Part IV of my favorite offseason series is ready for the people. We’ve published three versions of this series thus far. The goal of this series has always been to give Campus2Canton drafters players in the last few rounds of drafts that nobody is touting. The players included here are ones we think can outperform their (generally) non-existent ADP. Most of these guys are longshots but if they hit, they can provide value for your teams. Let’s knock out some C2C sleeper candidates. Let’s find a new sleeper.
Cedric Patterson Jr., WR, Rice
Is Patterson the least sexy name we’ve ever put out? There’s a legitimate case but since I’m the author I can (to an extent) do what I want. It’s a sleeper player but he’s not totally out of left field. Patterson is a deep cut but that doesn’t mean he can’t return value. A fifth-year player, he is one of the most tenured players on the Rice roster and incoming competition has failed to produce like Patterson has in his tenure.
Patterson’s best season, which happened in 2021, was a 22.9% receiving yardage share which rivals Sam Crawford’s best season at Tulsa, where he posted a 23.1% mark. Since Crawford’s third season he’s failed to recapture that magic. There have been injury concerns for Crawford over the last few years. Since breaking out in 2019, he’s struggled to put up the same production. In his last two seasons, he’s posted a 15.3% receiving market share. He has potential but we’ve only seen it once and since then it’s been unreliable production.
Projecting the target share for the Rice Owls is an uphill battle. Mike Bloomgren is still the head coach meaning the expectation is that the offense is likely a slower rush-heavy team but I think that could change somewhat. Ranked 104th in neutral game script pass rate, that expects to improve with TJ McMahon taking over at quarterback. Additionally, they were FBS average in pace, ranked 69th.
Patterson is a projection. He’s the leading returning receiver with Jake Bailey transferring to SMU and August Pitre going to Ohio but is still a sleeper in the traditional sense. The departure of Jake Bailey opens up opportunities for Patterson it outperform expectations. His 28.5% market share last season was among the country’s leaders and leaves a huge hole in this offense. The losses of Pitre and tight end/running back Jordan Meyers open an additional 41% of receiving production. With over 68.5% of yardage lost, the offense need player to step into a bigger role.
The opportunity is his as he operates as the receiver the most familiar with the system. Crawford is a concern, but Patterson is the guy I’m pushing my chips in on with his experience and 2021 season.
Ari Broussard, RB, Rice
I was conflicted on whether including two players from a bottom-30 offense was too woke but here we are. Broussard is a player who could massively outperform expectations. Rice has an underwhelming reputation, but the staff and personnel changes put Broussard in a unique position to succeed.
Rice is a team that can take a legit step forward with turnover this offseason. Marques Tuiasosopo takes over as offensive coordinator but without Jack Constantine, it’s hard to sell this offense. TJ McMahon takes over and while he’s a fourth-year player, he’s been nothing but impressive thus far. He has a career yards per pass attempt of 9.1 across both FBS and his JuCo experience. Broussard is a player that can take a massive step forward under an offense that is willing to commit to deep passing. McMahon at Rice in a small sample has proved this at multiple levels. McMahon being a better option is a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation.
Jordan Meyers, who was an offensive weapon more than a running back, exhausts eligibility at the position, opening the opportunity for another player to step up. Broussard was efficient last season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, a full 1.2 yards better than second-best RB on the team. The second leading ushing Khlan Griffin transferred to Lamar and the likely RB2, Dean Connors has yet to record a carry at the FBS level. As a unit in 2021, the offense rushed for 1,439 yards, but over 51% of that is gone between Meyers and Griffin. Broussard could be a legit workhorse.
Overall, the offense returns three of five offensive linemen and the three had been quality contributors last season. Shea Baker is by far the best returning member of this unit but as a guard, he should open lanes inside for Broussard.
The upside with Broussard is that he fits into an offense that ranks 103rd in neutral game script pass rate. This offense has limited desire to pass when the options aren’t open giving this group potential heading into the next few seasons. It doesn’t seem sexy a first but Broussard is the sleeper that fits the undervalued criteria.
AJ Barner, TE, Indiana
Barner is a player who has waited his turn to step into one of the country’s best situations. Peyton Hendershot has been a staple for Indiana for multiple years and it was inevitable that one of Tom Allen’s recruits would seize his role.
Barner has immediately stepped into a leadership role. Peyton Hendershot was one of the most consistent pieces on this offense but Barner has proven he could step into a valuable role. Barner has proven himself to be an invaluable player for the offense this offseason. The addition of Walt Bell, a traditionally conservative offensive coordinator also bodes well for Barner.
Last season Hendershot posted a 25.8% receiving yardage market share, among the best in the nation. While Barner won’t assume that entire role, it’s not unrealistic that he takes a large portion. While Hendershot’s 11.2 points per game last year doesn’t stand out, the opportunity is drastically different. Ty Fryfogle exhausted his eligibility and the likely replacement Miles Marshall transferred to Buffalo this offseason.
It’s a name that has garnered a substantial amount of buzz on an offense that has featured the tight end in the past. A true sleeper, Barner hasn’t been drafted yet in C2C ADP. We will keep finding value and Barner is only our lastest target.