The Sun Belt is a conference in which value is found in C2C drafts. Without name recognition, most Sun Belt players fall through the cracks and can provide value at cost. In this preview, we’ll break down all the teams in the East, grouping players into three buckets:
- Fantasy Relevant
- Roster Fillers
- Players to Avoid at Cost
All teams are listed in alphabetical order.
App State is consistently among the best teams in the Sun Belt and should be so again this season. Their rushing game is a focal point led by Camerun Peoples and Nate Noel. Peoples, the bigger of two backs, sees more of the goal line work, evidenced by People’s fourteen touchdowns to Noel’s four, despite having the edge carry-wise. Given how productive this offense is, it’s not unrealistic to expect both players over 900 yards and close to twenty touchdowns between the two. The offense returns four starting linemen and was one of the conference’s stronger units, ranking 37th nationally in line yards.
Quarterback Chase Brice returns for his final season of eligibility but loses his top four leading receivers. He also loses offensive coordinator Frank Ponce, who is a highly regarded quarterback coach. The losses across the board for Brice put him in a tough spot. His production last year, 3,337 yards on a 27-11 TD-to-INT ratio will be hard to match given the inexperience on the outside. Overall, he can play in a pinch for your fantasy roster but I wouldn’t be excited to plug him in weekly.
With the departure of so much receiving production, wide receiver Kaedin Robinson stands to benefit the most. Between Corey Sutton, Thomas Hennigan, Malik Williams, and Jalen Virgil, the offenses lost 83% of last year’s receiving market share. Someone will need to catch passes in this offense and Robinson, a transfer from UCF, is a stash-worthy option.
Everything on offense starts and ends with quarterback Grayson McCall. A prolific dual-threat quarterback, McCall can post massive weeks and if he stays healthy, he could be on the path to a Top 12 fantasy finish. The only concern is the pace of play and neutral game script pass rate (both ranking outside the top-60), but McCall’s 2021 13.6 adjusted yards per pass attempt ranked in the 100th percentile among all quarterbacks. It’s very difficult for him to be anything but efficient.
This has been an excellent offensive line historically and while losing four of five starters hurts, Braydon Bennett is still a weekly fantasy starter. Shermari Jones departs and while Reese White returns, Bennett solidified the starting role down the stretch last season. Coming off a 638-yard season on an 8.6 yards per carry and 24 receptions for 295 yards, he’s locked in the RB2 conversation.
I debated throwing receiver Sam Pinckney in the fantasy-relevant conversation, but held off as we haven’t seen him in the offense yet. Transferring from Georgia State, Pinckney should be the primary target for McCall with Jaivon Heiligh, Kameron Brown, and Isaiah Likely departing. That trio accounted for 77% of receiving production between them and on an offense that will approach 3,000 passing yards, Pinckney is a great target late.
Like Pinckney, tight end Xavier Gravette is another player who can benefit from the departures of the top three receiving options. In 2021 Isaiah Likely finished with a 59-912-12 receiving line and while Gravette only played in four games last year, the staff expects him to step into the primary receiving role. The offense under Willy Korn has targeted the tight end at one of the nation’s highest rates. Likely’s 26.4% receiving share in 2021 ranked second on the team and over the last three years, he’s posted an average of 22%. If Gravette comes close to this, he’ll post a fantasy relevant season.
I would be surprised if he did anything fantasy relevant, but wide receiver De’Andre Coleman is a player I’m rostering in C2C leagues. A four-star at 247 Sports, Coleman is in a shallow receiving room and is one of the more talented players in the Chanticleer’s recruiting class and in the whole Sun Belt. Coleman had multiple Power 5 offers including Penn State, Maryland, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. He’s a player who can rise up ranks.
The other running back, Reese White is also worth rostering in leagues. If Bennett goes down, he could be one of the most valuable handcuffs in the sport. He also provides weekly upside in quality matchups. The offense ran for 190.7 yards per game in 2021 and will likely come to close to that mark again.
