What was initially a one-off article leading up to the 2021 season has now apparently become a tradition due to popular demand. I am mostly a lukewarm kind of guy, so it takes me all offseason to think on these, hence the late release.

If you’re looking for the 2021 version, look no further. Notably, I nailed my Xavier Worthy stock bump, and Kyren Williams/Kedon Slovis fades. I also am taking partial credit for predicting the collapse of a Bama WR not named Christian Leary, although it was Agiye Hall and not Jacorey Brooks that suffered this slide. Like last year, I’ll provide my bold predictions along with my rationale, however crazy it might be.

1. Cartevious Norton takes the starting job from Jirehl Brock at Iowa State

 The Iowa State staff does not have the ability to recruit at the level of the Alabamas and Ohio States of the college football world. Instead, the Cyclones have a system in place that requires players to sit and develop before they hit the field. This pipeline keeps players from transferring. In turn, the staff often stays true to “next man up.” This also means that they generally avoid the transfer portal, opting instead to build from within.

Jirehl Brock has waited his turn. A four-star running back in the 2019 recruiting class, Brock sat behind Breece Hall for the past three years. Hall is now gone, so it makes sense that Brock gets the first opportunity to get the job. Reports have been solid about his play this offseason, and he certainly hasn’t done anything to lose this job in his own right. 

That does not mean that the staff is just going to give the job to Brock, of course. The best player is always going to play at Iowa State. And Cartevious Norton, who enters college with ideal size and a college-ready skill set, is up to that task. Norton has received rave reviews this offseason and has the ability to handle a significant portion of the touches early. It’s telling that the staff has already stated that this job will be split early because they typically prefer to lean on one guy. If the job is that close now, Norton can take it once the games get rolling. He’s just the better player.

2. Talyn Shettron is a top 36 selection in 2023 start-up drafts

  I’ve seen some folks project Jaden Bray as the receiver to roster for Oklahoma State in 2022, but I don’t think that’s a good bet. And for the record, I like Bray and advocated for him last year as a potential boundary star. In many parallel universes, I would still be singing that song this year.

But Talyn Shettron happened.

Shettron was a high 4-star receiver in the 2022 class and is built like a traditional alpha at 6’3, 185 pounds. He reportedly looked the part through the spring, but unfortunately, he suffered a minor injury early in their spring game, so the public at large did not get to see him in action. 

In 2021, Jaden Bray flashed in part-time duty and finished the year with 13 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. While his productivity remained steady outside his big week, his snap share grew. He’s exclusively a boundary guy (95.1% in 2021), so with the departure of last year’s leading receiver, Tay Martin, it’s not shocking that some have Bray pegged as the next man up.

Unfortunately for Bray, Shettron is everything he is but better. The big thing that Shettron has over Bray is his elite athletic ability. While Bray has similar size (6’2, 200 pounds), Shettron is a better straight-line athlete and has just enough wiggle to be dangerous with the ball in his hands. Bray can probably win downfield but isn’t a guy that I’m designing creative touches for. Bray can probably expand on his role from last year, but Shettron will establish himself as the alpha over the course of the season. At his current ADP of 106.5, he’ll be seen as a steal by midseason.

3. Michael Trigg is the Devy TE1 after this season

This one is probably cheating a little bit because current Devy TE1 Michael Mayer will likely leave Notre Dame for the draft following the 2022 season. But I’ve staked my claim that Trigg is ALREADY my top TE target in devy and campus to canton formats.

While Mayer is almost certainly the more well-rounded tight end and Georgia sophomore TE Brock Bowers had a strong freshman season, Trigg is the most intriguing tight end from an athletic standpoint. A former basketball player, Trigg has incredible body control and is a smooth mover for a player that weighs over 240 pounds already. Worries about size will follow Bowers until he proves otherwise.

Trigg’s freshman season was uneventful, but his transfer to Ole Miss as part of a package deal with starting QB Jaxson Dart opens up a world of possibilities for him. Dart looked his way early and often in their spring game, and Trigg responded with a 7/89/3 line. Ole Miss loses six of their top seven receiving options from last year, so there should be opportunities aplenty for guys like Jonathan Mingo, transfer Jaylon Robinson, and Trigg.

Credit: AP/Gerry Broome

4. Drake Maye’s ascension parallels that of Tyler Van Dyke

For most of 2021, I was skeptical of Drake Maye. My skepticism reached a crescendo when Sam Howell missed a late-season game against Wofford and was replaced by another talented Tarheel QB, Jacolby Criswell. And while there’s been an extended QB battle between Maye, Criswell, and incoming freshman Conner Harrell, it seems that Maye has mostly locked this job up.

Maye was a highly rated high school prospect who hails from a very athletic family. Short of someone like Arch Manning, it’s difficult to find a pedigree as good as Maye’s at the QB position. 

In 2021, Tyler Van Dyke survived a difficult QB battle and seized the QB job at Miami after D’Eriq King’s injury. Like Maye, Van Dyke was a highly recruited kid with some mobility and an arm that can easily make all the necessary throws. Van Dyke overcame a thin receiver room and an inexperienced backfield to vault himself into NFL conversations. Maye will have Josh Downs, an All-ACC talent who will play on Sundays starting in 2023, but the rest of his receivers leave something to be desired, and the backfield has virtually no experience.

