For over thirty years on Labor Day weekend, I have occupied myself on Saturday and Sunday watching NFL and/or college football. For twenty seasons the following Monday, I spent the day composing weekly fantasy football player rankings for Football Diehards. During the past eight years, college fantasy football has taken all of my attention while researching and profiling my CFF Waiver Wire Gemstones.
After 14 years of playing college fantasy football, I am a big believer that championships are won on the waiver wire over the first three weeks of the season. It is clear that 2022 is not the exception to the norm.
Many players have jumped to the forefront of their team’s depth charts and are going to impact CFF rosters and outcomes of games…Time to look at the elite players on waiver wires in CFF leagues this week. Ryan Cobbett, @ryancobbsj22, and I have identified the playmakers to target in college fantasy football.
Enjoy my fellow CFF diehards!
Week 1 College Fantasy Football Waiver Wire
Hunter Dekkers, Iowa State (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 30%
Yards Per Attempt: 9.5
I have not rostered many Cyclones’ signal callers in college fantasy football leagues over the past 14 years. However, there are always exceptions to the rules: Hunter Dekkers might be the top Iowa State quarterback recruit in the school’s history with the potential to become a weekly CFF starter.
At 6’3” and 206-pounds, Dekkers was a 4-star prospect, who ranked as the seventh-best dual-threat signal caller in the nation by 247Sports. In 2019, the left-hander earned the Gatorade Player of the Year and established career Iowa high school records in passing yards (10,628) and touchdowns (126).
To open his redshirt freshman campaign, Dekkers showcased his passing skills against Southeast Missouri State. He completed 25-of-31 passes for 293 yards and four aerial strikes.
“I thought he (Dekkers) managed the football…in terms of the operation of the offense, obviously his distribution and accuracy was good. For his first time out and having the opportunity to handle an adverse situation and respond to it was good. I thought he did a good job of handling all of those things,” coach Matt Campbell stated after the game (cyclones.com).
There is no way that I’m starting Dekkers this weekend against Iowa. After the instate rivalry, the Cyclones play Ohio, Baylor and Kansas. All three games are tasty matchups for the offense and Dekkers. As an added bonus, Iowa State hosts high-scoring Oklahoma in the dreaded CFF Week 9 bye-apocalypse.
John Rhys Plumlee, UCF (Cobbett)
Fantrax Ownership: 55%
Yards Per Attempt: 9.9
Perhaps the best transfer performance in Week 1 goes to John Rhys Plumlee. Not only did he throw for 308 yards and four touchdowns, but he also led the Knights in rushing as he totaled 86 yards on 15 carries and another score. Five touchdowns and 394 total yards for this dual-threat QB this last week, giving him 53 fantasy points this week.
Plumlee is someone to look at if he is available in your league: Do not think that this performance came against a Week 1 cupcake. UCF has a very easy schedule, and the Knights’ signal caller should be able to produce on a regular basis.
Davis Brin, Tulsa (Cobbett)
Fantrax Ownership: 3%
Yards Per Attempt: 8.8
Davis Brin makes 52 attempts and no interceptions. Though his team fell short, Brin posted incredible numbers in this one as he threw for 460 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 57.6% of his passes and still posted 38.8 fantasy points, with that percentage alluding to a below-average performance from Brin across his career.
Similar to Plumlee, the AAC has an incredibly weak makeup defensively so keep an eye on Brin. If he can continue to post 30-plus fantasy points every week, he is definitely worth a look, even though he is far from a nationally known name.
Donovan Smith, Texas Tech (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 29%
Yards Per Attempt: 13.8
Tyler Shough could not even finish playing the first game of the season for the Red Raiders, getting hurt in the first quarter and missing at least the next two contests. Donovan Smith came off the bench to help guide Texas Tech to the win, completing 14-of-16 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
The dual-threat sophomore was ready to perform at a high level. “We always preach stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Every time we’re in the film room, every time we’re practicing, we always take reps in the back,” Smith reflected after the game (buffalonews.com). All the work clearly paid off for Smith and the Red Raiders.
At 6’5” and 230-pounds, Smith has now played in 10 games for Texas Tech. After the victory against Murray State, he completed 63.9% of his throws for 1,402 yards and posted a 11-to-2 TD:INT Ratio. In Zach Kittley’ passing attack, Smith is a viable starter in the next two contests against Houston and North Carolina State.
