NATE MARCHESE – FEB 6, 2022

Who’s stock is on the rise for CFF 2022? Let’s discuss some guys that have seen an increase in their CFF value since the end of the regular season due to various reasons that may include coaching changes, transfers, NFL declarations, etc. I am not saying all these guys should be drafted high, but rather have improved their position and could be worth more than your league-mates may perceive them.

QUARTERBACKS

Quinn Ewers, Texas

This one is fairly obvious. He’s gone from QB3 at Ohio State to mullet mania in Austin. The Longhorns were unsurprisingly the high bidder in the Lone Star State bidding war. Ewers became the #1 rated QB recruit in his class after he was reclassified to the 2021 class. He is tied with Vince Young as the highest-rated QB recruit ever. They are the only two QBs to receive a 1.000 rating (Trevor Lawrence was 0.999). Despite him being in college for a season, we know nothing about his actual abilities, but Sark has an elite track record with QBs

Mark Sanchez 3207/34/10  (yards/TD/INT)

Keith Price 3315/33/11

Cody Kessler  3286/39/5

Jalen Hurts 2780/23/9 with 954 yards and 10 TDs rushing

Tua  2840/33/3

Mac Jones  4500/41/4

A Sark QB is a lock for 3,500yards and 35 TDs. I expect the same to hold true as a floor for Ewers with the help of top 10 WR Xavier Worthy and new shiny toys in WR Isaiah Neyor and TE Billingsley.  

Jarret Doege, Western Kentucky

We all knew two things were going to happen for WKU this offseason. First, Boy Genius Zach Kittley would move on to greener pastures (more on this later). And second, the team would be seeking a portal QB. There is no sugar coating – Doege is about the most meh QB they could find. But with nearly 1,500 pass attempts, the super senior is by far the most experienced option the Hilltoppers will have. And while Kittley may have moved to Lubbock, Tyson Helton is doing what he can to make sure the offense closely resembles what Kittley ran during his year there. His job depends on it.

Doege will also be aided by the additions of Jaylen Hall (WMU) and Michael Mathison (Akron) at WR. Doege was essentially unworthy of a roster spot at WVU but now becomes an intriguing late QB option with a 500 pass attempt upside.

Garrett Shrader, Syracuse

Shrader didn’t transfer anywhere, but he benefits from an important coaching change. His new OC is Robert Anae, who was previously at Virginia. Now, Dino Babers is no slouch in his own right for CFF QB production, but Anae has recently mentored and called plays for Brennan Armstrong and Bryce Perkins. Volume is the most important thing we look for in CFF, and Anae provides plenty of it for his QBs. Perkins attempted 495 passes and rushed 227 times! Armstrong wasn’t far off that pace last year with 501 passes and 97 rush attempts.

Courtesy of Dennis Nett \ dnett@syracuse.com

Shrader already averaged 26.8 fantasy ppg once he was the full-time starter from week three, and now we are giving him an OC with a willingness to let his QB pass and run a combined 50+ times per game. Yes, please! I know what you are thinking, “But Shrader can’t pass!”. You would be correct. You would have also said the same thing about Armstrong and Perkins when they arrived on campus at Virginia. Fortunately for Shrader, the same QB coach that developed Armstrong and Perkins is coming from Virginia with Anae to Syracuse. On the flip side, this coaching change is not advantageous for RB Sean Tucker. Look for Tucker in our Stock Down article.

John Rhys Plumlee, Central Florida

As a fantasy asset, Plumlee has been as volatile as investing in cryptocurrency. Nothing will beat the fit than the match made in heaven he had with OC Rich Rodriguez as a freshman. After a couple of years of spending time as Matt Corral’s backup and platooning at WR, Plumlee will head to UCF and likely compete at QB for Gus Malzahn. Gus has had an underwhelming stretch of QB production with Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham, Sean White, and Jeremy Johnson. But Gus once had a Plumlee type player in Nick Marshall and did this with him:

2014: 2533/20/7 pass with 798/11 rush

2013: 1976/14/6 pass with 1068/12 rush

A couple of concerns here are that Gus had another cheat code player like this in Malik Willis and failed to use him. Plumlee lacks the arm talent of either Marshall or Willis. But, the fact remains that his stock had essentially bottomed out under Kiffin and the move to UCF breathes some life back into it. With Gabriel moving on and Mikey Keene looking nothing more than average most of the time, an opportunity is knocking for Plumlee. Also, keep in mind he has two years of eligibility left with no pro potential for your dynasty leagues.