If Maye can have a similar season, expect to see his name appear in “Way Too Early 2024 Mock Drafts” across the football community. While Maye currently goes fairly early in C2C drafts (ADP 65.7), I suspect he’ll be in TVD’s range (35.9) next offseason. That’s easy value to snag up now.

Credit UCLA Athletics

5. Zach Charbonnet finishes as the CFF RB1

The popular picks to finish as the top back this year are Bijan Robinson, TreVeyon Henderson, Lew Nichols, and Deuce Vaughn. They’re all solid picks to finish in this spot, and if you told me that one from that group does finish as the RB1, I wouldn’t be shocked. But they also aren’t BOLD picks. Charbonnet is a consensus top 10 guy in his own right, but he has the best shot outside of the top group to claim the throne.

Charbonnet has two major factors going for him. First, he split carries with Brittain Brown last year, but he’s left for the NFL. There’s no obvious replacement at UCLA, and reports have not suggested that there’s another back the staff likes enough to give a significant role. Charbonnet is also capable of catching passes, evidenced by the 24 he caught last year in this offense. UCLA’s offense relies heavily on the rush. If Charbonnet stays healthy, he’s your RB1.

6. Nicco Marchiol is this year’s Jaxson Dart

Entering the 2021 season, many were worried about Kedon Slovis. Slovis had been consistently banged up over the previous season, and he had a hot-shot freshman on his tail. Jaxson Dart took the job early. If not for a knee injury in his first start, Dart likely would have held this job through the remainder of the season.

Like Dart, Marchiol is a talented freshman who is backing up an injury-prone QB. JT Daniels has only played double-digit games once in his career, and that was four years ago. He’s played one, four, and five games since. While he’s generally been effective in those games, his inability to stay healthy means it’s likely we see someone else behind center in 2022.

Marchiol is a gamer and fits the same mold as Dart. The Air Raid offense simplifies things for quarterbacks and makes it possible for freshmen to have an early impact. West Virginia won’t be a bad team this year, but they likely won’t be competing for much, either. All these reasons combine to form the basis for the presumption that Marchiol sees meaningful action this year.

7. The G5 to P5 receivers struggle (yes all of them)

The transfer portal is a whole new world, but it has been coupled with an even bigger game changer – the one-time free transfer. That means it’s never been easier for a player to move schools and have an immediate impact.

While all transfers come with some question marks, there’s a large step up in competition from programs like Akron and UTEP when compared to the Power Five. Taking over a low-volume passing offense that consistently plays against bottom thirty defenses simply do not prepare these guys for stronger comp.

There’s a bigger list of guys this year that have decided to make this jump. Konata Mumpfield (Akron to Pitt), Jacob Cowing (UTEP to Arizona), Isaiah Neyor (Wyoming to Texas, although out for the year), and Antwane Wells (James Madison to South Carolina) are the headliners of the 2022 group. I’m expecting underwhelming fantasy seasons from all of these guys, and you should be too.

8. Kedon Slovis loses his job to Nick Patti

Last year, I predicted that Kedon Slovis (then the QB at USC) would struggle and declare for the draft. He did struggle mightily, but Slovis doubled down and transferred to Pitt in an effort to rehab his floundering draft stock. As a Pitt fan, I’m less than pleased about this development.

When Kenny Pickett opted out of Pitt’s bowl game last year to prepare for the NFL draft, Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi named Patti the starter. Patti was injured while rushing for a touchdown on their second drive, which ended his day. The score was 7-7 at this point. While we don’t know how the rest of the game would have progressed, we do know that Pitt only managed one more offensive touchdown, ultimately losing 31-21.

Patti is much more mobile than Slovis is and probably has a better arm at this stage. The quarterback position is much more than mobility and arm strength, but those aspects matter quite a bit. New OC Frank Cignetti has no real attachment to either player, which makes this situation even more jumbled. I’ll lean into my Slovis fade one more time because it hasn’t let me down yet.

9. Henry Parrish finishes the season with over 1,200 scrimmage yards

Miami had injury problems at running back last year. They brought in a new staff and two new backs to add to their group but have injury problems again. The only healthy backs on the roster at this point are undersized Jaylan Knighton, Thad Franklin, and Parrish.

Parrish is, in my estimation, the most well-rounded guy still standing here. In his second season at Ole Miss (2021), Parrish averaged over 5 yards per carry on decent volume and caught 21 passes for almost 200 yards. The crowded backfield there kept him from ever becoming a truly viable fantasy asset, but that opportunity has availed itself this year. Miami Head Coach Mario Cristobal and new OC Josh Gattis both have a history of preferring the rush as well. Parrish is the perfect “no one is talking about him” candidate to carry fantasy teams this year.

Credit: Florida Gators Athletics

10. Montrell Johnson drops over 100 spots in ADP

I’m not a Montrell Johnson hater per se, but he’s not the player some claim. Without an elite skill to hang his hat on, Johnson has always been an awkward fit for a Florida program that is desperate to step back into the national spotlight. It’s not like Florida has a bunch of scrubs at running back alongside him either. This was further evidenced by the announcement a few weeks back that Johnson was running with the third team at practice, despite the fact that his current head coach was also his head coach at UL. Sell Johnson before it’s too late.

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