Throughout last season I did a projected futures piece to help owners better understand the outlook for future classes. For dynasty owners, it is a tool to gauge who they would be trading away or who they would be trading for when dealing future rookie picks. For Devy owners, it is a tool to place future rookie pick value on their Devy players to help when making trades. With rookie and Devy drafts in full swing now that the 2018 NFL draft is over, Projected Futures will come in handy.
For example, last season, Projected Futures placed a 2018 1.05 rookie pick value on Nick Chubb to help owners identify who they would likely be getting with the 1.05 pick. For the 2019 class, N’Keal Harry was the 1.01, and for the 2020 class, Cam Akers was the 1.01. I base the Projected Futures not only on my rankings but incorporating the feel of consensus along with ADP helps to gauge the future outlook for these prospects.
Players will be placed in the class of their earliest draft eligible year. Here are the projections for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 classes.
It is no secret that the 2019 class is very strong at WR. There are a number of receivers with the ability to step in and be true number ones on whichever team selects them. The class at RB and QB is down, but there are a few runners who should intrigue this next season and emerge throughout the process. David Montgomery is slotted as the top runner with his ability to break tackles and break PFF’s elusive rating record. He is a complete back that comes with the ideal size.
The Big 4 at receiver is Harry, Brown, Edwards, and Harmon. There are plenty other receivers that have the ability to move up with a solid season, but those are the four I feel most comfortable with. DK Metcalf has the size, the length, and the high pointing ability to be a top receiver, the hope is, however, that he is able to grab the production needed in order to warrant him a top ranking. The following group looks to be Collin Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Deebo Samuel, and Hakeem Butler. Tyler Johnson completely dominated his team’s receiving production in 2017, and they failed to score a TD or throw for more than 50 yards in the two games that he missed. Deebo Samuel, from a skill standpoint, is definitely one of the top receivers in this class but he is often injured and needs to show he can be a durable player. The remainder of the projection at the WR position is up in the air. One player who could make a substantial jump is Demetris Robertson who missed a majority of the 2017 season due to injury. He is the burner that this class needs and should enter the 2018 season as one of the top receivers in the PAC-12 conference.
Justin Herbert is the lone QB in the 2019 class. He looks like the closest thing to a lock for the first round in next year’s draft. What he has shown is good accuracy, a solid arm, good mechanics, mobility, and leadership. He is a very efficient passer, but he has his own durability issues. Overall the class is strong and deep at receiver, and that thought likely continues throughout the season and into the 2019 NFL draft.
Unlike the 2019 class, the 2020 running backs tilted the college landscape. This class is deep and littered with talent. Six true freshmen rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2017, and a number of others gave strong contributions in their first year. The WR class has a few standouts but nothing set in stone, and only two QBs have shown real promise.
Although my top-ranked RB is Cam Akers, Jonathan Taylor is on a tremendous pace to be one of the best runners in college history. He set the all-time freshman rushing record last season and if he continues on this pace with the offensive line that Wisconsin has, he’ll surely jump into the driver’s seat, therefore; he tops to 2020 Projected Futures list. D’Andre Swift is the next Georgia RB in line to make the jump to the league. He earned a role in Georgia’s offense despite the depth they had entering the season and the two-headed monster in Chubb and Michel. Swift has a multifaceted skill set which should allow him to produce at a high level in the SEC. Some underrated runners who I have placed in the 2020 class are UAB’s Spencer Brown and Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin. Brown was one of the freshmen to rush for over 1,000 yards while breaking current Bears RB Jordan Howard’s freshman rushing record at UAB. Benjamin steps into a lead role that has a ton of vacated production due to the departure of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.
