Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama - Class of 2023
Another victim of deposed Georgia Tech HC Geoff Collins' rank incompetence, Gibbs (5'11/200) is an all-purpose dynamo who thrived when schemed touches in space but struggled to grind out tough yards between the tackles. As a result Gibbs only received 143 carries in 12 games for 746 yards, 5.2 YPC and just 4 touchdowns with an 86.2 PFF rushing grade. He was incredible through the air, catching 36-of-43 passes for 470 yards, two TDs and a 28% broken tackle rate with a 3.06 Y/RR, which was the second-best mark in the country. He then transferred to Alabama to be under the tutelage of HC Nick Saban and to finally get to experience victory at the FBS level. His rushing workload was closely managed through the first four games with Gibbs receiving just 25 carries over the first four games before exploding for 18 totes against West Virginia. Here is every relevant touch from Gibbs' 206-yard, 11.4 YPC, two-touchdown showing against West Virginia:
Gibbs is currently slotted as the 2023 RB3 behind Bijan Robinson and Zach Evans, with his 190-200 pound frame being the biggest detriment to his future NFL Draft stock. I have real concerns about his ability to run between the tackles, as you see him get arm tackled by lesser athletes in college than he'll be facing in the NFL. You see how slight Gibbs looks compared to the players around him, he reminds me of Devon Achane in that respect. However Gibbs is undeniably dynamic in the open field and has the extra gear needed to create separation in the pass game. His best recent comp is James Cook from Georgia who went in the mid-second round last April.
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina - Class of 2023
Few signal callers have improved their NFL Draft standing as much as Maye who has been sensational so far, ranking second in the nation with a PFF Pass Grade of 90.6 and a sterling 18-to-1 ratio. His Big Time Throw Rate of 8.6% ranks fourth nationally while his 9.6 yards per pass attempt ranks sixth. He is tied for the most under pressure Big Time Throws in the country while ranking 11th in PFF overall offensive grade when pressured. Being able to deliver a strike while absorbing a hit is one of the hallmark traits for NFL success and Maye is doing it at a high level. I put together a compilation of his throws from Saturday's evisceration of Virginia Tech and it speaks for itself. Maye (6'4/220) makes some superb throws, with several of his completions coming on the move:
In a recent Devy Mock Draft Maye went 3.5 overall while another industry draft going on right now had Maye selected in the mid-first round. QB scarcity is driving his price into rarified air, so you're going to have to jump on him in late R1, early R2 if his hot start continues.
Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas - Class of 2024
I don't mean to say Xavier Worthy's stock was too far down, but doubters had started to emerge after a somewhat nondescript start to the season. BMI concerns have, credibly, been raised as the 6-foot-1, 163-pounder could struggle against bigger, more physical NFL corners. However Worthy came alive against West Virginia reeling in 7-of-9 targets for 119 yards and two touchdowns while making an assortment of impressive plays. Check out the compilation I made of every target Worthy received on Saturday:
The speed merchant is averaging 2.63 Y/RR and an FBS-leading 20.1-yard average target depth, highlighting his ability to get on top of defenses. There was a public outcry from Longhorns fans to find a quarterback who won't over/underthrow Worthy when he's got 3+ yards of separation downfield. Quinn Ewers has the arm to do it, but he went down against Alabama leaving Hudson Card to throw poorly placed downfield passes to Worthy. With Ewers rumored back, Worthy should be able to build on his big last weekend. He's being drafted in the late-1st/early-second round in recent Devy drafts and already banked a true breakout freshman year that is one of the gold standard projection metrics for predicting NFL success.
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington - Class of 2023
A former four-star recruit, Odunze (6'3/201) was held captive by hapless former HC Jimmy Lake and OC John Donovan who employed a milquetoast 19th-century offense that was among the worst in the country last year. To put in perspective how much better Odunze is producing as opposed to last year, his 409 receiving yards through four games is just six yards less than his nine-game total from 2021. New HC Kalen Kalen DeBoer has been a godsend for the entire offense, but especially the passing game with fellow four-star WR Jalen McMillan also registering a 27/428/4 line through five games. For his part, Odunze has transitioned primarily to the outside, running 80% of his routes on the sideline as opposed to 48% last year. His 2.78 yards per route is above the 2.00 threshold while he's drawing 22% of Washington's targets with a 72% completion rate.
Here's a great view of Odunze's out-and-up touchdown reception against UCLA:
And of course this acrobatic circus-catch against Wazzu in the Apple Cup:
Here's a crisp bounce route for a TD against Kent State earlier this year:
Odunze has cut the troubling 14% drop rate of his first two seasons in half to 7% and boasts a very strong 146.6 passer rating when targeted. According to a Sports Illustrated article, Odunze is running in the 4.45s 40-yard dash range, which at his size, 6'3/201, would be a very strong weight-adjusted time. Odunze avoided the dreaded Zero Year as a freshman and is on an upward trajectory in the early going this season. In my opinion, the 2023 class has a projectable top-5 with a middle class from WR6-20 that offers substantial upward mobility. Odunze is in the WR15-19 ballpark at the moment with third-fourth round potential if he can continue to show out.