Sam Huard, Washington

This is basically a dynasty stock up with the potential to be 2022 stock up. Let’s face it, Jimmy Lake was a trash hire, and the Donovan offense was a dumpster fire where CFF relevance went to die. That was exactly what was happening to Huard, the #3 QB recruit in the 2021 class. The hire of Kalen DeBoer changes all that. He rehabbed the career of Jake Haener at Fresno State and helped Michael Penix look like a quality QB during his time at Indiana.

Haener 2021: 4096/33/9 with 3 rush TDs

Haener 2020: 2021/14/5 with 3 rush TDs in 6 games

Penix 2019: 1394/10/4 with 2 rush TDs in 6 games

The downside is that Morris remains, and Penix now joins his former coach at UW. But as a fantasy owner, I would much rather own an asset in a system with high upside should he win amidst strong competition than have him burning a hole in my roster in a Lake/Donovan system. The system and talent at WR exist in Seattle. Now let’s see if the most talented QB on the roster can win the job.

Tyler Shough, Texas Tech

No team will have my watchful eye on it more during the spring than Texas Tech. Air Raid guru, Zach Kittley, comes over from his one-year stop at WKU. If you competed for a CFF title in 2021, odds are you either owned or faced someone with Bailey Zappe, so you know why the Red Raider passing game is a buzz right now. Here are Zappe’s stats for the last three years between WKU and Houston Baptist:

2021: 5967/62/11  (426 ypg)

2020 (4 games):  1833/15/1 (458 ypg)

2019: 3811/35/15  (317 ypg)

The problem is that Zappe has moved on, and Kittley has no clear starting QB. As of right now, I’ll plant a tiny flag on Shough. Here is my reasoning: Why return to Tech with a totally new staff amidst all the transfer rumors surrounding him if you don’t think you can win the job? Donovan Smith played well after Shough went down with an injury, but he isn’t a Kittley type of QB if Zappe is the prototype. Behren Morton is talented but extremely raw. Lastly, Tech didn’t add a transfer QB (yet). So, by default, I think Shough, who was the starter before the injury and had the highest QBR for Tech in 2021, could be the best fit currently on the roster.


RUNNING BACKS

Chris Smith, ULL

Courtesy of University of Louisiana Athletics

The best way to sum up Smith’s stock-up situation is the .gif of Will Smith in Fresh Prince looking around all lonely in the Bellaire mansion. Smith is the last man standing in what has been a very fruitful CFF RB system. Yes, Napier moves on, but his OC stays behind in Louisiana. Montrell Johnson and Emani Bailey also move on, along with their combined 1,700 total yards and 20 TDs.

Despite Smith accumulating over 900 yards and nine TDs, I think we can all agree that 2021 was a disappointment. But, he did have his moments, including a midseason three-game stretch of 20.5, 36.5, and 20.5 fantasy-producing weeks, showing his capabilities when given the opportunity. With essentially zero experience behind him and no transfers coming in (yet), Smith is primed for a big year. He has two years of eligibility remaining. I recently got him as the last pick in the fifth mock draft round, and that value felt about right.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

Talent has never been an issue for Gibbs, but the talent around him has been a problem. That is no longer the case, as he joins Alabama in what is likely his last season before heading off to the NFL. He will get one of the biggest upgrades in the offensive line and QB play you can make in a P5 transfer. His usage, or lack thereof, may no longer be an issue either. The average stat line for the Crimson Tide RB1 over the last three years:

227/1251/18 (carries/yards/TDs) rush with 35/332/4 (receptions/yards/TDs) receiving.

The idea that Alabama likes a wide carry distribution has been a fallacy over the last few years. Bill O’Brien gave Brian Robinson Jr 306 touches. McClellan was injured early on, but the next closest back was Sanders at 80 touches. Furthermore, Gibbs was already practicing with Alabama during the bowl prep practices, and the word out of the Tide camp was that he was unstoppable and made the defense look foolish. Camar Wheaton has already hit the portal, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see another Tide RB (or 2) do the same.

Peny Boone, Toledo

Boone is a 6’1” 245 lb. RB that came to Maryland as a 4-star recruit. How Mike Locksley lands high-level RBs is beyond me, but after a couple of years of minimal run, Boone moves on to Toledo. The Jason Candle offense has been a “boon” for CFF owners of Toledo RBs and worth every “penny.”