Drake Maye, North Carolina (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 52%
Yards Per Attempt: 8.9
While I voted for Drake Maye in the poll below, I am surprised by the runaway total for the North Carolina signal caller. Maye impressed me in his first start of the season against Florida A&M (an FCS program). Yet, could he perform against tougher competition on the road in a hostile environment when getting punched in the face?
Maye relieved all of my concerns against the Mountaineers: He passed for 352 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he showcased his wheels with 76 yards on the ground and a score. In his first two starts, Maye has produced over 87 fantasy points and trails only Mike Wright among CFF quarterbacks, who have played twice.
Do not trust my eyes only: Listen to coach Mack Brown who waxed poetically on his young quarterback after the Tar Heels scored with 28 seconds remaining. “The play that Drake made at the end of the game? What a play. He’s got a free man (coming at him), he knows he’s going to get hit right in the chest and he kept his poise…Maye is a special young guy,” Brown stated (charlotteobserver.com).
In the first two games of the campaign, North Carolina has surrendered 85 points despite winning both. The defense looks woeful and oblivious to slowing down opponents. With four-star pedigree, playmakers as teammates and a poor defense, the redshirt freshman is in a prime position to smash for CFF managers in 2022.
Rodney Hammond, Pittsburgh (Cobbett)
Fantrax Ownership: 8%
Scrimmage Yards: 129
Total Fantasy Points: 26.9
Hammond Jr. was listed as the running back No. 2 ahead of their matchup against West Virginia, but he quickly earned himself an increased role as he dominated and Abanikanda struggled. Hammond picked up 74 rushing yards on 16 attempts and added two touchdowns on the ground while he also picked up 55 receiving yards on a pair of receptions, giving him 26.9 fantasy points this week.
The Panthers ball carrier will definitely be looking to take advantage of his increased role against Tennessee next week, so keep an eye on him. If he is involved and does well against the Vols, the remaining schedule does not forecast many tough defenses.
Jalen Berger, Michigan State (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 37%
Scrimmage Yards: 120
Total Fantasy Points: 18
Last year, astute CFF managers plucked Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker off the waiver wire after his opening game performance against Northwestern. This season, it is time to acquire Jalen Berger after his first game in Green and White.
Coming out of New Jersey, Berger was a 4-star prospect, who was the No. 24 player in the nation, according to ESPN. In the summer of 2020, it appeared that Jalen Berger would be the long-term starter at Wisconsin after Jonathan Taylor left to begin his professional career. Unfortunately, he never reached expectations in Madison, WI, lost the starting gig to Braelon Allen last year and transferred to East Lansing, MI.
Against Western Michigan, the redshirt sophomore carried the ball 16 times for 120 yards and a score. “Berger runs hard. He’s got good vision. He usually falls forward on contact. He gets out there and makes some plays. He’s good out of the backfield catching the ball as well,” coach Mel Tucker opined after the game (247Sports.com).
I always attempt to litter my CFF rosters with players in proven offensive systems, and coach Tucker’s ground game is clearly one worth investing. Berger should see his CFF ownership increase well above 50% after waivers run this week.
Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State (Cobbett)
Fantrax Ownership: 53%
Scrimmage Yards: 116
Total Fantasy Points: 23.6
Xazavian Valladay dominated the Lumberjacks this week as he posted 116 yards on 15 carriers, averaging 15 yards per carry and two scores. With Emory Jones running this offense, the Sun Devils will run the ball often and this week showed that as he had 49 rushing to just 18 pass plays. The schedule isn’t intimidating, but if his line can hold up, Valladay can play and he is someone you want on your team.
Kenny McIntosh, Georgia (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 49%
Scrimmage Yards: 167
Total Fantasy Points: 28.5
How stacked was the Bulldogs’ running back room last year? James Cook and Zamir White are playing for the Bills and Raiders in the NFL, and Georgia still has Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh on the roster.
Against Oregon, offensive coordinator Todd Monken showed how he is likely to employ Milton and McIntosh this season. I was most impressed by McIntosh, who is the pass-catcher in the dynamic duo. He registered nine catches for 117 yards and earned five carries for 18 yards and a score, producing 28.5 fantasy points. “It’s real fun because I love catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t think I ever had a game like that,” McIntosh trumpeted after the victory (georgiadogs).
At 6’1” and 210-pounds, McIntosh earned 4-stars as a recruit by 247Sports coming out of high school in Florida. The senior has remained in Athens despite a deep depth chart. In the summer, the SEC Media named him preseason Third Team All-SEC after gaining 570 yards from the line of scrimmage and scoring five times for the National Champions last year. In 1-point, PPR-scoring leagues, McIntosh is a no-brainer pickup this week.
