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CFF Transfer Targets Series - Part 1 (February 2023)
Here is a list of transfer players that are worth a look in your CFF re-drafts.
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Ky Thomas (Kent State)
RB Ky Thomas (5’11, 205) will be transferring for the second time in his career. Originally a Minnesota Gopher, Thomas decided to transfer to greener pastures at the end of the 2021 season and play for Lance Leipold’s Jayhawks when Mo Ibrahim announced his return for his 6th(!) season. His first transfer destination was intriguing. CFF managers who were around in 2020 know what the Leipold system can do for RBs, however, the rising star RB Devin Neal was already on the roster. Thomas never quite found his way to the feature role he was probably hoping for, and decided to transfer at the end of the 2022 season to follow his old RB coach from Minnesota to Kent State. Thomas rushed for 824 yards and 6 TDs on 166 carries in 2021, and 162 yards and 2 TDs on 53 carries in 2022.
Virtually the entire Kent State offence bounced up out of the Golden Flash program this offseason. RB Marquez Cooper swapped allegiances to inter-conference rival Ball State, star receivers Dante Cephus and Devontez Walker moved on to Penn State and UNC respectively, and QB Colin Schlee transferred to UCLA. On top of that, head coach Sean Lewis took the OC job on Coach Prime’s staff in Boulder, Colorado. This gave way for former Minnesota RBs coach Kenni Burns to take the head coaching job. This is a coach who saw the Gopher’s offence revolve around a bell-cow running back, Mo Ibrahim, and Trey Potts when Ibrahim went down in week 1 of the 2021 season.
Seemingly the only man who stayed with the program is Matt Johnson, who joined the Kent State program in 2018 and has worked as the RBs coach since 2020. Johnson has been promoted to OC for the 2023 season. In 2022, Johnson’s RB1 Marquez Cooper, rushed for 1331 yards and 13 TDs on 285 attempts. This is an encouraging sign when you consider Kent State’s coaches gave that workload to a kid who is undersized at 5’7, 190 pounds. Thomas, who is listed at 5’11 and 205 pounds is more prototypical for a bell-cow college RB.
Given the context of the transfer, I believe Thomas left Kansas in search of a larger workload in 2023. Add in his old RB coach, and the fit to Kent State makes a lot of sense. This is a player who flashed at times for both Minnesota and Kansas, but has never gotten the feature role he desires. The coaches in place at Kent State have histories of overseeing bell-cow type workloads for their RBs, and with all of the key pieces of Kent State’s O moving on, 2023 could set up nicely for Thomas.
As with most MAC players, Thomas will be most effective during MACtion. That being said, Kent State’s out of conference schedule is favourable too, playing Fresno State, UCF, Arkansas and Central Connecticut. In my opinion he should be playable in 3 of the 4 OOC games, assuming he’s the starting RB next season.
Finally, the offensive line sees four redshirt seniors and a grad student return for 2023 (according to current depth charts… this may change as we get more info). This offensive line should be effective for the run game despite the turnover elsewhere, and teams that are working in new QBs tend to lean on their running game more. The early warning signs are there for a potential volume pig in that 2023 Kent State offence.
As previously mentioned, Kent State saw a lot of production leave the roster this year along with its head coach. This is a team that has the potential to be very bad in 2023, which means they could be trailing most of the games they play, and scoring very few touchdowns.
Thomas’ profile this year reminds me slightly of Titus Swen, RB for Wyoming last season. It was quite clear Swen was going to be featured as the RB1 at Wyoming in 2022, but there were concerns around overall team productivity. Those concerns were warranted, as Swen’s production was highly volatile, but was playable in spots. Stashing Thomas on the bench and spot playing him against weak run defences is probably going to be my expectation for him in 2023.
The other lingering concern is that the RB2 from last year’s Kent State team returns, Bryan Bradford. There is an outside risk that he eats into Thomas’ volume in a significant enough way to be concerned.
