I would have loved to write this piece a couple of weeks ago, but given that I value secrecy and the advantage gained by my leaguemates not having access to my thoughts over the minimal exposure / brand improvement gained through putting my views out there. That being said, my three drafts are now in the books, and I’d love it if some of you would be willing to come aboard the bandwagons I’m driving.
QB – Joel Lanning
Ownership: 2 of 3 teams
Reasoning: Full disclosure, I only play in leagues that start at least 2 QBs and the shallowest league I’m in starts 2 QBs across 16 teams. Lanning isn’t someone I’m targeting as a QB1, but he’s my preferred option to fill the role of a QB2/QB3 role. I believe in Lanning as a passer, but his running ability is what really has me intrigues. The Iowa State quarterback averaged 14 carries a game last year in his 5 starts and is built to withstand the punishment that comes with that level of workload at 6’2” 225 pounds. Another factor working in his favor is that goal line vulture Joshua Thomas is no longer with the team. Mike Warren is awesome, but he was regularly phased out of the offense in favor of Thomas and Lanning last year. My expectation is that Lanning gets Collin Klein type usage when Iowa State gets down near the goal line in 2016. Matt Campbell didn’t really have a running threat at quarterback in recent years at Toledo, but just judging from interviews and sparse practice videos that I’ve seen (that feature Lanning doing ball carrying drills) it would be very surprising if Lanning running the ball wasn’t a large part of Iowa State’s gameplan. When you get to the part of the draft where your leaguemates are resigned to taking middling one dimensional pocket passers, and you want that high upside option that could actually win you weeks, unleash the Lan-Ram.
WR – Antonio Callaway
Ownership: 2 of 3 teams
Reasoning: Callaway’s newsworthy transgressions this offseason looks to be working itself out in the way that these things most often do when it comes to super talented collegiate athletes: favorable ruling, minimal discipline, etc. While you don’t have to love Callaway the person, at the cost of a double digit round pick in almost every conceivable format, there’s no reason not to fawn over Callaway the fantasy football asset. If you had the displeasure of watching any of the ‘Post-Wil Grier’ Florida football games last season, other than the ineptitude at the quarterback position, most likely the main thing that stood out to you was Callaway’s ability to change a game from anywhere on the football field. Callaway scored via punt returns (twice), on the receiving end of touchdown passes (four times), and even through a touchdown pass in the school’s bowl loss to Michigan. However, it would be a colossal error to confuse Callaway for a ‘gadget receiver.’ Unfortunately, it took him a while to work his way up the depth chart his Freshman year, and by the time he completed his ascent to a full time role, quarterback Will Grier had been suspended – which left the team bereft of capable quarterback options. This is why you will see inconsistency in Callaway’s box score output from 2015. That less than impressive statistical performance though is what will give you the opportunity to steal him for 2016. If you need visual confirmation in order to sell you on Callaway, dig up his highlights from the Georgia, Michigan, and Alabama games – the latter of which he essentially single handedly kept Florida within one score of the eventual National Champs going into halftime – and I think you will quickly understand why I’m so eager to irrationally defend Callaway, in much the same manner that his University has been forced to this offseason.
RB – Timothy McVey
Ownership: 2 of 3 teams
Reasoning: During the long drought that is the college football offseason, I struggling to determine exactly at what point I would have to take McVey in 2016 drafts. I mean, this was a man who scored 10 touchdowns in his final 4 games last season. That’s McCaffrey/Fournette/McWeapon level dominance. At times, I’d consider slotting him into the first five rounds of a draft, and then reconsider that maybe round four or five wouldn’t be high enough. However, as the offseason wore on, it became apparent that not everyone shared my excitement. Quotes from beat writers and coaches hinted that McVey would have to fight for a role in 2016, and fantasy projections had him as barely a blip on the radar. While I can’t say I agree with this sentiment, I would never be one to criticize those who contribute to the ADP plummet of a player I’m in on. I get it – Jacobi Owens is back, Shayne Davern is back, and Nate Romine is back. Simply put: you don’t just cast a guy who has achieved what McVey has back into the shadows just because the veterans have returned. McVey may not see 20 touches a game, but he only needs 10-15 to make a difference for your team. If he’s falling as far in your drafts as he did in mine, don’t be afraid, unwrap the gift that is Timothy McVey.
WR – Derrick Willies
Ownership: 3 of 3 teams
Reasoning: The only player that I managed to accrue 100 percent ownership of. My position on Willies is that you’re better off taking a step back than going the usual route that we taking with CFF players (digging through local newspapers, beat writers’ twitter feeds, and scavenging the internet for every last piece of information). This is because the scant recent news, though minimal, isn’t as inspiring as you would hope for: Willies missed time in camp with an injured hand, has yet to separate himself from fellow outside receivers Devin Lauderdale and Reginald Davis, and looks to be right in the thick of a receiving corps that could play 10+ players any given week. When dealing with a team like Texas Tech that is notoriously secret with information, we tend to latch onto the little details – taking even the most trivial of affairs and basing draft picks off of ‘news’ that will likely be meaningless come week one. This is what I believe you should focus on with Willies:
- He was the number one JUCO receiver in the 2016 class
- He was a four star recruit when he came out of high school in 2014
- He’s playing in one of the most high-flying offenses in the FBS and is positioned to fill the need that has been missing at Texas Tech for almost a decade: a tall, physically dominant outside receiver
- I’m not even going to link you to “The Box” because I’m confident you’ve already seen it
You don’t want to look back in late September and kick yourself. Step back, recalibrate the scope of your lens and take in the big picture: starring the next dominant receiver at Texas Tech.
TE – Jeremy Sprinkle
Ownership: 0 of 3 teams (unfortunately)
Reasoning: That zero is my biggest loss with respect to my 2016 draft season. Really, I just got cocky thinking that no one else would be as high on Sprinkle as I am, and that I could get him at whatever point I determined I wanted to. He only went a few picks in front of me each time, but I can’t really blame anyone but myself – it’s not like we’re talking about the guy going in the first three rounds of a redraft league here. Fantrax actually did a great job of projecting him highly despite relatively limited last year. However, even though he’s commonly listed in the top 10-20 tight ends, I’d be surprised if he’s not in store for a top 3 finish at the position in 2016. Arkansas Tight End has been a revolving door of fantasy value since Brett Bielema got to town, usually offering two serviceable options. There doesn’t look to be a great second option on Arkansas’s roster this year, and we saw what Sprinkle could do in Hunter Henry’s absence in 2015, putting up big games to close out the year against Kansas State and Mississippi State. Don’t make the same mistake I did: when you start thinking it might be close to time to pull the trigger on a tight end, reach a round early if you have to in order to get Sprinkle.