The ACC Atlantic contains Clemson, and that should be good enough for anyone to be interested. But there is plenty of talent beyond the conference bully, and managers should be paying attention to these squads.
- Fantasy Relevant
- Roster Fillers
I’ll also provide one player on each squad I am avoiding at current cost, if applicable. All teams are listed in alphabetical order.
For a school that does not have much of a reputation for producing top players, at least recently, Boston College has many intriguing options across its roster. The top guy is Zay Flowers, a Junior wideout with high-level athletic ability and an offense that allows him to work deep. Flowers has some of the best-advanced stats of any player in the 2022 class:
Flowers had a strong fantasy season in 2020, and I see no reason for that to change in 2021. Without the name recognition of some other top options, you may be able to acquire Flowers at a cut-rate price. Not only should he produce this year, but he can also be a Day 2 guy in next year’s NFL Draft.
Flowers has developed a strong rapport with starting QB Phil Jurkovec, a Notre Dame transfer with a strong recruiting pedigree. Jurkovec is a prototypical guy from a size standpoint (6’5, 226). He also has a top-notch arm and is surprisingly mobile for that size. He needs to work on his consistency, but another year of starts should help him clean up some issues. Jurkovec should finish somewhere in the QB2/3 range for 2021 and is a sleeper pick to hear his name called on Day 1 of the Draft.
The “roster-filler” and “stash” categories are a bit blurred here for BC. The offense should fire on all cylinders, opening up options besides Flowers. So who should we be on the lookout for? Jaelen Gill is the first name that comes to mind. Gill was originally at Ohio State, and it’s easy to see why. He’s in the mold of Curtis Samuel and Mookie Cooper, those hybrid RB/WRs that the Buckeyes coveted for several years. Gill is a great athlete and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. In 11 games last season, he caught 29 passes for 435 yards and 1 touchdown. I’d like to see the staff get a bit more creative with his usage this year (he had no rushing attempts last season). If they can, then you’ll wish you rostered Gill.
The running back situation is one to monitor through preseason camp, as Travis Levy and Alec Sinkfield compete for the starting gig. Both likely possess a three-down skill set, but it is not clear if that’s the role that the starter will assume. I’m not sure either is worth rostering right now unless you play in deeper leagues.
True Freshman running back Xavier Coleman should be firmly on your radar entering the 2021 season. He’s a bit undersized at 5’7 187, so a three-down role may not be in the cards for him.
Players To Avoid
As much as I like Jurkovec, I am not buying him at his July ADP of 122. That’s QB26, which puts him ahead of players like Khalil Shakir, Dustin Crum, and Chris Hilton, amongst others. Jurkovec will likely need to finish as a QB2 and get drafted in the top 50 picks next May to rationalize that kind of capital, and that’s not a bet I’m making.
Clemson has many talented players on their roster, as is expected from a team that consistently challenges for a playoff berth. I’d be remiss if I did not start with first-year starter DJ Uiagalelei, the latest in a long line of excellent Clemson quarterbacks. We got a sneak peek of “DJ U” last year when Trevor Lawrence was out following a positive COVID test. Take a look at these box scores:
DJ is a top-three pick in C2C start-ups, so I’m sure you’ve heard of him before. He’s difficult to acquire, but if you want him, the best time is now before the season gets rolling.
DJ should have plenty of weapons to work with this season. Justyn Ross is probably the most well-known guy there. He had a huge freshman season in which he played Robin to Tee Higgins’ Batman, and many draft analysts suggested he could be a better player than his teammate. He fell back to Earth a bit as a sophomore, without much explanation. That’s problematic. Here are his stats for each of those two years:
There’s virtually no explanation for his drop in production from 2018 to 2019. A look at his ADOT shows identical usage between the years. There’s no reported injury. Same quarterback. Same 1a/1b split with Higgins. He did not look as sharp.
Then, disaster struck last offseason when it was discovered that he had a congenital fusion condition of his neck and spine, a serious injury that needed to be surgically corrected. There were serious questions if Ross would ever play again. He sat out the entire 2020 season, attempting to heal. Ross was finally cleared this month and should be a full go this year. He needs to have a strong season to get his stock back into Round 1.
While the running back situation is still uncertain, there is certainly strength at the position. Top freshman Will Shipley may have the most talent of the bunch, and Dabo has consistently said he is one of the most athletic guys on the entire squad. He can catch passes with the best of them as well. He may be eased into a role here, but I feel good about projecting him forward as the best back.