My final concern is that if he is the RB1 in the spring game, I suspect Thomas’ ADP will rise throughout the spring and into the summer in redraft leagues. Depending on the price, he may not be worth going after by the time your league drafts.
Treshaun Ward (Kansas State)
RB Treshaun Ward (5’10, 190) is transferring from FSU to Kansas State for his 5th college football season. Ward played a limited role in 2019 and 2020 for FSU, but was featured heavily in 2021 (81-515-4 rushing, 21-185-1 receiving) and 2022 (95-628-7, 6-19-0 in 10 games). Mike Norvell, head coach of FSU, has employed a RBBC approach at FSU since he joined in 2020, with the last true FSU bell-cow running back being Cam Akers, who left in 2019.
Ward is transferring into a massive production vacancy left behind by CFF All-American Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn accounted for 335 touches and 1936 yards from scrimmage in 2022, and 284 touches and 1872 yards from scrimmage in 2021. If those numbers don’t give you a chubby as a CFF manager, I don’t know what will. These numbers are even more tantalizing when you consider that Vaughn saw this type of volume as an undersized player, listed at 5’6, 176 pounds. Clearly the coaching staff at KSU have no reservations feeding the ball to a bell-cow back. The question is whether Ward will prove he is worthy of RB1 status at KSU.
With the situation at KSU there is a lot to like. The coaching staff that produced two prolific seasons for Vaughn returns, many pieces of the offensive line are set to return, and the KSU Wildcats look primed for another strong season in the BIG12.
Now let’s assess Ward. We should start by going back to one of our CFF first principles, and seek to understand why Ward is transferring. Given the system at FSU, the team success FSU is seeing recently, and the fact that Ward is from Florida, I am going to assume he left in search of more opportunity. I can’t imagine KSU were his only suitors, and so again I will make an assumption, he probably liked what he heard from KSU, they probably told him he has the opportunity to see an increased workload here. I don’t think that is too controversial of an assumption, unfortunately assessing just how much of an increased work load he will receive is more difficult. The truth is at this junction in the offseason it is difficult to know for sure what Ward’s spot in the KSU RB hierarchy will be, but he is certainly one to watch this spring.
With KSU there are three outcomes and only one of them is good for us here: 1) there is still a bell-cow and Ward is him, 2) there is still a bell-cow and Ward is not him, and 3) there is no bell-cow and the KSU RBs cannibalize each other’s CFF value. The good news is that this uncertainty and Ward’s relative lack of production going in should keep him under the radar in CFF drafts. I expect that he will be available late in most drafts this summer, so the cost should be low.
The final thing that intrigues me about Ward is the fact that he showed some ability to be used as a pass catcher at FSU. 21 receptions for 185 yards in 2021 suggests he has receiving ability, and could be why he proves the more dynamic option for that KSU offence over his competitors. Watch to see what happens this spring, and what coach Klieman says about the RB rotation, because if this one hits, it can really hit for you.
I will conclude by adding that Ward hails from the fertile football grounds of Plant City, FL, and a wise man in CFF once said, ‘you’ll never go broke betting on players from Florida’.
It is a mistake often made in the CFF community to assume that because a bell-cow was at a program last year under the same staff, that there will be another one this year. It doesn’t always work that way. Part of the bell-cow status comes from the coaching staff believing in that player’s ability. When coaches view an individual player’s success as vital, or perhaps parallel to the team’s success, that is when you hit fantasy gold. Will it happen here? I think it can for Ward. But there is a chance that KSU becomes a split backfield.
Ward’s primary competition will be true sophomore DJ Giddens, who spelled Vaughn whenever he needed a breather in 2022. Giddens ran for 518 yards and 6 TDs on 89 attempts in 2022. As someone who invested heavily in Vaughn last season, I got the chance to see a lot of Giddens by association, and I have to say, I was generally impressed with what I saw. I mentioned that Ward has shown receiving ability at FSU. Well Giddens did some of this too last year, catching 8 passes for 98 yards, which is a pretty good average (12.3 yards) per reception.
