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CFF Discussion - VP's musings on the USC WR room
Lincoln Riley... know's how to party (duh duh duh duh)
Now let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west
- Dr. Dre, musician
When Lincoln Riley isn’t sliding into player’s DMs on instagram, or tampering with Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s best players, he’s either poolside at his paid-for-by-USC mansion, or torching his own air-defence in practice.
CFF managers have become accustomed to following coach Riley and drafting his players over the years. Back-to-back Heisman trophy winners will do that. Everyone already knows that Caleb Williams is a definite buy in CFF, but with USC’s 2022 WR1 Jordan Addison moving on to the NFL, the question is: who’s next at WR?
There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen in this room, which itself is not optimal for CFF, but it does mean there are plenty of options to break through.
But is Riley really a WR whisperer too, or is his value confined to elite CFF QB play? Let’s take a look.
Lincoln Riley’s track record at WR isn’t as great as you think (recently)
Riley’s offences have an excellent reputation among college football circles. The justification is quite clear, between the years 2012 and 2019, Riley had a 1000-yard WR every. single. season. That’s incredible.
Unfortunately, the story’s been a bit different lately. From 2020 to 2022, only one of those three seasons has had a lead WR that went over 1K yards (Jordan Addison in 2022). In 2021, Riley’s WR1—Marvin Mims, only caught 32 passes for 705 yards and 5 TDs (and that was with future 1st overall pick Caleb Williams throwing him passes most of the year). Similar story in 2020, Mims caught 37 passes for 610 yards and 9 TDs, with another potential first round pick at QB in Spencer Rattler (that’s right, I said it).
So while the 2010s were pretty wicked in terms of production, lately he’s had more of a tendency to spread the volume around. With this current iteration of the USC Trojans, it would make a lot of sense if he continued that trend, simply due to the multitude of options at his disposal.
Looking at the names in the room, there is the Colorado transfer and son of some former NFL player named Jerry Rice—Brenden Rice, who is a big-body boundary player that should get some run this season.
Then there is the central Florida standout and former OU Sooner—Mario Williams. Williams is a small speedster who could operate from the slot or on the outside. His move to southern California wasn’t much of a surprise after Riley’s departure, as he was quite vocal during his high school recruitment that he wanted to play with Caleb Williams the ‘#1 QB in the nation’.
He also embarrassed well-known YouTuber Deestroying while wearing a gnarly pair of Oakley’s back in 2020:
Arizona’s lead receiver last season—Dorian Singer, is following the Jordan Addison playbook this offseason, and I’m sure he is hoping to see a similar target share as the former Pitt Panther did in his first year with the program.
True freshman Zachariah Branch has looked every bit the part of a superstar five-star prospect. The former Bishop Gorman standout is likely going to challenge immediately for snaps in this offence.
Veteran WR Taj Washington is often forgotten about in this room, but he’s been productive throughout his career with USC and Memphis, including a strong stretch at the end of 2022.
That’s a lot of passengers on board the Riley express train.
Accordingly, the question on our minds is: will one emerge and lay claim to an obesely uneven share of the targets, or will this program resemble more that of Riley’s early 2020 OU squads? Well, the answer to that question probably depends on whether there is a talent in this room who is head-and-shoulders above the rest…
WR Dorian Singer — 6’0, 180
If there is a name that immediately stands out in the room, it is Dorian Singer. The rising junior out of Minnesota began his career at Arizona in 2021, and was immediately productive. He averaged 10 FPG (1-ppr) via 18 receptions for 301 yards in 5 games. 2022 is when Singer really turned up, though, as he averaged 17.5 FPG via 66 receptions for 1105 yards and 6 TDs in 12 games.
Apparently, he’s following the Jordan Addison playbook, hoping that Caleb Williams can throw him into the first round, with a potential Biletnikoff trophy just for kicks along the way (alright settle down OSU fans…).
That being said, I can’t say Singer’s CFF profile stands above the rest. Not because he isn’t great, but because there are a lot of great players in this room. I can’t even argue that he’s the most talented—that distinction goes to true freshman, Zachariah Branch.
He is the most productive of the returning WRs, though, and that counts for something. I’m taking him first if I’m drafting from this room, but I honestly think that this is going to be a case where there’s a new WR1 every week (think like Ole Miss in 2021, but maybe even worse).
