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Third Down: Top 5 in College Fantasy Football

The Spring Football season has officially concluded and many storylines are starting to develop that will impact the College Fantasy Football (CFF) landscape. As CFF drafts quickly approach, let’s analyze those storylines to better prepare for the upcoming season as the Spring Practices come to a close.

Nothing has impacted NCAA Football greater than the movement of players. The transfer portal has allowed students to move more freely than ever before. Just after Colorado’s spring practice game, 15 players entered the spring transfer portal. One of those players, WR Montana Lemonious-Craig, made 3 grabs for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns.

I can’t even imagine what conversation was had after the game to make a player want to leave so quickly. That is the “new” College Football Landscape; where thousands of players each year look to play at other schools. Players are leaving for reasons which vary from playing time, family situations, NIL deals, and coaching changes.

As new recruits enter schools each fall, players are less and less likely to wait, develop, and earn a starting spot on the team. Instead, student-athletes are entering the portal to find schools that provide a clearer path to playing time, and ultimately, a path to the NFL. However, not every transfer is successful. And not every new coaching hire leads to instant success. Those storylines and more lead us to our first edition of the “Top 5” Lists for College Football.

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Top 5 Lists for 2023 College Football

Top 5 Quarterbacks in New Places

Shedeur Sanders, Colorado

The moment Coach Prime was named the Head Coach at Colorado, it was widely expected that his son, Shadeur, would follow him to Boulder. However, if you are not familiar with Shedeur Sanders, this is not a case of nepotism. Shadeur was a four-star recruit out of high school and the No. 26 rated QB in the class of 2021.

In two years at Jackson State, Shadeur amassed close to 7,000 yards in the air and 70 touchdowns. The competition level is going to increase playing in the PAC-12, but Sanders is equipped to handle the transition.

In Colorado’s Spring Game, Sanders showed the Buffaloes fans exactly what he is capable of by completing 16 of 19 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and also one rushing score. Spring Football is not the same as in the Fall, but it gives fans reason to be excited about Colorado football again. Sanders should absolutely be a QB No. 1 in your CFF drafts.

Brennan Armstrong, North Carolina State

Armstrong, former UVA quarterback, transferred to NC State. Brennan has broken just about every Cavaliers’ passing record in the books. However, most of those were broken in 2021. The key for NC State is: which version of Armstrong do they get? Do they get the 2021 version that threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns or the 2022 version that threw for 2,210 yards and 7 touchdowns?

I think NC State is banking on the 2021 iteration of the lefty. If that’s the case, I can see Armstrong making a strong push for post-season awards. Paired with DJ Collins (transfer from Clemson), NC State has quite possibly found a QB-WR duo that can re-establish NC State’s relevance in the ACC. If Armstrong is under center, he is a great flier in deeper CFF leagues.

Sam Hartman, Notre Dame

Hartman initially played at Wake Forest before transferring to Notre Dame. So, that led people to believe there would be an open battle between Hartman and Tyler Buchner–Buchner was the 2022 starter before injury. However, news has recently revealed Buchner’s plans to transfer to Alabama. With that move, it leaves Sam Hartman as the unquestioned starter heading into the 2023 season.

Hartman left Wake Forest as the FBS active leader in passing yards (12,967) and passing touchdowns (110). Now, Hartman hopes to lead Notre Dame to a Final Four bowl game, solidifying his status as a prospect. Hartman is an excellent DEVY pick if you need depth at QB or love taking a little risk. If you decide to wait on QB in your CFF drafts, Hartman is a great low-end QB No. 1 with a lot of upside.

Tyler Buchner, Alabama

Buchner started the 2022 season as the Notre Dame starting quarterback. However, a shoulder injury in Week 2 ended his season, and ultimately, his career at Notre Dame. I don’t believe Buchner “just” lost the job to Sam Hartman. Instead, I think the current QBs on the Alabama roster didn’t excite anyone in Tuscaloosa.