There is also the issue of the mobile QBs. Will Howard is likely to win the starting role this summer. Deuce Vaughn owners felt all kinds of pain last season as Martinez and Howard scored seemingly every KSU rushing TD in September and early October. There could prove to be too many mouthes to feed for Ward to get his.
Jamari Thrash (Louiville)
WR Jamari Thrash (6’0 180) is a 5th year player who transferred to Jeff Brohm’s Louiville Cardinal this offseason from the Georgia State Panthers. Thrash, a product of west Georgia powerhouse Troup County High School, was extremely productive in 2022 for the Panthers pulling in 61 receptions for 1122 yards and 7 TDs. His production prior to last season was fairly minimal.
There is a lot to like about the system at Louiville. Brohm, a Louiville, KY native, replaces former head coach Scott Satterfield who took the Cincinnati job at the end of the 2022 season. Brohm was the head coach at Purdue from 2017-2022. To say Brohm has a history of success with WRs is a bit of a CFF understatement. Under Brohm, the WR1 at Purdue has caught 110, 93, 53 (shortened season), 86 and 114 passes in the last 5 seasons. Not counting the Covid year, his WR1 has averaged 1235 yards receiving and 9.25 TDs. His history of WR1 production is about as iron-clad as it gets in CFF as far as predictors for success go.
Beyond the receiving numbers, Brohm has demonstrated in the past he will find creative ways to get his WR1 the ball too. In 2018 and 2019, he had Rondale Moore rush 21 times for 213 yards and 2 scores in addition to catching 114 passes, and David bell ran it 3 times for 12 yards and a score, on top of catching 86 passes, respectively.
Thrash was already a productive player at G state, so why the move? This type of transfer fits into its own archetype at this point, with how often we’ve seen productive G5s transfer up to the P5 level. Thrash most likely has ambitions of the NFL, and if that’s the case he probably thought carefully about his next stop. Assuming he did his due diligence, I am going to assume he’s been given some indication that he’s going to be a big part of the offence this year.
Even more appetizing is the fact that last years WR1 at Louiville, Tyler Hudson, is headed to the NFL. There is a massive production vacancy being left behind by Hudson, who caught 69 passes for 1034 yards in 2022.
Put simply, there is a clear opening for a WR1 in a system that has featured its WR1 heavily in the past 5 seasons. Although it’s early in the offseason, I can’t help but think of the possibilities for Thrash. Here piggy piggy…
There is not much to highlight on this side as far as concerns, but there is one glaring one. We do not know who the QB will be at Louiville next season. Jack Plummer, formerly of Brohm’s 2018-2021 Purdue teams transferred in from Cal late in 2022. It seems likely he would be the starter but it’s not a guarantee. He is familiar with Brohm’s system, and he had a decent year in 2022 for the Golden Bears, throwing for 3095 yards on a 62.5% completion percentage, and a 21-9 TD-INT ratio.
Recruiting junkies will recognize this name; Kevin Coleman, formerly of the JSU Tigers, and at one time a 5 star recruit out of Missouri, transferred in to Louiville as well this offseason. Coleman accounted for 33 receptions, 510 yards, and 3 TDs as a true freshman in 2022. He should be viewed as Thrash’s main competition for that WR1 spot in my opinion, and it’s possible he wins it. That being said, I think the fact that this will likely be Thrash’s last year of college football should give him pole position to be the focal point of the offence in 2023.
Related to the above note, I should also add the disclaimer that while the recent history suggests that there will be strong WR production here, it is still feasible that multiple WRs cannibalize each other’s value. I made this point in an earlier section with regard to bell-cow RBs, simply because there’s a history there doesn’t mean there’ll be one this season.
Side note. Even if Thrash doesn’t turn into the WR1 on this team, I would keep an eye on this receiver room for CFF. It might not be Thrash, nor Coleman, but the chances seem high that someone from this room is going to pop next season.
