CFF Series - Looking Ahead to 2024... Part II
VP takes another swing at looking ahead to 2024 prospects, this time with a focus on the WR position.
I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.
— Dorothy, Jerry Maguire (1996)
The first instalment of this series was a popular one, so I thought I’d do part II with a focus on WRs. I will be continuing to release these with more names at RB, and WR, in addition to QB and TE versions as we descend into the offseason.
You can find the previous version here:
I should also add as a heads-up, for those who may be new around here, I started this publication in February of this year. So if you’re wondering whether sticking around this offseason is worth your time, my response would be — emphatically — that offseason content is the bread and butter of what I do.
In fact, I'd say it’s what I enjoy making the most, and its through this content during the 2023 offseason that I accumulated the vast majority of the subscribers to this publication.
Furthermore, every player mentioned in these articles will eventually have their own player profiles where I do a proper deep dive. But that will come in time…
*This article was written before Week 12.
Justus Ross Simmons (6’3, 205) — Colorado State
JRS has been touted as the next guy up after WR1 Tory Horton (21.18 FPG currently in 2023) moves on to the NFL this offseason. That path seemed a little more clear this summer, before other players like Louis Brown broke out this season. Still, I feel comfortable suggesting that the true sophomore JRS is the most likely name in the room to step up and receive the offloaded volume that Horton will be leaving behind.
There is a lot to love with JRS; the system is historically elite for WR production, he’s entering a production vacancy, and he’s already been productive in his young career (8 FPG in 2022, 12 FPG in 2023). Add to that the Rams look to have their QB for the future in redshirt freshman Brayden Fowler Nicolosi, who’s already shown good rapport with JRS this season, supporting him to season highs of 26.8 and 17.6 points.
Simmons currently averages 6.7 targets per game, which is already solid. One can already imagine the possibilities once that number rises. He fits the exact mold that CSU head coach Jay Norvell wants with his WRs—tall and speedy, like a basketball player.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that — based on Horton’s previous production — JRS could find himself as a top three round selection in drafts next summer with strong spring reports.
Great system for WR usage
Entering into a massive production vacancy
Fits the mold of the WRs that have been productive in that offence
Already decently productive as WR2
Other young names have also emerged, and could supersede him in the pecking order in the offseason
Johntay Cook (6’0, 185) — Texas
A highly touted recruit out of Dallas powerhouse Desoto High, Cook has the exact build and skillset to be an effective player at the collegiate level. He very much fits the Xavier Worthy mold, and that was likely what the UT staff told him when they recruited him. That’s good news, because (presumably) the X-Man is moving on this offseason. Worthy was really effective due to his sheer speed, which Cook also posses, but the knock on X-Man was his hands. Cook, the true freshman, has the potential to be even better than X, and he should have the opportunity to become that guy for the Horns next season. And — in case you missed it — Ewers recently announced that he will be returning for 2024. So we don’t have too many questions about the quality of service for Cook. The questions will more centre around his capabilities, and how well UT converts his potential into outcomes.
Cook himself has played sparingly this season, only garnering a total of nine targets thus far, securing six for 107 yards. But as we know, Bowl season and the CFP can be a time for these true freshman to announce themselves, so don’t write Cook off just yet. Either way, I still think there’s a lot to like here with Cook’s profile for 2024.
One thing to keep in mind with UT and OU players this year, however, is that they will now be playing much harder schedules compared to before. So a player like Cook, while he will likely be a strong CFF asset, might not be as potent as if UT were to have stayed in the B12. That’s a minor inconvenience.
I think with Cook, a lot of his pre-CFF draft evaluation will be dependent on how his spring goes. If the word is good, he could climb fast based on the system and pedigree. The range of outcomes is very wide, so there’s no point in predicting a range of rounds on him yet.
Cook is entering a potentially huge production vacancy with X-Man and AD moving on this offseason (169 targets between the two of them as of writing this)
Returning starter at QB
Plays in a system that has historically been good for WRs (produced the last Heisman winning WR— Devonta Smith)
Elite pedigree— Cook was a high four star recruit in the 2023 cycle
Tougher schedule in 2024
Unproven commodity, not a lot of production in his first year
Kevin Concepcion (5’11, 185) — NC State
I wrote about KC a few weeks ago in a double feature with UF’s Eugene Wilson. I did a pretty comprehensive cover of his profile there, so I’ll just link it here for those interested.