In case you didn’t know, the Crimson Tide are not about small wins. This is a program that Nick Saban has built that measures success by championships. Tyler Buchner has a lot to prove at Alabama, but he was brought in because Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson could not impress Coach Saban enough to put the debate to rest. In deeper CFF leagues, Buchner offers great upside for a QB No. 2.

DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State

I don’t believe Uiagalelei thought at the beginning of last season how the end of the campaign would finish the way it did. Cade Klubnik, true freshman, unseated DJ as the starting QB and forced DJ to pursue other options if he wanted to be the starting QB of a FBS school.

At 6’4 and 250 lbs, Uiagalelei looks more like an edge rusher than a QB. Yet, the offense that DJ was employing at Clemson did not totally fit his skill set, and he went looking for a program that was more tailored to his Pro-Style tendencies.

Uiagalelei found that home at Oregon State. To exemplify the character and hard work of DJ, he isn’t just leaving Clemson for a different team. Uiagalelei graduated from Clemson with a degree in communications. With the mentality and willingness to work hard, I can see DJ succeeding as a Beaver with an offense that better utilizes his ability to drive the ball downfield. Similarly to Armstrong, DJ has great upside in deeper CFF leagues.

Twitterverse on Fire!

Transfer portal has drastically impacted the college football landscape:

Who Ya Got as a CFF quarterback in a new uniform in 2023?

  • Brennan Armstrong, North Carolina State: 26%
  • Shedeur Sanders, Colorado: 34%
  • Sam Hartman, Notre Dame: 34%
  • Other, post below: 6%

“Brennan Armstrong reunited with Robert Anae? Give me some of that action!” @CC_Jared

“Kedon Slovis’ arm is healthy again. Coach A-Rod will let him drop bombs in the Big 12.” @DFSInfluencer

“Brennan Armstrong by a smidge. All good choices.” @aceholesrule

“Do you have a minute to hear the good words for Malik Hornsby?” @ethansauers

“Brennan Armstrong reunited with Robert Anae. Oh yeah! Maybe Tanner Mordecai at Wisconsin too. Phil Longo will NOT be running the ball like it is 1975.” @WaggleLeft

Hudson Card, Purdue

After enrolling at Texas in 2020, Card saw the Longhorns bring in Quinn Ewers last year. This season, Arch Manning enrolled at Texas. It was clear to Card that he was not in the long term plans at Texas, but what Texas is losing, Purdue is gaining. In sporadic minutes last year, Card produced over 900 yards in the air with six touchdowns and an interception.

With a new coach and offensive coordinator at Purdue, they hand-picked Hudson to be the next signal caller for the Boilermakers. Card has already shown that the program will not miss a beat with Aidan O’Connell now in the NFL. For a speculative CFF player, I love Card’s potential. Hopefully, they can surround him with enough talent to realize that potential.

Top 5 “Under the Radar” G5 QBs to consider

  • Davis Brin, Georgia Southern
  • Malik Hornsby, Texas State
  • Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
  • Dequan Finn, Toledo
  • Michael Pratt, Tulane

Top 5 Coaching Changes

Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, Colorado

Love him or hate him, Head Coach Prime brings attention everywhere he goes. Jackson State saw a rejuvenation under the tenure of Sanders. Now, he takes his ability to infuse energy into the Buffalos. Seeing what has happened since being named coach, Coach Prime has taken little time establishing a standard for the type of players that will be playing for him.

Currently, over 15 players have entered the transfer portal after the Spring game. “Change is coming” to Colorado and coach Prime is at the helm. With all the waves Sanders is making, he better hope his ship is seaworthy. Otherwise, he may find himself swimming with the sharks.

Matt Rhule, Nebraska

The hiring of coach Rhule at Nebraska was widely regarded as a good one. After resurrecting a Temple program in four years, Rhule made Baylor his next stop; bringing life back to Baylor too. After three years in Waco, Rhule moved on to the Carolina Panthers in the NFL. Needless to say, Matt Rhule has a long, storied career as a coach that knows how to rebuild a program ( I regard the Panthers as an incomplete). It is exactly what Nebraska is hoping that he does in Lincoln.

