Ambiguity drives value and average position downward in C2C drafts but often fails to account for upside. In most cases, especially where the system aligns, players in ambiguous situations can perform at a high level, giving these selections positive expected value if they hit. Knowing there’s a good chance of a player realizing the upper percentile of their outcome due to the situation is first, and the second portion of the ambiguous situation is second.
Targeting specific situations is a core tenant of what we try to do in Campus2Canton leagues. Knowing which teams run the air raid or wide zone leads C2C players to draft with a “next man up” mentality. For example, targeting Joe Moorehead running backs, Jeff Brohm wide receivers, or Mike Leach quarterbacks. The who (player) is less important than the what (situation). Last season we saw RB guru Jeff Grimes catapult Abram Smith to a breakout season despite never playing running back and going undrafted. Now enter the next man up, Taye McWilliams.
When it’s easier to identify the next man up, a player’s ADP corresponds to the certainty. The real value is in dissecting uncertainty to find similar upside at significant discounts.
We spoke about Joe Moorehead and his propensity to produce incredibly productive running backs. Over the last 4 seasons as an offensive coordinator, his RBs have averaged of 1,199 yards (including projected the 2020 shortened season). Returning to Akron as head coach, Moorehead will again have the opportunity to bring his RB-friendly system to the Zips. It’s likely that we see some serious production from this backfield despite a 2-10 record in 2021. The addition of Moorehead, another year with DJ Irons being able to get experience, and improvements on both sides of the line should keep them competitive in MAC play despite losing both Konata Mumpfield and Michael Mathison.
With the loss of their top two receiving weapons, I expect the rushing game to take even more precedence. DJ Irons is a mobile quarterback who, when compared to last year’s starter Zach Gibson, leaves a lot to be desired in the passing game. Irons posted a 7.27 adjusted yards per attempt compared to Gibson’s 9.31. As a first-year player, Irons was admittedly raw and can improve but with Moorehead’s philosophy coming a decrease in passing is likely.
According to beat reports, the offensive philosophy is going to be different. Over the last three seasons, Akron has averaged a 49.8% neutral game script pass rate, more than 5% above the national average. However, in his two years at Oregon, Moorehead averaged a 43.2% neutral game script pass rate. A 6%ish decrease would be substantial in the context of the offense and despite the propensity for DJ Irons to run more, it means more touches for Akron RBs looking to improve on the team’s 1,463 rush yards in 2021.
Norrils vs. Wiley
With the base expectations of Akron set – the real question becomes “Who is the beneficiary?”.Two candidates emerge here. First, incumbent Jonzell Norrils. Norrils, one of the few remaining skill position players from last season (at least along those who played a sizable role) has familiarity with the team and players. He does have the same learning curve with Moorehead’s system that other backs on the roster will. Norrils led the Zips with 573 rushing yards on 118 carries. He also returns as the second leading receiver with the aforementioned Mumpfield and Mathison gone. With requisite size (5’10” 210lbs), efficiency on the ground (4.9 yards per carry and 0.24 yards per carry over team), and receiving chops, he is the top candidate to lead the ground game. Norrils is currently undrafted in most C2C drafts.
Although Norrils has the familiarity edge, Minnesota transfer Cam Wiley has also impressed in spring. At 6’2” 215lbs, he is been difficult to bring down. He also provides plus athleticism despite having only 46 career carries throughout his 3 years at Minnesota. Recruited as an athlete, Wiley was a low 3 star, ranked ATH88 in his class. Despite adding 30lbs since recruitment, he still had trouble seeing the field for the Gophers.
Admittedly, I‘m skeptical of Wiley playing a large role, especially with the lack of work he’s had thus far. With only five receptions, Wiley doesn’t profile as a pass-catcher. Even in limited rushing work, his efficiency has been questionable. With -4.4 yards per carry over team, he has been less than impressive. While Norrils is being drafted some, Wiley is completely ignored in C2C drafts and for now, that seems correct.
The Terps started the season hot last year. After a 4-0 start, a loss to Iowa resulted in a spiral for Mike Locksley’s team, ending the season 7-6. The loss of Dontay Demus loomed large as the offense became less efficient, Rakim Jarrett failed to ascend as the WR1, and the schedule admittedly increased in difficulty. Scoring an average of 20 points per game with only two (35 against Indiana and 40 against Rutgers) over 21 points, Maryland lost their identity. When compared to their first four games in which they averaged 37 points, scoring more than 30 in three of four, the Terps midseason fall was dramatic.
Overall, the last eight games of the Maryland season hurt the production of the entire offense but more specifically the running back situation and Tayon Fleet-Davis. In Maryland’s 6 regular-season wins, Fleet-Davis posted 78-503-7 on the ground and 19-199-1 in the receiving game, averaging 22.9 fantasy points per game on the ground. In wins, the Maryland rushing game is an incredibly valuable piece to have in C2C leagues. An underrated piece of knowledge in leagues is also when not to play a player. In this case, sitting the Maryland rusher against tough Big Ten teams should be obvious and despite needing another option in those weeks, certainty matters. A big plus – get to the championship and Maryland gets Rutgers every year.
An unlikely contender emerges as RB1 for the Terps this spring, a redshirt freshman who was RB130 in last years’ class – Roman Hemby. A surprising name leading the pack but leading nonetheless. Hemby has been the talk of the RB room in spring according to all reports despite his less than premier recruiting profile. That’s the beauty of college sports.
Hemby was under the radar but rose the depth chart through spring. Rising to the point where he started with the first team offense in the spring game, ending the first drive with a 44-yard touchdown. On the play, Hemby gets a good lane, reads the blocks and is able to pull away for a touchdown. Showcasing his 4.40 40 time, Hemby has legit speed and athleticism at 6’0″ 200lbs (with room to add weight). Hemby is still somewhat of a raw prospect but with the tools you can see why Maryland is excited.
The run above, even in the spring game, shows a little of what Hemby can do with opportunity. Reports from the game indicate that Hemby could be the lead back this season but even more importantly, that’s how Locksley deployed him to end the spring.
Colby McDonald and Others
The returning rusher for Maryland is fellow second-year player Colby McDonald. McDonald, who started on the red team as well, ran behind Hemby to start the game and was eventually moved to the white team after senior RB Challen Faamatu was inured. Playing against the first team defense, Hemby posted 10 carries for 56 yards against the first team defense while McDonald impressed with 18 carries for 101 yards against the second team. McDonald should play a legit role this season as well.
As noted above, we’ve yet to hear the news on Faamtu’s injury. But given his role over time in the offense, he is likely a bit player at best. He will be siphoning only a handful of touches a game, giving way to the dynamic sophomore duo. The real question is freshman four-star Ramon Brown. A C2C favorite, Brown is a wildcard to start the year. Not on campus yet, he will likely see minimal action early but could catch on late. For CFF production, Brown is a fade to start the season with potential waiver pick-up upside.
Ultimately, given Hemby’s athleticism and his role in spring, he feels like a great last round C2C target. While he does have competition in Colby McDonald and highly regarded freshman Ramon Brown, this is a situation that provides predictable upside. A historically productive position under Mike Locksley, it’s worth taking a shot.
Shots! Shots! High upside picks in abigious backfields can be gold in C2C league. The discounted ADPs in both Akron and Maryland provide windows into potentially league-winning upside this season, with extreme values, it’s a no-brainer.