The Watch List: 2018 Bowl Game Previews, Part II

Updated: December 15th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout bowl season as The Watch List will preview every game and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Gasparilla Bowl, South Florida (7-5) vs Marshall (8-4), Thur 12/20 at 8:00pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall
    • I first reviewed Tyre Brady’s film in the offseason and came away very impressed. I admit that it may be primacy bias since Brady was the first wideout I studied this draft year. He’s definitely somebody I plan to revisit. I posited that Brady looked like he could develop into a starting X receiver in the NFL. I liked his acrobatic nature, his strong hands and his toe-tapping body control. His speed and fluid change of direction ability will be important traits as he matures as a route runner. Brady’s numbers dipped a bit in 2018 (60-819-9) but I’m still optimistic. In his last two games of the C-USA regular season (before the Va Tech makeup) he went for a combined 11-207-3. I previously suggested a Day Two grade for Brady but after a somewhat disappointing stat line, I’ll bump him down to the 4th round.
  • My Pick: USF, +2.5
    • Both teams are a horrendous 4-8 ATS this season, including 20+ point losses for both in their last contest. USF has been disappointing this season but they might get a bit of an edge playing in-state. Take the points but you won’t feel great about it.

Bahamas Bowl, FIU (8-4) vs Toledo (7-5), Fri 12/21 at 12:30pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Cody Thompson, WR, Toledo
    • Thompson is a fifth year senior who was granted an extra year of eligibility after breaking his leg early in 2017. From 2015-2017, Thompson averaged a whopping 20.3 yards per catch. However, that fell to just 13.8 in 2018. The biggest difference for Thompson? He was originally catching balls from the prolific Logan Woodside so it’s hard to say if it’s quarterback play or a slow return post-injury. Pre-injury, Thompson was not fast but he showed skills after the catch, particularly with a killer spin move. He’s inconsistent with his hands, often body catching the ball. One unexpected bright spot was his blocking; he lacks top end strength but shows a willingness and above average technique for the position. He’s likely a late rounder but will latch on to a team as a special teamer.
  • My Pick: FIU, +6
    • FIU has been an underdog three times this season (Indiana, Miami, Marshall) and won ATS each time. For the season they are 9-3 and are 5-0 away from home. Toledo has struggled at QB this season, switching between Mitch Guadagni and Eli Peters (for both health and production reasons). Meanwhile, graduate transfer QB James Morgan has been playing very well for the Golden Panthers and lead the conference in most passing stats. If you’re telling me I am getting the better quarterback and the points, slam dunk.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Western Michigan (7-5) vs BYU (6-6), Fri 12/21 at 4:00pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Corbin Kaufusi, DE, BYU
    • When I came across Kaufusi this past offseason, I felt like I found a diamond in the rough. Here’s a largely unknown guy who measures in at an immense 6090-275 and makes plays in the backfield (18.5 tackles for loss and 16.0 tackles in his career). Not only is he an interesting prospect but he comes from an interesting family. His dad was the longtime defensive line coach at BYU; his older brother Brandon was a 3rd round pick by the Ravens in 2016 (he’s now with the Jets); his younger brother Devin and cousin Isaiah are also on the football team; and his mom is the mayor of Provo! I watched some of Kaufusi against Boise State from 2017 and he honestly did not jump off the screen with burst or explosiveness. He’ll win the workout though.
  • My Pick: Western Michigan, +12
    • I really struggled with this pick. I went into the preview thinking that BYU was going to be a no-brainer pick but the more I looked at the team stats I started to sway towards the Broncos. Western Michigan leads BYU in each offensive team stat, including significant advantages in time of possession and yards per play.  BYU has the better defense so maybe they keep it low scoring.  Twelve is a big number so if I had to bet it, I’ll take the points.