Rhule is known as a solid offensive mind, and he will look to continue that legacy at Nebraska. Rhule may not make the Cornhuskers an instant success, but he will bring in players that will work hard and dedicate themselves to a mission. Rhule should have Nebraska back to relevance quickly. There are not any current Cornhuskers in the upper tier of DEVY players, but it won’t take Rhule long to add talent.

Luke Fickell, Wisconsin

Wisconsin hit the coaching jackpot as they lured coach Fickell away from Cincinnati; one of the top G5 programs after reaching the CFP in 2021. Having turned the Bearcats into a perennial Top 25 team with talent many college football fans would consider to be less than elite, Fickell will try to replicate that model with Wisconsin.

With many ties to the Big 10, Fickell looks to bring back the Badgers into the conference’s elite programs. Fickell doesn’t need five-star recruits to make his teams elite, he just needs players who are willing to work harder than most.

Hugh Freeze, Auburn

After an NCAA scandal that led to his departure from Ole Miss, Freeze then went on to develop Liberty into a consistent winner and bowl game participant. Now back in the SEC, Freeze hopes to elevate Auburn back among the nation’s premier programs.

Freeze employs a fast-paced style offense that turned Malik Willis, from Liberty, into one of the top quarterbacks in the country and a NFL draft pick. Auburn still has work to do with its offense, since Auburn does not currently have the perfect fit at QB to run Freeze’s system. For all DEVY players, whichever QB Freeze anoints, that is the QB you want on your roster. For CFF purposes, until Auburn has an established QB, I would shy away from any receivers.

Jeff Brohm, Louisville

In a perfect fit of coach and school, Jeff Brohm returns to his alma mater as the coach at Louisville. As Brohm’s #11 jersey hangs in honor, Brohm returns to Louisville to lead the program as a coach not a player.

Having spent the last six seasons at Purdue, Brohm demonstrated an ability to win and play for conference championships and bowl games. Louisville hopes to see the same in the commonwealth as Louisville has been struggling to be consistent in the ACC. As evidenced by Aidan O’Connell, Brohm knows how to develop solid QBs and should look to roster any starting QB Brohm has running his offense.

Bonus Coach: Trent Dilfer, UAB

I couldn’t write an article about college coaches’ new places without speaking about Trent Dilfer. Name alone, he would seem like a logical fit (the same way Jeff Saturday was a fit for the Colts in the NFL). After coaching Lipscomb Academy to a state title game, Dilfer left the high school ranks after four highly successful seasons (with two state titles) for a FBS school. That is a massive transition that usually requires a lot more coaching experience.

However, UAB believes Dilfer is the coach for the job and hopes to continue their winning ways. Do I personally think Dilfer is ready for such a massive jump as a coach? Well, we are about to find out together as Dilfer has UGA looming on their schedule in September.

Top 5 QB Spring Practice Battles

Quinn Ewers over Arch Manning, Texas

Although this matchup was Ewers to lose, Arch Manning was one of the most heralded recruits in recent memory; hard not to be with a last name of Manning. Although Arch Manning should have a highly successful college career (and should be rostered in DEVY leagues now), he will have to wait his turn at Texas similarly to Ewers in Columbus, Ohio.

Let’s hope Manning chooses to stay in Austin and fulfill his potential. For Ewers, this looks to be a huge season for him. Although Caleb Williams (USC), and Drake Maye (UNC) will receive a lot of the preseason hype, Ewers has the talent around him to put up a Heisman-like season. Ewers should be on every DEVY and CFF roster, and if he’s not, trade for him. He won’t cost as much as Williams or Maye, but could be just as valuable.

Kyle McCord over Devin Brown, Ohio St.

I’m not 100% sure this was ever a true battle given Devin Brown’s finger injury. Either way, Kyle McCord returns to the helm of Ohio State football. For the past few years, that has been a position that has led to being a high draft pick like CJ Stroud and Justin Fields. Many might consider Devin Brown to be the better talent, but availability is the best ability. And right now, that’s Kyle McCord.

