In terms of the Group of 5 Conferences, Conference USA often gets overlooked. It doesn’t have a name brand team in the conference like UCF in the AAC or Boise State in the Mountain West. It doesn’t have the high-flying offenses or the mid-week games like the MAC. But that doesn’t mean C-USA isn’t packed with returning stars, intriguing transfers, and some under-the-radar names to watch. While most of the players discussed below may not be early targets in Campus 2 Canton drafts, they do provide some excellent late-round value and players to keep a close eye on during the early part of the season.

For our conference previews, we will try to include all the relevant offensive players for the 2021 season, broken into the following groups:

–        Fantasy Relevant

–        Roster Fillers

–        Stashes

–        Players avoid at ADP

All teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Louisiana Tech

Fantasy Relevant

None- No one is going to mistake Louisiana Tech for an offensive juggernaut. This team finished last year ranked 75th in passing yards per game and an abysmal 120th in rush yards per game, which was a significant step back from their 32nd ranked passing attack and 57th ranked rushing attack from 2019. On a team lacking firepower, there is no one on La Tech that deserves every week fantasy consideration.

Roster Fillers

None- With Justin Henderson off to the NFL, La Tech does not have any returning player worth rostering in anything but the deepest of leagues. And even then, there are likely better places to look.

Stashes

Keyon Henry-Brooks– Not only did Justin Henderson leave for the NFL, but leading rusher from 2020 Israel Tucker is also not returning to school. With both of the leading rushers from last year decided to turn pro, the door is open for Vanderbilt transfer Keyon Henry-Brooks. Henry-Brooks was a former 3-star prospect and the 61st ranked running back in his class of 2019. After ranking second on Vandy in carries as a true freshman behind Key’Shawn Vaughn, Henry-Brooks took over the backfield last year with 494 yards and 2 TDs rushing and 28 catches for 258 yards receiving through 6 games. While these may not be mind-blowing statistics, Henry-Brooks does bring his well-rounded skillset to a talent devoid roster and should be the most talented player on the offense. Despite not having an ADP, Henry-Brooks is definitely worth consideration in the final few rounds of a C2C draft.

Avoid

None- No Louisiana Tech players have an ADP at this time.

North Texas

Courtesy of Inside the Star

Fantasy Relevant

None- Last year, Jaelon Darden set the College Fantasy Football world on fire with his 74 receptions for 1,190 and 19 TDs in 12 games, finishing as the number 1 WR in a points per game basis. However, he is off to the NFL and expecting that kind of production from any of his potential replacements is a losing proposition.

Roster Fillers

Jyaire Shorter- While we may not know exactly how Darden’s production will be distributed amongst the remaining WRs in that room, North Texas was the nation’s 25th best offense in terms of passing yards per game and should produce plenty of opportunity in 2021 as well. The current leading candidate to fill the WR1 void, Jyaire Shorter was extremely efficient with his touches in 2019, amassing 473 yards and nine TDs on 24 receptions. However, an injury derailed his 2020 season after just three games. A pre-season C-USA selection, the fantasy community may be starting to catch on to Shorter’s potential, as he has been a player on the rise after not having an ADP until last month. But his 27th round June ADP of 328 overall should still prove worth the price.

Stashes

Oscar Adaway- North Texas may have had a great year passing the ball as previously mentioned, but they had an even better year rushing. Ranking 13th in the country in rushing yards per game, North Texas split carries fairly even amongst three running backs: 113 carries for Deandre Torrey, 95 carries for Oscar Adaway III, and 85 carries for Tre Siggers. Torrey and Siggers both took advantage of the extra year of eligibility due to COVID, however, Siggers elected to do so by transferring to SMU.

With one less head to the 3-headed backfield, the 6’0” 215lbs Adaway and the 5’7” 195lbs Torrey can form a thunder and lightning duo. Adaway, a former 3-star and 93rd ranked running back, compiled 572 yards and three TDs in 7 games last year. He had three 100 yard games and a 97 yard game. He should increase his workload this year as a redshirt Sophomore and then dominate the backfield when Torrey leaves next year. With an ADP of 378 overall but no ADP in June or July, it is hit or miss whether Adaway gets drafted in the top 400. However, Adaway is a player worth selecting in the final rounds of your C2C draft.

