It is time to announce the ninth-annual College Fantasy Football award winners and CFF All-American teams. Eight years ago, it dawned on me that no one was chronicling college fantasy football for future generations. I stepped into the vacant space, identified a CFF All-American Team and established six awards for the elite CFF performers.
In 2023, I luckily enough captured two CFF Championships. Yet, I would trade both for a return of the PAC-12: I am going to miss the “PAC-12 After Dark” as a CFF diehard on the East Coast. I cannot even describe the adrenaline rush of staying awake until 1 AM ET to root for my players in CFF matchups, and the memorable performances in which I won, or lost, a game well past midnight.
For those of us at a certain age, there have been many great players, coaches, teams, and rivalries from the PAC-12. We will never forget the preeminence of the USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, and Stanford Cardinal over the decades. Since 1980, College football fans have witnessed six Heisman winners and three National Champions from the West Coast. On New Year’s Day for well over 30 years, the Rose Bowl was the “Granddaddy of Them All” between the Pac-12 and Big 10.
While the programs remain and CFF diehards like myself will still draft players on the former PAC-12 teams, CFF will never be the same. The Conference goes into the antiquity of college football history. The high-flying PAC-12 is gone, but will never be forgotten.
The 2023 College Fantasy Football Awards Panel
Six of the foremost CFF experts—Nicholas Ian Allen, Mike Bainbridge, Joe Goodwin, Jared Palmgren, Volume Pigs, and me—voted on their top three players in all three categories. The results were tabulated, and the CFF All-American fantasy performers are listed below.
Cam Newton Award: The Preeminent Fantasy Quarterback
1. Jayden Daniels, LSU (30 points)
2. Bo Nix, Oregon, (16 points)
3. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma (6 points)
Last year’s Cam Newton Award recipient, Caleb Williams, outscored second-place vote-getter Austin Reed by a grand total of 31 fantasy points for the entirety of the season. So, it should be no surprise that we have a runaway winner for this year’s award with LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, considering that he outscored QB No. 2 Dillon Gabriel by a whopping 130.1 fantasy points (six-point passing formats). In the regular season, if you prefer to look at fantasy points per game instead of total fantasy points scored, Daniels holds a massive edge there as well, averaging 11 more FPPG than the next closest quarterback.
Two categories I personally look at when determining an award winner are consistency and CFF playoff performance. Daniels checks both boxes in a resounding fashion. Consistency–35 or more fantasy points in all but one game, with a season-low of just 26 fantasy points scored in the opener versus Florida State. Stupendous CFF Playoff performances: 68 points against Florida in Week 11, 74 points against Georgia State in Week 12, and 45 points in the finale against Texas A&M. This was as impressive a fantasy season as we’ve seen from a quarterback in some time, and one that will likely result in Jayden Daniels holding up the Heisman Trophy.
-Mike Bainbridge, @MBainbridge
Daniels became the first FBS quarterback to pass for 350 yards and rush for 200 yards in a single game on November 11, 2023.
He threw for 372 yards, rushed for 234 yards, and scored five TDs [ three… pic.twitter.com/B5CV1ezDD8
— College Football Hall of Fame (@cfbhall) November 29, 2023
Barry Sanders Award: The Fantastic Fantasy Running Back
1. Ollie Gordon, Oklahoma State (30 points)
2. Ashton Jeanty, Boise State (14 points)
3. RJ Harvey, UCF (4 points)
Hailing from Barry Sanders’ alma mater, Oklahoma State All-American Ollie Gordon was the unanimous selection for this year’s award. Gordon amassed 1,580 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, highlighted by a 51.6-point, five-TD performance against BYU in college fantasy football’s championship week.
Due to the consistent level of production from the position under head coach Mike Gundy and play-caller Kasey Dunn, the CFF community had high hopes for Gordon entering 2023. However, after totaling 19 carries for 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three non-conference games to open the campaign, the sophomore looked like a bust. Patient owners were rewarded with one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent memory.
Gordon ran for at least 136 yards in eight of his final nine regular-season games, including a pair of epic October rushing performances of 282 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia and 271 yards and two scores against Cincinnati. A productive pass-catcher as well, Gordon totaled 33 receptions for 272 yards and one score, which came in a six-catch, 116-yard game against Kansas in which he also ran for 168 with a rushing touchdown. In all, Gordon finished with 344.1 fantasy points, hitting 41.0 or more five times, including twice during the CFF playoffs.
