The Gridiron Scholar, John Laub, breaks his 10 favorite college fantasy football sleepers for the 2019 season.
How obsessed am I with college fantasy football? I went to see Spider-Man: Far From Home with my wonderful family on Sunday, and in the middle of the movie, visions of Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. scoring five touchdowns against Houston flashed in my mind. I have been watching and researching players so often that my thoughts keep returning to the gridiron. While it might not be healthy for my psychological well-being, it is great news for readers and the CFF community.
While NFL Fantasy Football is a cultural obsession nationwide, the CFF hobby lags behind in popularity; nonetheless, fanatics, like myself, are pursuing hidden gemstones across the nation on every college campus in order to circumnavigate all 130 FBS teams.
In order to assist college fantasy footballers, I am publishing my sixth annual College Fantasy Football Sleepers column. Listed below are in-depth profiles and projections for players to target late in drafts over the summer. Enjoy my fellow CFF fanatics!
Get off the sideline and join a College Fantasy Football League on Fantrax this season. It will be one of the best decision of your life.
T0p 10 College Fantasy Football Sleepers
QB Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech
Three years ago, Justin Fuente, who won AAC Coach of the Year at Memphis in 2014, replaced the legendary Frank Beamer, and the new coach guided the Hokies to 19 victories during his first two seasons on campus. Unfortunately, the team only won six games last year and lost four contests by over 20 points. If Virginia Tech wants to climb back to the top of the ACC Coastal Division, Fuente must unleash his senior quarterback. Ryan Willis, a Kansas transfer, stepped into the starting lineup after Josh Jackson broke his leg and was lost for the season. In his first start, Willis earned ACC Quarterback of the Week honors (10/1) versus No. 22 Duke, passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, the redshirt senior is an underrated dual-threat field general, passing for over 2,700 yards, rushing for over 350 yards and totaling 28 touchdowns last year. He recorded a 2.67 TD-to-INT ratio and guided the Hokies to a 5-4 mark. Fuente asserted that Willis is a hardy competitor who craves to be a better player, seeks additional knowledge and accepts constructive criticism. Virginia Tech can employ plenty of weapons at receiver (Damon Hazelton, Tre Turner, Hezekiah Grimsley, and Phil Patterson), and Willis can get the football into their hands to make plays. I own Willis in a Dynasty League and anticipate the Virginia Tech aerial assault taking flight in 2019.
Passing Yards and TDs: 3,800 and 29
Rushing Yards and TDs: 300 and 3
Total Fantasy Points: 354
QB Feleipe Franks, Florida
Coach Dan Mullen orchestrated the Florida offense for both the 2006 and 2008 National Champions and assumed the head coaching duties in Gainesville last season, leading the Gators to a 10-3 record. After a slow start, Florida’s offense caught fire down the stretch, demolishing Florida State and Michigan by a combined score of 82-29 the final two games of the campaign. One of the keys to the turnaround was quarterback Feleipe Franks, who made tremendous strides as a passer. He tossed 24 scores against only six interceptions and improved his passer rating from 113.3 two seasons ago to 143.4 under Mullen. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, the redshirt junior challenges tacklers in one-on-one matchups, rushing for 350 yards and scoring a team-best seven rushing touchdowns. Mullen inherited a dynamic collection of receivers with Van Jefferson, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes on the roster. Franks’ mission is simple: Find his teammates down the field. There is no question that he will complete the task all season.