Ray Davis (Kentucky)
RB Ray Davis (5’9, 205), formerly Re’Mahn Davis, started his career at Temple in 2019. He had an absurd freshman season for the Owls, rushing 193 times for 936 yards and 8 TDs. Not bad for a true frosh. He saw his production dip the next season in the Covid year, and then transferred with NFL aspirations to the Vanderbilt Commodores of the SEC. His 2021 season was off to a hot start before coming down with a season-ending injury. He finished 2021 with 44 carries for 211 yards and a TD in only 3 games. He rebounded in a major way in 2022, rushing the ball 232 times for 1042 yards and 5 TDs. Similar numbers to one of his Vanderbilt predecessors, Keyshawn Vaughn, an NFL back who also struggled to find the end zone for the Commodores despite consistent touches and yardage in 2018 and 2019.
The lack of TD production can most likely be attributed to the fact that when playing for lowly Vanderbilt, touchdowns are going to be hard to come by. I don’t fault Davis too much for this. CFF managers need not worry about that any longer however, as we all collectively rejoiced upon hearing the news that Davis would be transferring to Kentucky this offseason. I expect big things from my man Ray in 2023.
Side note. This one was almost too easy. I felt dirty writing this profile. Seasoned CFF managers undoubtedly are already all over this one. However, the goal with these articles is to try and reach a wide CFF audience. For those who may be new to CFF this offseason, perhaps you are not already aware of Davis, and why he is a player to keep an eye on at Kentucky.
Davis enters a production vacancy left behind by Chris Rodriguez (5’10, 225) at Kentucky. CRod, now off to the NFL, accounted for 400 carries, over 2200 yards, and 16 TDs in the last 2 seasons under Mark Stoops’ Wildcats. This is a staff that wants to feature a RB heavily. The UK staff explicitly said themselves in the 2021 offseason that it was going to be their intention to supply CRod with 20-25 touches per game that season. If you need more convincing, look up Benny Snell’s college stats under Stoops. Talk about a volume pig! Stoops himself even sort of looks like a pig, need I say more?
Liam Cohen, Kentucky’s OC in the 2021 season has been rehired for 2023. This is good news for Davis. In 2021 under Cohen’s offence, CRod ran 225 times for 1379 yards, and 9 TDs- averaging 18+ touches per game. Davis has already proven he can be a workhorse in the SEC, and has the build to be effective all season for a Kentucky team that is probably going to rely on the run game a lot in Will Levis’ absence next season. Yes, I know Devin Leary transferred in, but I would still anticipate that the Wildcats will lean heavy run, as has been their identity under Stoops for multiple seasons now.
All-Name team and UK RB2 last season, Kavosiey Smoke, transferred out in the offseason and the remaining RBs on the roster have little to no production in their careers so far, suggesting this backfield is probably going to be Davis’ to lose.
Davis is not just a battering ram of a RB like his predecessor at UK. He proved at Vanderbilt he is also effective as a receiver. In 2022, he caught 29 passes for 169 yards and 3 TDs. The fact that he is a capable pass catcher should allow him to hit the 20-25 touch per game mark fairly seamlessly.
UK has a favourable OOC schedule. The Wildcats play Ball State, Akron, Louiville, and Eastern Kentucky in 2023. Davis should be extremely productive in each of these games. UK plays Louiville in the last game of the season (CFF championship week) and opens its season with the other three OOC games. He should, at the very least, offer some value to open the season, and in the playoffs.
Not much to dislike here, but while we’re on the topic of schedules, UK plays at my UGA Bulldawgs this season (#Back2Back, woof!) as per usual SEC scheduling, and hosts the Crimson Tide as their cross-divisional game. Neither matchup occurs during the regular CFF playoff weeks, but these are two games where you’ll probably want to play someone else that week.
