Here are some guys that have yet to make much of a splash in 2022 or at least are below a 5% ownership threshold on Fantrax at the time of this article. These players should finish the season strong or have an opportunity to make an impact next year if you are looking to turn your attention to 2023.
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Joe Milton, QB – Tennessee
You can knock Milton all you want, and rightfully so, for his inconsistency and poor decision making, but you can’t knock the Heupel system. Drew Lock, Mckinzie Milton, Dillon Gabriel, and Hendon Hooker were all elite CFF producers under Heupel’s watch. It is unlikely that a true FR, even one as good as incoming 5-star Nico Iamaleava, or a transfer is able to learn this system in time to pry it from someone like Milton that has two-plus years in it. His strongest competition for the opening week starting gig is from Tayven Jackson. It would be wise to hedge your bet by owning them both, but the edge is with the Vols current QB2.
MJ Morris, QB – NC State
Surprisingly, Morris is just 4% rostered at the time of this article after a performance where the true FR was absolutely nails in a comeback against Virginia Tech. He’s since been named the starter and the schedule is very favorable the rest of the way. There is certainly some risk that he was just a flash in the pan or that Devin Leary returns for another season, but college football is fluid in the transfer portal era. Morris has the ability to make throws to all three levels and is athletic enough to keep defenses honest with his legs. While it isn’t my favorite system to invest in, it is one that returns a lot of playmakers for 2023 and an OC that thrived with Sam Ehlinger.
Kevorian Barnes, RB – UTSA
The Roadrunner’s redshirt FR performed admirably to the tune of 141 yards and two TDs when Brady and Smith weren’t available against FIU. Was that a glimpse of what is in store post-2022 as Brady/Smith exhausts their eligibility? He has the requisite size to be a workhorse back at 5’9” and 215 lbs. Yes, this also could be a prime landing spot for a transfer RB, but the juice is worth the squeeze in this high-octane UTSA offense. Barnes will have the edge heading into 2023 over Tye Edwards and a potential incoming RB.
RJ Harvey, RB – UCF
Don’t look now, but Harvey may have already turned this into a shared backfield with Isaiah Bowser. Not only has Harvey played a similar amount of snaps since Week 8, but he’s averaged 7.4 ypc as compared to Bowser’s awful 3.9. It is unlikely that any Knights RB goes for 200 carries in 2022, but historically Gus Malzahn has preferred to feed one guy. Harvey’s stock is on the rise, and so too will his ownership. Act fast while you still can.
Marquarius “Squirrel” White, WR – Tennessee
An absolute MUST handcuff for Jalin Hyatt owners, White appears to be the next man up as the starting inside WR for Josh Heupel. Not often do we have opportunity, system, and talent align like this. White made waves in preseason camp as a real standout with his elite speed and he has been the only freshman in the Vols’ strong WR class to see meaningful snaps. The combination of tempo and Tennessee’s propensity to monopolize snaps to just a few receivers is exactly what you want from a CFF perspective.
Sam Brown, WR – Houston
The former West Virginia receiver is in his third season but has three years of eligibility left due to covid and redshirt seasons. Brown has come on strong as of late with 28 targets in his last three games, but he is still rostered in just 2% of leagues. He’s a talented possession-type receiver with an outstanding catch radius. Tank Dell and Kesean Carter move on, leaving Brown and Matthew Golden as the primary options in a Holgorsen system that has certainly proven over the years capable of supporting two fantasy-relevant receivers. Expect a quality transfer QB to find his way to Houston and this passing attack to keep on rolling in 2023 as the Cougars enter the Big Twelve.
So You Are Saying There’s A Chance…
Malik Hornsby, QB – Arkansas
If you listen to the Chasing the Natty podcast, then you already know my thoughts on Hornsby. He has legit track speed. He is right there with Sam Jackson and Mike Wright as the fastest QB in the country. His arm is certainly live, but his lack of live reps through three seasons in Fayetteville leaves a lot of uncertainty of his ability to lead a team and demonstrate the consistency needed to play the position. But Hornsby has Konami code upside that you want to take a shot on. One of two things will likely happen- either KJ Jefferson moves on to the NFL or Hornsby re-enters the portal and we hope he lands somewhere with the opportunity and creativity to unleash him.
Jacolby Criswell, QB – North Carolina
Similar to Malik Hornsby, there is a great chance we see Criswell enter the portal at the season’s end. If so, Criswell will find numerous P5 suitors lined up to make a pitch for his services. The dual-threat QB looked every bit as good as Drake Maye in the spring game and was recruited by a number of top-tier SEC programs coming out of high school. He could redshirt this season and have three years remaining. He has all the tools to be really explosive if he lands in the right system. Given that he has had sit behind Howell and Maye, expect him to go somewhere that basically guarantees him the starting job.