Had Ashton Jeanty not been sidelined by injury in November, he might have surpassed Gordon on the leaderboard. The Boise State sophomore opened the season with five consecutive 30-point games in September, hitting 40 points or more twice in that span, and then reached a high point with 48.4 against Colorado State on Oct. 14. Healthy again in time for championship week, Jeanty posted 39.5 points in the regular season finale against Air Force.
In 10 games, Jeanty ran for 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also proved to be one of the most productive receiving running backs in the country with 37 catches for 537 yards and five scores. Jeanty finished with 310 fantasy points, second only to Gordon.
RJ Harvey finished the 2023 season sixth among running backs in overall points with 277.7, and though he never reached the highest weekly point totals of Gordon or Jeanty, consistency was key. The senior ran for 1,296 yards and 16 touchdowns and added 17 receptions for 231 yards and another score. He never failed to reach double-digit fantasy points and was at his best in the pivotal Week 10-11 stretch – posting 36.1 and 38.6 points respectively–in which many CFF teams were making a final push for a playoff spot or making a run to the semifinals.
– Nicholas Ian Allen, @CFBWinningEdge
Ollie has been named the @big12conference Offensive Player of The Year. He is a @DoakWalkerAward finalist, the nations leading rusher and 1 of 3 unanimous All-Big 12 selections. 🤠#GoPokes | #DAT pic.twitter.com/Tywg4NoGF1
— OSU Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) November 29, 2023
Scholar’s 2023 CFF All-American Team
- QB Jayden Daniels, LSU
- QB Bo Nix, Oregon
- RB Ollie Gordon, Oklahoma State
- RB Ashton Jeanty, Boise State
- WR Malik Nabers, LSU
- WR Troy Franklin, Oregon
- WR Malik Washington, Virginia
- TE Dallin Holker, Colorado State
- Flex Omarion Hampton, North Carolina
- S-Flex Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma
Desmond Howard Award: The Finest Fantasy Wide Receiver
1. Malik Nabers, LSU (30 points)
2. Malik Washington, Virginia (9 points)
3. Rome Odunze, Washington (8 points)
After an abysmal year for CFF in 2022, where more than half of the top selections were lost to injury of some kind or busted in some way or another, the CFF community saw a great rebound in 2023. Top draft picks like Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze, Marvin Harrison Jr., Tetairoa McMillan, Tory Horton, Luther Burden, and Malachi Corley all finished within the top 20 receivers on the year.
As with every crusade, we had our share of surprises and busts. The surprises included guys like Malik Washington of Virginia (WR No. 4 on the year) who came out of absolute nowhere, while players like Jalen Royals of Utah State (WR No. 10) took over historically great CFF system spots as the season went along. The busts of the year included folks like Emeka Egbuka (WR No. 198) and Squirrel White (WR No. 119) who both saw their fair share of nagging injuries but were in offenses whose quarterback did not live up to the lofty expectations built over the past few years.
Our unanimous winner of the Desmond Howard is Malik Nabers, LSU. Among the six voting members of the awards, Nabers got every single first-place vote. This should come as no surprise as Nabers was THE WR No. 1 on the year, with 324.7 PPR fantasy points. He made a huge jump from his production in 2022, where he finished as the WR No. 146 and scored three touchdowns despite hitting the 1,000-yard mark. During the season, he finished within the top 12 wide receivers on a weekly basis seven times, the next closest wide receiver was Marvin Harrison Jr., who managed to do that five different weeks.
There was simply not a wide receiver with a higher floor than Nabers. After Week 2, the lowest fantasy score Nabers put up was 18.2 and that was in Week 5 versus Mississippi. He produced 85-plus yards in 12-of-13 games and scored multiple touchdowns in five contests. If you could manufacture in a lab what the perfect fantasy wide receiver looked like, it would be what Nabers was able to pull off this season. The fantasy community will without a doubt miss the LSU gamebreaker next year as he turns this incredible campaign into potential top draft capital for the NFL.