Kareem Hunt: 262/1475/10 rush with 41/401/1 rec

Terry Swanson: 242/1363/13 rush with 20/194/0 rec

Bryant Koback:

Rushing & Receiving Table
RushRushRushRush ReceReceReceRece ScriScriScriScri
Year Class G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2018FR131539176.0144235.801579406.014
2019SO1219511876.1128698.6220312566.214
2020JR61235224.24242289.521477505.16
*2021JR1320814076.8153033811.3323817457.318
Career67940335.9456665810.0774546916.352

Koback moves on, thus leaving a massive void in the Toledo run game. As you can see above, involvement in the passing game is vital for Candle’s RBs. While Boone didn’t show many receiving chops at Maryland, he was considered a skilled receiver and route runner coming out. Full disclosure, I didn’t love Boone’s HS tape, but similar to Doege, a prime big fish in a small pond opportunity exists here and shouldn’t be ignored late in drafts.

Byron Cardwell, Oregon 

Similar to Smith, Cardwell is the beneficiary of a depleted RB room. With Verdell off to the NFL, Dye to USC, and Benson also to the portal, Cardwell stands to be the most viable option on the roster. If you consider Anthony Brown’s rushing as well, Oregon lost 80% of its rushing production! Cardwell accounted for 81% of what remains after all the departures. Sean Dollar returns from injury, but Cardwell is the complete back. His HS tape didn’t present any elite traits, but he also had no holes. Cardwell was strong enough as a true FR to be the RB2 after Verdell went down.

New OC Kenny Dillingham led some pedestrian rush offenses at FSU, but with a big boost in OL play from the talent that Cristobal left behind gives this offense potential to produce more along the line of Dillingham’s time at Memphis with Darrell Henderson (214/1909/22 rush with 19/295/3 rec) and Patrick Taylor Jr (208/1122/16 rush with 17/197/2 rec) in 2019. Seven McGee also returns but will likely see time in the slot and passing downs as more of a Tony Pollard hybrid role that Dillingham featured at Memphis.

Jordan Mims, Fresno State

Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics

Mims has elected to use his Covid year to be a super senior. Don’t get me wrong…Ronnie Rivers was a hell of an RB, but Mims was the better player in 2021. In the three games Rivers missed, here is what Mims did:

Nevada: 23/134/1 rushing with 4/20/1 receiving

San Diego St: 29/186/2

UTEP: 25/165/2 rushing with 5/71/1 receiving

So that is what he DID, but let’s talk about what he can DO. Jeff Tedford takes over coaching duties. While you normally would be skeptical of a coaching change from a proven successful system, Tedford signed and coached Mims during his previous stint at Fresno, and his track record for RBs is impressive. He has TEN 1,000 yard rushers under his belt, including Marshawn Lynch, Shane Vereen, Jahvid Best, Justin Forsett, and JJ Arrington. Lastly, he loves to involve his RBs in the passing game, which fits well with Mims’s skillset.

Nathaniel Peat, Missouri

I was proud to be president of the 2021 Tyler Badie fan club. Outside of DeWayne McBride, there wasn’t another RB that I rostered more than Badie, and it paid off in spades. With Badie’s departure, Missouri became one of the primary transfer landing spots this offseason. In his second year, Elijah Young was second on the team in touches with 48, which was 274(!) touches behind Badie. He’s solid, but I would be shocked if Coach Drinkwitz didn’t pursue someone from the portal. Enter Stanford transfer, Nathaniel Peat.

Peat only had 79 carries, but he was Stanford’s leading rusher. He is also a return specialist and spent time at WR in high school, a valued skill in the Drink offense. The problem with Peat is his small frame. 247Sports had him listed at 5-8, 175 coming out. Stanford has him listed at 5-10, 195. Congrats on the late growth spurt, Nate.

The last three Drink RBs have had 276, 224 (10 games), and 322 touches. Peat is a low-risk, high-reward option late in drafts. Keep an eye on the word coming out of spring camp between Peat and Young. Peat has two years of eligibility remaining.


WIDE RECEIVERS

AT Perry, Wake Forest

I think Perry might have had the quietest 71/1293/15 season I can remember. While everyone had their attention squarely on Jaquarri Roberson and all his preseason hype, Perry became the go-to WR for QB Sam Hartman. As mentioned, opportunity volume is the primary indicator of CFF success. Perry accounted for 133 targets, including 12.6 targets per game over the second half of the season. That puts him top five among returning WRs. Roberson elected to forgo his final season and his 112 targets left with him, meaning Perry’s already massive target volume could grow even more so. 

Courtesy of RobinHoodNews

Perry benefits from the decision Hartman made to return to Wake. With Hartman under center, Wake has finished top five in offensive plays per game the last couple of seasons. A former CFF darling, Donavon Greene, returns to action after a torn ACL caused him to miss 2021. Greene is likely to assume the boundary WR spot across from Perry. While I think Greene is a sleeper to target late in drafts, I believe it is unlikely that he demands more attention from Hartman than Roberson did.

