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Future Barometer: Small School Rookies

Mario Puig

Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.

In this "Future" Barometer, the goal is to break down a handful of players each week who likely don't offer fantasy utility in the meantime, but otherwise might have the prospect profile of a player who could make an impact if an opportunity presented itself. The hope is that doing so will give you a head start in your evaluations if any of these guys pop up into the mainstream later on.

But again: these are long shots. They're probably off the radar in even the deepest of re-draft leagues for the time being.

Presented in no particular order of importance...

Trent Taylor, WR, SF

Marquise Goodwin was the clear WR2 for San Francisco on Sunday, and his Olympic-level athleticism is no small hurdle for any 49er wideouts who might try to push him for snaps or targets. But Goodwin finished the game with just three catches for 21 yards on six targets, memorably dropping a well-placed deep pass on San Francisco's first drive that easily could have been a touchdown.

At 5-foot-8, 178 pounds, Taylor doesn't profile as an obvious option in two-wideout sets. But at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, neither does Goodwin. If Goodwin doesn't cut it as a route runner, an opportunity could open up for Taylor. Taylor saw 24 snaps to Goodwin's 50 on Sunday, so it would seem like the rookie fifth-round pick would be next in line for an audition if the 49ers sour on Goodwin.

If he gets such an opportunity, there's reason to like Taylor's chances of holding on to the role. He's very small and lacks long speed (4.63-second 40-yard dash), but he has excellent quickness (10.75 agility score), and he was incredibly productive in college. In his final three years at Louisiana Tech, Taylor turned 345 targets into 299 catches for 3,919 yards and 30 touchdowns in 41 games. He showed remarkably reliable hands, which could come in handy if Goodwin keeps dropping passes.

Kasen Williams, WR, CLE

Claimed off waivers after the Seahawks surprisingly let him loose at final cuts, Williams was able to log 12 snaps Sunday despite so recently joining the Browns. After Corey Coleman (53) and Kenny Britt (52), only Ricardo Louis (16) saw more snaps at wideout. Britt was so disappointing Sunday that coach Hue Jackson left open the possibility of pulling him from the starting lineup. Louis would be the favorite to replace Britt in such an event, but Williams' snap count from Sunday implies he might not be far behind.

Williams (6-foot-1, 219 pounds) was not long ago considered a much better prospect than not just Louis, but almost all receivers of his age group. Williams was one of the top recruits of the 2011 class, and his career started off well before he suffered a Lisfranc fracture and broken fibula during the 2013 season. Either injury is severe enough on its own, but to suffer both at once put Williams' career in jeopardy. Indeed, he never bounced back at Washington, and the former top recruit was reduced to practice squad fodder over the last two years.

But Williams stood out in the preseason for Seattle, and his ability to see the field so quickly in Cleveland is another encouraging sign. In addition to Britt's tenuous hold on his starting role, wide receiver snaps could end up for grabs in Cleveland since both Britt and Coleman have significant injury histories.

Tanner Gentry, WR, CHI

With Kevin White out yet again, the Bears will need to dig even deeper for route runners. Gentry, an undrafted rookie out of Wyoming, was called up from the practice squad following White's injury. While all of Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Deonte Thompson, and Josh Bellamy are likely ahead of Gentry in the meantime, the first two are just slot wideouts who were generally unwanted in free agency, and the latter two are primarily special teams players.

At 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, Gentry brings adequate size and probably below average athleticism (4.58-second 40, 11.72 agility score at the Wyoming pro day), but he has a chance to stick in the NFL due to his skill set. Gentry was a highly productive college player, turning 132 targets into 72 receptions for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. While those numbers are great at a glance, they're especially impressive because he posted them in a low-volume passing game while seeing 34.8 percent of Wyoming's targets, Gentry's output was 41.3 percent of the team's receiving yardage, and 48.3 percent of its passing touchdowns.

Gentry also earned consistent praise for his play in training camp. While he likely lacks the athleticism to project as a starting NFL receiver, Gentry's adeptness at wide receiver tasks at least makes him a candidate to step up in a Bears offense that badly lacks competition at receiver.

Devante Mays, RB, GB

The Packers all but made clear in Week 1 that Ty Montgomery is their workhorse, but nothing in Montgomery's history suggests he'll hold up over the course of a full season in such a role. Rookie fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams would likely get the first shot if Montgomery should get hurt, but Mays could also push for snaps in such a scenario. While the seventh-round pick might technically lack the pedigree of Williams, Mays has plenty of promising components in his prospect profile.

Although Williams' draft selection was largely rationalized as a way of adding a power element to the Green Bay backfield, Williams (6-foot, 213 pounds) is actually smaller than Montgomery (6-foot, 216 pounds). If it's a power element that Green Bay wants at some point, it's Mays who better projects for such a function. At 5-foot-10, 230 pounds, Mays has a clear power back build. Watch any of his Utah State tape and you'll see a hard-charging runner who generates a lot of momentum.

Despite his big build, Mays is not lacking for athleticism. Indeed, Mays posted a better 40 at his pro day (4.52) than Williams did at the BYU pro day (4.53), and both Mays' vertical (40.5) and broad jump (129) were both better than Williams' marks (33 and 123). Williams is quicker and a better pass catcher than Mays, and his draft pedigree grants him preferred status, but Mays really could take the backup spot in Green Bay if Williams stumbles at some point.