While Nabers was clearly the unanimous winner, there was plenty more debate on who the runners-up should be. Nabers received 30 points for the award. Meanwhile, our runner-up received only 9 points. The runner-up to the Desmond Howard award for 2023 is Malik Washington, Virginia. If you can find anyone who says they were on Washington before the season started, he or she is a liar, through and through.
After getting drafted in 0% of leagues, Washington went on to finish as the WR No. 4 during the campaign. There was plenty of reason to have him off our radars, as Tony Elliot had shown to us the previous year that this was not an offense to invest in at Virginia. Before that, Elliot was the architect of one of the worst offenses Clemson has seen in recent memory.
All of sudden, Washington comes along and dominates the receiving game for the Cavaliers, seeing 138 targets, which was second in the country. He made great work of those opportunities, going for 100-plus yards in every single game except for Week 1 and Week 5. In PPR formats, he produced over 21 FPs in 12-of-13 games. The only thing that held him back from the top WR spot was the lack of game-breaking weeks like Nabers had. Washington will be missed as this is his last year of college eligibility, and after dominating the target share at two Power 5 programs, he’s earned his shot at the NFL.
Last but not least, with 8 points, we have our third-place winner, Rome Odunze, the wide receiver out of Washington. Odunze finished as the WR No. 2 on the season and frankly was the savior for the Washington Huskies in multiple weeks this season in their hunt for a playoff spot. Kalen Deboer and staff were able to keep it going once again after both Odunze and Jalen McMillan finished in the top 20 receivers last year. With McMillian going down early in the season, we saw Ja’Lynn Polk step up but it also provided the opportunity for Odunze to take that next step from great fantasy asset to elite fantasy performer.
Among receivers with 100-plus targets, Odunze led the league in yards per reception with 18.2 and clearly the leader in average depth of target (ADOT) with 16.2. He was able to turn this into consistent production every week, only producing less than 80 yards once. While Odunze may have gotten third place, he can take comfort in that among the top preseason options at wide receiver, Odunze returned the best value amongst them. He could return next season, but with two great years under his belt and his quarterback leaving, it makes sense that he will not comeback and likely be a top draft pick for the NFL in April.
Our top three receivers all carried their CFF teams to their championships in one way or another. However, now that the season is over, a quick look ahead at who could be earning the Desmond Howard Award in 2024 is warranted. As of this writing, given the age of many of the top receivers, it looks as though the top end of receiving talent for CFF will be cleared out as they take their chances in the NFL.
A few potential candidates stand out. First and foremost is Tetairoa McMillan. This is heavily dependent on things remaining the status quo in Tucson. Jedd Fisch, as of this writing, is heavily rumored for many open coaching jobs. If he were to leave, you would have to imagine that McMillian would either travel with him or take his chances on the open market. Either way, it would raise questions about his ability to repeat at WR7 or higher next year. Regardless, as of now, McMillian in his money year makes a strong case.
Another candidate comes from Group 5 in Jalen Royals of Utah State. We’ve known for years that Blake Anderson’s WR No. 1 is critical for CFF success and to start the year, it looked as if Terrell Vaughn would be that player for Anderson. However, as teams bracketed Vaughn, the Aggies needed a second option and Royals stepped up in a big way. With Vaughn out of eligibility, Royals would be the clear #1 and could easily reach the heights of previous CFF greats like Omar Bayless and Jonathan Adams Jr.
– Jared Palmgren, @CFF_Jared
Dennis Pitta Award: The Top Fantasy Tight End
1. Brock Bowers, Georgia (16 points)
2. Dallin Holker, Colorado State (13 points)
3. Harold Fannin, Jr., Bowling Green (13 points)
Every year, College Fantasy quarterbacks rely on tight ends to block, chip, roll out the flat, run the seam, and just about every other task that helps a team succeed. However, a lot of those jobs don’t translate to CFF success. The top point-getter in CFF this season was Dallin Holker with 146.8 points (12.23 FPPG), followed closely by Brock Bowers with 136.3 points (15.14 FPPG). Our distinguished voters decided that Bowers was the best tight end in College Fantasy Football for 2023.
Many CFF enthusiasts were investing first-round picks in Bowers and Oronde Gadsden II, trying to gain an advantage in a position lacking upper-tier talent. Regrettably, Gadsden went down with an injury after two games, and fantasy owners were left scrambling to fill the void left by one of the most athletic weapons at the position.
