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CFF Series - Terrell 'NBA Primetime' Vaughn is shooting up my rankings... here's why
Utah State's shifty slot receiver is threatening to scorch the MWC
They see me shining, now they all want a piece
- NBA Young Boy, musician
During the 2021 college football season, I had assembled what I believed to be one of the best receiving cores ever in college fantasy football—without even spending a top three round pick on the position. There was dual-eligible Hawaii swiss-army knife Calvin Turner, who was a textbook volume pig, ditto for Ball State’s Justin Hall, and finally—my main man Jerreth Sterns of Western Kentucky. However — greedy bastard that I am — I was on the hunt after the first weekend of games to find a fourth marquee pass-catcher on the wire. After all, we were required to start three WRs each week, and each of my players were going to be on BYEs at some point. I needed a ‘sixth man off the bench’ so to speak, to fill in and maintain the standard of excellence I had assembled at WR.
Anybody who has sifted through the wire after the first week of games knows what a precarious task it is to find true value—so many options to choose from. It’s hard to tell the pretenders from the contenders after just one game played. Truly, the skill to sift through the trash and find the real gems in the early parts of the season is one of the most vital skills a CFF player can acquire.
Hypothetically speaking, if I owned a firm dedicated to hiring employees that would help win CFF leagues (think of this firm as an analogue to finance firms hiring investment analysts), one of the interview questions I would give is: “it’s week two of the season, you need a player at position X from the wire, there are five options for you to choose from at said position, each scored around 20-25 points in their first game, tell me your process for how you would rank order the five players in your waiver wire priority”. This type of question isn’t about the final answer, but the thought process behind it—which I believe would elucidate which candidates are elite CFF players and which are not. Anybody can filter on who scored the most or is averaging the most points per week and then put in a claim—but this process will lead to a lot of blunders. There are markers in finance that modellers use as inputs to predict outcomes, and it’s the same thing in CFF. You don’t necessarily need to have constructed a formal model, but knowing the markers to look for will save you a lot of trouble.
Coming back to week two of the 2021 season, and I am searching the wire for my future top five WR. After assessing the landscape, I decided to take a chance on a 6% owned (after waivers cleared) Deven Thompkins—a diminutive little fire spark on Blake Anderson’s Utah State Aggies with little-to-no production in his career so far. This was in a 0.5-ppr league, so Thompkins’ 8-94-1 performance in week one netted him about 19.4 points—hardly the highest scoring available WR of that week. Long story short, several rejected trade requests and clutch performances later, Thompkins finished the season second only to Jerreth Sterns in receiving yards. Many of those WRs who outscored Thompkins in week one faded into obscurity in the following weeks, meanwhile—my WR core went from very good to pure apeshit—slaying many poor unsuspecting CFF players in the process.
After a disappointing 2022 season, the Aggies and their coach Blake Anderson are looking to get back on track to the pleasant surprise in 2021. As mentioned, their offence in the 2021 campaign was led by an elite WR in Thompkins, but they also had other players step up too. In 2022, the offence sputtered, and — unfortunately for CFF players — there was no alpha WR. I can happily say that I avoided the Utah State WR room in 2022, but my interest in one of their players—Terrell Vaughn, is piqued once again for 2023.
Coaching & System
Head coach/co-offensive coordinator Blake Anderson is a known commodity within the realm of CFF. He joined the Utah State program in 2021 after spending seven seasons (2014-2020) at Arkansas State. I’ve already mentioned Thompkins’ standout performance from 2021, but Anderson’s track record of elite WR usage actually started with the Red Wolves.
In 2020, Anderson’s lead receiver was a jumbo-sized player in Jonathan Adams Jr. (another VP alumni). Adams caught 79 passes for 1111 yards and 12 TDs in 10 games (~26.1 FPG in 1-ppr).
In 2019, it was Omar Bayless, who topped Adams’ production with 93 receptions for 1653 yards and 17 TDs in 13 games (~27.71 FPG).
The 2018 season had Kirk Merrit top the Wolves in receiving with 83 catches, 1005 yards and 7 TDs in 12 games (18.79 FPG). Curiously, in the four seasons prior that, Anderson’s squad did not have a single 1000-yard receiver. His time as OC with UNC (2012-13) also did not produce a 1000-yard receiver.
However, in 2023 it looks like the Aggies will be returning to their volume pig ways, special shoutout to Nate Marchese for doing the lord’s work here:
All three of those bullet points are good news but especially two and three. Vaughn’s a small player, so normally I’d suggest he’ll probably line up in the slot. But Thompkins was diminutive also, and they moved him around all over the field. I suspect they’ll do something similar with Vaughn, who is a match-up nightmare himself. FYI—the Aggies spring scrimmage in April ended with nine touchdowns, 530 passing yards and 337 rushing yards for the offence.
The new OC—Kyle Cefalo was promoted from pass-game coordinator and WRs coach (2021-22). Prior to that he served as the WRs coach with Anderson at Arkansas State (2017-2020). Clearly, Cefalo’s been around some top notch WRs, so if the staff feel getting Vaughn touches is a priority, that must mean something good…
WR Terrell Vaughn — 5’7, 175
Vaughn joined the Utah State program in the 2022 offseason by way of JuCo school Ventura Junior College. He earned California Community College Football Coaches Association (CCCFCA) All-American honours and was a two-time Southern California Football Association (SCFA) Northern Conference first-team selection at wide receiver, finishing his junior college career with a school-record 149 receptions for 1,715 yards and 20 touchdowns, to go along with ten 100-yard receiving games. As a sophomore, he caught 58 passes for 736 yards (12.7 ypr) and eight touchdowns, while returning five kickoffs for 165 yards and 11 punts for 139 yards and one touchdown.
In 2022 — his first season with the Aggies — he finished with 56 receptions (82 targets) for 624 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games (12.4 FPG in 1-ppr). He also rushed 13 times for 72 yards and another score. He did that as second fiddle to WR Brian Cobbs, who has since moved on from the roster. Now, Vaughn has an opportunity to take over as WR1. Cobbs vacates 76 receptions, 923 yards and 5 TDs. Starting WR Justin McGriff has also since moved on from the roster.
Reports out of August camp seem to confirm that Vaughn’s going to be the go-to guy in this offence; in a scrimmage Vaughn led the team in receiving with 5 receptions for 119 yards.
In the spring game last April, Vaughn caught 7 passes for 38 yards and a score. Side note: I don’t know about you, but Otto Tia’s stat line caught my eye too. I checked his stats from the spring game—he caught 6 passes for 64 yards. He’s a guy on my watchlist.
The QB play was not good last season, and it held the WRs back. It sounds like Legas has a firm grasp on the starting role early on, which is a good sign for his improvement.
Vaughn was productive last season and the rumblings from camp are encouraging, but this is still largely a projection profile.
Vaughn is a slight player, and players like this always hold risk of injury.
It’s possible Utah State spreads the ball around to multiple WRs and that there isn’t one alpha, sort of like last season. There’s a lot of players that caught a lot of passes in each scrimmage (April and August).
Vaughn should take over as WR1 of this offence and it sounds like they’ll be moving at a pretty fast pace with an emphasis on getting Vaughn the ball. That’s gravy for CFF. Vaughn’s current ADP on Fantrax is around the seventh/eighth round—I like him in those rounds. I’d be willing to go even higher (fifth/sixth round) depending on how the draft is shaking out.
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