Birmingham Bowl, Wake Forest (6-6) vs Memphis (8-5), Sat 12/22 at 12:00pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
    • I’ve been waxing poetic about Henderson for awhile now so there’s no reason to stop now.  Henderson is a bit undersized at 5090/200 but his playing style belies his size.  He runs downhill with a momentum you can feel through the screen.  When necessary, he can use his shorter stature to his advantage to get through tight holes.  He contributes well in the passing game, averaging 21 receptions per season.  His per-rush numbers are off the charts: per Sports-Reference.com, Henderson leads the NCAA in yards per attempt (8.2) for rushers since 1956.  Henderson will be an interesting study in the offseason because I like his tape and his stats but the rest of the industry does not seem to be buying in yet.
  • My Pick: Memphis, -5
    • I’ve been watching Memphis closely the last two years because they’ve featured two of my favorite prospects (Henderson and Anthony Miller).  So, I may be partial but some of the betting stats are on my side too.  Memphis is 8-5 ATS this season while Wake is just 4-8.  The Tigers have won their last five ATS as a favorite.  Expect a high scoring game because the defenses rank 93rd and 101st.

Armed Forces Bowl, Army (9-2) vs Houston (8-4), Sat 12/22 at 3:30pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Austin Robinson, LB, Houston
    • Buzz, your girlfriend, woof.  No offense to Mr. Robinson but I would much rather be writing about either Ed Oliver or D’Eriq King in this space.  Both are dynamic playmakers for the Cougs, however neither will be playing in this one.  Oliver is sitting out for self-preservation purposes (he’s likely to be a top 2019 pick) and King suffered a knee injury in November.  (Admittedly, King is not a realistic draft prospect for 2019 but still, he’s so explosive he’d warrant a write-up).  Without any draft hopefuls on the Army squad, Robinson will need to carry the mantle.  He’s a quarterback turned linebacker and exploded in 2018 for 115 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.  Robinson had a mind-boggling stat line against the other triple-option service academy on Houston’s schedule: 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.  I think it’s safe to say that Robinson is going to standout in this one.
  • My Pick: Houston, +3
    • As I mentioned above, Army deploys a triple-option offense which is usually tough to gameplan against.  However, Houston should be prepared because they play Navy every year who features a similar run-heavy offense.  Houston won the last two against Navy by double digits.  The line started out at Houston -1.5 but has moved towards Army.  This feels like a steal to be getting points.  Army is better than Navy and Houston will be missing key pieces but still, I will take them straight up.

Dollar General Bowl, Buffalo (9-3) vs Troy (9-3), Sat 12/22 at 7:00pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo
    • Prior to the MAC Championship, I suggested that Johnson could play his way into a mid-round grade if he played strongly in his last two contests. Game one for Johnson went well. Against NIU, he finished with a 7-124-2 line. The Bulls ended up losing after a furious Huskies comeback but Johnson wasn’t to blame. Johnson is an outside receiver with starter potential; he’s 6020 so a bit shorter than other elite X prospects but he is strong in the air. I’m not as high on him as I was heading into 2019 but he’s still likely to factor into your rookie drafts next season.
  • My Pick: Buffalo, -2.5
    • I haven’t seen any of Troy’s games this year so it’s hard to pick them with less than a field goal advantage. Buffalo has a few NFL hopefuls (including QB Tyree Jackson and LB Khalil Hodge) so I would expect them to field the better team. Buffalo was a three point favorite over Northern Illinois and blew it so that does give me pause. I’d pass on this one if I could.

Hawaii Bowl, Louisiana Tech (7-5) vs Hawaii (8-5), Sat 12/22 at 10:30pm on ESPN:

  • Draft Eligible Player to Watch: Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Lousiana Tech
    • I recently read a profile of Ferguson on The Athletic and was happy to come across his name again when researching this bowl. His 2018 stands out (60 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 15.0 sacks) but he has produced consistently all four years at La Tech. His 42.5 career sack number is one of the highest I have seen in recent memory. In fact, according to Sports-Reference.com, Ferguson leads the FBS in career sacks since they started tracking since 2005. Since I was not familiar with Ferguson’s tape, I consulted TheDraftNetwork.com for some insight. According to their scouting reports, we should expect Ferguson to find a home as a run-stopping end in the NFL. He may not be the most athletic prospect in the class but it’s impossible to ignore his production over a four-year career.
  • My Pick: Hawaii, -1
    • This should be an overlooked game that turns out to be a fun watch (plus, your SO will probably already be asleep by the time it gets going so you can watch it in peace). Hawaii features the 9th best passing offense in the FBS while Tech only allows 193.6 passing yards per game (29th best). I agree with Vegas that this will be a close one. I’ll lean towards Hawaii who is a rare bowl team playing a home game. (Bettors beware: Hawaii is 2-4-1 ATS at home this season so be cautious and don’t bet big)

 

Lines and betting stats courtesy of OddsShark.com, as of 12/5.

Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com, mcubed.net
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: oddsshark.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

2019 RSO Rookie Mock Draft v1.0

Updated: September 19th 2018

I wrote the first draft of last year’s rookie mock draft on August 23, 2017 and by the time June 2018 rolled around, five of my first ten picks were still first rounders (according to ADP data compiled by DLF).  I’m happy with that but overall my mock draft was a mixed bag.  There were some good calls: like Royce Freeman at 1.07 and Sam Darnold as the first QB off the board.  There were some duds too: Bo Scarborough at 1.06 and third round flyers on Corey Willis and Jordan Chunn.  The exercise of mock drafting this early is helpful because it forces me to start ranking by position.  It also requires me to evaluate each position group to see how their strength compares to each other.

Remember, it’s early. Very early. Players will overperform, underperform, go on hot streaks, go through slumps, get hurt, get suspended, get arrested or maybe not even declare early. What I’m trying to say is use this as a tool to start your rookie research but don’t bank on it come May. When creating this mock draft, I used two base assumptions: 1) a standard 1 QB roster setup and 2) any redshirt sophomore or junior good enough to be considered will declare early.  If you’re playing superflex, I typically suggest to move quarterbacks up a half round or so.  For more information on these players, check out my The Watch List series which feature deeper dives on stats and film study.  Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @robertfcowper.

1.01 – N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Harry broke out as a true freshman and has been on the devy radar since then.  He’s big at 6040/213 and uses his size to win in contested situations.  I questioned his run after catch ability when I studied him this preseason and he promptly proved me wrong.  He put up 82-1,142-8 last season and if he repeats that line in 2018 he’ll be the first receiver off the board next spring.

1.02 – Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State

I’m higher on Harmon than other rankers who have him behind Edwards and Brown.  I think he’s shorter than his 6030 listed height but it does not stop him from winning in the air.  He’s an excellent route runner who I compared to Stefon Diggs.  His stats won’t jump off the screen but his film does.

1.03 – Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina

Edwards has a flair for circus catches that showcase his ball tracking, concentration and body control.  Like Harmon, his stats will look underwhelming (64-793-5 last season) but you need to watch him play in order to appreciate his ability.  There was limited film available in the preseason but from what I saw I was very impressed.

1.04 – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Like last year, Brown is off to a strong start against weaker competition (15-251-3 in two games).  He’s a bear to tackle after the catch who possesses enough power and skill moves to keep defenders guessing.  He lines up predominantly out of the slot so I’d love to see him lined up elsewhere to get a feel for how he does against the press and along the sideline.  Brown will need to show scouts that he’s versatile and can put up big games more consistently against stronger opponents.

1.05 – David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

To start the season, I was between Montgomery and Anderson for my RB1 spot.  After Anderson’s injury it’s a much easier decision.  Montgomery has the ability to make spectacular plays by virtue of his tackle breaking skills.  He’s also a good receiver who had 36 receptions and 296 yards last year.  The knock against Montgomery is that too many of his carries go for a loss or short gain.  Whether that’s due to poor vision or poor line play will require more film study.  I foresee Montgomery going earlier in fantasy draft based on team need but in a vacuum, I’ll start with the receivers.

1.06 – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Whereas I question Brown’s ability to be an outside receiver in the pros, I have less doubt that Metcalf can.  He’s huge at 6040/225.  He’s a former high school track star who reportedly ran a 4.46 last year.  If that’s true come combine, Metcalf will be a first rounder.  As his body of work grows, his draft stock will as well.

1.07 – Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

This was a really tough choice for me.  Anderson was in contention for my RB1 spot before his season-ending knee injury.  This will be the second season that Anderson loses to injury and he also has some off-field questions.  It’s very likely that his NFL Draft prospects will reflect those question marks but if he is healthy in camp he has the ability to win the job.  If I’m forecasting now, I’ll predict that his talent wins out.

