The following 5 players have performed well in their first 2 years but are still relatively unknown. I think each one is primed for an excellent junior season which will vault them into the NFL as early declares. By this time next year, all your favorite analysts will be salivating over these “upstarts” who have burst onto the scene. Investing in these players now via trade or draft will pay huge dividends in Devy and Campus 2 Canton leagues. The average draft position (ADP) referenced is from the campus2canton mock drafts currently in progress.
5. Dante Wright, WR, Colorado State (5’9” 180)
Wright is the latest in a long line of lower-rated wide receivers from Florida that left the state to prove themselves in college. Wright has yet to lead the Rams in receiving but still met thresholds to put him on track for future fantasy success. He broke out crossing the 20% minimum for weighted dominator rating as a true freshman with Warren Jackson on the team. In the 2020 COVID-shortened 3 game season, he achieved the preferred 30% mark as a sophomore.
A multi-dimensional threat, Wright has returned punts and seen 26 carries over his first 15 games. It is always positive to have players that coaches want to feed in different ways. I see legitimate deep speed but not a lot of short-area quickness or acceleration from a stop. The only yards after catch come from deep balls where he has his man beat. Given his likely role, I would want to see improved twitch however his early career production puts him on a good track as a prospect. At an ADP of 137, he is an easy bet to gain value.
4. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky (5’11” 185)
I actually forgot Robinson had transferred to Kentucky until preparing this piece. That move is an interesting wrinkle, especially for a player with “early declare” potential. The proverbial “Swiss army knife” started his career at Nebraska and received 225 touches over his first 18 games for the Cornhuskers. He was used in a multitude of ways, accounting for roughly 5 receptions and 7 carries per game. His sophomore weighted dominator rating puts him in elite territory at a tick under 30%.
Starting in 2021, Robinson will take his talents to Lexington and try to produce in the SEC East. In a perfect world, Robinson has Percy Harvin potential. His early college usage mirrors what the Gators did with the former star, although Harvin was much more efficient with his touches. They are similarly built and both show strength on the ground despite a lack of ideal size. If he continues to succeed as an offensive weapon, especially with the step-up in competition, I think Robinson’s ADP of 96 will soar especially if he declares early for the NFL in 2022.
3. Zonovan Knight, RB, NC State (5’11” 210)
I think we may see another late career runner burst out of a North Carolina school. Zonovan Knight has been the best back on the Wolfpack roster since enrolling. Despite leading the backfield in all efficiency metrics, the staff has continued to have him split time with the sluggish Ricky Person. Sometimes coaching decisions just don’t make any sense.
Just down the road in Chapel Hill, Javonte Williams was quietly solid despite sharing a backfield with the older Michael Carter. Williams finally made his mark as a junior and bolted for the NFL. I can see a similar path for Knight, should he continue to out-produce Person. He has soft hands and a bruising running style, with more long speed than I would have thought. His Devy value is going to increase from his current ADP of 107, get in now.
2. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (5’11” 178)
What do David Bell, Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks, and Zay Flowers have in common? They are the only four sophomore receivers to achieve a 30% weighted dominator rating in 2020. We assume the first three in that list are locks to declare for the NFL and should be early draft selections. Zay Flowers, on the other hand, is a bit of an afterthought. But like Bell, Wilson, and Burks, his production profile is on an excellent Devy trajectory.
A teenage breakout coupled with a 30% college dominator rating has one of the highest hit rates when projecting future NFL fantasy relevant WRs. Flowers has both. Beyond those metrics, he shows tremendous body control, routinely makes acrobatic catches, and is very nifty in the open field. Entering the second year with QB Phil Jurkovec and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will ensure Flowers builds on his already strong resume. Do not be surprised if he makes the leap to the league early and when that happens his ADP of 86 will look like a steal.
1. Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina (5’10” 225)
When uber recruit MarShawn Lloyd tore his ACL in spring practice is was considered a huge blow to South Carolina. Most people outside of Columbia couldn’t name another back on the depth chart, but Kevin Harris had quietly popped as a true freshman before sustaining his own injury, finishing with a 21-179-4 line. The stocky bowling ball runs exactly how you’d imagine a back of his stature would, but is much more slippery than the standard banger. Additionally, he caught 21 balls in the 10 game SEC schedule, which is a nice plus in his profile.
I already hear comparisons between Harris and another lightly recruited, thick SEC running back: Benny Snell. That would be a mistake. Harris is much faster and a well-rounded, versatile athlete. He wasn’t just good in 2020, he was one of the most dominant running backs in the NCAA. As a teenager, he had the second-highest dominator rating in a Power 5 conference behind 4th year senior Mohamed Ibrahim. He earned more of his team’s production than fellow sophomores, and consensus top 2 backs in the class, Breece Hall or Isaiah Spiller. Additionally, he saw a 12% receiving market share which is excellent for a running back. He could be a top 3 Devy back by this time next year so the current ADP of 42 is too low.