McCord was a high school teammate of the “other-worldly” wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., which should also not be discounted. I love both players on rosters for DEVY purposes; McCord for CFF leagues. Check back in August to see one of the best QB battles in college football.

Joe Milton vs Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee

Joe Milton came from Michigan to Tennessee as a QB with plenty of playing experience. Nico Iamaleava comes to Knoxville as one of the highest recruits ever to enroll as a Volunteer. However, Joe Milton passed the test last year, taking over for an injured Hendon Hooker in 2022.

Milton will hold the fort for one year before Iamaleava takes over. Both of these players should be on DEVY rosters. Milton is ideal for CFF rosters this year, with Iamaleava is better situated for next year. For DEVY purposes, both QB’s would be ideal long term options.

Jalen Milroe vs Ty Simpson, Alabama

This was a battle that yielded the transfer of Tyler Buchner to Tuscaloosa. At this point, it remains to be seen which signal caller will win the job. However, Nick Saban would not have brought in another quarterback to compete for the job if Jalen Milroe or Ty Simpson had clearly won the job after spring practice.

For DEVY purposes, I would hold off rostering Milroe and Simpson. And, if Tyler Buchner wins the job, he is a deeper DEVY prospect to consider for your roster and a solid QB No. 2 in CFF.

University of Georgia: Three-Way Death Match

When you are a national powerhouse coming off of back-to-back National Championships with the same QB under center for both, the next player up has a lot of expectations thrust upon them. Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff, and Gunner Stockton are all competing for the job.

At this point, all signs point to Carson Beck as the next signal caller at UGA. As stated by coach Smart, demeanor and communication are the two most vital skills he looks for in a starting field general. As of now, all signs point to Beck being the most advanced in those areas. I don’t see any of these players as DEVY relevant for your fantasy rosters; nor options for your CFF leagues as long as each holds the possibility of splitting time at the position.

Top 5 CFF freshmen Target for CFF and DEVY

Cedric Baxter, Texas

The Texas Longhorns saw Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson depart Austin for the NFL. However, Texas doesn’t seem too worried about the loss with Cedric Baxter in tow. As a five-star prospect, Baxter comes in as the No. 1 rated running back in this year’s recruiting class.

In his senior year, Baxter did his best work at Edgewater against the toughest competition. It bodes well for Baxter and Texas as they get ready to join the SEC. Baxter is a top DEVY pick and should be a top target heading into DEVY drafts. HIs CFF potential may be limited some due to the uncertainty of his usage early in the 2023 season.

Malachi Nelson, USC

Malachi Nelson is heading to USC to eventually inherit the program from last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, and “quarterback whisperer” Lincoln Riley. Nelson was a five-star prospect. At 6’3″ and 180 pounds, a college weight program and nutritionist will hopefully help Nelson add some more strength to his frame.

Nelson reminds me of a young Patrick Mahomes as he changes arm angles and trajectories to deliver pinpoint passes to receivers. Nelson will have to wait a year before he gets ready to shine on Saturdays, but you could do a lot worse in the third round of DEVY drafts. His potential is sky-high, and he will need to be drafted accordingly. For CFF purposes, he is only a handcuff for managers that have Caleb Williams.

Arch Manning, Texas

Arch Manning is a legit five-star prospect; not just because of his last name. Arch stands 6’4 and 215 pounds as an incoming freshman. Although he will have to wait for Quinn Ewers to depart for the NFL, Manning already draws comparisons to Joe Burrow in his ability to move “feet” in the pocket, not yards.

With a calm demeanor and poise, it is only a matter of time before Arch challenges his uncles and grandfather as the most prolific quarterback in the family. You should absolutely roster Arch in every DEVY format. Similarly to Nelson, Manning is only viable in CFF if you are currently rostering Ewers.

Ruben Owens, Texas A&M

At 5 ’11” and 190 pounds, Ruben Owens comes to Texas A&M with track-level speed and the moves and vision to see holes in the defense and explode through them in milliseconds. Owens also shows the ability to catch out of the backfield.