Perry possesses everything I look for in a CFF WR: A proven alpha playmaker, plays in a high octane offense that is frequently in shootouts due to Wake’s poor defense, and gets absolutely peppered with targets. Many of those targets are deep balls, too, with an average target depth at a stunning 15.6 yards. Perry was wisely taken as the 23rd overall pick (WR6) in a January mock draft.

Isaiah Neyor, Texas

Neyor is one of the bigger G5 to P5 beneficiaries. We initially thought he was portaling (yes, it’s a verb now) to Tennessee, but he flipped the script at the last second and enrolled at Texas. While I probably would have liked the Vols even more as a landing spot, the Longhorns will undoubtedly suffice. He escapes Craig Bohl’s caveman, run first, offense at Wyoming to join the far more appealing offense to WRs under Sark.

Why are we so interested in a WR with just 44 catches for a smaller school now heading to a bigger program? That’s because his 878 yards accounted for 41.5% of all receiving yards, and he had 12 of the 15 total receiving TDs scored by Wyoming. That is total domination from the 6’3” 210 lb. deep threat playmaker. Now he upgrades from neanderthal QBs of Chambers/Williams to Quinn Ewers.

Expect him to play beta to Xavier Worthy’s alpha. While Neyor’s numbers may not improve all that much from 2021, he is still a stock-up candidate with the transfer to Texas because he would have been a prime regression candidate had he stayed at Wyoming. He was taken as 72nd overall (WR30) in one mock and undrafted through nine rounds in another. It is reasonable to expect him to settle right around his WR38 production from 2021 and not unreasonable to think he could reach the top 30 in the new offense. It would have been unreasonable to think that had he stayed at Wyoming.

Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Yes, we officially live in a time in which the leading receiver of the national champion is willing to leave for the team he just beat in the championship game. While that may seem backward upon first thought, I assure you the reasoning is sound. Let’s take a look at the Alabama WR1 over the last four seasons:

2021 Jameson Williams: 76 /1572/15

2020 Devonta Smith: 117/1856/23

2019 Devonta Smith: 69/1256/14

2018 Jerry Jeudy: 68/1315/14

Not only has the WR1 finished in the top 10 every season over this period, but there have been multiple seasons of the WR2 also reaching 1.000 yards. Maybe even more importantly, this level of production has been immune to coaching changes as there have been three different offensive play-callers over these four years.

The lazy man’s comp for Burton would be Jameson Williams, and I get that. At 6-0, 200 lbs, the former top 10 WR recruit is a burner that can take the top off a defense. That elite speed of Waddle, Smith, Williams, etc., is precisely what Saban has looked for in his WR1. For a good reason, Burton is the highest-rated WR in the 247Sports transfer portal. Having said that, I do have some doubts about him reproducing what Williams did in 2021. Williams fell down the pecking order at OSU due to guys like Wilson, Olave, and JSN. Burton failed to separate from freshmen at Georgia like McConkey and Mitchell without the pedigree Burton had coming out. But I was slow to hop on the Jameson hype train last spring, so I’ll be damned if I make that mistake again. I’ll chalk up Burton’s inconsistency at UGA to poor QB play, deficient system, and injuries. Keep an eye on this one during the spring and if Burton can stay healthy and separate from Brooks/Hall/Earle. If so, then the sky’s the limit, and he should be drafted as a top 10-15 WR.

De’Zhaun Stribling, Washington State

Let’s discuss a guy that didn’t transfer anywhere but instead stayed and becomes the potential beneficiary of a coaching change and vacated production. Stribling was a true freshman WR in 2021 that got a fair amount of buzz in preseason camp and lived up to it. The 6’2” 200 lb. FR broke out for 44/471/5. What is even more impressive is that he did that in a run-and-shoot offensive scheme that heavily features inside WRs and rarely produces a relevant outside WR.

With Harris and Jackson moving on, Stribling is the most accomplished WR on the roster and is in a prime position to become the lead dog in Pullman. Now Wazzu transitions from run-and-shoot to an air raid in the Eric Morris system that passed for 4,680 yards at Incarnate word in 2021. Here are the receiving lines for the top 3 WRs there: 87/1145/15, 74/815/9, and 59/771/11.

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to go around in this offense. Morris brings his QB with him from Incarnate Word, so there is no reason to think they won’t hit the ground running as Kittley did at WKU when he made a similar jump with his QB.

