Week 1 is finally in the books, which means we finally have some new info to argue about! Although the first week of college football can be difficult to evaluate, my job each week is to comb through the info and pull out the info that is going to help you win your leagues. You’ll see some categories pop up each week (target leaders, freshman snaps) and some more pertinent to that specific week of action. Without further ado…
1. Week 1 Target Leaders
This was a high-scoring week across college football, with some surprising beneficiaries in the receiving game.
|NAME||SCHOOL||TARGETS||TGT %||Total Team Att|
|Sam Pinckney||Coastal Carolina||18||41.8%||43|
|Terrell Vaughn||Utah State||16||33.33%||48|
|Eric McAlister||Boise State||16||34.04%||47|
|Lincoln Victor||Washington State||14||29.17%||48|
|Junior Vandeross III||Toledo||13||33.33%||39|
|Jimmy Horn Jr.||Colorado||13||26.53%||49|
|Jerand Bradley||Texas Tech||13||27.65%||47|
We have some names we expected on this list. Although they played Iowa, Utah State has traditionally peppered the alpha with targets, so expect a similar volume moving forward for Terrell Vaughn. I would not be shocked to see him lead the country in targets if he remains healthy. Joshua Cephus is also a guy I would’ve predicted coming into the week, especially with De’Corian “JT” Clark out with an injury. This UTSA offense will be one to watch over the next few weeks, as they struggled against Houston. Even if this offense is significantly worse than previous years, I still expect Cephus to be a must-start fantasy option and a top five option at the position.
I’ll talk more about Colorado in a bit, but from a target share perspective, Jimmy Horn Jr. and Travis Hunter led the way this Saturday. This volume isn’t too surprising. As we mentioned across several shows on the Campus2Canton podcast network this offseason, new OC Sean Lewis has created prolific offenses with talent far below these standards in the past at Kent State. Last year, Devontez Walker and Dante Cephas averaged around eight targets per game last year; the year before, Cephas averaged closer to ten. That was with MAC talent. The tricky part here is discerning which guys are in for a big workload on a weekly basis because Shedeur Sanders won’t be throwing for 500 yards every week, contrary to the beliefs of the Buffs burgeoning bandwagon.
I’m not going to cover all the names here, but the others that I’m intrigued by are Lincoln Victor (Washington State), Sam Pinckney (Coastal Carolina), and Pofele Ashlock (Hawaii). All are in offenses that I expect to pass consistently all season and could be the leading targets on their respective squads. I’m putting in big waiver claims for Ashlock, specifically, but all three are strong adds if available.
2. Freshman Snap Counts
|NAME||SCHOOL||SNAPS||TOTAL TEAM||SNAP %|
|Jaden Rashada||Arizona State||69||69||100%|
|Rueben Owens||Texas A&M||40||68||59%|
|Kevin Concepcion||NC State||43||74||58%|
|Carlos Hernandez||Washington State||40||89||45%|
|Jaden Greathouse||Notre Dame||69||64||38%|
It’s not often we get a true freshman quarterback who plays every snap of week 1, but 2023 is not your typical QB class. Arizona State QB Jaden Rashada had quite the debut, finishing 18/31 for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The competition was weak, so I’m interested to see how he does moving forward. Regardless, this job is his, and that could be huge for his development.
Reuben Owens’ placement on this list is surprising. News out of camp suggested that he was a distant third on the depth chart. Although we believe he’s the best back on the roster, it sometimes takes freshmen a while to stake their claims firmly. Owens took no time, leading this backfield in snaps and tied for most carries (although he was the least effective back on the team). He’ll be the bellcow by the end of the season, so buy soon if you want him.
Jaquaize Pettaway almost broke the Year 1 Zero thresholds in week 1 with his nine receptions. His ADOT was below one, so it appears that OU will use him close to the line of scrimmage for now, but his game-breaking speed suggests he should be able to develop into a deep threat as well. I’m very concerned about his route-running ability, so we’ll see if that grows or if we’re stuck with a gadget guy. He’s a fun player overall though, and should see some snaps even in close games moving forward.
Lastly, it appears that UCLA QB Dante Moore won their starting job after he rotated against Coastal Carolina and looked like a seasoned pro. Moore completed 7 of 12 passes for 143 yards, two touchdowns, and a single INT. If he does not start Week 2, we riot.
Other notable players:
- Jackson Arnold (Oklahoma): 32/90
- Eugene Wilson III (Florida): 23/71
- Zachariah Branch (USC): 18/56
- Mark Fletcher (Miami): 16/64
- Roderick Robinson (Georgia): 15/67
- Johntay Cook (Texas): 17/79
- Makai Lemon (USC): 12/56
- Carnell Tate (Ohio State): 14/70
3. Volume Is King
We care a lot about volume for every type of fantasy football because more opportunity generally means more points. It’s as simple as that.
So, which teams ran the most plays this weekend? Beware that some of these can be deceiving with weaker opponents in week 1, but it should give us an idea of how some teams want to play.