Twitterverse on Fire!
Among the following transfers, who impressed and/or surprised you the most in Week 1?
- QB Michael Penix, Jr., Washington: 26%
- RB Zach Evans, Mississippi: 23%
- WR Jacob Cowing, Arizona: 29%
- QB John Rhys Plumlee, UCF: 22%
“I think Michael Penix, Jr. for me, because he was least expected of the four players.” @Spiegs21
“If coach Gus Malzahn had a lab where he could build a quarterback, he’d make John Rhys Plumlee.” @copieps
“John Rhys Plumlee: I knew he was going to be effective running, didn’t expect him to put up over 400-plus yards passing.” @JustinNottingh6
“I love Jacob Cowing and his skillset was on full display. But it was nice to see Zach Evans full-steam ahead: 130 rushing yards and 6.5 yards per carry!!!” @NinoBrown_T2T
“Zach Evans looked like a running back who will come off the board in the middle of the first round.” @aceholesrule
“Gotta be Jacob Cowing.” @aNellytics
“John Rhys Plumlee was electric at Ole Miss as QB in 2019. While it was against an inferior opponent, he seems to have hit the ground running at UCF. His monster stat line is very encouraging!” @RJsFantasyFB
“I’ll go with WR Cam Camper, Indiana: 11 catches for 156 yards in his first non-JUCO football game. And against Big 10 competition.” @craigmack34
“Michael Penix, Jr. and it’s not even close.” @buffym04
Who are you targeting at quarterback on the waiver wire this week at quarterback?
- Daniel Richardson, Central Michigan: 9%
- Drake Maye, North Carolina: 71%
- Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: 19%
- Other (post below): 1%
“Drake Maye: I’d also be picking up Donovan Smith with Tyler Shough going down.” @FantasyFBS
“Donovan Smith, Texas Tech: With Tyler Shough out for possibly a lengthy period, gotta get in on Smith’s potential league-winning upside. A dual-threat signal caller running Zach Kittley’s offense.” @Leppo_FF
“After the first drive, Drake Maye settled down, hitting receivers in stride and leading them as well as using his legs to beat defenders. The touchdown drive where he got love from Sam Howell was a passing of the torch!!” @NinoBrown_T2T
“Drake Maye had a crazy stat line and the best thing is, he will have to do that each week with the defense they have.” @JustinNottingh6
“Drake Maye: After back-to-back stellar performances from this young man, it’s time to buy in. The North Carolina defense looks suspect and it only increases his value.” @RJsFantasyFB
“Drake Maye for me! I thought he would be good fairly early, but not this good and not this early.” @aceholesrule
“With that terrible defense, Drake Maye and the Tar Heels’ offense will be forced to put up big-time points.” @FabFalco
Need help in the backfield? Who is the most intriguing running back to acquire in the free-agent pool?
- Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech: 9%
- Anthony Grant, Nebraska: 47%
- Re’Mahn Davis, Vanderbilt: 9%
- Kenny McIntosh, Georgia: 35%
“Kenny McIntosh: Shiftiness, elusiveness, and speed was on display against the Oregon Ducks. Especially that 38-yard catch and run!! Looks like it’s White ’n Cook 2.0” @NinoBrown_T2T
“Anthony Grant: This was a tough one for me until I saw Nebraska’s opponent this weekend was Georgia Southern. No reason Grant shouldn’t have his third 100-yard game in a row.” @RJsFantasyFB
“Anthony Grant for me. He gets his touches each week and does well with them.” @aceholesrule
Increasing depth at wide receiver always improves a CFF manager’s chances of winning: Who are you placing bids on off the waiver wire?
- Tyrin Smith, UTEP: 11%
- Demario Douglas, Liberty: 9%
- Charlie Jones, Purdue: 77%
- Jalen McGaughy, Central Michigan: 3%
“Demario Douglas logged five catches for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns…Douglas told the Flames fans…Kevin Shaa who!!!” @NinoBrown_T2T
“Charlie Jones: Just look at the volume he got.” @JustinNottingh6
“Tyrin Smith for me. This offense seems predictable, and Smith will get his six catches for 100 yards each week.” @aceholesrule
“Charlie Jones: Anyone watching the PSU-Purdue game on Thursday night already knows that this is absolutely Aidan O’Connell’s go-to-guy going forward. Plus, he was returning punts and kicks!” @RJsFantasyFB
Charlie Jones, Purdue (Cobbett)
Fantrax Ownership: 4%
Team Target Share: 33%
Total Fantasy Points: 33.3
Wow…Did anyone see this coming? The Purdue transfer dominated in his first game for the Boilermakers. Jones and former little league baseball teammate of QB Adian O’Connell have found their chemistry early on this season. Jones totaled 153 yards on 12 receptions and a touchdown against Penn State on Thursday. Though the Big 10 is tough, he did it against the Nittany Lions, and with his low ownership percentage, he is one of those wild cards that could lead to winning your league.