1.08 – Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Love finished 2nd in Heisman voting last year after a spectacular 2,118-19 season.  He battled injuries throughout 2017 and is banged up again in 2018 (he’s going to miss Week 3 against UC Davis with a knee).  The injuries and his lack of pass catching are two big knocks against Love.  He’s reportedly put on some weight which is vital because he’s going to need to find a niche in the NFL, that may have to be as a two-down back if he can’t cut it as a receiver.  I think Love will need to be part of a committee so his fantasy value will rely largely on which committee that turns out to be.

1.09 – Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

Devin “Motor” Singletary is an electrifying runner who rushed for 1,912 yards and 32 TDs last season.  Yes, you read that correct: thirty two.  He feasted on lesser opponents, collecting seven games with 3+ touchdowns.  In five games against Power 5 opponents, Singletary has just 188 yards and 2 TDs.  That’s a bit of a red flag for me because you really want your Group of 5 back to prove it against the stronger opposition (a la Rashaad Penny and Kareem Hunt, both of which had multiple 100+ games against Power 5 teams).  Unfortunately, we won’t see Singletary against a Power 5 team again this season so his draft stock will include a bit of projection.

1.10 – Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

I fell in love with Brady when I watched him this preseason while writing my C-USA preview.  In that preview I praised Brady, specifically saying that I thought he had the potential to be a starting X receiver in the NFL.  He has 4.40 speed, strong hands, toe-tapping body control and solid route running skills.  He’s a former Miami transfer so you know he had high expectations out of high school.  Brady is off to a strong start through two games (15-182-3) and I predict he will be a riser on draft boards so I’m calling my shot.

2.01 – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

I constantly espouse the “QB at 2.01” strategy for RSO owners.  Locking in a young passer with starting potential for four years and less than $2 million is fantastic value.  The 2019 quarterback class currently looks weaker than the 2018 class but that doesn’t change my strategy.  Herbert is my QB1 right now because he has the size and athleticism that will excite pro scouts.  His arm strength is average it seems but he’s accurate enough to compensate.  He can be careless with the ball but hopefully that improves with experience.

2.02 – Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo

I originally had Johnson below Samuel but as I looked at my list I just couldn’t justify it. Johnson is a dominant receiver who joined Buffalo in 2017 as a JUCO transfer. He immediately set the MAC ablaze, leading the league in receiving yards and TDs. He plays larger than his 6020/210 size suggests and will be another riser at WR this year.

2.03 – Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

Samuel is undeniably talented but he’s been plagued by injuries throughout his career. In his first three seasons, he played in just 18 games. He recorded 87 receptions, 969 yards and 5 TDs in those contests. He’ll need to get through all of 2018 in one piece in order to figure as a fantasy asset next year.

2.04 – Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Gaskin is about as consistent as it comes. He rushed for 1,300+ yards and double digit touchdowns each of his three seasons. Gaskins also had 19 receptions in both 2016 and 2017. It may take time for his NFL fans to warm to him but he will find a valuable role in the NFL and has the tools to be an every down back.

2.05 – Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky

Snell has grown on me the more I have watched and studied him. He has great size at 5110/223 and runs with the power you’d expect. I have limited exposure to Snell but from what I have seen he appears to have patience and vision at the line and enough speed for the next level.  It’s a toss-up for me with him and the two backs below because he’s youngest of the trio.

2.06 – Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

I had Harris pegged for the 2018 draft but he decided to return for his senior season. Ultimately, I think that will decrease his draft value rather than increase it. The Tide have so many name-brand backs on their roster that it’s hard for any of them to get a large enough share (for example, through three games he has 24 carries this season). He’s a former top recruit who has two 1,000+ yards rushing in the toughest division in college football. I don’t doubt his pedigree or his ability but, like with Gaskin, he’s not a sexy prospect right now.

2.07 – Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State

I put Hill at the back of this run on RBs because I feel his NFL role may be the most limited. He’s a great receiver (31 receptions last year; strangely just 2 so far in 2018) and a bit light at 190. I’d like to see him add a few pounds and put out plenty of up-the-middle tape to feel better about his chances to be a three down back.