Other notable teams and splits:
- SMU: 79 total plays. 41 pass, 38 rush
- Ole Miss: 74 total plays. 44 pass, 30 rush
- Georgia Southern: 74 plays. 43 pass, 31 rush
- Western Kentucky: 73 total plays. 50 pass/23 rush
And the winner of this week’s “Slow Poke Award” is Iowa State, who ran only 45 plays this weekend for 250 yards of total offense. Not that we were actively targeting this offense, but they may struggle to produce relevant fantasy numbers all offseason.
4. Surprises? I Hate Surprises.
It feels like we got more “surprise” Week 1 QB starters than we traditionally do, although that may be my faulty memory. By my count, there were six true surprises, with a few other situations that I’ll touch on in the accompanying podcast.
First up is TJ Finley from Texas State. I think I speak for most of us at Campus2Canton when I say that most of us had written Finley off after his rough outings last year for Auburn. Those came on the heels of additional rough outings at LSU. Maybe the SEC was just too much for him? Everyone expected this to be Malik Hornsby’s job, but Finley trotted out to start this game. All he did was lead Texas State to an upset win over Baylor while putting up an impressive stat line of 22/30 for 298 yards and three passing touchdowns. Finley also added a rushing touchdown. With few opponents of Baylor’s caliber remaining on the schedule, Finley could cook for fantasy managers. I’m pushing my chips all in on Finley on waivers this week.
Next on my list is USF QB Byrum Brown. I’m not entirely sure I can call this one a surprise since it sounded like this battle was probably 50/50. Kudos to Alex Golesh and the staff there for choosing the best player and not just deferring to seniority by default. Brown was amazing in a small sample late last season, and he picked up right where he left off. Although they lost, Brown threw for 166 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 166 and 2. He’s a classic unrefined passer who can pick up chunk yardage on the ground and is playing in a system that should help him produce. If Brown is not rostered in your leagues, you should consider adding him if you need the QB help. The only thing holding his value down previously was the fact that the job may not be his. We know that it is now.
We talked all offseason about new Stanford Head Coach Troy Taylor and his prolific offenses, so we tracked potential starters Ari Patu and Justin Lamson. It turns out, neither of those two was Taylor’s preferred option, instead opting for second-year quarterback Ashton Daniels. Daniels played at Buford High School, a program producing tons of college and NFL prospects. I’m surprised he wasn’t on our radar at all before. Daniels looks pretty sharp in this one, rushing for 42 yards and completing almost 70% of his passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. This is a sneaky fantasy option if Stanford can consistently keep him clean in the pocket.
Honorable Mentions: Garret Rangel (Oklahoma State), Logan Smothers (Jacksonville State), Kaidon Salter (Liberty)
5. Must Have Waiver Adds
I am fairly selective early in the season because a bad waiver push can ruin a season. This week, here’s how I’m allocating budgets in my leagues:
TJ Finley is the QB I’m targeting most. In leagues where I need QB help badly, I’d spend up to 60% of my FAAB. In deeper leagues, I might push 80%. It’s hard to top GJ Kinne’s system, and any doubts we’d have should go out the window after this performance against Baylor. Stock way up for CFF purposes.
Pofele Ashlock is my top WR target. The slot guy in a Run-n-Shoot offense that is going to throw the ball 35-50 times a game? Yeah, sign me up. I’m spending 40-60% of my budget depending on the depth of the league and how badly I need WRs.
Kaidon Salter will fly under the radar in leagues, but he shouldn’t. Head Coach Jamey Chadwell can get the best out of Salter by letting him use his legs while developing his passing skills. He shouldn’t need more than 5% of the budget and won’t be that cheap for much longer.
I’ll drop three other names I’m buying on The Collective podcast feed, available to NIL and All-22 members. If you’re interested, upgrade, and you’ll have access to this show and other great shows each week.
6. Injuries to Monitor
KURTIS ROURKE & SAM WIGLUSZ
After reports surfaced this week that Rourke was expected to play, late-breaking news on Saturday morning ruled him out. We should have been prepared for this. Managers were unprepared for the absence of Rourke’s main target, Sam Wiglusz. I’ve not seen any reporting on his absence, so we’ll keep readers updated as info trickles in.
I had a whole write-up on Corley, and then he tweeted an update on Sunday that it was just bruised ribs. Something to monitor moving forward. Dalvin Smith looked like the go-to guy in his absence, but WKU is short on experienced players behind him and is certainly hoping he’s back quickly.
Antwane Wells was ruled fit late in the week but ultimately missed the game against UNC with an injury. Shane Beamer says he’s questionable for next week’s game against Furman. I’d bet he does not play. Xavier Leggette was the leading receiver while he was out, but I’m not currently adding him off waivers.
Texas running back Cedric Baxter looked really good before leaving with an upper-body injury. Reports suggest he should be back at practice this week, so this doesn’t look like a long-term concern.
Cal QB Sam Jackson left their game against North Texas, but it didn’t really matter. Head Coach Justin Wilcox played it close to the vest in the post-game presser, but it doesn’t sound like his season is in jeopardy.