Caleb Johnson- Originally committed to Oklahoma as a Cornerback, Johnson chose to decommit in hopes of pursuing the WR position at North Texas. Johnson not only possesses elite speed, ranking 11th in the state of Texas with an official 10.58 100m dash in 2020 (0.05 seconds behind Devon Achane), but he also posted very respectable results in the triple jump and long jump. Johnson was pegged as one of the 100 true freshman who will impact the 2021 college football season by 24/7 sports’ Chris Hummer. While you don’t need to draft him in anything but extraordinarily deep leagues, Johnson is still a player that I am adding to my watchlist everywhere.

Tommy Bush- A highly sought after prospect in the 2018 class, the former 4-star WR committed to Georgia with high hopes entering his freshman year. While the potential hasn’t really panned out to this point for the 6’5” speedster from Texas, a change of scenery may be exactly what he needs. With 4.47 speed and a 36.4” vertical, Bush is still the level of athlete worth keeping an eye on after this drop in competition. This is another player to add to the watchlist.

Avoid

None- Shorter is the only player from North Texas with a consistent ADP. And if you believe he takes over the lead WR role in this offense in 2021, he is certainly worth his current 27th round price tag.

 

Rice

Fantasy Relevant

 None- Rice has never finished higher than 81st in passing yards per game or 98th in rushing in the past 3 years. They have also only had 2 offensive players drafted in the last decade (both TEs- Vance McDonald and Luke Wilson). This is not an offense you want pieces of.

 

Roster Fillers

None- see above.

 

Stashes

None- And this includes Luke McCaffery, former 4 star and 13th ranked Athlete in the class of 2018, the younger brother of Christian McCaffery. He’s more of an offensive weapon than QB at this point and as mentioned above, Rice is not an offense you need to worry about.

 

Avoid

None- No Rice players have an ADP in our database. Sorry Rice fans, but this is not a team that is relevant for fantasy purposes this year.

Southern Miss

DENTON, TX – OCTOBER 03: Southern Miss Golden Eagles running back Frank Gore Jr. (21) breaks through the line of scrimmage during the game between the North Texas Mean Green and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on October 3, 2020 at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Fantasy Relevant

Frank Gore Jr.- The son of NFL iron man Frank Gore and 3-star running back, Gore Jr was always going to have some hype entering college. Gore saw playing time immediately as a true freshman last year, racking up 708 yards and two TDs and nine receptions for 97 yards and one TD through 10 games. With QB Jack Abraham transferring to Mississippi St, expect Gore to be the focal point of this offense. Gore is also due for some positive TD regression after scoring on just 2.3% of his touches. Gore is significantly lighter than his dad, being listed at 185lbs which may limit his NFL potential. However at an ADP in the 17th round at 213 overall in June, most of the players in that range have dubious NFL potential as well. I expect Gore to be at worst a flex-worthy fantasy option for the next 2-3 years.

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Roster Fillers

None- New Head Coach Will Hall’s offenses averaged 42.8 rush attempts per game in 2020 and 46.9 rush attempts per game in 2019, ranking 26th and 8th in the country respectively. Expect this offense to heavily feature Gore Jr. and leave little room for other fantasy options.

Stashes

None- While incoming 3 star QB Ty Keyes is intriguing, he was not on campus this spring to make an impact and it is former West Virginia transfer Trey Lowe III’s job to lose. I’m also not sure this offense attempts enough passes during Will Hall’s tenure for Keyes to ever be fantasy relevant.

Avoid

None- Frank Gore Jr is the only Southern Miss player with an ADP, and is a value at his current ADP.

UAB

Fantasy Relevant

DeWayne McBride- A true freshman last year entering a team with an established four-year starter in Spencer Brown, McBride was never expected to garner much of a workload in 2020. However, the 3-star recruit was extremely efficient in the touches he did receive. According to PFF, McBride was the 2nd highest-graded running back during the 2020 season, behind only Javonte Williams. Through six games, McBride garnered only 47 carries, but was able to turn that into 439 yards and four TDs. With Spencer Brown off to the NFL, only the 5’8” 175lbs  Jermaine Brown Jr is left from the running backs who received more carries than McBride last year. McBride looks to be primed for a significant workload this year for the 33rd ranked rushing attack on a yards per game basis last year. Not only should McBride be a startable fantasy option for your college side for the next 2-3 years, but I believe McBride also possesses more NFL potential than your average G5 running back. McBride is worth his 18th round, 216 overall ADP (however that is even buoyed by an outlier 135.5 ADP in the month of April) and is a value at his late 21st round, 263 overall ADP from June.

