Vatti atti-atti-atti-atti. Body crazy, curvy, wavy, big TDs, lil’ waist”

-Megan Thee Stallion re: her latest CFF draft

Do you know what can catch fire even faster than the TikTok dances to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body”? How about a quarterback being drafted in the 16th round who has the ability to be a top-24 quarterback at the end of this season? That low-cost, high-ceiling play comes from Middle Tennessee State’s starting quarterback, Nicholas Vattiato.

Coaching & System

This season, the Blue Raiders will get a new coaching staff. Under the previous regime in the last five years, the Blue Raiders ranked 68th, 62nd, 60th, 29th, and 37th in passing yards per game. While the improvement was there, this unit was still seen as an average-to-above-average group under Rick Stockstill. Derek Mason steps in as the new Head Coach, and due to his defensive background, all signs point to his offensive coordinator, Bodie Reeder, having complete control of this offense.

Reeder’s resume is a bit unconventional, but it is riddled with showcases of explosive offensive production. He started his career as the assistant quarterback coach at Oklahoma State during Mason Rudolph’s freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, getting firsthand experience developing a quarterback at the FBS level.

In 2017, he took over as the offensive coordinator and QB Coach for Eastern Washington, where his QB, Gage Grubard, put up 334.20 passing yards per game. Grubard only played five games in the following season before suffering a season-ending injury. Still, Reeder showed versatility by adapting his offense to fit the skills of dual-threat Eric Barriere. The combination of Grubard and Barriere led the team to the FCS Championship game, ranking third and fourth in yards per game (528.2) and points per game (43.1), respectively.

In 2019, he joined the North Texas staff and oversaw the offense during Mason Fine’s senior campaign of 3,088 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns on 414 attempts. The following year took him to Utah State, where his offense sputtered. However, this was 2020, a year that was shortened by Covid. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as he went on to be an offensive analyst at Auburn before his latest coordinator stint at Northern Iowa, where his offense was ranked 15th in the country in passing offense and 9th in red zone efficiency while putting up 444.9 yards per game.

This is a quarterback-friendly offense that knows how to utilize skill players and put them in positions to win. Reeder has shown time and time again that he’s able to install his offense around a variety of quarterback talent and yield top-20 offensive production. More importantly, he’s shown he can tailor it to both pocket passers and dual-threat athletes.

Vattiato, Nick 12-28-21
Photo Courtesy of MT Athletic Communications

Skillset & Surrounding Talent

Last season, Vattiato threw for 3,092 yards and 23 touchdowns on 428 attempts while also running for 398 yards. To put that in context, the only QBs to throw for 3,000 yards or more while putting up that many passing touchdowns and rushing yards in 2023 were Jayden Daniels and Byrum Brown. That’s the most prestigious company to keep during last year’s fantasy season. Vattiato’s ability to make plays with his arm and legs demonstrates the ceiling to contend with nearly any QB in the country.

Removing sacks from consideration, Vattiato ran the ball just over five times per game and gained 5.2 yards on average. This isn’t anything magical, but it shows he can give you an extra 2-3 Fantasy Points/game on the ground at minimum. It would not be surprising to see Reeder adapt this offense a bit more to that in which he ran at Eastern Washington with Barriere and let Vattiato run the ball more, especially if the ground game struggles again next year as it did in 2023.

There has been some criticism about his home and road splits in 2023, as his TD-INT ratio is 17-4 at home compared to 8-9 on the road. While Middle Tennessee State saw a massive disparity in competition during their out-of-conference schedule, where they started the season at Alabama and at Missouri, Vattiato posted a 3-1 TD-INT ratio during those games. The struggles came against Western Kentucky and Sam Houston, where that ratio sunk to a combined 0-5. While this is a troubling statistic, these were hiccups during Vattiato’s first year as the starter on an offense that ranked 104th in the nation in rushing yards per game. He put the offense on his shoulders and carried them as far as he could, and some weeks, he inevitably tried to do too much.

Uniting with Reeder this season should help this offense’s overall efficiency. They return leading receiver Holden Willis, and they also bring in Omari Kelly, a transfer WR who has strong ties to multiple staff members (including Reeder, Mason, and WR Coach Cornelius Williams) from his time at Auburn and is said to be a dynamic playmaker with a good catch-radius. While he didn’t see much playing time at Auburn, he still has an SEC pedigree and athleticism.

Having playmakers come into their own on this offense will be the key to determining if Vattiato can take the next step heading into 2024. It’s still very early, but Willis and Kelly appear to be two very compelling building blocks from which he can lean. Should they get this offense under their belts and establish chemistry on the field, this Middle Tennessee offense will be very exciting to watch down the stretch in the Conference USA. Vattiato should be front and center, winning CFF matchups for those who took a chance deep in drafts.

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