines through on occasion.
Floor: Will Grier
Howell is exposed as a high-volume college passer without the tools to become an NFL starter.
Justin Fields, Ohio State (ETA: 2021)
Another former five-star recruit, Fields excelled in his first season with the Buckeyes following his transfer from Georgia. Fields will be forever linked with Lawrence, as the two passers belonged to the same recruiting class while also having faced off in the College Football Playoff last season. While Lawrence gets all of the attention for having led his team to consecutive National Title Games, Fields is an equally impressive passer, having completed 67.2% of his passes while boasting a 41:3 TD to INT ratio in his first year with the Buckeyes. At 6’3, 230 lbs, Fields has drawn comparisons to Dak Prescott, as his combination of size, pocket presence, above-average accuracy, and dynamic rushing ability makes him an ideal modern-day NFL quarterback. Fields displayed tremendous poise and decision-making as the starter for OSU in 2019, accounting for the lowest rate of uncatchable passes (3.7%) among qualified passers.
Highest-graded returning Big Ten players:
1. Justin Fields (QB) – 91.5
2. Rashawn Slater (OT) – 89.9
3. Peyton Ramsey (QB) – 86.4
4. Tanner Morgan (QB) – 85.5
5. Chris Olave (WR) – 85.1
6. John Michael Schmitz (C) – 85.0
7. Michael Penix Jr (QB) – 84.0 pic.twitter.com/BETcBGTu1F
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 5, 2020
While he’s no Lamar Jackson, Fields has displayed some impressive skills when forced to tuck and run. Fields was used often on option looks for the Buckeyes, logging 137 carries for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns, effectively assuming the role of a short-yardage back in many instances. Perhaps the most impressive element of Fields’ game was the fact that he was undaunted when countered by elite defensive units, as evidenced by his performances against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Clemson, where he avoided the pitfalls of a typical first-year starter. Fields’ domination in the wake of Dwayne Haskins leaving school early for the NFL was reminiscent of Jameis Winston in some respects, as Winston too managed to come in as a first-year starter, taking an already elite offense and making it better despite replacing a player who had been drafted in the first round of that year’s NFL Draft (you may have forgotten that E.J Manuel was, in fact, a first-round pick in 2013).
With his accuracy, determination, and (+) athleticism, it’s clear that Fields has the potential to be a franchise QB once he reaches the NFL. So long as he can carry over his performance from last season as the Buckeyes look to replace several starters from their offense, Fields should be one of the first QBs off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. He should be a first-round lock in SuperFlex Devy leagues.
Devy Analysis Grade: 1.71 (A-)
Ceiling: Dak Prescott
A tremendous passer who can also do damage with his legs, Fields develops into a top-ten fantasy QB after landing in a great spot. Doesn’t quite reach “elite” status but does manage to become a high-quality NFL starter.
Median: Marcus Mariota
A dominant college QB who lands with the wrong team, leading to a somewhat mediocre run as a starter. Dual-threat abilities allow Fields to maintain fantasy relevance, but his development as a passer becomes hindered by the system he lands in.
Floor: Jalen Hurts
Fields become a high-upside backup with the rushing ability to do some damage when he checks into games. Leadership and character keep him around as a bridge quality QB.