Marlon Gunn, RB – East Carolina
The biggest indicator of career success is early playing time. This true freshman certainly checks that box, partially due to injuries to Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell, but also because of his talent and readiness to play at this level. The former 3-star recruit was ranked as RB26 in his class by Rivals and had numerous P5 offers. Gunn is a complete back that I expect to be the thunder complement to Mitchell’s lightning the rest of this season and next. Harris should return from injury in 2023 but Gunn is just simply the more talented player. Buy your tickets to the Gunn Show now before they are sold out.
Malik Sherrod, RB – Fresno State
The diminutive (5’7”, 175 lbs.) Bulldog has performed well as the Jordan Mims understudy. In fact, he has averaged almost a full yard per carry more than Mims through nine weeks. He has also proven capable as a receiver. There are a lot of unknowns such as what the Fresno offense will look like without Jake Haener. Will they trust Sherrod to carry a heavy workload? And there is the potential for this to be a portal RB landing spot. But Tedford has proven to be a hotspot for CFF RB production and Sherrod currently appears to be the next man up with multiple years of eligibility remaining.
Stephon Johnson, WR – Oklahoma State
The true freshman flew under the radar all off-season. This was in part due to him not arriving on campus until the summer, but also because fellow true freshman Talyn Shettron was considered by most as one of the top incoming receivers. Opportunity for a youngster to see the field early has presented itself because of injuries to Jaden Bray, but it has actually been Johnson, not Shettron, that has earned the snaps. The boundary WR in a Mike Gundy offense is historically one of the more coveted positions in CFF. Johnson getting early looks at this spot is a big indicator for future success.
Wesley Grimes, WR – Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons have redshirted every single freshman wide receiver since 2016. Until Wesley Grimes in 2022. After a really solid fall camp, Grimes has seen limited reps in a loaded WR room. The former 4-star recruit had electric game tape coming out of high school and should see increased opportunity in 2023 with AT Perry likely moving on. Donavon Greene and Jahmal Banks are likely to return but there are plenty of balls to go around in this up-tempo, pass-happy system.
Shoot From Deep
Garret Rangel, QB – Oklahoma State
The 4-star true freshman got the nod with Spencer Sanders out recently. He got off to a really slow start, but Gundy stuck with him and Rangel was able to settle in and make some plays. Spencer Sanders does have another year of eligibility remaining, but some close to the program feel this will be his last year in Stillwater. Rangel appears to be next in line should that happen. It isn’t out of the question that Gundy could pursue a QB from the portal, but Rangel is talented and could have the edge with a year in the system and some game snaps now under his belt.
Darius Ocean, QB – Western Kentucky
I had previously discussed Caden Veltkamp as the heir apparent to Austin Reed, but it has actually been Ocean that’s come in for mop-up duty recently. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has the edge if WKU is simply redshirting Veltkamp, but it is noteworthy nonetheless. Reed has another year of eligibility left that we can expect him to use in 2023. Stashing the next in line in this system is always a wise play just in case something happens in the near future and could pay off nicely in the distant future.
CJ Stokes, RB – Michigan
The true freshman Wolverine flew under the radar when he arrived on campus but is clearly the RB3 in Ann Arbor. Assuming Blake Corum declares for the NFL, Stokes could be in line to move up to RB2 in 2023 for a system that has proven it can support multiple fantasy-relevant RBs like it has the last couple of years. Stokes has shown he’s capable when given an opportunity and the staff has been quick to praise the freshman. If he can fend off incoming 4-star RB, Cole Cabana, next year, then Stokes has a path to being the next man up after Donovan Edwards next season.
Kaelon Black, RB – James Madison
Similar to Sam Brown, the JMU running back is in his third year in the program but still has three years of eligibility remaining after 2022 due to covid and redshirt seasons. He has been the most efficient RB for the Dukes over the last two seasons and he can also be effective as a pass catcher. Percy Agyei-Obese moves on, leaving the room with Black and Latrele Palmer as the primary options. Black is simply the better player of the two. Expect Curt Cignetti to lean on the run game more in 2023 with the departure of QB Todd Centeio.
Damarcus (DJ) Thomas, TE – South Alabama
The transfer from Ole Miss was a stand-out playmaker throughout the spring. He’s been dinged up at times this year but has started to gain some steam as the season has gone along. He splits time with Lincoln Sefcik, but will have the lead TE role to himself next year. The Jaguar offense is averaging 35 pass attempts and 276 yards passing, so the opportunity exists for a solid pass-catching TE to excel. This should be one of the better G5 offenses in 2023 under OC Major Applewhite. Thomas will have two years of eligibility left.