Every Friday, I will be taking an in-depth look at one of the college prospects we currently have rostered on our Devy or Campus 2 Canton teams, or we look forward to adding to our dynasty teams in the near future. Not only will this help all dynasty fantasy football managers get an idea of prospects to come, but it will also help us plan ahead and try to maneuver around with our future rookie picks.
In this inaugural article, I’ll look at one of my favorite collegiate guys. He’s one of the most electric running backs with the ball in his hands but is not in the national spotlight due to being in the Pac-12 Conference. The 2024 eligible running back currently holds the highest Pre-Combine Analytics Grade in his class, edging out guys like Arkansas’ Raheim Sanders, Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson, and Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen and sitting between guys like former LSU Tiger Derrius Guice and current Detroit Lion David Montgomery for historical grades (which go back through the 2014 NFL Draft Class). This running back is Oregon’s Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving.
Per 247 Sports, Bucky Irving was a 4-star recruit and the 23rd overall running back in the 2021 high school class and played his school career at Hillcrest High School in Illinois. He received 24 total offers, headlined by Michigan, TCU, South Carolina, Utah, and a plethora of Big Ten schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Irving ultimately committed to Minnesota, which is where he played his freshman year.
As a true freshman in 2021, Irving saw 114 carries and totaled almost 600 rushing yards, adding four touchdowns. He also saw some work through the air, catching eight of his nine targets for 73 yards. Bucky spent the beginning of his freshman year in a 3-way timeshare but saw a lot of work in the second half of the season after his breakout game against Maryland in late October. The Golden Gopher running back ended his season in a bowl win over West Virginia, carrying the ball 19 times for 129 yards.
After a year at Minnesota, Irving entered his name into the transfer portal. 247 Sports reported, “The 5-foot-10 back loved the school. He loved the people he played for and played beside. He wasn’t thrilled with the offense he was playing in, though. He felt his versatility was wasted in the Minnesota scheme and believes he’s found one that will showcase his skillset better.” Bucky transferred out west to Oregon and had an incredible sophomore season, ranking in the 80th percentile or higher in all six advanced metrics shown below, including adjusted yards per team play, target share, and elusive rating. His sophomore season was capped off with a 2022 Holiday Bowl MVP award due to his performance in the Ducks’ win over the North Carolina Tarheels, which included this run below.
The Oregon Ducks have only played two games thus far in the 2023 season, and Irving only has 15 total attempts. That is mostly due to the blowout win against Portland State, in which Bucky only saw four total carries. Those carries amounted to 119 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks’ tailback also already has ten catches (on ten targets) through two games, which comes out to roughly a 12% target share. It is still extremely early in the year, but it looks like Bucky is picking up where he left off in 2022.
Radar Comparison Chart
You can see a quick comparison of all three of Bucky Irving’s seasons thus far for some of the metrics in the table above, such as Receiving EPA per Target and Rushing EPA per Attempt. You can use this tool for comparisons by looking at our NCAA Seasonal Comparison Tool, available to all website subscribers.
Right now, the Oregon running back looks to likely be a Day 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his size will likely be his biggest knock. If he weighs in under 200 lbs, the odds are against him being anything more than a 3rd down/receiving back. History is not on the side of running backs under 200 lbs. Speed will be his calling card, but the size will continuously knock him. However, if he runs a 4.40 at 195 lbs, Bucky’s Speed Score will only be around 104.1, which is about 80th percentile – something we all would love to see.
Oregon’s Bucky Irving is an electric college football player, and I truly do try to watch him every Saturday. He is one of my favorites in this 2024 NFL Draft Class. However, there is a very low hit rate of sub-200 lb running backs in the NFL, so we have to temper our expectations a little bit, no matter how talented the player is. There were many Jahmyr Gibbs skeptics (prior to him being selected 12th overall), mostly due to his weight, and Bucky is not the type of pure talent that Gibbs is. I believe Bucky will likely be selected on Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft but could have an immediate role as a pass-catching weapon as well as a change-of-pace back for any NFL team.