Avoid at Cost
I just gave a quality endorsement to Grayson McCall but I’m also not targeting him in C2C drafts. His 97th overall ADP puts him just outside the ninth round, and for a quarterback with limited NFL upside, that feels rich. Per game, he is going to be productive for the Chants this year but the offense overall is gimmicky and hard to translate to the league. If I have him rostered, I’m excited but he’s not a draft day target.
None. But…maybe not for long.
The line between fantasy relevant and roster filler can be quite thin. The definition I prefer to use is fantasy starter or a player you expect to be a starter at some point. I don’t think the Georgia Southern offense fits that mold. There’s a lot of projection going into this offense and while I think it’s one of fantasy’s best-kept secrets, there is risk.
Starting with quarterback Kyle Vantrease, the offense is poised to do a 180 from last year and the last few seasons. Clay Helton comes in throwing high heat. His offenses’ have ranked among the past heaviest as a head coach since joining USC. He also brings in offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis who was the quarterback coach for Western Kentucky’s historic 2021 season. This offense is going to pass among the country’s highest in neutral game script situations and returns one of the nation’s worst defenses. If I felt better about Vantrease as a passer, I would have him in the start column. He had a QBR of 55 in 2021 but 72.7 in 2020. If we see 2020 Vantrease, this offense is going to be better.
His weapons play a large part in in this projection, headlined by second-year receiver Derwin Burgess II. Bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, Burgess will command a substantial share of the receiving production in this offense and is my bet to lead the team in yardage. In his 2021 season, he commanded a higher market share than Houston transfer Jeremy Singleton did in his five years with the Cougars. Singleton is a quality player, and this could be a 1A/1B situation at receiver, so both are worth rostering. He was the favorite target of Vantrease in the Spring Game.
The primary rusher in this offense is going to be a valuable player to have, it’s just hard to determine who that will be. JD King is the incumbent starter who was injured during the season. He’s been the lead back in Statesboro before in the 2019 and 2020 seasons but while he’s been a quality player, he’s lagged in efficiency. Part of this is due to the nature of the option offense but the Eagles might look elsewhere with a new staff.
The elsewhere could be third-year back Jalen White. The best rusher in the Blue-White Spring game, White can make this his backfield. His second season was the most efficient, from a yards-created perspective than any season JD King has had and more so than other backfield mate Gerald Green.
Avoid at Cost
The Campus2Canton ADP on the site has 531 different plays selected. Not a single Georgia Southern player appears in this group. There’s only upside in this situation.
Quarterback Darren Grainger stands out for the Panthers heading into 2022. Although he had 660 rushing yards last year, he only had 3 touchdowns. I expect to see positive touchdown regression, giving him a bigger ceiling this year. The passing volume isn’t there each week but his rushing floor makes him a potential start in Sun Belt matchups.
Both running backs could be fantasy relevant if they assume a larger portion of the workload. Tucker Greg had 192 carries to Jamyest Williams’ 128. Williams was more efficient on a per touch basis. I don’t expect either player to have enough market share to become a weekly starter but in the event of injury, the other back could be a league winner.
Overall, the offense does return four starting linemen and ranked 28th overall in line yards last year, averaging over 3.28 average line yards per play. Last season this group averaged 226 yards per game on the ground, and that’s likely to repeat this year. Head coach Shawn Elliot has one of the nation’s heaviest rushing attacks and with two starters returning, there’s no reason to change what led to an 8-5 season.
The offense doesn’t generally have enough volume to support a primary receiving option each week, but the clear number one option is Jamari Thrash. In bestball formats, Thrash could see productive outings in positive game scripts but he’s a deep league target only.
Avoid at Cost
None – all Georgia State players are either going undrafted or late enough where the upside justifies the draft cost.
First-year Sun Belt and FBS team James Madison could provide fantasy value across the board in leagues this year. Starting with primary running back Percy Agyei-Obese. Agyei-Obese has been the primary rusher for the Dukes for the last few seasons but suffered a season-ending injury early in 2021. In his last full season, he ran for 1,216 yards and 19 touchdowns, and in the shortened 2020 season, he averaged 102 yards/1 touchdown per game. Despite stepping up in competition, James Madison faces six defenses ranked worse than their offense in 2022.