Kobe Pace has also been getting some hype as a potential lead back for Clemson. That will always have value, even if he doesn’t have much of an NFL future. It’s too early to project that, but we can enjoy the points he earns this year.
Phil Mafah is the last of the potential starters for Clemson this year. He’s a bit more of a bruiser at 6’1″ and 215 pounds, but he has solid athleticism too. Ultimately, Shipley is the most talented guy on the roster, and he is the only one I want to be on long-term.
Clemson has a huge stable of wide receivers that are all fairly talented. The problem with them? Almost all of them are the same size and have the same skill set. It’s how Clemson recruits, and it makes it very difficult to project starters. Joe Ngata and Frank Ladson were all the rage last offseason, but both had hugely disappointing years in 2020. The duo was probably overdrafted the last offseason, but that presents some value this year.
In addition to Ladson and Ngata, freshmen Dacari Collins and Beaux Collins have true alpha size and athletic ability. I don’t think we see much of them this year, but they should certainly be rostered in case they break out.
Both of Clemson’s tight ends should be rostered. Braden Galloway has a solid athletic profile, but I think at this point he’s probably a Day 3 NFL pick. Freshman Jake Briningstool was the top-rated TE in the 2021 class. If he can pack on some weight, he could be intriguing moving forward.
The big “stash” value on Clemson is Troy Stellato. Stellato is the least heralded of the freshman receivers on the squad, but all news exiting preseason camp presents him as the best performer of that group. He was a 4-star in his own right, so he isn’t a total shot in the dark.
Players To Avoid
Avoid is such a strong word for Clemson players, as they are all players with strong profiles and the potential to put up stats in college. Shipley may go slightly early (ADP35), but that could also look like a steal next offseason.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Florida State was the king of the ACC for years, with a constant stream of talent and access to one of the richest recruiting hotbeds in the country. And then, one day, they weren’t. Such is life in college football (ask USC fans how that goes).
Second-year Head Coach Mike Norvell is there to get things back on track, and one constant with Norvell is a strong running game with talented backs.
That bodes well for Jashaun Corbin; the man tasked with leading that backfield in 2021. Corbin was a highly recruited kid out of high school and wound up at Texas A&M. One year and one injury later, Corbin hopped over to the Seminoles. Corbin flashed last season, but I am expecting 1,000 total yards this year. He has NFL size at 6’0 221, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and looks to be a good athlete. I think Corbin can be a Day 2 pick with a strong year.
The fates of every player on this roster, sans Corbin, fall on the shoulders of quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton was one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2017 and 2018, finishing 8th and 6th in Heisman voting those years, respectively. He suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries we’ve ever seen, which almost led to an amputation. Against all odds, Milton is suiting back up this year after transferring out of USF. Reports were not overly encouraging out of spring, but Florida State doesn’t have anyone else to start this year. If Milton can be 80% of his former self, that’s a win.
With Destyn Hill still mysteriously unenrolled, someone has to catch passes for Florida State this year. That job will likely be split between a few candidates, including true freshman receiver Malik McClain and AARP member Andrew Parchment. McClain flashed in the spring game with two big catches and has nice size already at 6’4 201. He’s a 4-star kid, so his performance shouldn’t be entirely shocking. He should be on rosters based purely on the opportunity, but I’m not sure he is a long-term play. Parchment, on the other hand, is a somewhat proven entity. He’s a sixth-year senior with previous stints at Northern Illinois and Kansas. He’s a speedster but not a reliable number one receiver in a strong offense.
I really liked Chubba Purdy last season, but he was overwhelmed in his brief appearance last season. He’s coming off an injury, but we should be concerned that he has been unable to overtake Milton. If he doesn’t steal that job away at any point this year, he’s probably dead to me from a fantasy perspective.
I almost included Lawrance Toafili in the roster fillers section, but his current ADP (215) probably drops him into the “stash” category. Toafili was a 4-star kid in the 2020 class and is very talented but will likely play second fiddle to Corbin this year. The job may be his in 2022, and as we discussed above, you want Mike Norvell running backs.
Joshua Burrell is a true end-of-bench guy, simply because the WR room is so shallow. He flashed a bit this spring, but I don’t believe there are long-term prospects there.