7. Lincoln Riley’s Rotation Roulette
For readers who follow the “other” football, prominent Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is known for frequently rotating his attacking players in the lineup, to the point where fans have deemed his seemingly nonsensical patterns the “Pep Roulette.” After two games, I’m wondering if we have a similar situation brewing at USC.
The opposition makes this difficult to discern, but the rotation at both WR and RB has been heavier than typical through two weeks. Per PFF, here are the passing down snaps for the receivers:
In particular, the receivers are difficult to get a good feel for. Dorian Singer, Brenden Rice, Zachariah Branch, and Kyron Hudson are all within eight snaps of each other so far, and Mario Williams isn’t much further ahead. The true freshmen are playing a ton, which is surprising to me, given the room’s depth. Branch has consistently made plays, and I suspect he’s firmly in the rotation moving forward, but it seems that Riley wants Tahj Washington involved in the slot, too. Bottom line, I think it won’t be easy to project weekly production for any of these guys, at least for a few weeks.
The one piece of advice I have here, is that I would no longer recommend Singer as a weekly starter moving forward. You may not have many other great options, but six targets through the first two weeks are not the type of volume that we need in college fantasy.
The running back rotation seems a bit more clear. Marshawn Lloyd has played the most snaps so far and looked the best of the group. Austin Jones is firmly the rotational back. True freshman Quinten Joyner is the third back. These are the only three USC backs I’m interested in now, and all three may be playable at times this year, especially with Lloyd’s durability concerns.
8. Ewers/McCord and the Curious Case of Highly Touted QBs Doing Just Enough
I’m starting to think that third-year quarterbacks who have not solidified themselves as legitimate NFL prospects are bad bets. Look no further than two of our top ten QBs, Quinn Ewers and Kyle McCord. Both of these QBs struggled against weaker opposition to open the season.
I was willing to give Ewers a pass for much of last season because of the shoulder injury suffered against Alabama. Ewers struggled with the deep ball and was generally inaccurate on passes further than 5-10 yards downfield, and those same struggles bubbled to the surface again this week. I specifically remember at least two deep passes that should have been completed and a third that wasn’t close to the mark. It seemed like the offense sputtered until the coaching staff switched to a quick-hitting passing scheme that allowed Ewers to get rid of the ball quickly.
That’s great for Texas, but most of us drafted Ewers with the expectation that he would be an early NFL draft pick. So what should managers do with him? I am officially classifying Ewers as a “sell.” You should still be able to get a sizeable return for him. I’d recommend shipping him in a package for an NFL QB (if possible) or shifting him into a valuable devy piece at the other skill positions.
Meanwhile, Ohio State QBs have gained the reputation as slow processors, fairly or not, due to the offensive system that Ryan Day runs. McCord may be the slowest processor of the group. He’s constantly late on throws, and he doesn’t have the athleticism, pocket presence, or arm strength to compensate. I’m not saying he’s a bad player or can’t be a good college QB, but he needs to improve quickly if this Ohio State team wants to compete for the Big 10 championship. He struggled to get the ball to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka this week, but I’m still starting them in Week 2. Another bad week, and I’ll start rethinking this one.
You should have sold McCord weeks ago, but if he’s still on your teams, I’m officially moving him to a “hold.” You won’t get the return you could have earlier this offseason, so waiting for a bounceback or transfer makes sense.
I’ve dropped both players to the bottom of my “potentially devy relevant” pile in my C2C rankings, below the five top freshmen, Shedeur Sanders and JJ McCarthy, amongst others.
9. Prime Time?
I needed at least 24 hours to chew on this one. I think my stance on Colorado was pretty clear for 2023. This team is full of players I do not love for devy purposes, but I thought Sean Lewis and his offense would make Sanders fantasy relevant. I figured the ball would spread around enough to make the skill guys tough to predict. Don’t believe me? Here’s a Twitter exchange I had almost a month ago on the subject:
Am I adjusting my thinking after the huge offensive showing in Week 1? Maybe slightly, but not as much as you’d think. The biggest question I must answer is whether Sanders is a legitimate NFL quarterback. I’m still shaky on this. I thought the first half of this game was extremely conservative with one or two impressive throws. The rest were plays I’d expect any good college QB to make. The second half was genuinely impressive. If I get two more performances like this one, I’ll buy in. The statistical dominance is not repeatable, but if he can continue to work outside of structure and work the intermediate areas of the field, two things he has struggled with in his career, he can go early. I’m moving him above McCord and Ewers after this week.
The other questions revolve around the skill guys. How aggressive should you be with these guys on waivers? Should you pay up to get them from leaguemates? My answer, as usual, is, “it depends.” I expect the three main receivers to be productive moving forward, although it may be difficult to project the leader each week. I could be persuaded to spend up to 20% of my FAAB budget on Horn or Weaver and up to 50% if Hunter still hangs around in your league.
One final note: this Colorado team cannot run the ball. Maybe that changes once Alton McCaskill returns, but they could be in trouble in games where they need to run.