College Fantasy Football: Freshmen to consider drafting
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Some of these freshmen are going to have big roles this season. Others will have to wait their turn but have tremendous value in keeper leagues. Either way, a lot of these guys are worth a shot and could have big freshman seasons. Here is a look at 25 first-year players to remember.
At SEC Media Days, LSU coach Ed Orgeron talked about implementing a spread offense, having four- and five-receiver sets and getting his top players the ball in space. This is LSU, right? If that’s the case and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger can mix in a lot more pass with the run then Chase could be a valuable pickup in keeper leagues. He has excellent skills and could compete for early playing time in Baton Rouge.
Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are gone but it’s hardly as if Georgia doesn’t have a bevy of running backs to lean on including D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and others. Still, Cook is far too talented not to find a way onto the field in some way especially at a position for the Bulldogs that looks wide open for the best players to see the field. Dalvin Cook’s younger brother is a different back who really can catch the ball out of the backfield and somehow, someway can contribute to Georgia’s rush attack.
It’s hard to believe a situation where Daniels, a five-star quarterback who graduated from high school a year early for this opportunity, sits on the sideline in favor of Jack Sears or Matt Fink starting at quarterback. The former Santa Ana Mater Dei QB threw for more than 12,000 yards and 152 touchdowns in his short high school career. With a bevy of young, talented receivers, Daniels could be stellar even as a freshman.
The Longhorns scored fewer than 30 points per game in a conference where points come quickly and it was good for seventh in the conference. In short, Texas needs to find ways to score more often and Eagles could be part of the answer. Collin Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and others will be top targets for Sam Ehlinger, the expected starting QB, but Eagles is far too talented and dynamic not to have a chance early on.
Think it’s impossible for Fields to take the starting role or at least significant playing time away from Jake Fromm, who led Georgia to the national title game last season? Fromm took over for an injured Jacob Eason and never looked back so nothing is impossible. Fields is phenomenally talented and the likelihood he sees the field in some capacity this season is very strong.
Let’s be clear: Auburn’s offense will be run by Jarrett Stidham this year and no one else, barring injury. But after this season the Tigers’ quarterback job will be wide open and Gatewood has the dual-threat ability to be special in coach Gus Malzahn’s offense. The four-star quarterback who improved as his high school career went on finished with 12 passing and 16 rushing touchdowns in his senior season. In keeper leagues, Gatewood should be a strong consideration.
It is probably unlikely that Jones starts from Day 1 but the pressure is on first-year coach Dan Mullen to score points in Gainesville and Jones could be the best long-term option. No one seems convinced that Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask are the long-term answers to Florida’s recent offensive woes. Jones has the skill set similar to Dak Prescott or Nick Fitzgerald, guys at Mississippi State who Mullen coached and helped make spectacular quarterbacks. Over the long term, Jones could be a smart addition to a fantasy roster.
Straight out of powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Jordan has the opportunity to step right in and be a vital part of Miami’s offensive attack. Surrounded by talented running backs and especially excellent wide receivers, Jordan should be able to be a matchup nightmare. He’s athletic, big and he has excellent hands. If Miami’s quarterbacks can accurately deliver the ball then Jordan could have a big freshman season.
Kendrick is a dynamic, fast slot receiver who can get open against any cornerback and could be a big-time threat in Clemson’s offense over the coming years. With the Tigers losing some top names at the position, Kendrick will have the opportunity to get on the field early because he’s so productive and such a deep threat. Hunter Renfrow could chew up a lot of catches this season but down the line Kendrick should be a big asset.
Whether or not Lawrence wins the starting job at Clemson over incumbent Kelly Bryant, the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 recruiting class is extraordinarily special and would be a wise early pick in keeper leagues. He’s the best high school quarterback Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell has ever scouted and it would be hard to believe Lawrence won’t be on the field sooner rather than later.
One of three five-star running back signees in the 2018 class (along with Georgia’s Zamir White and James Cook), Lingard is too special to keep off the field for long. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas might have an edge with the Hurricanes but Lingard could be a game-changer so watch him closely. Miami’s offensive line has some question marks but the five-star RB should see the field sooner rather than later.
Marshall was the only five-star prospect in LSU’s 2018 recruiting class and as the Tigers search for a new identity under new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, Marshall could play a big role. The concern with LSU receivers all the time is that the Tigers love to run the ball and they haven’t figured out the quarterback situation yet. Those are legitimate concerns. But Marshall is too talented to keep off the field and he could be a big-time target in LSU’s revamped passing game.
