We are now one-month post-release of the second annual Campus2Canton Devy Guide. At this point, most of our C2C members and readers have had time to read and digest the 279-page guide. As thorough as our guide is, there are always players who were on the edges of our rankings and warranted consideration. The players chosen for our 2023 Devy guide represent the current players in college football with the brightest NFL futures. The players in this article are players that I feel should have been included in the 2023 Devy Guide had we added another player profile or two at each position, the honorable mentions, if you will.
Michael Pratt, Tulane
With 247 players in the guide, it’s unfortunately inevitable that a player will be overlooked. It happens for every draft guide by every publication out there. This year, that player for us was Michael Pratt.
Pratt is the 40th-ranked QB in our consensus devy rankings. Pratt had a sensational season last year for the Tulane Green Wave, who improved from 2-10 in 2021 to 12-2 and a Cotton Bowl win over USC in 2022. There were rumors on Twitter that Pratt had some interest from Power 5 programs had he entered the transfer portal.
As a player, Pratt has solid but unspectacular physical tools. He possesses above-average mobility, especially for college. But Pratt is unlikely to break off big runs in the NFL like he does at times in college. He can make all the throws you would ask of a QB in the NFL but just has above-average arm strength overall. Pratt does throw with good touch and solid accuracy, and ball placement as well.
Pratt’s strength, however, is his mind. He does a good job identifying coverages and blitzes pre-snap, can move through progressions, and doesn’t often make bad decisions with the ball. He will likely need to show an improved ability to throw with anticipation to be successful in the NFL, given that he won’t be able to use his arm to make up for any delay in identifying the open WR.
Pratt won’t get early draft capital coming from Tulane with his lack of elite physical tools. But he should get drafted and is exactly the type of QB who could steal a job if given a chance.
Emory Williams, Miami (FL)
Emory Williams is a personal favorite of mine in the incoming freshman class. After top 100 prospect Jaden Rashada de-committed from Miami, Williams, the 3-star prospect and Elite 11 QB finalist, became the only QB to sign with Miami this past recruiting cycle.
He’s a bit slight right now, but Williams has excellent size for the QB position, standing at 6’4”. His arm is just as big as he is. Williams puts plenty of zip on his passes but also throws with touch when needed. With his strength and the ability to throw from multiple arm angles and off-platform, Williams has very good arm talent. He does need to improve his ball placement, however, which hopefully can be aided by cleaning up his mechanics.
Williams isn’t an outstanding athlete, but he’s more than capable of extending plays with his legs. When on the move, Williams keeps his eyes downfield and prefers to make plays with his arm. Inside of structure, Williams will move through progressions at times. He does need to become more decisive, as his arm strength and a quick release won’t always be able to make up for double-clutching on passes.
Miami has returning starter Tyler Van Dyke back for 2023. Jake Garcia transferred out, Jacurri Brown is a dynamic athlete but a work in progress as a passer, and Miami doesn’t have another top recruit inked in 2024 yet. Barring a transfer, Williams should have a good opportunity to win the starting job next year after Van Dyke leaves.
Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech
While Brooks was the RB2 behind SaRodorick Thompson in his true freshman season in 2020, it was his sophomore season that saw his breakout. He led the team in rushing yards and recorded three 100-yard games despite seeing 20 fewer carries than Thompson. Unfortunately for Brooks, Thompson took advantage of the COVID year and returned for his fifth season. However, with a new offensive staff in Lubbock, Brooks finally led the backfield in carries, which saw him also lead the backfield in every major category, including receiving.
Brooks is a big, physical RB. He is difficult to bring down and always seems to fall forward for extra yards. Arm tackles will not bring him down; defenders’ only hope is to try to square him up. Brooks has a little shiftiness to his game but would much rather run defenders over than go around them. Brooks has decent acceleration and long speed but definitely won’t win many foot races.
Brooks is a classic one-cut runner. He’s patient and decisive at the line of scrimmage. When he sees the hole open up, he looks to get north and south as quickly as possible. Brooks is no one’s idea of a weapon in the passing game. Brooks displays soft hands and is a reliable check-down option out of the backfield, recording 45 career catches in three years.
With perennial thorn-in-the-side Thompson finally out of eligibility, Brooks should own the Texas Tech backfield this year. Offensive Coordinator Zach Kittley is known more for his prolific passing attacks, so that role may lead to a solid but unspectacular season. Brooks’s skillset as a patient, physical back who can catch passes should earn him an opportunity in the NFL.
Jaylan Knighton, SMU
Under the Rhett Lashlee offense in 2022, Jaylan “Rooster” Knighton amassed 841 scrimmage yards and 11 total TDs with a 56% backfield dominator rating. The following year, an injury and Josh Gattis’ predictably bland and disappointing offense stifled Knighton’s production, particularly in the passing game.