2.08 – JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

I just recently covered J-JAW so check out my more in depth study for details. He’s a big-bodied receiver who literally boxes out DBs. If draft stock was something you could literally invest in, I would be buying Arcega-Whiteside.

2.09 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Fant is my first TE off the board. I have him significantly lower than I did the tight ends of the last two classes because I feel there is more unknown with this group. Both he and Albert Okwuegbunam are no guarantee to come out and the typical thinking goes that TEs need time to develop (I’d love to see the breakdown of tight ends who declare early versus those who stay). He had 30 receptions, 494 yards and 11 TDs in 2017 as a sophomore. He already has 12-140-2 in 2018 so he’s on pace to beat last year’s marks.

2.10 – Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

Sanders is a former 5-star recruit who sat behind the legendary Saquon Barkley for two seasons. He’s off to a good start so far now that he’s the man (295 yards, 6.0 yards per carry). Since we have such a small sample size, his value is bound to fluctuate.

3.01 – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

If Jones didn’t get hurt in Week 2 he might have showed up higher on this list. The 2019 quarterback class doesn’t stack up to the 2018 class which left the door open for an outsider like Jones to contend for a first round NFL Draft selection. Jones is a dual-threat passer who throws well on the run and isn’t afraid of contact. He needs to improve his touch and accuracy but his physical tools are there. I hope that Jones can return this year and prove he deserves a look.  Similarly to the 2.01 spot, I like to go QB at 3.01 to maximize value.

3.02 – David Sills, WR, West Virginia

Sills was a favorite of mine all of last season while he was leading the FBS in receiving touchdowns (18). He has good size at 6040/210 and excels in the red zone (12 of his 18 TDs came inside the twenty). Sills is a former quarterback who was recruited in middle school by Lane Kiffin. So, not only does he have the talent but he has an interesting back story.

3.03 – Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

Mattison looks like an NFL running back to me when I see him in highlights. Thankfully, the stats back it up. In 2017 he totaled 1,086 yards and 12 TDs rushing and added 28 receptions, 284 yards and a score. I’m sure that the film study will as well. If he continues to put up big numbers in 2018, he’ll jump some of the Power 5 backs listed above.

3.04 – Collin Johnson, WR, Texas

I kept moving Johnson down my rankings because the best argument I could make for him is his size (6060/220). I still don’t feel great about him at 3.04 but I guess as the cliche goes, you can’t teach size.  He has played for an anemic Longhorn offense so his numbers aren’t great. His 54-765 line from last year is encouraging until you see that he scored just 2 TDs. Somebody with size like that should be able to score in close (see: Sills, David). I don’t watch Texas close enough to know how much of that is on Johnson and how much is on the offense as a whole so he’ll require some further study.

3.05 – Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

I have compared Stidham to Alex Smith on multiple occasions. While that may be damning with faint praise, I think it’s a compliment. Smith has carved out a nice NFL career as an athletic game-manager. Stidham’s numbers are down so far this year though so let’s revisit him after he hits the meat of his SEC West schedule.

3.06 – Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville

Smith is a deep threat who took full advantage of Lamar Jackson’s arm in 2016 and 2017. He averaged over 18 yards per catch on 87 receptions in those seasons. This season though has been different. The Cardinals offense has struggled and the new quarterback, the aptly named Jawon Pass, has already been benched. Smith went “oh-fer” in the games against Alabama and Kentucky, not good. I have him ranked here because we have seen his big play ability in action but I have a feeling by season’s end he’ll be lower on my list.

3.07 – Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

Butler is big (6060/225) and apparently very difficult to tackle, as we learned against Oklahoma. Butler vaulted himself into my third round with that performance. Now that Allen Lazard has moved on, I expect Butler to rack up the touchdowns this year as Iowa State gets deeper into their Big 12 schedule.

3.08 – Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State

I’m a bit partial to Moore because he agreed to do a Q&A with me this offseason. Besides that though, I think he has an NFL future because of his skills as a pass blocker.  According to Pro Football Focus, he was the top rated back in pass blocking efficiency last season. He has two back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons with 10+ touchdowns in each. I’d like to see him eclipse last year’s 12 receptions to fully prove his worth on third down.