While watching some tape, I can’t help but see Jahmyr Gibbs in some of his tapes. He’s that good! As DEVY prospects go, Owens and Baxter are elite. Both will require some investment from the manager that drafts either.

Hykeem Williams, Alabama

Another five-star prospect with a frame already developed for the NFL. Williams is 6’3″ and 200 pounds. With elite athletic ability, Williams can play inside and out. If some weight is added, could even play some tight end. Hykeem can do just about everything at the line of scrimmage and will not be pushed off his route by corners.

Williams is still a projectable prospect right now. You may be able to wait a year before drafting Williams on your DEVY roster, but in deeper leagues, it could be worth the investment as a long-term fantasy player.

Top 5 Freshman to Watch from the Non-Power Conferences

  • Mikal Harrison-Pilot, Houston
  • Marcus Stokes, West Florida
  • Jambres Dubar, Boise State.
  • Javian Simpkins, Coastal Carolina
  • Jake Leatherwood, Nevada

Top 5 Ohio State Skill Position Players

WR Marvin Harrison

This one time in college Marvin Harrison jumped over a brick wall, bench-pressed a car, and painted a mural with his teeth. Yes, those are all made-up accomplishments. At this point, is there any physical attribute that we don’t believe about Harrison?

Marvin Harrison is the No. 1 Wide Receiver prospect to come out of college since Sammy Watkins. Harrison is already locked in as a top 5 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. At 6’4″ and 205-pounds, Harrison is a prototype for receivers. Harrison was a unanimous All American WR last year, and he looks toward replicating that feat; a feat last accomplished by Justin Blackmon in 2010 and 2011.

RB TreVeyon Henderson

Henderson follows a long line of quality running backs from Ohio St that includes: Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie George and Archie Griffin. Henderson has the rare combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that even computer-made players on Madden ‘04 would be hard to replicate.

Henderson appears to be similar to players like Christian McCaffrey and Marshall Faulk in their abilities to run and catch out of the backfield. Enjoy watching Henderson this year, for it will be his last year in the college ranks.

WR Emeka Egbuka

All the national media would be talking about Emeka Egbuka if it wasn’t for his teammate (Marvin Harrison) getting all the publicity. Egbuka is that good. Emeka tallied 74 receptions, 1,151 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2022. Egbuka and Harrison could become Consensus Americans as receivers from the same team for the first time since Reidel Anthony and Ike Hilliard did it in 1996 from Florida. Although most consider Harrison the #1 receiver in the 2024 class, Egbuka is not far behind and will be a future Pro Bowler in the NFL.

QB Kyle McCord

Even though Ohio St is still not declaring Kyle McCord the day 1 starter for the Buckeyes, all signs point to McCord being the man moving forward. Many forget that McCord was slated to become the starting quarterback before losing the spot to CJ Stroud two years ago.

McCord looks more ready now to take the lead and guide Ohio St back to the CFP. McCord was a consensus top 25 overall prospect in 2021. This team is loaded with skill players and McCord will have the unenviable task to balance all the needs each player requires. It will take a special player and McCord appears to be ready for that job.

RB Dallan Hayden

It says something when you are selected as “Freshman of the Year” by your teammates at Ohio State, and that honor was won by Hayden in 2022. Ryan Day has recruited so well the past five years, the number of freshmen that have five- stars intrigues even astronomers. So, Hayden winning the award last year speaks volumes to his talent and the respect his teammates have for him.

With five touchdowns and 550 yards rushing, Hayden seems prepared to take over the workload as lead running back whenever coach Ryan Day allows him. Hayden may not be the highest-rated recruit on this list, but the proof is in the playing time. If Hayden’s teammates recognize his talent, so should we.