Roster Fillers

None- With the top two leading WRs from last year off to the NFL in Austin Watkins and Myron Mitchell, 2020’s 89th ranked passing offense in terms of yards per game is not one worth looking into too deeply. 

Stashes

None- Rising true sophomore DeWayne McBride should be the focal point of this offense for at least the next two years, leaving little room for any stash candidates.

Avoid

 None- McBride is the only UAB player with an ADP at this time, and his 21st round price tag is far from cost-prohibitive, especially if you believe he has an NFL future.

UTEP

Fantasy Relevant

None- UTEP’s offense has finished 84th in passing yards per game and 90th in rushing yards per game in 2020, 104th and 91st in 2019, and 127th and 116th in 2018. This is not an offense to target.

Roster Fillers

Deion Hankins- A 3 star recruit and the 58th ranked running back in the class of 2019 being recruited by Power 5 teams like Oklahoma State and Arkansas, Hankins decided to stay home in El Paso, Texas to play for his hometown team. He played in 4 games as a true freshman but was still able to red-shirt. With the 2 leading rushers from 2019 no longer on the team, Hankins stepped into the lead role for UTEP in 2020, earning 121 carries for 592 yards and 9 TDs and 1 rec for 3 yards through 7 games. This amounted to 16.1 fantasy points per game and was good for the RB56, just behind Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. While UTEP is no one’s idea of a powerhouse offense after finishing 90th in rushing yards per game in 2020, the fact that they gave Hankins almost exactly 50% of the running back carries and he turned that into almost 3 times the amount of yards as the next closest running back bodes well for his 2021 workload. With a 28th round ADP of 337 overall, Hankins is a solid value and should be able to provide some flex-worthy fantasy weeks at minimum. 

Stashes

None-As mentioned earlier, this offense is not one that produces many, if any fantasy options. Nor do they recruit many prospects that would merit much intrigue. Outside of Hankins, it’s safe to ignore everyone else from this team for the time being.

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Avoid

None- Hankins is the only player from UTEP with an ADP, and is certainly worth a shot in the 28th round.

UTSA

Fantasy Relevant

Sincere McCormick- The nation’s second leading rusher from 2020 with 1,467 yards through 11 games, McCormick improved upon his already impressive true freshman season in 2019 where he led the team with 177 carries for 983 yards and eight TDs. Not only has he been a bellcow on the ground since day one at UTSA, McCormick has also had 20+ receptions in back to back years as well. As seen in the graph below, McCormick has absolutely smashed the Backfield Dominator metric in his first 2 years on campus. A workhorse running back with receiving upside who has finished as the RB16 as a true sophomore, McCormick looks primed to repeat this type of a fantasy performance in 2021 at the very least. And at 5’9” 200lbs with a well-rounded skillset, McCormick has plenty of NFL potential as well. His fifth round ADP of 60 overall is significant. However, big-time college producers with receiving ability and the requisite size to make an impact at the NFL level do not grow on trees. McCormick is a player I find myself taking quite often. 

Sincere McCormick

Roster Fillers

Frank Harris- UTSA has 91st in passing yards per game in 2020, 106th in 2019, and 118th in 2018. However, the passing is not what makes Frank Harris potentially appealing. Harris amassed 95 carries for 528 yards and nine TDs in 2020. However, this is a pretty significant jump from his 2019 season, particularly in the TD department, and is the main reason for his QB51 performance in 2020. Harris is really only rosterable for the QB desperate folks in the hope that his rushing production doesn’t revert back to the 39 attempts for 136 yards from 2019.

Stashes

Zakahri Franklin- Another immediate impact freshman from UTSA’s class of 2019, Franklin was the second leading WR with 38 catches for 491 yards and three TDs in his first year on campus. He improved upon that performance as well in year 2, breaking UTSA’s record for single-season receiving yards with 694 yards, despite missing two games. His seven TDs were also second-most in program history. While UTSA is a low volume passing offense, Franklin still provided WR65 numbers on a per game basis. Franklin provides flex-worthy fantasy production in a 6’1” 185lbs package with a 22% freshman weighted dominator rating and 31.9% as sophomore. You can do a lot worse than Franklin on your roster and his 299 overall 25th round ADP is not cost-prohibitive.

Zakahri Franklin

Avoid

None- While Franklin is a little bit more expensive than I’d like, he isn’t a player I would avoid. McCormick is the only other player from UTSA with an ADP. And if you believe he has NFL potential, McCormick is at worst fine at his value.

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