Xavier Williams, Utah State

This one is more of a deeper cut than they previously mentioned stock up WRs. Williams comes via the transfer portal from Alabama. While he may not have been able to get much traction (three total receptions) behind all the studs in Tuscaloosa, the 6’1” 190 lb. transfer was still a 4-star, top 25 WR in the 247 composite rankings. He is clearly the highest-rated recruit in Utah State’s program history. Additionally, the Aggies have glaring holes at the WR position as Deven Thompkins, Brandon Bowling, and Derek Wright move on. The loss of their top three WRs equates to 206 receptions, 3,328 yards, and 31 TDs.

The reason I am encouraging taking a shot late on the most highly recruited Utah State WR ever isn’t just because Logan Bonner is back at QB, but also because coach Blake Anderson’s track record with his WR1 over the last four years rivals that of Alabama. Here is what they have done:

2021 Thompkins: 102/1704/10

2020 Jonathan Adams Jr.: 79/1111/12 (10 games)

2019 Omar Bayless: 93/1653/17

2018 Kirk Merritt: 83/1005/7

I pounded the table for Thompkins last summer, scooping him up everywhere I could in drafts, and he paid off with a WR4 finish. Williams will battle with the leading returning receiver, Justin McGriff, and Maryland transfer, Brian Cobbs. I think any of the three are worthy of a late-round flier.

Myles Price, Texas Tech

As mentioned earlier, when discussing QB Tyler Shough, Zach Kittley brings his high-flying air raid to Lubbock. After the surprising declaration for the NFL by Erik Ezukanma, Myles Price enters 2022 as the leading returning receiver at Tech. Also surprising was Mitchell Tinsley opting to join Penn State as opposed to following his OC from Western Kentucky. The Red Raiders have failed to add a significant WR from the portal once Josh Moore elected to go to SMU after committing to Tech.

Jerreth Sterns played exclusively out of the slot and ended as the WR1 in CFF for 2021 with a ridiculous 150/1902/17 stat line for Kittley at WKU. If you had the Zappe/Sterns stack, you were essentially guaranteed a spot in the finals. This coveted inside receiver position in the Kittley system will be manned by Price. While he was mostly inconsistent, he could flash at times with a 9/175/1 output vs. Iowa State. Additionally, he has shown versatility as he has rushed the ball 26 times for 204 yards and two TDs throughout his two-year career. He went in the eighth and ninth rounds of a couple of way too early mocks. That’s exactly the kind of value I like from a guy assuming the role of Jerreth Sterns and his 185 targets last year.


TIGHT ENDS

Thomas Fidone, Nebraska

Fidone came to the Huskers last year as the #2 rated TE recruit at 6’6” and 225 lbs. Camp reports showed strong early returns until a knee injury caused him to miss all of 2021. 

Courtesy of FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star file photo

Nebraska recently hired Pitt OC, Mark Whipple. While I am a fan of Whipple and his ability to produce a fantasy-relevant scheme, I feel his marriage and Frost is strange. Frost prefers a no-huddle, QB run-heavy, RPO system, while Whipple prefers a more pass-heavy spread system that requires the QB to run to the sidelines between each play to get the call. Although there may be differences in style, they agree to feature the TE. This is especially true for Whipple. In 2021, Krull and Bartholomew combined for 66/777/10. His former TE at UMass, Adam Breneman, had a season line of 64/764/4. Furthermore, Whipple enjoys scheming up play calls for the TE in the Redzone.

That brings us back to Fidone, who recently said on social media that the knee is 100% and appears to have added some good weight to his frame during the time away from the field. If Whipple can breathe some life into the Husker offense and save Frost from his apparent impending doom, then Fidone becomes an excellent deep sleeper TE option for 2022 and a really strong dynasty option. 

Ryan Jones, East Carolina

Holton Ahlers may have seen a steady decline in the passing game since the hiring of Mike Houston, but his pass catchers have remained productive here. Jones was able to put up a respectable 37/442/5. I doubt many CFF owners realized Jones was TE26 in 2021, which means he finished ahead of Marshon Ford and Jack Bech. Both of whom are going considerably higher than him in way too early mocks. What makes his season even more impressive is that it was his first as a TE. Jones transferred to ECU from Oklahoma where he played LB for the Sooner defense. 

Like many others mentioned before him, Jones finds his way on this stock-up list via increased opportunity due to vacated production. WRs Snead and Omotosho move on, and CJ Johnson has been suspended indefinitely. This means ECU is likely going into 2022 without its three leading WRs from 2021. Don’t be surprised to see an uptick in targets for Jones, as well as the TE2 Calhoun and the RB tandem of Mitchell and Harris. Jones should be a target if you miss out on the top-tier TEs and choose to wait on that position.

Follow Nate on Twitter at @CFFNate

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