Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma - Class of 2023
Gray (5'10/211) was relegated to part-time work for his first three seasons, topping out at 156 carries for 758 yards as a sophomore for Tennessee in 2020, averaging just 2.57 yards after contact and a middling 16.6% broken tackle rate. Though he transferred to Oklahoma in the 2021 offseason with hopes of earning a starting role in 2021, Gray started the first five games while splitting carries with Kennedy Brooks before finally giving way to the veteran Sooner who went on to have a 1,000-yard campaign before graduating. With the Lincoln Riley regime moving on to USC, former Ole Miss OC Jeff Lebby took over the offense and finally gave Gray the opportunity to be a full-fledged starter. In return Gray has been far and away the most consistent member of the Oklahoma offense, rushing for 100+ yards in seven of his 10 games while being one of just 17 runners to have more than 1,000 yards already. Last weekend he rushed 25 times for 211 yards, 8.4 YPC and two touchdowns against West Virginia. Here is a full game clip of his most impactful rushes:
Gray currently sports the third highest PFF rushing grade in the country (92.3) and boosted his broken tackle rate to a strong 29%. He has also excelled in the passing game, reeling in 29-of-33 targets for 174 yards, 1.14 yards per route and zero drops. For a player who had very little NFL Draft buzz entering the season, Gray has done an incredible job of boosting his profile. He's thrived in the slow-mesh system, is big enough to handle the NFL grind and has looked explosive in the open field. I peg him as a third-round Dynasty pick that will be in the 2023 RB10-15 range.
Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA - Class of 2023
The Michigan transfer has hit another level in his development this year, averaging a gaudy 7.6 yards per carry which is the highest mark of any running back in the nation with 140 carries or more. In fact there isn't another runner who meets the 140 totes threshold that is even averaging 7.0 YPC! His 4.44 yards after contact is the second highest mark nationally while Charbonnet is ranked as the #2 RB in FBS according to PFF. He cleared 100-yards for the seventh time in eight games and is coming off a two game stretch where he accrued rushing yards and six touchdowns against Stanford and Arizona. Watch several of his best runs against the Wildcats here:
A Charbonnet believer heading into the season, I selected him with my fourth-round pick in the C2C The Program draft last summer and have not waivered in my belief that he can be a viable starting NFL running back if given the chance. I am very interested to see how he runs at The NFL Scouting Combine this year, as Alabama RB Brian Robinson elevated his draft stock by running an unexpected 4.52s 40-yard dash last year. If Charbonnet can run in the 4.5-4.55 range he will be a Day 2 pick in my opinion, since his long-speed is the only major concern I have about him making the transition.
Mohammed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota - Class of 2023
I cannot say enough about Ibrahim's (5'10/210) resolve in coming back from an achilles tear last year and immediately taking on the fourth highest workload in the country thus far, logging 238 carries for 1,271 yards, 5.3 YPC and 18 touchdowns. It is a feat that is essentially without precedent, as an achilles injury is considered to be a potential kiss of death injury to running backs. We are seeing the adverse effects of an achilles injury with Cam Akers for the LA Rams, who is a shell of himself while on a similar recovery trajectory as Ibrahim. The Gophers' bell cow was in top form against Northwestern this weekend with a season-high 36 carries for 182 yards and three touchdowns:
Ibrahim has run for at least 100-yards in literally every single game he played in and ranks second overall with 38 runs of 10+ yards (Chase Brown #1 w/43). He's billed at 210 pounds which is the minimum for feature backs in the NFL according to historical data, so he checks that box. However I am still curious to see how he performs outside of Minnesota's power-run system, as we've seen players like RB Ky Thomas who was incredible for the Gophers before transferring to Kansas and assuming a tertiary role. Ibrahim is trending as a late-2nd/early-3rd round 2023 Dynasty selection and is generally in the RB10-15 range as the 2022 season winds down. His post-season evaluation process with be vital due to his potential medical red flags associated with the achilles.
DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB - Class of 2023
The nation's second-leading rusher, McBride (5'11/215) took over for departed four-year starter Spencer Brown in 2021 and immediately excelled, posting 1,266 rushing yards, 6.7 YPC and 13 touchdowns while earning a pristine 90.5 PFF run grade. He had the highest PFF rushing grade of any G5 RB in the country entering this season and is currently averaging 7.0 yards per carry over his storied three year career at UAB. However unlike his powerfully built predecessor Brown, McBride has the kind of burst and athleticism that could translate to the NFL in a way the Brown's slow feet never could.
Check out McBride pull off one of the most impressive athletic moves of the entire 2022 football season. It gets more impressive every time I watch it, next level athlete.