Passing Yards and TDs: 3,450 and 28
Rushing Yards and TDs: 300 and 6
Total Fantasy Points: 350
QB Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., Army
As a high school history teacher, I love reading books exploring the storied past of college football. One of my all-time favorite tomes is When Saturday Mattered Most: The Last Golden Season of Army Football. In the Forties and Fifties, coach Earl “Red” Blaik commanded one of the best programs in the history of the game. From 1941-58, Blaik posted a 121-33 record, captured three national championships and tutored three Heisman winners: Doc Blanchard (1944), Glenn Davis (1945) and Pete Dawkins (1958). In 2014, coach Jeff Monken took over a moribund program that suffered nine losing seasons during the previous decade. It took a couple of campaigns, but Monken has lifted the Black Knights back to prominence, posting a 29-10 mark over the past three crusades. Last year, Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. became the first player in the 126-year history of Army to eclipse 1,000 yards passing and rushing in a single season. He also tied a school record with 17 rushing touchdowns. The Black Knights’ playmaker earned All-Independent Second Team, Army-Navy Game MVP and Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl MVP versus Houston. In the bowl game, he scored a 77-yard touchdown and tied a school-record with five rushing touchdowns. After finishing the season ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, Army is back among the best teams in the country, and Hopkins enters the season as one of my favorite college fantasy football sleepers.
Passing Yards and TDs: 1,500 and 10
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,100 and 19
Total Fantasy Points: 339
RB Stevie Scott, Indiana
While I love watching spread schemes and run-and-shoot aerial assaults, trapped inside me is an old curmudgeon who harkens back to the smash-mouth ground games of yesteryear. One of my favorite players to watch last season was Stevie Scott who is a 6-foot-2, 233-pound wrecking ball. The true freshman established a school record with 1,133 yards rushing on 228 attempts, surpassed 100 yards rushing six times, snatched 16 passes for 86 yards and scored 11 times. Scott averaged 101.9 all-purpose yards and started 11 of 12 games. He was named Indiana’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year and twice Big Ten Freshman of the Week. As a high school sophomore and junior, he rushed for over 2,500 yards and scored 42 touchdowns, but was injured his senior season. He was rated as the No. 12 prospect in New York by Rivals. The Hoosiers have not won a Big Ten title since 1967, but coach Tom Allen recruited a top 40 class last year. There is competition in the backfield with freshman Sampson James; nonetheless, Scott will still garner the majority of carries for Indiana. In early CFF drafts, he is inexpensive and a great fourth running back on fantasy squads.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 11
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 12 for 100 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 219
RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland
How deep is the running back player pool? I have a 1,000-yard rusher ranked No. 49 at the position. All college fantasy football diehards and CFF DFS enthusiasts remember Anthony McFarland’s performance against Ohio State last year: He rushed for 298 yards and scored two touchdowns. In back-to-back games in November, the sensational sophomore totaled 508 rushing yards on 50 carries. Wow! In the InThisLeague CFF Mock Draft, I nabbed McFarland in the 12th round as the fifth runner on my squad. At 5-foot-8 and 193 pounds, he broke the Terrapins’ freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards and was named All-Big Ten Second Team. Both Phil Steele and Athlon Sports chose the redshirt sophomore as Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team honors. New coach Mike Locksley upgraded the offensive personnel with transfers QB Josh Jackson and TE Tyler Mabry to complement McFarland. Last year, the energetic runner shared the backfield with Ty Johnson, who is now pursuing an NFL career, and should be in line for a much larger share of the touches at College Park in 2019. Draft with confidence.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 8
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 20 for 150 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 214
RB Deon Jackson, Duke
Without question, Deon Jackson is flying under the radar in early CFF drafts. One of the best all-purpose backs in the nation, the Blue Devils’ junior has garnered many preseason honors: Athlon Sports All-ACC First Team all-purpose, Phi Steele’s All-ACC Second Team and candidate for the Doak Walker and Paul Hornung Awards. In 2018, Jackson gained 847 yards rushing, corralled 26 passes for 253 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Why is he being overlooked by the CFF community? A great athlete in high school, Jackson played basketball and was a 3-star football recruit by many media outlets. At 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds, he creates yards on his own, evades tacklers in traffic, bounces to the edge and elusive in the open field. During coach David Cutcliffe’s tenure, Jackson became only the second ball carrier to surpass 800 yards rushing in a season and is on course to be the first runner to post a 1,000-yard campaign. A terrific teammate, Jackson’s goal is to win the ACC Championship, and he will be an integral component in any success the Blue Devils experience. In two Mock Drafts, Jackson has been selected in the eleventh and twelfth rounds, and I own him on my Dynasty team. Grab the Duke playmaker before his draft stock increases over the summer.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,100 and 9
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 36 for 300 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 236
RB John Emery, Jr. LSU
Let’s take a look at the Tigers’ backfield depth chart: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Lanard Fournette and Chris Curry. None of these ball carries are likely to be stars in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A 5-star prospect, John Emery, Jr. ranked among the top three running back recruits across the nation and has a clear path to carries and success. Since Leonard Fournette in 2014, the freshman is the highest-rated runner to enroll at LSU. Emery is a ball carrier with acceleration and explodes into the open field. At 6-foot-0 and 203 pounds, he is going to be the next great tailback at LSU and well worth stashing on fantasy rosters in 2019.
Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,000 and 8
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 10 for 70 and 1
Total Fantasy Points: 171
WR Emeka Emezie, North Carolina State
Change can be risky and scary for the outcome is uncertain. Paradoxically, it can also provide new opportunities and possibilities. At North Carolina State, QB Ryan Finley, WR Kelvin Harmon and WR Jakobi Meyers are all pursuing their NFL dreams, and coach Dave Doeren must replace former offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwtz, who is now the head coach at Appalachian State. Emeka Emezie is the most likely member of the team to take a giant leap forward. In 2018, the junior playmaker started 12 of 13 games, gathered 53 passes for 616 yards and scored five touchdowns. He leads all returning receivers with 66 career catches. The coaching staff often praises Emezie for his work ethic, leadership and playmaking ability. In 2017, he earned the Philip Rivers Freshman of the Year award, and in 2018, the Mike Hardy Award, given to the Wolfpack player who exhibits a winning attitude. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Emezie is an imposing competitor who easily wins contested passes. With so many new faces and personnel changes, many college fantasy football owners are ignoring the upside potential in the Wolfpack’s passing game. Astute owners find gold nuggets where others are not looking.
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 75 for 940 and 8
Total Fantasy Points: 217
WR Randall St. Felix, USF
Randall St. Felix is a scholar in the classroom and astute student of the game. He was named to the AAC All-Academic Team in 2017-18, and he wears No. 84 in honor of Randy Moss, who the redshirt sophomore admires and believes is the best receiver in history. Last year, the Bulls’ playmaker caught 33 passes for 679 yards and four touchdowns. He led the team in receiving yards and paced USF receivers in yards per catch, averaging 20.6. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, he established a team single-season record with four 100-yard receiving games. In the bowl game, he also set a school mark with 165 receiving yards on six caches and two touchdowns. He has great chemistry with quarterback Blake Barnett, and new coordinator Kerwin Bell will dial St. Felix’s number when calling plays. Any player who studies Hall of Famers should be acquired on fantasy rosters this season.
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 55 for 990 and 10
Total Fantasy Points: 214
WR Seth Williams, Auburn
In high school, Seth Williams was the fifth-ranked prospect in Alabama and a 4-star recruit nationally. The Crimson Tide showed interest but felt Williams projected as a tight end. Williams craved to play wide receiver and chose in-state rival Auburn instead. In his first year on the gridiron, he earned All-SEC Freshman honors after catching 26 passes for 534 yards, averaging 20.5 ypc., and scoring five touchdowns. The Tigers graduated their top two receivers (Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton) and Williams ascends to the top of the pecking order. In the spring, the sensational sophomore was named Auburn A-Day Offensive MVP, recording 4 catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns. With big and strong hands, Williams out-muscles and out-jumps opponents and perfectly times leaps to snatch the ball out of the sky. At 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, he is the most dangerous big-play threat on the team. Under pressure from boosters, coach Gus Malzahn needs a big season to keep his job and has resumed the play-calling duties on offense. There is a quarterback battle on campus between Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix, but whoever wins the competition, would be wise to target Williams all season.
Receptions, Yards and TDs: 50 for 950 and 8
Total Fantasy Points: 193
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