I am not the only one expecting big things out of Davis in 2023, the price to acquire him will most likely be steep in re-drafts this summer. He will probably be drafted similarly to where Rodriguez was being taken in 2021 (think top 3-5 rounds).
Shedaur Sanders (Colorado)
QB Shedaur Sanders (6’2, 215) began his career playing his first two seasons under his father at Jackson State. Sanders was a highly recruited prospect coming out of Dallas metro powerhouse Cedar Hill high school, receiving offers from the likes of Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan. Sanders put up prolific numbers at the FCS level, throwing for 3732 and 3231 yards and accounting for 40-6 and 30-8 TD-INT ratios in 2022 and 2021 respectively. Sanders also demonstrated dual threat ability at JSU, rushing 85 times for 173 yards and 6 TDs in 2022.
This is a unique situation for CFF. In fantasy you want to find coaches who believe in force-feeding the ball to certain players. In this case, it’s reasonable to assume there will be an interest for coach Prime as the father of Shedaur to feature his son and make him look good. Based on this fact, we can assume Shedaur will be the starter this year and the leash will be very long.
There is a lot to like about the Colorado system Sanders will play in this season. For starters, the Buffalos are going to throw the ball a lot. In the last two seasons under coach prime, Sanders attempted 413 and 483 passes- an average of 40 pass attempts a game in 2022.
Additionally, new OC Sean Lewis was the head coach for a strong CFF offence in 2021 and 2022, and has a history of utilizing dual threat QBs. Dustin Crum, Kent State QB in 2021, attempted 382 passes, accounting for 3283 yards and 20 passing TDs, AND, ran 161 times, accounting for 703 yards and 12 rushing TDs. Colin Schlee, who QB’d the Kent State offence in 2022, attempted 266 passes, accounting for 2109 yards and 13 TDs, as well as rushing 98 times for 492 yards and 4 TDs.
Colorado was 1-11 last year, and although they have turned over the roster in a drastic way already, this team has the potential to be very poor once again in 2023. While I don’t expect them to compete for the PAC-12 in year 1, I don’t expect that they will be dominated to the point that the entire roster is relegated to CFF irrelevancy. Think the Arizona Wildcats from 2022. This team will be a lot of fun, and yes, probably will lose most of their games, but will be playing in shootouts nonetheless. The fact that they might be trailing most of their games is good for us in this context, they’ll be attempting more passes.
Speaking of roster turnover, there may be some other CFF transfer gems to keep in mind at Colorado this year. The Buffaloes brought in G5 standout TE Seydou Traore from Arkansas State, who caught 50 passes for 655 yards and 4 TDs in 2022, and son of NFL legend, Jimmy Horn Jr. by way of USF, who caught 37 passes for 551 yards and 3 TDs in 2022. The highest rated transfer player in this past cycle, dual position standout Travis Hunter also followed Coach Prime to Boulder, he will likely play most of his snaps at DB, but he’ll offer another weapon to Sanders at WR too. The leading receiver from the Buffalos last year, Jordyn Tyson, also returns. Tyson posted a 22-470-4 stat line in 22. Sanders should not lack receiving weapons on this team.
There is a lot of turnover from the roster last year. Between the new system, the several moving pieces, and the jump up in competition, there are enough reasons to be cautious about forecasting major production out of Sanders and his offence in 2023. I feel optimistic, but it is not exactly a plug and play situation in my opinion. We saw a similar case study of this last season with Cameron Ward, who made the jump from FCS Incarnate Word to Washington State with his old coach. For the most part, Ward disappointed in CFF circles last season.
I don’t know where Sanders will be drafted in CFF redrafts at this point, I wouldn’t want to pay a steep price to acquire him however, given what I saw with Ward last season. I will explain my views on where you should be drafting QBs in CFF redrafts more in a different series. For now, I will say that if the price for Sanders becomes top 6-8 rounds by the time you draft, I would look elsewhere. Because of the bullet above, this is a player who is most valuable as a late round pick.
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