Tyrin Smith, UTEP (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 11%
Team Target Share: 33.7%
Total Fantasy Points: 40.8
At times, there is no reason to overthink a player’s future fantasy value: Follow the targets and team target share. In the first two weeks of the season, no one has grossed more targets than UTEP receiver Tyrin Smith, who has earned 32 against North Texas and Oklahoma.
While Smith has not been efficient with only 15 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown, I cannot ignore the potential upside if the aerial assault continues to go through the redshirt sophomore. Against the Sooners, Smith’s eight catches were a career-best, surpassing his previous high of seven versus North Texas last week.
A former JUCO competitor at Cisco College, Smith enrolled at UTEP before the 2021 crusade and corralled 33 passes for 570 yards and four scores. Over the last six games, he secured 22 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns, which accounted for 65% of his production.
Smith has continued to grow as a playmaker in 2022. “I just want to play with a bigger chip on the shoulder and with more confidence, really. That’s really the big thing is knowing your assignment and being locked in, getting in the film room. All those little things will go a long way,” Smith stated over the summer (ktsm.com).
If you miss out on Charlie Jones, Smith is a great option on the waiver wire for CFF coaches this week. He should inch closer to 40% rostership by the weekend.
RB/WR Ainias Smith, (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 51%
Team Target Share: 24.2%
Total Fantasy Points: 35.5
There are not many roster builds better in college fantasy football than players with multiple-position eligibility. On waiver wires, Ainias Smith might still be available in your league…Go grab him immediately.
Among NFL draft scouts, the Texas A&M speedster is garnering major attention and is highly ranked by some members of the national media. There is little doubt about his football skills, athletic ability, and pass-catching prowess. Yet, would he be productive in coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense?
Against Sam Houston, CFF diehards glimpsed the potential production on only nine touches. He logged six receptions for 164 yards and two scores and added 11 rushing yards on three carries.
Before Smith’s offseason tumult, I had drafted the Aggies’ playmaker in three of four drafts and ranked him highly among my players rankings. Unfortunately, I backed off selecting Smith after off-the-field concerns arose. I will surely be placing bids on Smith this week.
CFF Waiver Wire Honorable Mention
- QB Mike Wright, Vanderbilt
Fantrax Ownership: 2%
Yards Per Attempt: 7.8
- QB Todd Centeio, James Madison
Fantrax Ownership: 2%
Yards Per Attempt: 9.9
- RB Nathan Carter, UConn
Fantrax Ownership: 6%
Scrimmage Yards: 341
Total Fantasy Points: 42.1
- RB Sieh Bangura, Ohio
Fantrax Ownership: 7%
Scrimmage Yards: 119
Total Fantasy Points: 12.9
- RB Roman Hemby, Maryland
Fantrax Ownership: 2%
Scrimmage Yards: 114
Total Fantasy Points: 23.4
- WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia
Fantrax Ownership: 31%
Team Target Share: 38.5%
Total Fantasy Points: 30.7
- WR Ladd McConkey, Georgia
Fantrax Ownership: 13%
Team Target Share: 16.2%
Total Fantasy Points: 25.9
- WR Rara Thomas, Mississippi State (Laub)
Fantrax Ownership: 13%
Team Target Share: 10.4%
Total Fantasy Points: 19.1
- TE CJ Donaldson, West Virginia
Fantrax Ownership: 1%
Scrimmage Yards: 125
Total Fantasy Points: 18.5
CFF All-Americans: Week 1
- QB Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State: 49.9 points
- QB Todd Centeio, James Madison: 46.4 points
- RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse: 36.3 points
- RB Reese White, Coastal Carolina: 35.3 points
- WR Kris Thornton, James Madison: 45.5 points
- WR Jacob Cowing, Arizona: 41.2 points
- WR Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State: 39.8 points
- TE Brant Kuithe, Florida: 25.5 points
- Flex Anias Smith, Texas A&M: 35.5 points