Knighton is the type of RB that you want to get in space and let him work. He gets to top speed in a flash and has the long speed to score any time he touches the ball. Knighton can make some defenders miss but is more of a straight-line athlete.
As a runner, Rooster is fearless. Despite his size, he will lower his shoulder into defenders and fight for extra yards. While Knighton is unlikely to power through tackles at the next level, he does possess good contact balance and will break arm tackles if the defender doesn’t hit him squarely. He identifies cut-back lanes well and runs up the middle effectively. Knighton’s strength lies in his receiving ability, however. He is dangerous out of the backfield on screens, swing routes, and flat routes. Knighton is also a weapon downfield on wheel routes and over the middle on Texas routes. Defenses simply must account for Knighton as a receiver.
This offseason, Knighton transferred to SMU and will be reunited with Lashlee in the offense that used him so effectively previously. Knighton will need to continue to stay out of trouble after being suspended for four games in 2021. But this dynamic athlete and receiver should hear his name called on the third day of the NFL draft and have a pass-catching role with the opportunity for more should things break his way.
Treshaun Ward, Kansas State
Ward was a 3-star recruit who was used sparingly in his first two years. In his third year, Ward climbed to second on the depth chart and handled over 100 touches, including 22 catches. In 2022, Ward lead the three-man rotation in the backfield at the beginning of the year. He recorded two 100-yard games in the first three games. But after suffering an injury early in the game against NC State, fellow backfield mate Trey Benson seized the opportunity, and Ward didn’t receive double-digit touches the rest of the year.
Entering college at 182 lbs, Ward was undersized. He has added over ten pounds so far throughout his college career but is still lighter than a lead back should be. Ward is, however, an athletic back. He’s shifty and can make defenders miss in tight spaces or in the open field. Ward gets to top speed quickly and has the speed to break off long runs. He can break arm tackles, but Ward won’t run through many defenders who hit him squarely. However, he was used around the goalline and can punch it in from close. Despite being a smaller, speedier back, Ward is a decisive runner who looks to get upfield quickly rather than bounce runs outside. Although he is a capable pass catcher with soft hands, Florida State mostly deploys Ward around the line of scrimmage.
After transferring to Kansas State this year, Ward has a new opportunity. He is entering a backfield that lost its undersized bellcow to the NFL in Deuce Vaughan. Ward has already climbed the depth chart and is “likely the ring leader come fall”. While Kansas State has used a back smaller than Ward as a bellcow as recently as last year, some are projecting a one-two rotation this year. If Ward can finally shine this year, he should test well enough at the combine to be drafted.
Dante Cephas, Penn State
Kent State has had one of the most prolific offenses in the G5 in the last few years. Cephas had an extremely productive season in 2021 with 1,200 yards and nine TDs, but battled injuries in 2022 and only managed 744 yards and three TDs.
Cephas predominantly plays out wide, with 84% of his snaps coming on the boundary in 2022. He’s not a burner but has more than enough speed to threaten defenses over the top. Cephas shows the ability to win with his route running ability and savvy rather than just his athleticism. His package of release moves and nuance within his routes suggest he could find success despite a jump in competition level.
G5 players transferring to P5 teams had mixed results last year. Players like Konata Mumpfield of Pittsburgh via Akron and Jaylon Robinson of Ole Miss via UCF underperformed expectations (as did Isaiah Neyor of Texas via Wyoming, but he missed the full season with an injury). Jacob Cowing of Arizona via UTEP and Matt Landers of Arkansas via Toledo had successful seasons. Penn State is eager to find a WR to lead their offense. And according to the Lions 247 podcast, Cephas was the only transfer portal WR Penn State told could be their WR1 this upcoming season. Cephas may never be a star and is likely a flanker at the next level. But, if he shows he can be a lead WR in the Big10, then Cephas could hear his name called on Day 3 and earn a role on an NFL offense.
Ryan O’Keefe, Boston College
With back-to-back years of over 70 catches, 700 receiving yards, five receiving YDs, and 200 rushing yards, O’Keefe has quietly been a consistent producer for the UCF Golden Knights. O’Keefe’s versatility has been on display as well, playing 58.9% of his offensive snaps out wide and 40.3% in the slot. UCF also used him on jet sweeps and in the screen game.
O’Keefe is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands and is a threat to score on any play. Defenses must respect his speed downfield as a receiver, too, as he is a vertical threat in the passing game. He will need to improve his route running and in the intermediate area of the field, however.