Bowers would have been the clear choice as College Football’s premier fantasy tight end if he hadn’t missed multiple games due to injury. Our panel still declared Bowers our Dennis Pitta Award winner with 16 points. This category was the closest vote of any of the categories and for good reason, as Holker and Harold Fannin both came close to supplanting the Georgia TE.
With multiple tight ends not living up to expectations (J.T. Sanders and Julian Conyers) and numerous others having significant injuries (Brant Kuithe, Luke Lachey, and Gadsden), the position saw less-heralded players move into the elite at the position. Players like Jared Wiley, Jack Velling and Fannin became quality fantasy starters even though they weren’t even drafted until the 28th round or later. Even though many players provided some value at various points of the season, Bowers remained supreme.
With three games missed due to injury, Bowers posted 51 receptions for 661 yards and six touchdowns, only two touchdowns less than Velling’s leading eight and 107 yards off Dallin Holker’s leading 767.
It appears that the voters prioritized the per-game statistics over the sum of the statistics in naming Bowers as the Dennis Pitta Award. In finishing second, Holker made 64 receptions for 767 yards and six touchdowns while boasting a 12.23 FPPG. And, with 39 receptions for 573 yards and six touchdowns, Fannin made a solid case to be the top fantasy tight end, only to finish in third place while averaging 11.62 FPPG.
– Joe Goodwin, @JGoody77
Scholar’s 2023 All-Waiver Wire Team
- QB Kaidon Salter, Liberty (14% drafted)
- QB Byrum Brown, South Florida (18%)
- RB Omarion Hampton, North Carolina (11%)
- RB Cody Schrader, Missouri (26%)
- WR Malik Washington, Virginia (0%)
- WR Brian Thomas, LSU (30%)
- WR Jalen Royals, Utah State (0%)
- TE Dallin Holker, Colorado State (17%)
- Flex Marcus Carroll, Georgia State (24%)
The waiver wire is indispensable to capturing CFF championships. After the season starts, so many undrafted players become weekly CFF stars. Scanning the draft percentage of all the top scorers, I pinpointed the CFF All-Waiver Wire Team. With all of the above players on a team, a CFF coach could easily have won a championship this year.
– John Laub, @GridironSchol91
Adrian Peterson Award: Freshman of the Year
1. WR Kevin Concepcion, North Carolina State (25 points)
2. QB Byrum Brown, South Florida (8 points)
3. RB Makhi Hughes, Tulane & WR Jaylen Raynor, Arkansas State (6 points)
As surprising as it may be in hindsight, North Carolina State’s Kevin Concepcion was not a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school. A three-star prospect (247 Sports) from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, Concepcion did not hold offers from the “who’s who” of college football, but he did have offers from all the local schools, such as North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina State, and even Florida State.
He started off his freshman season with a solid opening, being targeted five times and catching four passes for 36 yards against UConn (7.6 points in PPR formats). It was a notable performance, especially considering it was his first year on campus. Yet, it wasn’t enough to establish him as CFF relevant in most leagues. The fact that he secured a starting role to open the year was not a surprise, however, as offensive coordinator Robert Anae had communicated earlier in the offseason that Concepcion was making plays in camp.
Concepcion’s national ascendance really began in Week Four versus Virginia, where he caught six of his ten targets for 116 yards and two scores. On the season, he finished with a total of 1,064 yards and 10 scores. Not bad for a true freshman, eh? This performance made him a shoo-in for this award, almost gaining a unanimous No. 1 vote with 25 points total.
Quarterback Byrum Brown is a redshirt freshman, but it’s still impressive what he did in his first year as the starter for the Bulls. He showed immense promise at the end of the 2022 season in Gerry Bohanon’s absence, and he apparently took that momentum into the 2023 season. His highs were extremely high, but he did suffer from some volatility on a week-by-week basis, and for this reason, he was my second vote for this award. It seems I wasn’t alone, as Brown comes in at No. 2 across all voters with 8 points.
Brown will be a popular pick in drafts next season with former Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golash as his head coach for Year Two. His rushing upside alone makes him an elite CFF asset. If he is able to improve his passing consistency, Brown could find himself up for another one of these types of awards this time next year.