He was the second fastest recorded ball carrier from Week 10, reaching 21.5 MPH on this explosive touchdown run:
I've got many shares of McBride in CFF, but I caution that he's not just another small-school RB that puts up big numbers against inferior competition and can't handle the jump in competition. He's right in the 215-pound wheelhouse and has enough power to finish runs in addition to his long speed. The Blazers' tailback ranks 7th nationally in PFF elusiveness rating and could really open eyes at the Senior Bowl/Combine if his play speed can be replicated on the track. McBride is one of my favorite G5 prospects in the 2023 class regardless of position.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky - Class of 2023
Well, it finally happened. Despite evidence to the contrary mounting all season long, many NFL evaluators still insisted that Will Levis (6'4/233) is a top-15 NFL Draft caliber signal caller. With his abhorrent 11-for-23, 109 yards, 43.6 NFL passer rating performance against lowly Vanderbilt, I can safely say that I will not have Will Levis as a first round graded quarterback. I recorded all his throws against the Commodores and put together a crisp 2+ minute video for your perusal:
His body language oozes frustration and the four sacks he took were almost half of the nine sacks Vanderbilt managed to record during all of 2021. Over the last three games Levis has taken 13 sacks and has the ignominious distinction of owning the second worst Pressure-to-Sack rate in the Power Five (30.2%), behind only Jayden Daniels (34.8%). His 65.9 PFF passing grade is just the 70th-best grade among FBS quarterbacks. Watching Levis throw last Saturday it's clear that he's not keeping his eyes downfield when pressured, is having trouble throwing accurately off platform and is inconsistent with his ball placement due to poor mechanics and footwork. I understand how his physical tools and arm strength are tantalizing to QB-starved NFL franchises, of which there are many right now. However Levis is still a project who looks like a much better value in Round 2.
Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas - Class of 2024
When I first gazed at Ewers' high school, I freely admit that I was smitten with his arm strength and ability to flick his wrist and make a pinpoint throw on a 20-yard, field side, out pattern. After a year at Ohio State where he learned the collegiate ropes as a 17-year old who reclassified to the 2021 class, Ewers returned to his home state of Texas in order to resurrect the once proud Longhorns. His tenure started in spectacular fashion, with Ewers going 9-for-12 for 134 yards and 11.2 yards per pass attempt against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense, earning a PFF passing grade of 90.2, his highest of the season thus far. However a shoulder injury late in the first half ended his day prematurely and caused Ewers to miss the next three games before returning in Week 6 for the Red River Rivalry game. Texas' prodigal son did not disappoint, completing 21-of-31 passes for 289 yards and a 4-to-1 ratio. In case you've forgotten how he looked against the Sooners, here is the full game cut in 2 minutes:
Ewers then went on to complete 17-of-26 throws for 172 yards and a 3-to-0 ratio versus a stout Iowa State defense that ranks 11th nationally in overall defensive performance, allowing just 4.6 yards per play (9th in FBS). While he completed at least 65% of his passes in each of his first four games, his level of play has noticeably decreased since then with Ewers completing 53-of-122, a 43% completion rate, for 5.6 yards per pass, a 3-to-4 ratio and a 7-to-6 big time throw-to-turnover worthy play rate. He certainly hasn't been helped out by his receivers, as four timely drops against TCU amounting to a 19% drop rate didn't do him any favors. However that doesn't excuse Ewers missing open receivers downfield or blowing a surefire touchdown pass to Bijan Robinson whose defender fell down on a wheel route, instead checking down for a five-yard completion to Ja'Tavion Sanders. Here's another full game clip of Ewers' day against TCU where he failed to lead a single touchdown drive against the Horned Frogs' 53rd ranked pass defense:
Message board rumors persist that Ewers is playing hurt and that he's gutting it out until the offseason when he can finally get healthy. He has lapses when he doesn't set his feet and engage his lower half into his throws, affecting his accuracy. It's also important to remember Ewers is still 18 and a first year starter developmentally who is still learning the ropes. While i'm still enamored with Ewers' ability, for the moment he has been passed in the 2024 QB1 race by Caleb Williams and UNC gunslinger Drake Maye in my opinion.
Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss - Class of 2025
In what has become a weekly homage to Judkins, here is the quintessential 2022 Freshman Phenom ripping off 135 yards, two touchdowns and 3.7 yards after contact against Alabama's eight ranked rush defense:
If that wasn't enough Judkins for you, here is a full game cut of his 140-yard, 2 TD performance against Tulsa:
Judkins is currently vying with Penn State five-star Nicholas Singleton to be considered the top 2025 Devy/Dynasty running back. I'm still leaning Singleton as the RB1 of his class due to his incredible power/speed combo, but it's not by much and Judkins is the clear RB2 at worst.
Antonio Williams, WR, Clemson - Class of 2025
Williams is so smooth and comfortable despite being a first year player. You see how twitchy he is off the line, creating ample space immediately on his red zone touchdown reception. He also does an exceptional job selling the slant route before sharply changing direction and beating his man cleanly to the outside for a nice gain.
While Luther Burden and Evan Stewart are the clear WR1 & 2 from the 2022 prep cycle, Williams, Barion Brown and uber-talented Clemson teammate Adam Randall are all in play to seize the Devy/Dynasty WR3 spot.
Dallan Hayden, RB, Ohio State - Class of 2025
Though he posted 108-yards and a touchdown in a 77-21 rout over Toledo, Hayden (5'10/195) had been serving as the third-running back on the depth chart behind TraVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams as the freshman gets acclimated to the college game behind two established vets. However with Henderson out the last two games, and Williams going down as well last week against Indiana, Hayden was given the heaviest workload of his OSU tenure, carrying 19 times for 102 yards, 5.4 YPC and a touchdown while rolling up 3.1 yards after contact. Here is an extended highlight video of the OSU upstart:
The path appears clear for Hayden to take over as the OSU RB1 in 2024, and possibly even garner co-starter reps in 2023 alongside Henderson if Williams decides to declare for the NFL Draft this offseason. He's a little slightly built at 195 pounds right now, but he's only 18 and has another 2 ½ years to pack on functional weight in order to handle the physicality of the NFL. He's well worth the investment in Devy leagues and is a player to monitor in Dynasty.