After a sensational season that Zay Flowers parlayed into first-round draft capital, Boston College will be searching for a new offensive focal point in 2023. With O’Keefe transferring in this offseason, they may have found what they were looking for. O’Keefe is a very different player than Flowers, so he is unlikely to play the same role that Flowers did. However, O’Keefe is the most talented WR on the team. Players as dynamic and versatile as O’Keefe often find a role in the NFL, so expect O’Keefe to be drafted at some point.
Keagan Johnson, Kansas State
Iowa’s offense has been a running joke the past few years due to their lack of creativity and production. However, they always somehow manage to have solid offensive players. Johnson was a 4-star recruit and the second-ranked ATH by 247 Sports in the class of 2021, who made an impact immediately as a freshman. His 18 catches for 352 yards and two TDs as a freshman ranked second on the team in yards and TDs and avoided the dreaded Year 1 Zero label. He was unable to continue that momentum this year, however, missing 10 games due to injury.
Johnson is a very good all-around athlete. He’s not a burner, but he has the long speed to threaten the defense over the top or beat most defenders on the field in a foot race with the ball in his hands. Johnson is a quick accelerator and changes direction well. He is tough to bring down with the ball in his hands and is a YAC threat.
Johnson is a versatile WR who can be used in the short game on screens, in the intermediate game, and as a downfield vertical threat. But Johnson does need to improve the technical part of his game to become more than a complimentary WR.
Johnson is finally escaping the dredges of Iowa’s prehistoric offense after transferring to Kansas State this offseason. Kansas State has a more modern play caller in former QB Collin Klein, a good returning starting QB in Will Howard, and lacks an offensive focal point after the departure of Deuce Vaughn. Johnson has been turning heads so far this spring and is already projected as a starter. With the archetype that NFL teams are starting to cover at WR, Johnson could surprise a lot of people this season and become a popular riser through the draft process when he declares for the draft, be it this or next.
Thomas Yassmin, Utah
Iowa has held the moniker of TEU for several years now, and with good reason. But Utah is one of the rare teams in college football that also highlights the Tight End in their offense. In 2022, the TE room accounted for 39.6% of the team’s receptions, 42.9% of the receiving yards, and 58.1% of the receiving TDs. In 2021, Brant Kuithe led the team in all receiving categories receiving 50 catches for 611 yards and six TDs. In 2022, Kuithe suffered an injury early. Dalton Kincaid stepped up and led the team in all receiving categories and parlayed his phenomenal season into first-round draft capital. Kuithe does return for 2023. But, Kuithe is undersized, and Utah has seen 2 TEs be productive previously, which opens the door for another TE to earn a role, particularly inline.
Enter Yassmin, the 6’5″ 248 lbs former Australian rugby player who began his football career in 2018. Yassmin was used sparingly last year but was a dynamic option in the passing game when given the opportunity. He is a very good athlete for the TE position, and his speed is dangerous. Despite only 13 catches last year, Yassmin had five catches over 20 yards and three catches over 40 yards. Of his 301 yards, 64.8% (or 195 yards) came after the catch. Yasmin also forced seven missed tackles on those 13 catches.
Yassmin offers intriguing versatility as well, as he played 42.9% of his snaps in the slot last year and 49.7% inline. It was a small sample size last year, so his yards after catch and efficiency certainly may wane as he increases his playing time – averaging a TD on every 2.17 catches will be extremely difficult to repeat. But, Yassmin could be looking at a breakout this year in an offense that actually utilizes the TE effectively. And with the level of dynamism and versatility he has shown so far in a small sample, expect the NFL to be watching his career with great interest.
Donovan Green, Texas A&M
A 4-star prospect and the #4 TE in the class of 2022, Green entered Texas A&M as an unheralded member of the vaunted 2022 recruiting class. And while Conner Weigman and Evan Stewart stole the show last year, Green’s production shouldn’t be ignored either. Green was used mainly inline, where 66.5% of his snaps came from, according to PFF.com. But he still recorded 22 catches for 233 yards and a pair of TDs as a true freshman.
Athletically, Green is pretty average. He has nice top-end speed, with our recruiting team recording him at 19.4 mph during his senior year. Green is particularly explosive, however, and takes a while to get to top speed. He also doesn’t look explosive when leaping to high-point passes either. But Green has steady hands and good body control in the air and along the sidelines. Green is also adept at finding soft spots in zones and getting open to be a good check-down option for his QB.
Green doesn’t have an elite ceiling as a TE, given his average athletic ability. But, he has shown early on in his collegiate career to be a reliable safety blanket and a steady presence in line. If he can continue to progress steadily after his freshman season, he should be drafted and could earn a role for himself in the NFL.