At No. 3, we have a tie between Tulane’s bell-cow back, Makhi Hughes, and Arkansas State’s version of Kyler Murray, redshirt freshman Jaylen Raynor. Full disclosure, neither of these guys was my third choice (I voted for redshirt freshman Jalen Buckley), but I think both are equally deserving. Hughes was better for a longer period of time, whereas the highs Raynor hit were some of the best of the 2023 season. Going over 1,000 yards in your first season as a starter is a great accomplishment for Hughes, and he’ll be a very popular pick in CFF drafts next summer. Raynor’s numbers on the season aren’t quite as impressive, but he showed enough promise this season to excite CFF managers for what’s to come in the near future.
– Volume Pigs, @VolumePigs
— NC State Football (@PackFootball) December 21, 2022
Scholar’s ‘My Guys’ Team in 2023
- QB Diego Pavia, New Mexico State
- QB Jaylen Milroe, Alabama
- RB Devin Neal, Kansas
- RB Jonathan Brooks, Texas
- WR Ricky White, UNLV
- WR Luke McCaffrey, Rice
- WR Isaiah Williams, Illinois
- TE David Martin-Robinson, Temple
- Flex Damien Martinez, Oregon State
Over the course of a season, there are many players who I watch and am impressed by as an analyst and fanatic. Regrettably, many are overlooked by the national media and casual fans. I wanted to feature those competitors who go underappreciated. Each player was on at least one of my CFF teams and helped me win championships…all deserving a spot on the Scholar’s ‘My Guys’ Team.
– John Laub, @GridironSchol91
Red Grange Award: The CFF MVP
1. Jayden Daniels, LSU (26 points)
2. Ollie Gordon, Oklahoma State (15 points)
3. Malik Nabers, LSU (9 points)
In Seventh grade, my friends and I used to pass notes in class debating baseball’s MVP during the winter. It was the beginning of my fascination with numbers versus winning when analyzing a player for MVP accolades. What constituted a better MVP candidate? I have usually fallen on the player who helped a team win a championship. Yet, I have never been blindly loyal to the winning team paradigm. There are exceptions to the rule, ie. Cal Ripken with the Orioles in 1991.
When I cast my vote for the Red Grange award, I debated the importance of winning versus the best player on the field. I finally decided that the best player deserved the award this year and cast my vote for Jayden Daniels, LSU. Three members of the committee agreed with my analysis, and the other two voters placed Daniels second behind Ollie Gordon. Daniels’ teammate Malik Nabers finished a distant third.
Daniels’ numbers are so amazing that college football fans will look back in awe at the Tigers’ dual-threat star: He passed for over 3,800 yards and scrambled for more than 1,100 yards. He also totalled 50 touchdowns, 40 passing and 10 rushing. The statistics are historically mind-blowing and rank with the tremendous campaigns of Tim Tebow (2007), Cam Newton (2010), Lamar Jackson (2016), and Joe Burrow (2019).
In six-point passing touchdown formats, Daniels surpassed 40 fantasy points 10 times, 50 points in three games and posted a season-best 74 in the CFF semifinals. He led CFF teams to the postseason, and in Weeks 12 and 13, the LSU signal caller scored 119.5 points, which assisted CFF managers in earning a ring.
Shockingly, before the season kicked off, Daniels had an ADP of 46.3, which was a fourth-round draft pick. It is very possible that astute CFF managers selected Caleb Williams (1.3), Bo Nix (5.8) or Drake Maye (8.6) early and grabbed Daniels as their second signal caller. It is clear by statistical analysis of the numbers that Daniels’ performance warrants the 2023 Red Grange award, and if I had a vote, he would be at the top of my Heisman ballot.
– John Laub, @GridironSchol91
First Place = 5 points
Second Place = 3 points
Third Place = 1 point
All-Time CFF Award Winners
|Cam Newton Award
|Barry Sanders Award
|Patrick Mahomes, II
|Desmond Howard Award
|Red Grange Award
|P. Mahomes & C. Coleman
|T. Quinn & A. Johnson
|J. Chase & O. Bayless
|Adrian Peterson Award
|Dennis Pita Award