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College - Class of 2023
Flowers made football magic on Saturday by reeling in one of the pantheon downfield catches of the young 2022 season. Here is every touch from Flowers against Louisville, courtesy of the incredibly talented purveyor of the Devy Deep Dashboard YouTube channel, Brandon Lejeune:
Another “light” receiver, Flowers checks in at 5'10/172, Flowers played right away as a freshman before posting a breakout sophomore campaign with 835 receiving yards, 17.4 YPC and nine touchdowns with 2.27 Y/RR for under pass-averse former HC Steve Addazio. This year he's playing 62% of his reps out wide with a 2.74 Y/RR and a 75% contested catch rate (3-of-4). He shows the ability to win downfield and has exceptional ball tracking skills to go with change of direction ability and speed that make him a potent weapon for BC. He is hovering in the 3rd-4th round range in early season mock drafts but I think he could have a Skyy Moore/DeWayne Eskridge-like rise into the second round when his full body of work comes under the microscope.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama - Class of 2023
The draft community's worst fear about Bryce Young, that his lack of traditional size at the quarterback position could lead to him potentially breaking down when the physicality ratchets up at the NFL level, is being tested now that he's sustained a shoulder injury against Arkansas. Young was trying to flick the ball forward to save yardage on a potential sack when he landed on his throwing shoulder, knocking him out of the game and leading him to his current “day-to-day” designation according to HC Nick Saban.
Young was averaging 13.3 yards per pass attempt against the Razorbacks leading up to the injury and he is still the 1B to CJ Stroud's 1A from the 2023 QB draft class, but if anything is going to affect Young's draft status it's his ability to absorb punishment and stay on the field.
Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin - Class of 2024
It was a dreadful afternoon for Allen and the Wisconsin Badgers who saw their HC Paul Chryst unceremoniously axed following the blowout loss. Allen rushed eight times for just two yards for a .3 YPC average and .75 yards after contact. Allen has averaged under 2.5 yards after contact in each of the past three games with just two runs of 10+ yards in that span, and one of those runs was a 76-yarder against Ohio State in what was essentially garbage time. The concern with 6'2/235 Allen is that he doesn't have the quickness and agility needed to transition to the NFL. With him failing to truly excel against Washington State, New Mexico State, OSU and Illinois, it's fair to speculate whether Allen can fulfill his current top-5 2024 RB draft capital.
Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama - Class of 2023
We heard all offseason about how Jermaine Burton was going to stroll into Alabama and be the Jameson Williams of 2022. That has decidedly not happened as Burton, and the rest of the Bama WR corps, has struggled to perform consistently. Outside of a four-catch, 94-yard game against Vanderbilt, Burton's best game is a 35-yard, five-catch possession-fest against Utah State. He currently sports a pedestrian 61.7 PFF receiving grade with a lowly 1.27 Y/RR while splitting reps evenly between slot and wide. Burton is considered a top-10 overall Devy wide receiver, and I think that's far too high for what he's shown on the field.
Jovante Barnes, RB, Oklahoma - Class of 2025
A highly decorated top-10 RB from the 2022 prep cycle, Barnes enrolled early and immediately established himself in the spring as a future starting running back for the Sooners. Despite his sturdy 6'0/200 frame as an 18-year-old, Barnes was expected to be brought along gradually behind senior Eric Gray and Marcus Major. He received just 13 carries for 42 yards in the first two games before ramping up his workload with 13 totes for 77 yards against Nebraska and 15 carries for 90 yards and his first two career touchdowns versus TCU on Saturday. Here are most of Barnes' touches from Saturday's loss to TCU:
Despite the promising beginning to his OU career, there are some areas he can improve. He wasn't particularly elusive in extended action, with Barnes dodging just three tackles in 31 touches over the last two contests. His 2.05 YAC is well below average and he looks a little tentative hitting the hole, as if he's not truly comfortable running between the tackles just yet. Still, as a true freshman Barnes held his own in a 20-touch workload against a Big 12 defense. Excited to see how he progresses over the next few years.
Isaiah Bond, WR, Alabama - Class of 2025
It's hard not to get a tingle down the leg when you see Bond destroy the Razorbacks DB assigned to cover him, beating him by 10 yards downfield out of the slot. It's a touchdown if Bryce Young doesn't underthrow him. He then takes a quick hitch on the outside and weaves his way through traffic for a first down. Bond has run a 10.73s 100-meter dash and genuinely looks like a sub-4.5s 40 guy by the looks of his play speed. Billed at 5'11/175, Bond was rated as the second-best athlete and 52nd overall recruit from the 2022 prep cycle according to 247Sports. It looks like we will be hearing more from Bond as the season progresses and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us.