3.09 – Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State

I’m not sure what to make of Weber as an NFL prospect. I’m sure he’ll be drafted and hang around because of his all-round talent but if Ohio State doesn’t trust him to be their feature back, will an NFL team?

3.10 – Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

His name is Big Al and he hits dingers. Okwuegbunam is a redshirt sophomore so who knows if he declares early or returns to school for another year (or two) of seasoning. He has started strong with 14-100-2 this season after 29-415-11 last season. At 6050/260 he has enough size to be a red zone threat and an inline blocker. Whether or not he can prove his meddle as a blocker in the SEC will be important to monitor.

Honorable Mentions

  • 4.01 – Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
  • 4.02 – Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami
  • 4.03 – Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
  • 4.04 – Felton Davis, WR, Michigan State
  • 4.05 – TJ Vasher, WR, Texas Tech
  • 4.06 – Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
  • 4.07 – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
  • 4.08 – LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State
  • 4.09 – Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
  • 4.10 – Zack Moss, RB, Utah

Note: I wrote this article between September 14-18 so any big games or injuries after that point are not taken into account.


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com, mcubed.net
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List: 2018 C-USA Preview

Updated: June 6th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Favorite: Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic.  We’ll cover Singletary more below but let’s just say that anybody with 2,000 yard and 30 TD potential has a shot at getting votes for the Heisman.
  • Darkhorse Heisman Candidate:  Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State.  Stockstill put up big numbers in 2015 and 2016 and a return to that 4,000 yard form could put him on the radar for more casual fans.  Stockstill will have three marquee games to showcase his ability, and maybe pull out an upset, when the Blue Raiders visit Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky.
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Mason Fine, QB, North Texas.  It would be easy to pick Singletary here but Fine likely means more to his team than Singletary does.  Fine is undersized (5110/180) but is a high volume passer.  He finished second in the conference in most passing categories in 2017 and should find himself atop the leaderboards in 2018 with Mike White, Jason Driskel and Chase Litton gone.  In 2017 he finished with 4,052 yards, 31 TDs and 15 INTs.
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Jalen Young, S, Florida Atlantic.  Young is currently rated as DraftScout.com’s sixth best safety in the 2019 class.  He is a three year starter heading into his senior season.  He’s averaged 81 tackles and 4 INTs over those campaigns.  I watched a package of his high school highlights since more recent ones were tough to find and I noted that he had a good combination of ball hawking skill and a desire to get involved in run support.  He could be a sneaky NFL Draft prospect if he continues to improve in 2018 because teams will value his versatility.
  • Newcomer of the Year:  Maureese Wren, WR, Louisiana Tech.  Per ESPN’s scouting service, Wren is the highest rated incoming transfer to the C-USA.  Wren is listed at 6030 and 216lbs which is a big enough frame to factor in right away.  According to 247Sports.com, Wren received offers from 24 FBS schools including some blue bloods like Texas, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Arkansas.  Wren could help jump start the Bulldogs after a disappointing 2017 season.
  • Underclassman to Watch:  Spencer Brown, RB, UAB.  Brown was a big part of UAB’s unexpected success in 2017.  As a true freshman he put up 1,329 yards and 10 TDs.  He has tremendous size at 6000/235.  As you’d guess, he is thick and can easily power through contact.  I’d like to see an increase in receiving production this season.  We have some time yet to see if he was a one year wonder or a star in the making.
  • Best QB-WR Tandem:  Mason Fine and Jalen Guyton, North Texas.  I mentioned Fine above and since he’s one of the few returning quarterbacks in the conference he basically guarantees North Texas this spot.  I expect Fine’s top target this season to be former Notre Dame transfer Jalen Guyton.  Guyton has good size at 6010/194 and produced well in his first season at Marshall (49-775-9).  If Guyton doesn’t step up, Fine will look to juniors Michael Lawerence or Rico Bussey who were also Top 10 in receiving yards in C-USA last year.
  • Best RB Corps:  Marshall.  Sure, the Owls have the best back in the conference but the Thundering Herd return two 800+ yard rushers from last season.  Tyler King gained 820 yards and 7 TDs last season as a freshman; Keion Davis totaled 812 yards and 6 scores.  Both were involved in the passing game too, combining for 31 receptions and 231 yards.  New grad transfer QB Alex Thomson can also contribute on the ground: he had 402 rushing yards and 5 TDs in his career at Wagner.
  • Coach on the Hottest Seat:  Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State.  I stumbled on a great site when doing my “hot seat” research: CoachingTreeHotSeat.com.  The site tracks coaching bios, hirings and firings from year to year and grades coaches against their team’s expected win totals.  The site rated the Blue Raiders season a C in 2017, B- in 2016 and C+ in 2015.  If the last name sounds familiar it’s because Rick’s son Brent is the starting quarterback.  If MTSU falters at all this season, I’ll bet the administration sees it as an opportunity to move on from the father as the son is graduating.