Players to Avoid
In May and June, I would have said Hill because his ADP was still relatively high, even with the uncertainty. He’s now dropped to a level where I think the reward outweighs the risk. Beyond Hill, the FSU roster could contain some value, and you need to identify it.
I’m not sure he will be fantasy-relevant this season, but Trevion Cooley is the highest-drafted player on the Louisville squad. The freshman RB did not participate in spring practice, and his senior year was canceled due to COVID. He’s extremely talented, though, and could be a stud in the future.
Malik Cunningham feels like he has been around forever, but he is only a redshirt junior, so he may still have two seasons left to produce. There is no NFL future with Cunningham, but his rushing upside presents a very strong fantasy option for college rosters:
With the departure of Javian Hawkins this offseason, there is a large void at running back. Jalen Mitchell is the projected starter there, although it may be more of a committee than in recent times. Hassan Haskins is the current backup, with Cooley functioning as the RB3.
There may be some value at the WR position, but it is not clear who Cunningham’s new favorite target will be. I have Braden Smith in a few leagues as a very deep stash, but I would not recommend him in anything but extremely deep leagues.
Players To Avoid
There aren’t many players from Louisville that get drafted, and none of them have exorbitant costs. I’m fine taking any of their players at current ADP.
NC State has a talented roster offensively, but they have yet to put it together for long stretches of time. Zonovan Knight headlines the group. The sophomore running back has an NFL size of 5’10″ and 210 pounds and looks like an NFL athlete. He’s significantly better than his backfield mate, Ricky Person Jr., but the coaching staff has split those carries fairly evenly over the past few years. Most C2C managers are hoping they’ll finally unleash Knight. If they do, he should be in for a strong season.
At receiver, the Wolfpack has Emeka Emezie, an imposing threat at 6’3 212. Emezie bullies corners in the ACC and is in line for a strong year. He should be a startable option in most leagues in 2021.
I think there aren’t any other players that should be rostered in all leagues beyond Knight and Emezie.
Porter Rooks is the big name that comes to mind when looking for stashes on NC State. He was fairly hyped last year as a 4-star freshman, but he did not produce as well as some hoped. This year, he will line up in the slot and look to improve upon his 24/276 freshman season.
Players To Avoid
I’m not avoiding any NC State players at current prices.
Syracuse has two players that are likely fantasy relevant this year and then many question marks. The biggest name on the roster is second-year running back Sean Tucker, who came out of nowhere last season to put together a strong campaign. Now the undisputed starter, Tucker should have a strong season. A lack of athletic upside may cap his pro potential.
Taj Harris is the other guy to keep an eye on. A speedster, Harris easily led the squad in receiving last year and should do so again in 2021.
There isn’t any other player that should be owned across all leagues on Syracuse.
The QB situation at Syracuse is one to monitor. Tommy Devito is currently the listed starter, but he was very poor last season. If Syracuse wants to avoid another 1-10 season, they may pivot if he gets off to another slow start. Look for Garrett Shrader to make a name for himself if that happens.
Players To Avoid
Tucker is the only player on this roster that is consistently drafted, and he comes at a low cost.
The Demon Deacons figured to have a strong 1-2 punch at receiver this season, but those hopes were dashed this summer when it was announced that Donavon Greene would miss the entire season with an injury. Greene is a bit of a devy darling and post-hype sleeper. As a true freshman, Greene put up a strong four-game stretch in which he caught 13 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns before the team shut him down to preserve his redshirt. He struggled a bit with consistency and drops last season, but the athletic gifts are tantalizing. He could be a strong buy for rebuilding teams.
The other half of this dynamic duo is Jaquarri Roberson. Roberson picked up the slack managers assumed Greene would and finished with a robust 62/926/8 line. Roberson mostly plays in the slot, but he’s the favored target and should benefit without Greene there again.
I’m not sure he should be a starter this year, but quarterback Sam Hartman is a bit of a gunslinger. Combine that with some positive game scripts, and he should be nice roster depth for 2021.
Will Towns has been a hot name this offseason, but early reports from preseason camp have him further down the depth chart. I don’t think you need to add him this year, maybe at the end of the season as a stash if he gets buzz through the spring.
Players To Avoid
I would say Greene, but I’ve already seen his ADP dropping in our August mocks. Beyond him, everyone else presents decent value.