(Brandt) Always practicing, Cleric. Maybe that’s why you’re the best.
Maybe I’m just better.
– Christian Bale, Equilibrium (2002)
In late November of last year, I spent an afternoon at the C2C head office. In the VIP lounge, where all the CFF industry experts hang out, I noticed my colleague, Nate Marchese, practicing his swordplay alone.
“Always practicing, Nate. Maybe that’s why you beat me in the finals of your dynasty league.” I said to him.
“Maybe I’m just better.” Was the reply.
I then took my wooden sword and struck him in the head unceremoniously while simultaneously asking, “Something on your mind?”
“Why do you ask?” He says, after striking me back with his weapon. He then takes two steps back.
“The intuitive arts. It’s my job to know what you’re thinking.”
Nate: “C2C pays you by the article… just like everyone else.”
“Sure, but it sounds cooler this way…”
Nate: “OK, so then what am I thinking?”
“You’re thinking that you probably shouldn’t have dropped Jaylen Raynor in your dynasty league. You’re thinking that was a big fucking mistake” (Connects with Nate’s head again with the wooden sword).
A few moments pass, and Nate — with zero expression on his face — replies with only one word: “Unquestionably.”
Jaylen Raynor — The G5 Kyler Murray
So obviously, the anecdote above never actually happened, but I needed to mention Nate’s name in the intro because 1) he did actually drop Raynor in his own dynasty league, and 2) the nickname given to Raynor is of his design. I am simply borrowing said nickname for the purposes of this article because I think it sounds cool.
So, who is Raynor? To start, he was an unranked recruit in the 2023 class. The 6’0″, 210-pound gunslinger hails from North Carolina and held offers from UMass, Miami of Ohio, and the service academies. Arkansas State was the lucky winner in the end, and they are very lucky.
As soon as Raynor got his chance to start last season, he not only took the torch and ran with it, but he Gun-Kata’d his way through the Sunbelt with the precision of a Grammaton Cleric.
On the year, his PPG average closed at 22. However, this final number doesn’t necessarily tell the whole tale. There were some supreme individual highs, such as the games vs. SMiss (44) and UMass (48), and there were several lows, where Raynor scored less than 15 points in a game. I suppose that’s to be expected with a true freshman. He did enough to show me immense promise, though, and I circled him as a player to potentially look for in the 2024 drafts.
Now entering year two under Butch Jones, what’s the outlook look like for this upcoming season? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some improvement. In particular, Raynor started to turn the ball over more toward the end of the year and was scoring fewer TDs. Some more consistency would be nice. But even if he continues to bring his volatility, he’s shown enough upside already to where he’s a value in any best ball format. We’re talking about a kid who scored six TDs in a game as a true freshman, after all.
Coaching & System
The aforementioned Butch Jones has been the head coach of the Red Wolves since 2021. Prior to that stint, he was at Alabama for three seasons. One (2020), he served as special assistant to the head coach, and two (2018-19) as an offensive analyst. From 2013 to 2017, he was once again a head coach, this time of the Tennessee Volunteers. Before that he was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats for three seasons (2010-12), and CMU for another three (2007-09).
The OC— Keith Heckendorf, has been with the program since 2019, of which each year he has served as the OC. Before Arkansas State, he spent five seasons with North Carolina as the QB coach.
I’m not going to lie to you, there weren’t any notable QB seasons at Arkansas State during the timespan that either of the two gentlemen above were involved. The Red Wolves did develop a reputation for #pigging their WRs early and often after the 2019 and 2020 seasons. But I can’t say there’s been much to write home about in the past regarding the QB position.
Joshua Dobbs’ 2016 season was probably the best campaign under Jones at Tennessee. That year, Dobbs threw for 2,946 yards and ran for another 831. He scored a total of 39 TDs (12 rushing) to only 12 INTs. Those sorts of numbers would work for me with Raynor in 2024. Does anyone else feel the same?
We know it’s probably unreasonable to expect Dobbs-type of numbers, but at the same time, it is on the table. Raynor already conducted himself well in his true freshman season; in year two, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to build on that.
Arkansas State returns 78.11% of its OL snaps from a year ago. At the current junction, they return 86% of their WR/TE production from a year ago. Point being that this rocket ship is ready for lift-off with the correct astronaut at the helm.
So what’s the final verdict on Raynor? He should not go undrafted in any best-ball format, and I would say something similar in regular CFF drafts. I could see it if it’s a format where teams only start 1QB. But honestly, despite his inconsistency last year, I think he demonstrated enough upside to warrant a selection in most CFF drafts. I like him as a late-round gem currently.
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