Teams to Watch

Florida Atlantic (11-3 in 2017)

FAU has the best shot, in my opinion, of earning a New Year’s Six bowl among the Group of 5 teams.  They have a Power 5 coach in Lane Kiffin, a Heisman hopeful in RB Devin Singletary and the conference’s best defense.  What they don’t have is a quarterback.  Last year’s signal caller, Jason Driskel, retired from football.  Kiffin has two potential starters to choose from, both of whom originally enrolled at Power 5 schools: De’Andre Johnson (Florida State) and Chris Robison (Oklahoma).  Whether or not the Owls are contending for the Boca Raton Bowl or the Peach Bowl will rely heavily on what Kiffin can mold those two into.

Florida International (8-5 in 2017)

Per 247Sports, FIU signed the best recruiting class of C-USA.  They were able to secure the conference’s only two 4-star recruits, both of whom are defensive tackle JUCO transfers.  Tayland Humphrey is listed at 6050/350 and will clog the middle.  He had offers from an awesome list of schools and ultimately took visits with Kansas and Oklahoma State before choosing Florida International.  Teair Tart-Spencer meanwhile is a bit lighter at 6040/295 but his Hudl highlights will strike fear into opposing offenses.  Tart-Spencer was predicted to go to Alabama by 247Sports but ultimately signed with the Golden Panthers.  Tart-Spencer was dismissed from his JUCO team so it appears that some teams got cold feet and backed out of the running.  Butch Davis, like Kiffin, may be taking a chance on talent over character but it’s worth the gamble.  Look for FIU to compete with FAU for the division crown with it all coming down to their November 3rd matchup.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • AJ Erdely, QB, UAB:  Erdely is possibly the oldest player I’ll cover this offseason (24 when the season begins) and he has a sweet mustache to prove it. Erdely started as a true freshman at Middle Tennessee State in 2013, played sparingly in 2014, went JUCO in 2015 and sat out 2016 all before leading the 2017 reincarnation of the Blazers to a 8-5 finish. He is a dual threat who passed for 16 TDs and added 13 on the ground. I don’t think Erdely gets NFL Draft looks but he has an interesting personal journey and plays on a team that surprised us all last season so keep an eye on him.
  • Aaron Cephus, WR, Rice:  Cephus caught my eye because he had the best yards per catch average in the conference at 24.9.  Usually when you see such a huge average it’s somebody who caught six balls and one of them was a fluke hail mary.  Not for Cephus who had 25 grabs on route to that huge average.  In fact, Cephus lead the NCAA in yards per catch average.  Plus he was a (redshirt) freshman playing on a horrible Rice team.  The cherry on top is that he comes in at 6040/200.  Cephus will technically be NFL Draft eligible after this season as a redshirt sophomore but I imagine it would take a record-breaking season for him to come out.  Still though, he’s on my watch list.
  • Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Lousiana Tech:  Ferguson has accumulated some impressive stats over his three year career.  He has 122 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks.  He’s listed at 6050/269 and DraftScout.com has him projected at 4.84 speed.  He’ll need to show scouts he’s faster than that in order to get true buzz.  If he does trend closer to 4.70 speed we’re looking at somebody with physical comps to Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb.
  • Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, Florida Atlantic:  Al-Shaair has started since he was a freshman and has a chance to hit 500 career tackles in 2018.  Last season was his best yet with 146 total tackles.  Unsurprisingly, that was good for best in the conference; it was also good enough for third in the FBS.  Al-Shaair decided to stay in school after his standout junior season and put off a potential payday that could have helped him care for two of his younger siblings who live with him.  After my limited research he seems like a good leader and an overall good dude that we can all root for even if he doesn’t have a huge draft stock.