Top 5 Heisman Trophy Candidates

QB Caleb Williams, USC

When any Heisman Trophy winner returns to school for another year, that player has to be mentioned as a frontrunner for the award again. Only Archie Griffin can boast that he has won the trophy more than once. Caleb will make every effort to lead USC into national prominence, and with that, his candidacy for the Heisman (again). Williams is regarded as the pre-season No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft and will remain in the national media’s spotlight.

QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington

The second of three quarterback’s from the Pac-12 on this list. With over 4,600 yards and 31 touchdowns, Penix Jr. proved he can throw the ball with the best passers. If Penix Jr can continue those types of numbers for a second year, he will elevate himself into many conversations for the Heisman.

The key for players on the West Coast is exposure. Many games are played too late for many East Coast fans to watch live. With Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, the PAC 12 just might make those on the right coast stay up to watch.

QB Bo Nix, Oregon

No player has resurrected their career as effectively as Bo Nix. When Nix left Auburn in shock, Nix transferred to Oregon to regain his love of football. His time at Auburn was less about his successes, and more about his failures. Playing with a dynamic player like Troy Franklin, any pass to Franklin could result in a touchdown.

With 43 total touchdowns last year, Bo Nix wants to set the standard high for all quarterbacks in that area. It is hard to imagine a player not in the Heisman discussion when he averages over 3 total touchdowns per game. Playing in his fifth year of college football, Nix sees the game differently than younger, less experienced players.

If Nix can replicate his achievements and keep Oregon relevant in the national conversation, he will be on many POY lists come November.

QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

As ACC Offensive POY, ACC POY, ACC ROY, and ACC Offensive ROY, Drake Maye joins Jameis Winston as the only other player to sweep all four awards. Heading into his sophomore year, Maye hopes to continue his dominance of the ACC and win an even bigger award, the Heisman trophy.

With 45 total touchdowns last year, Maye has shown he knows how to find the end zone, racking up over 308 yards ppg. Maye joins Patrick Mahomes and Johnny Manziel as the only players to average over 300 yards passing while leading their teams in rushing. Maye knows how to do the little things to extend plays and help his team win. If Maye continues succeeding against the highest competition, he could add the Heisman to his long list of accolades.

QB Jordan Travis, Florida State

One thing you notice about Jordan Travis’ career at FSU is his improvement from year to year. After compiling 24 touchdowns on just 5 interceptions, Travis helped lead Florida State to a 10-3 season in 2022. It appears that FSU is poised to take over the ACC from Clemson and ascend into the elite tier of teams in college football.

As your team enters another stratosphere, generally the signal caller is in the captain’s chair of that plane. While Drake Maye works to be the highest draft pick from the ACC, Jordan Travis may just have the better season. The Seminoles lead the ACC in total offense and hope to repeat that accomplishment.

Top 5 “Non Quarterbacks” to crash the Heisman Party

  • WR Marvin Harrison, Ohio State
  • WR Troy Franklin, Oregon
  • RB Raheim Sanders, Arkansas
  • RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
  • RB Quinshon Judkins, Mississippi

Twitterverse on Fire!

Taking the quarterbacks out of the running, Who Ya Got as the favorite to win the Heisman in 2023?

  • RB Raheim Sanders, Arkansas: 11%
  • RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin: 6%
  • WR Marvin Harrison, Ohio State: 77%
  • RB Quinshon Judkins, Mississippi: 6%

“Marvin Harrison for me. He has been anointed the best. If his stats match his stature, he’s got a chance.” @aceholesrule

“Everyone will pick Marvin Harrison so…Raheim Sanders is in a perfect situation.His big-armed, mobile QB K.J. Jefferson returns which will keep spying defenders on their heels, opening more lanes for Rocket and his 6.5 ypc. if he can add to his 25-plus receptions as well.” @NinoBrown_T2T

“Would love Rocket Sanders to be the top vote getter, but it has to be Marvin Harrison Jr.” @thedevyworkshop

One thing we have learned about football is this: Football fans no longer have to love “just” Saturday or “just” Sunday. With the development of College Fantasy Football and DEVY Leagues taking fantasy sports by storm, football fans can merge their love of both and enjoy the year round sport.

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