If the job is won by Tristan Gebbia then he would be a valuable pickup, too, but the thinking here is that Martinez has an edge heading into preseason camp and could be the starter on Sept. 1 when Akron visits. In a faster offense with talented receivers, Martinez could be a superstar. Coach Scott Frost and his offense at UCF averaged more than 48 points per game. UCF QB McKenzie Milton threw for more than 4,000 yards. Scoring in the Big Ten will be tougher but the Huskers’ offense has a chance to light up the scoreboard.
There are some questions about quarterback at Miami but the receiving corps is loaded, which could be good and bad for Pope. The diminutive freshman is highly skilled and electric with the ball in his hands but so are Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley so getting on the field from Day 1 might be a challenge. Then there are Ahmmon Richards, Lawrence Cager and others. Pope is excellent but he might have to wait his turn.
Rogers missed all but one game in his senior season because of injury and a redshirt year at TCU is not out of the question to not rush him back on the field. Shawn Robinson is the short-term answer for the Horned Frogs but if you’re not sold on Robinson over the next couple years and believe Rogers is super special who could be a star in TCU’s offense, then picking him up early on could be a smart move.
The Clemson receiving corps has a bunch of young talent and Ross should fit in perfectly. A lot of playing time is up for grabs since Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud are now in the NFL and Ross has the combination of size, athleticism and ability to see the field early on. Now the only question is will Kelly Bryant or Trevor Lawrence be throwing him the ball?
There might be a few tight ends ahead of Ruckert on the depth chart but the Long Island four-star is a phenomenal athlete who should fit in perfectly with what the Buckeyes want to do on offense. With tremendous skill players all over the field, balls coming Ruckert’s way this season might not be many but over the next few years he could be a star.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns last season even with star RB Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The Nittany Lions lose some quality receivers and Juwan Johnson will emerge as a top target but he only had one touchdown grab last season. Shorter is incredibly talented and could emerge quickly in Penn State’s offense as the Nittany Lions try to reload at receiver.
Saquon Barkley is off to the NFL and Miles Sanders is expected to be the starting running back for the Nittany Lions but after that it’s a wide-open race and one where Slade can find some opportunities. It sounds like Penn State is going to use a by-committee approach after Sanders and Slade is as talented as any other running back on the Lions’ roster. If he can impress early on, then more chances should come his way.
There are at least a handful of Ohio State wide receivers who should be ahead of Smith early on and then the two-headed running attack of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber will have the ball a lot as well. Those are definitely things to watch but over the long term Smith could be absolutely special in Ohio State’s offense – and you know the Buckeyes are going to score a lot of points.
In three years of high school, Spiker caught 244 passes for 4,661 yards and 72 touchdowns, breaking the state record for career receiving TDs. Production won’t be a problem. And Washington’s receiving corps needs immediate help on the outside so Spiker could see the field from Day 1. In short order, the talented receiver with great hands and great athleticism could be a favorite target for Huskies QB Jake Browning.
The top-rated receiver in the 2019 class, St. Brown has been dominant at every single event for years. It could be argued he immediately becomes USC’s most-talented receiver even with some good ones returning. Especially if high school teammate JT Daniels wins the starting job, St. Brown would be a great pickup because the two have such great chemistry.
Preseason camp will determine whether the skilled four-star dual-threat quarterback will earn the starting job but Thompson-Robinson’s skill set is perfect for first-year coach Chip Kelly and what he’s done in the past. Thompson-Robinson prefers to sit in the pocket and throw but he has escapability and can make things happen with his feet. Kelly has done well with quarterbacks. Thompson-Robinson has the skills to be special at UCLA and rack up plenty of points.
Calvin Ridley had 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns last season. No other Alabama receiver had more than 14 receptions. That leaves the door wide open for Waddle, a speedy and flashy receiver who can get open against anybody and who was in the five-star discussion after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The Crimson Tide have tons of young, talented receivers so Waddle might have to wait awhile but he could also be a threat on special teams.
White continues to rehab from a knee injury but if he sees the field this season the former five-star is special enough to earn lots of carries. With Nick Chubb and Sony Michel gone, the Georgia backfield is wide open for the taking and White might be the most skilled running back on the team. Watch out for the injury and his return date but if he straps it up, White is definitely a keeper.