Devontae Booker is one of those running backs you want to root for. He has that pleasing style of running. It's kind of hard to quantify. He seems tall at times on field, but he's not going to be confused with Derrick Henry or anything like that because he's not quite six feet. He's not a smallish, Darren Sproles-type back either. He's not a bowling ball. He's not quite squirmy. There's just something about him that is fun to watch. One of my favorites to look at if you just trust your eyes.
Booker was a high-profile recruit of Washington State a few years back, but he took some time off to get his grades in order. And then he just sort of re-emerged back on the scene with Utah in 2014 that made you say, "Oh yeah, I remember that guy getting recruited out of high school." And he didn't disappoint with two solid seasons for the Utes. But can he succeed at the next level? Let's take a look.
» Good burst
» Solid pass catcher
» Pass protection
Booker has that ability to just take the ball and go. He knows what he's doing on the football field. He doesn't spend a lot of time dancing around, which can be super annoying. It's like getting a bunch of your friends together to go find a place to eat. Most of the guys will just grunt and say, "Yeah, whatever." One guy will offer up something terrible; like Applebee's (and you don't hang out with that guy any more). But finally, somebody will come up with a great selection like Stacked (you should check it out if you're in Huntington Beach) and you immediately like that guy even more. Booker is the kind of running back who will pick Stacked.
Booker has pretty good hands, too. Dude had 80 receptions in two seasons at Utah. That will definitely make him a hit with some coaches and scouts around the league. He had 43 receptions last year and he didn't even play a full season.
Booker also isn't shy about pass protection, either. That's a huge knock on a lot of young backs. They don't know how to block, the QB loses confidence in them, and the running back ends up spending third downs on the bench. I don't know if he will play all three downs in the NFL immediately, but he's going to have a chance to develop into that type of player.
» Lack of breakaway speed
Booker is a decisive runner who is quick to hit the hole and start going. And then that's about it. He's got some shifty moves. But he doesn't quite have that added gear to help him separate from defenders. It didn't really matter too much in the Pac-12. You see him get by some guys, but as you're watching, you wonder if he's going to be able to complete those runs on the NFL level. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he could have that deceptive speed Emmitt Smith had during his career. A lot of scouts didn't think he had breakaway speed, either. Although I'm pretty confident I made the same rationale for T.J. Yeldon. I still believe in T.J., though. Don't worry about Chris Ivory. Dude will be fine for five games and then Yeldon will take over! (Sorry, I'll focus.)
Booker already missed part of last year with injuries and he's also close to 24 years old, which puts him ahead of most rookies in that category. I really want to make a joke about him still being younger than Kansas hoopster Perry Ellis, but I'll refrain. (And if you're one of those weirdoes who doesn't watch the NCAA tournament, hit up Yahoo! and check out Perry Ellis. I surmised that Ellis was high school teammates with Tim Duncan. He's almost too old to play for the Spurs, though that doesn't seem possible. But I digress.)
Booker could also work on his handles, too. He did a better job as a senior, but nothing is going to get you off the field faster than losing the football. Can I get an amen, Ameer Abdullah? Hey, you remember how much I liked Abdullah last year? I kind of like Booker better. I have him and Josh Ferguson as my top two running backs to hype this year. And before you besmirch me too much, I did like Devonta Freeman a bunch two years ago. Though that took a while to hit.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
I really sat down and thought about this one. I mean, it's so easy just to type in Dallas Cowboys and call it a day. Though, that's uncool to Freddy Morris who could have a great season for the Boys.
But I'm going with the Baltimore Ravens. Booker seems like he could excel as an older-version of Justin Forsett. (And yes, I said older. Did you not read the whole thing where I was comparing Booker to Perry Ellis? It was like four paragraphs ago. I can't do call backs to four paragraphs ago?) Still, I really believe Marc Trestman could find a proper usage with Booker.
The Broncos would be a frisky pick, too, because I just believe the team doesn't want C.J. Anderson to succeed. And why not the Dolphins? If Arian Foster is an option, why not somebody the same age who doesn't have the all of the miles on him? But I've heard Booker compared to Jeremy Langford (I guess?) and Adam Gase was the Bears offensive coordinator last year. So that's a pretty good option if you want to haphazardly connect the dots. But honestly, I don't really believe in either of these two options. I feel pretty good about the Ravens deal. That would be awesome.
Early fantasy draft projection
I imagine the team that drafts Booker will take a cautious approach with him. Which is fine. If I fantasy book Booker's first season in a realistic fashion, I would have him going to a team with a decent running back situation. And then through injuries (not rooting for it) or some other circumstance, Booker gets his chance in like Week 11 and he sets the fantasy world on fire. He does have the ability to do it. Booker could be especially valuable in PPR formats if he's given the chance. But that's the best case scenario. My gut-feel is that he's a mid-round pick who ends up sort of redshirting this season.