Just a few weeks out from a total solar eclipse, this month has been an all-time month to talk about shadows. As Spring Camp starts to wind down and ADP for CFF drafts starts to solidify, it’s important to consider what CFF shadows are being cast with the current ADP. No special eyewear is needed here. Let’s jump in and shine a light on three high-leverage situations at WR that are currently being overshadowed.

Michael Mathison - undefined - Western Kentucky University Athletics
Photo Courtesy Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics

Michael Mathison (WR80), Western Kentucky | Easton Messer (WR57)

The Hilltoppers have been a CFF goldmine for the last few seasons, ever since Zach Kittley brought his Houston Baptist Air Raid to the FBS. Now, many moons have passed since Kittley has last been in Bowling Green. However, high expectations for a strong passing game remain as this offense reloads with Drew Hollingshead in his second year as Offensive Coordinator.

The Western Kentucky WR1 has been a mainstay atop the CFF WR ranks for the past three years, with Jerreth Sterns and Malachi Corley putting up monster seasons. It’s no secret that finding the player with that role within this system is a surefire way to find value in CFF. Despite the fact that the Hilltoppers are replacing Austin Reed at QB and in the midst of the biggest personnel upheaval since 2021, this system is one worth taking fliers on in the middle of drafts.

Currently, Easton Messer is ranked WR57 in Campus2Canton CFF ADP, while Michael Mathison is ranked WR80. This seems like a clear case of “what have you done for me lately?” as Mathison missed the 2023 season with a hip injury.

When you break down the most recent seasons for both WRs, we see Mathison had the better year, going 52/615/3 in 2022, while Messer went 42/484/4 in 2023. Many people believe that the slot role in this offense is the most lucrative WR role and that Messer’s 95% of routes from the slot during 2023 vs. Mathison’s 69% of routes coming from the slot in 2022 makes him the prime option in 2024.

However, it’s worth noting that Hollingshead’s offenses haven’t always leaned so heavily on slot production. When at Mississippi State as an analyst under Mike Leach, their offense was led by Makai Polk’s 139 targets in 2021, and he had merely 5.5% of his snaps from the slot. The following year, his slot receiver (Rufus Harvey) did lead the team in receptions with 76. However, the X (Rara Thomas) and Z (Caleb Ducking) were right behind with 69 and 65 targets, respectively. So, it is unfair to assume the slot dominance will continue for the Hilltoppers without Malachi Corley. Mathison provides veteran leadership for a team that lost a ton of that with the departures of Corley and Reed. It is so easy to see a path where the staff rewards that presence with the volume of a WR1.

VIP Practice Observations: Transfers already flashing talent
Photo Courtesy Stephen Igoe/247Sports

Winston Wright Jr. (Not Currently in ADP), East Carolina | Chase Sowell (WR76)

The major takeaway from Spring Camp for the Pirates seems to be that this offense is officially back on track, as they have competent QB play once again in Greenville. Not only did this offense get an infusion of talent in the QB room with transfers Katin Houser and Jake Garcia, but they also brought in some reinforcements at receiver with the help of Winston Wright Jr., a former all-Big 12 receiver and return specialist.

Wright’s best season came in 2021 at West Virginia. He put up a 688-yard season on 63 receptions and scored five touchdowns during that campaign before transferring to Florida State prior to the 2022 season. Before getting on the field in Tallahassee, Wright was involved in a car accident in which he suffered a broken leg. This kept him off the field for all of 2022. In 2023, he was used sparingly before deciding to hit the transfer portal.

Chase Sowell is the leading returning piece from the ECU passing attack last season as he put up 622 yards and a touchdown on 47 receptions. Some think that this gives him a leg up on Wright as he’s familiar with Coach Mike Houston and has earned the WR1 role. The pushback, however, comes from the fact that Houston is bringing in a brand new Offensive Coordinator in John David Baker. Baker will bring a new scheme with him from Ole Miss and this is likely to wash away any advantage the “old guard” may have had with earning a starting spot.

Regardless, both have shined in Spring Camp and have clear supporters from the ECU staff and beat writers. This ADP is always changing, and we’re still in early April, but there is zero reason in my eyes that these two should be separated by many draft picks.

After missing 2023, Caples looks to return in big way for Broncos | Boise State Football Coverage | idahopress.com
Photo Courtesy Boise State Athletics

LaTrell Caples, Boise State (Not Currently in ADP) | Cam Camper (WR99)

The Broncos are another team that utilized the Transfer Portal to completely revolutionize the look of their offense. They brought in a few high-profile names like Malachi Nelson and Chris Marshall, as well as a CFF darling in Cam Camper. This offense will undoubtedly be leaning on different options in the passing game than it did last season, but assuming that their WR1 will be someone new to Boise is a conclusion to which I’m not yet willing to jump.

Latrell Caples missed the 2023 season with a torn Achilles injury (suffered in August). However, in 2022, Caples was the Broncos’ leading WR, amassing 549 yards and four touchdowns on 51 receptions. During this season, Caples ran 82.7% of his routes from the slot, and that was the last season in which new Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter, was last on staff (as an offensive analyst and interim OC). This seems to be a favorable opportunity for Caples to return to the slot and utilize his explosive release off the line without getting jammed.

Cam Camper has also been plagued with injuries in recent seasons. He struggled to see the field last season as he dealt with a knee injury. However, in 2022, he led the Indiana Hoosiers in receiving with 560 yards and two touchdowns on 45 receptions. Camper played more than 85% of his snaps from the outside and excelled as one of the few bright spots on that team. So far this Spring, Camper has yet to practice as he’s still recovering from knee surgery.

The funny thing is, these two are former high school teammates from their time at Lancaster High School in Lancaster, Texas. We’ve seen them paired up together and saw a clear difference as Caples concluded the 2020 recruiting cycle as a top-100 WR in the nation and the 58th player in the state of Texas, while just a year earlier, Camper went unrecruited, landing at Trinity Valley (JuCo) for his first year of college ball. While in high school, Caples led the team in both his sophomore and junior years (Camper’s junior and senior years).

While there is undoubtedly the chance that Camper’s game has surpassed Caples over the past few seasons, the pedigree and track record is evident for Caples to warrant a higher ADP than Camper.

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