KC will probably be a first round type prospect in CFF drafts in 2024 assuming the OC— Robert Anae remains with the program.
Great system for WR usage—Anae’s WR1 averaged 71.5 catches, 1073 yards, and 7.5 TDs per season between 2018 and 2022 (excluding 2020)
Early breakout in Y1, and strong spring camp buzz before that
Weak in-conference defences
Positional and usage versatility (ex: six rush attempts in the game vs. Miami)
Already WR1 in the program
QB position is a question mark for 2024
Robert Anae could abscond this offseason, or next—he’s a coach who’s moved around quite a bit
Easton Messer (5’9, 195) — WKU
The slot receiver out of Louisville emerged on the scene earlier this season as the next potential slot receiver for the Hilltoppers. Obviously, Malachi Corley remained the go-to guy this season, but Messer did well — especially when Corley was out. His season-highs for the 2023 season so far are 28.4 and 21.6 points vs. Houston Baptist and Troy, respectively.
We know that Corley will be moving on this season, and so will the QB— Austin Reed. While the pivot man moving on isn’t ideal, we know that someone will have to step up into the coveted slot receiver role of this system. The WKU system is an infamous one within the CFF community, with managers even following its disciples diligently to find CFF gems. We saw this year that WSU slot receiver— Lincoln Victor, was extremely productive in the system. We are still holding our breath on Texas Tech. Nonetheless, the true sophomore, Messer, finds himself in a pretty good spot for a major ascendance in CFF value this offseason. Spring reports will be crucial here.
Also, I take it as a good sign that he somehow knows Jake Paul:
Great system for the slot receiver position
Potentially stepping into a large production vacancy (Corley currently has 102 targets as of writing this article)
Has produced some big outings already
Parties with Jake Paul
Limited sample size on production
Uncertainty at QB
Uncertainty on his role next year
Eugene Wilson (5’10, 170) — UF
As mentioned with KC, I did a double-dive article a few weeks ago which included a more comprehensive look at Wilson. You can find it here. Wilson feels more like a round three-five type player currently, but we’ll have to revisit his profile in the spring to see how things are progressing.
Strong recruiting pedigree
Mid-year breakout as a freshman
Entering into a probable production vacancy next year with Pearsall moving on
Starting QB could return next year, and has improved his play in 2023
Tough in-conference defences
System is not great—OC Rob Sale’s offences have yet to produce a 1000-yard receiver at the FBS level (could break that mark this season)
Crishon McCray (5’10, 163) — Kent State
Before going down with a season-ending injury, McCray was having himself quite the season. In particular, ever since breaking out in Week Four vs. Miami of Ohio (scored 21.6 points on 14 targets), he was targeted double digit times every game before his last game where he suffered an injury (had seven targets when he went down).
The redshirt freshman out of Ohio is a smaller player, but that’s not really a problem in the MAC. He was fortunate, and unfortunate, to be playing on a very poor team this year. On one hand, he was their unquestioned go-to guy, on the other— they didn’t really have a lot in place to support him, and the quality of the service to him was generally quite poor. Will that change this offseason? If there’s one thing we’ve come to learn about the MAC, its that things can change quickly. It’s a conference with a lot of parity, and that’s generally been due to some of its programs undergoing transformative offseasons.
Who’s to say where Kent State will be this time next year, but there’s really only one direction to go from here. Their roster was gutted in 2023 by the transfer portal, and I suppose McCray could be the next one up, but if the Golden Flashes somehow manage to hold onto him, he’ll be a popular volume pig in 2024 CFF drafts.
As far as the system here, we were expecting Kent State to be a run-heavy team this year with former Minnesota RBs coach— Kenny Burns, taking over as head coach, and his OC— Matt Johnson, previously serving as Kent State’s RBs coach. In general, I would say that they were, with multiple different RBs getting 20+ carry workloads at one point or another in the season. Yet, McCray found himself receiving an enormous amount of the limited target share, which made him a potent CFF asset. This was a team that did not pass the ball often, but when they did, it was almost always to McCray.
Reached volume pig status already in 2023 before injury
Only playmaker on the team as of right now
Poor QB play in 2023 could be returning in 2024
Returning off a major injury, usually takes a few weeks on return to get back to form (this is not a huge problem given that the OOC schedule for G5 guys is usually tough, so you probably won’t be starting McCray in early September anyways).
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