WR Mario Williams — 5’9, 180
Williams was a highly rated recruit coming out of the Tampa Bay area in high school. He was vocal about playing with a top QB, and ultimately attached himself to Caleb Williams. Thus, it was no surprise that when Williams transferred to SoCal, that the other Williams would follow suit.
In his freshman campaign in 2021, Williams secured 35 passes for 380 yards and 4 TDs with the Sooners (8.2 FPG). His 2022 campaign with the Trojans was better, he finished the season with 40 receptions (65 targets) for 631 yards and 5 TD (11.2 FPG).
I’d categorize Williams as the WR2 from the 2022 season behind Addison. He was sitting pretty for a hot minute to see a nice facelift in volume prior to Singer’s transfer. I don’t see Williams taking a commanding lead as the alpha in this room, but in a best-ball format he presents value, there are going to be weeks where he pops off in this explosive offence.
WR Brenden Rice — 6’3, 210
I’ve already mentioned the royal bloodline that Rice descends from (royal in a football sense, that is). Turns out he’s not just another NFL legend’s son—this kid is a player. Originally from Arizona, Rice began his career with the Colorado Buffaloes in 2020. He finished his freshman campaign with 6 receptions for 120 yards and 2 TDs in 6 games (6 FPG).
His next season wasn’t exactly a huge step up statistically, as he reeled in 21 passes for 299 yards and 3 TDs (6.8 FPG).
The 2022 season with the Trojans was by far his best statistical output—Rice caught 39 passes (64 targets) for 611 yards and 4 TDs.
The numbers are slightly skewed by his final game of the season vs. Tulane, in which he caught 6 passes (9 targets) for 174 yards and 2 scores (35 FPs). In the rest of the season, Rice only went over 10 FPs three times (vs. Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State). Dare I say he was only potent against poor competition? Certainly those are probably among the three worst programs in the PAC-12, at least defensively speaking, and his best game of the year was against a Group-of-Five (G5) opponent.
Blah, I don’t know if I’m going to be invested in Rice at all this season. This room is so competitive that it’s hard to imagine Rice — of all the names within this room — will separate himself enough to be the go-to guy. Nonetheless, let’s just say my above hypotheses is true regarding Rice and his stat-padding vs. JV teams, USC does still get to play Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State this season. They also have SJSU and Nevada as two out-of-conference (OOC) opponents. He should be able to do some damage in those games, and there will likely be random weeks where he pops off too.
WR Tahj Washington — 5’10, 175
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Tahj Washington, a rising fifth year super-senior, started his career at Memphis (side note: it’s crazy to think that USC’s starting QB and WRs 1-4 are all transfers…).
Washington had a very productive sophomore season with the Tigers in 2020, catching 43 passes for 743 yards and 6 TDs in 11 games (14.6 FPG). That offseason he cashed in on his big year with a move to a pre-Lincoln Riley/Caleb Williams USC, that’s hard.
He’s the only hold over from the pre-Riley era left in the WR room, and many speculated that he’d be long gone by now.
But not so, as it turns out. Washington stayed and competed, and he had himself a pretty solid campaign in 2022, catching 50 passes (72 targets) for 785 yards and 6 TDs (11.8 FPG).
Washington’s clearly a good player, and his presence still being here tells me that I am probably right in expecting a committee-style approach to the passing volume. I still like him in a best-ball format for the reasons already stated with the above WRs.
WR Zachariah Branch — 5’10, 175
I don’t know what Branch’s role will be this season, but I feel pretty confident that he’s going to be one of the best WRs in CFB in the very near future. Whether he breaks out this season, or next, or as a junior, I think it’s more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
He’s not a buy for me as a freshman (I’ve given my thoughts on drafting true freshman before…), but he’s a guy that is a definite buy if you’re in a C2C, Devy, or dynasty league format (you probably already know that…).
Besides him being a freshman, I don’t see how he could monopolize enough of the target share in year one to justify spending CFF draft capital on him. He’s a pass for me in 2023.
Unless Singer falls very late, I am probably not going to acquire any of USC’s WRs in CFF drafts this summer. There are enough other WR options that appeal to me, that taking a chance on a USC WR isn’t really worth it, in my opinion.
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