The passing game, which was incredibly productive last year, features slot receiver Kris Thornton as the primary option. Thornton benefits from the transfer of Antwane Wells Jr, and with 83-1097-13, he is by far the most established option in this offense. Thornton could establish himself as a must-start each week in fantasy.
Last year, James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson averaged 28.1 fantasy points per game despite passing the ball only 45.4% of the time. Transfer Todd Centeio should provide fantasy-relevant weeks in this offense as well. A quality passer, Centeio also provides value on the ground as he rushed for 439 yards last year. Given the porous Sun Belt secondaries and his rushing floor, Centeio could be a solid fantasy option weekly or in a pinch
A player to keep an eye on in this offense is transfer receiver Terrance Green Jr. One of the most productive receivers in Monmouth football history, Green Jr slots in as the second option behind Kris Thornton. Last year this offense supported two 1,000-yard plus wide receivers and if they funnel targets to the top two as they did in 2021, Green Jr. is worth stashing.
Avoid At Cost
None. James Madison players are likely being unfairly discounted due to the unknown factor.
Running back Rasheen Ali is the focal point of this offense and should see a massive amount of work again in 2021. With an 80% backfield dominator rating, Ali is one of few true bellcows in the nation and should easily post another top-12 finish at the RB position.
Despite the transfer of Grant Wells to Virginia Tech, receiver Corey Gammage should operate as the primary option again this season. Gammage, who led the team in receiving with a 78-869-2 line should see touchdown regression and potentially a higher ceiling week-to-week with the departure of tight end Xavier Gaines and second leading receiver Willie Johnson.
In standard leagues, the only players you should be rostering are Rasheen Ali and Corey Gammage.
As a stash candidate, transfer quarterback Henry Colombi could be startable in some situations. Colombi started three games last year as a full-time quarterback and averaged 313 yards per game despite throwing only 3 touchdowns. There’s potential for him to outperform expectations.
Last year, the Marshall offense passed for 3,380 yards or 294.6 per game. Quarterback Grant Wells underperformed in touchdowns – that is largely attributable to variance. If he hadn’t, there would be more hype about the Marshall quarterback situation. Their 36th-ranked neutral game script pass rate sets up a situation where Colombi can be effective in 2022.
Avoid At Cost
None. The market is efficient only drafting Rasheen Ali currently. I think you can make the argument that his ADP of 43.9 and RB18, is rich given his potential lack of NFL upside. However, he’s a locked-in college producer who will provide plenty of value this season and potentially next.
Old Dominion’s offense boasts an impressive group of potential producers in 2022. Starting with leading rusher Blake Watson. Last season, Watson had seven games over 80 yards, six over 100, and after a tough out-of-conference schedule, averaged 22.9 touches for 124.4 yards per game over his last eight. Watson operated as a legit bellcow and figures to be one again this season.
The leading receiver from 2021 returns in Ali Jennings. Like Watson, Jennings started slowly in out-of-conference games and without Hayden Wolff starting. However, he found his stride in the last seven, averaging 6.6 receptions and 122.1 yards per game including a massive 9-252-3 game against Charlotte. Jennings has a high ceiling each week and is a startable fantasy option.
Tight end Zack Kuntz is in the borderline elite tier for fantasy leagues this season. Last year he posted a 73-692-5 receiving line and has similar potential this year. A key weapon in the offense, he became a favorite target of Wolff, leading the team in receptions. This is very much a 1-2 punch in Jennings and Kuntz with a narrow target distribution.
With the expected receiving production, quarterback Hayden Wolff is a potential late-round flier. As a starter, he averaged 256 passing yards per game, including four over 280 yards and two 300-yard games. He’s a ceiling play in Sun Belt games with quality weapons.
The Monarch’s offense flows through three players exclusively and despite projecting a productive group, there’s nobody else worth stashing.
Avoid At Cost
None. All are being drafted at reasonable prices.