At the WR position, Tee Higgins tops the list. He is in a prime spot to continue the WRU trend that Clemson is widely known for. Higgins has added weight and looks more explosive on tape. He dominated Clemson’s spring game and set himself up for a strong sophomore campaign. Jhamon Ausbon has the ideal size and understands the importance of creating separation within his routes. He has the size, and the athleticism, but needs to improve on his drop issues. CeeDee Lamb will be a huge part of Oklahoma’s success in life after Mayfield. He has the length and hands needed, but he will need to add weight to his frame and show more athleticism after the catch. He doesn’t have a ton of speed on tape, but he still manages to win deep consistently. Michigan WR Tarik Black missed most of the season due to a broken foot, but he was an early target for Michigan’s QBs. Harbaugh gushes about him, and they feel he’s an integral piece of Michigan’s pass game.
Tua is the top QB in the 2018 DFF Devy Watch, and he’s an absolute game changer. His late heroics in the National Championship game are but a glimpse of what he can do. Tua is a dual-threat QB but also the purest passer in all of college football. Alabama finally has a top QB, and their dynasty gets that much harder to overthrow with Tua at the helm. Jake Fromm is the consensus top QB, and he helped bring Georgia back to the national spotlight with his poise and understanding of the game. He will have a battle this year with another 5-star QB coming in to compete, but he should hold his value in this class.
The strength of this class lies within the depth at QB and WR. Outside of the few top runners, there’s currently nothing that really excites me.
This quarterback class is much needed for the college football landscape. Although it’s a lofty comparison, I think it can rival the 2020 RB class. Some players will likely have to sit, but the overall effect it has on college football along with the future at the position from an NFL standpoint is limitless. The blue-chip players in Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields alone would make this class strong, but there are a number of other QBs that likely emerge and completely shift the outlook for their respective teams. JT Daniels at USC immediately becomes their best passer and is surrounded by talent. Phil Jurkovec has dual-threat ability with strong athleticism and more passing prowess than his teammates. Matt Corral is a great QB to get Ole Miss out of the dumps of their restricted period. Joey Gatewood is built like Cam Newton with a similar running style but needs a lot of improvement as a passer. This class is good, and many more will emerge.
More than half of the 2021 Projected Futures list is made up of wide receivers. This class has so many big, long, athletic players with good lateral agility and route running ability. Overall, I prefer this class to the 2020 class at the receiver position, and it fits well with the number of passers coming into college as well. Amon-Ra St. Brown will pair nicely at USC with his high school teammate JT Daniels. The rapport is there and St. Brown is one of the most competitive players in this class. Justin Shorter is a freak athlete with great size and the understanding of how to run routes. Even if his route running doesn’t come to fruition early, he will be able to win with athleticism. Jordyn Adams is one of the most technical players in this class and has the smoothest pair of hands. Brennan Eagles has the size, the agility, and the athleticism to be an early factor for Texas. Both JaMarr Chase and Terrace Marshall are highly touted recruits for LSU and will come in to compete and give the current receivers on the roster hell. Justyn Ross was stolen out of Alabama’s backyard, and he’s easily one of the more elusive receivers after the catch while still having nice size and length at the position. Derion Kendrick has great lateral quickness, the ability to win after the catch, and the dynamics to score on any given play. CJ Moore is thin, but long with plus athleticism and agility and he steps into a wealth of vacated production. Jacob Copeland is a receiver that Florida desperately needs, and his determination to bring them back to the promised land is so strong even his mom couldn’t stop him. L’Christian Smith is a late riser who fits the Benjimin Victor mold but possesses better overall ability at the position. That wraps up the current WR class for the 2021 Projected Futures list, but there are a number of other playmakers beyond the top 24.
For running backs, the class is slim. There is Zamir White, Master Teague, and a lot of question marks. None really stood out on their high school tape like years past outside of these two runners. Both are very athletic and join two of the top backfields in the country. White has the size, speed, cutting ability, natural pass catching, and tenacity within his running style to make him the top overall player in the class. Teague is regarded as the 3rd recruit for Ohio State at the position in this year’s class, but his tape would say otherwise. Pairing him with JK Dobbins gives them a dangerous backfield that can carry the load against any BIG 10 foe. Teague is runner most likely to make it to the NFL outside of Dobbins. We will know more about this running back class when the season kicks off, but for now, it’s less than impressive.