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

As I have alluded to in multiple places in this preview, Devin Singletary is the conference’s best.  He put up incredible stats in 2017: 301 carries, 1,918 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 32 rushing TDs, 19 receptions, 198 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD.  He led the FBS in carries and rushing touchdowns and led the conference in just about every other stat.  What surprised me the most when I looked back at his stats this offseason were the number of carries.  Backs who are listed at 5090 don’t typically hold up over a 300 carry season but Singletary did.  Singletary is stout enough, he weighs in at 200lb, that he’s able to hold up better than thinner backs but he needs to add a few more pounds for the NFL.

When I watched Singletary, I repeatedly noted two things: his cutting ability and his pass protection.  Singletary’s ability to change direction without losing much speed is an elite trait.  He shows a variety of cuts, including a jump cut and a back cut that is particularly useful for getting him out of trouble.  He has good speed, in the 4.50 range, but is not elite in that department.  He’s plenty fast for the position but he’s not a track star type back.  He lacks the strength to move the pile at the line of scrimmage but in one-on-one situations he has enough strength to break tackles.  In pass protection, I see an ability to identify his assignment and get there on time to protect his quarterback.  On one specific play he slide along the line, keeping his shoulders parallel and had good hand placement when contacting the defender.  On a number of other plays he successfully chipped or cut blocked the defender.  I didn’t see much of him in terms of his pass catching ability, he caught a number of relatively easy screens, but I would say that it’s average at worst.  He did show me nuance as a route runner though which is encouraging.  I also noted that he has enough awareness to carry out fakes on play action passes and zone read fakes.  Singletary does not give up on the play and rarely goes out of bounds by choice.

I was very encouraged by my film study of Singletary and I’m eager to see how he does in 2018.  I would not at all be surprised to see him rise up our fantasy draft boards and command a late first round pick this time next year.  (Film watched: Western Kentucky 2017, Middle Tennessee State 2017)

Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

Tyre Brady was the first wide receiver I deeply studied this offseason and that might have been a problem because I am smitten.  I was honestly quite impressed with the two games of film I watched.  Brady looks like he has the potential to be a starting X receiver in the NFL.  He has good size at 6030/208 and showcases an ability to make acrobatic catches near the sideline with his strong hands and toe-tapping body control.  I was encouraged by his release which was usually positive, although I would like to see him get more physical when coming out of his breaks.  He can be physical at the top of his route stem so I know he can do it.  Brady has good to elite speed, I’m thinking in the 4.40 range.  He pairs that speed with the skill to stop on a dime and fluidly change direction.  His run after catch prowess relies mostly on his breakaway speed but he can spin out of tackles to pick up extra yardage.  The only negative I noted for Brady was his blocking but that’s not surprising for his position.  There is one possible off-field negative that I hope is behind Brady: he was suspended multiple times at Miami for undisclosed reasons before transferring.  Hopefully whatever that was is in his past and he can finish out a successful career at Marshall.  I’ll need to return to Brady after I study some more WRs to make sure it’s not a primacy bias but right now I’m thinking that Brady has Day Two NFL Draft potential and could end up on 2019 fantasy draft boards.  (Film watched: Colorado State 2017, NC State 2017)

Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State

Brent and Rick Stockstill combine to make an interesting story line at MTSU.  The father-son duo has brought as many or more wins to the Blue Raiders over the last three years as any other three year stretch in the program’s FBS history.  The only caveat to that is that son Brent has missed a number of games in that stretch due to injuries.  I watched Stockstill’s game against Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl and was not impressed.  Statistically, it was one of the worst games of his career but I think it was worth watching because it came in a bowl game and against a mediocre defense.  Stockstill’s accuracy was inconsistent; he often missed throws high and wide, two of which turned into INTs.  He loves to throw the back shoulder and also shows good touch over the middle.  In addition to having a long injury history, Stockstill is also an old prospect (he was in the 2013 recruiting class) which means he’s unlikely to factor into NFL Draft conversations even though he has 4,000 yard potential.  (Film watched: Arkansas State 2017)

 


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  Then watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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