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CFF Targets - Boston marathon continues: Passing the baton from one #4 to another
Boston College's new #4 may not be as potent as the last, but he still offers significant CFF upside
They wrote me off, I ain’t write back though.
- Geno Smith, NFL QB
It’s almost too good to be true for a player with the last name ‘O’Keefe’ to wind up in Boston, isn’t it? If I were smarter I would have released this one on St-Pat’s day, which, unfortunately for me, has recently just passed. Life goes on, as they say, and today I am going to be featuring a player that CFF managers have apparently written off this offseason, but are they justified? Let’s pop the hood and take a look.
Ryan O’Keefe (5’10, 175), a native of Austin, TX, has bounced around some in the eyes of the CFF community over the past few seasons. He broke out in the 2021 season for Gus Malzahn’s UCF Knights, catching 84 passes (114 targets) for 812 yards, 7 scores and accumulating an additional 274 yards for another score on 16 attempts. These numbers fuelled his CFF output to 19.2 fantasy points per game (FPG) in 1-ppr formats through 13 games. As a result, he became a highly coveted player among CFF managers during the 2022 offseason, and was typically selected in the early mid-round range of re-drafts.
His 2022 production, while certainly taking a step back from his 2021 numbers, was still solid as he amassed over 700 yards receiving on 73 receptions (105 targets), 5 scores, and additional 222 yards on the ground. He finished the 2022 season averaging just over 15 FPG.
The 2021 and 2022 numbers are good for O’Keefe; in particular, the target numbers gave me a chubby just now.
What is the relevancy of those number now that he’s transferred to Boston College (BC) you might ask? I mention it because the current BC WRs coach and pass game coordinator is a man named Darrell Wyatt, who was the WRs coach in 2021 at UCF. Indeed, it is Wyatt’s relationship with O’Keefe that played a big factor in him transferring to BC — he even calls Wyatt a father figure in an interview with ESPN. During Wyatt’s final year at UCF, the Knights produced two 500-yard receivers in Ryan O’Keefe (812) and Brandon Johnson (565). Johnson was second in the AAC with 11 receiving touchdowns. O’Keefe set a UCF single-season record with 84 receptions.
Under Wyatt, O’Keefe had a prolific career in the black and gold down in Orange County, FL, earning second-team All-AAC honours from the league’s coaches, and honourable mention All-AAC accolades from Pro Football Focus (personally, I don’t care much for PFF’s grades, but I’ve included it in case you do).
Ironically, O’Keefe’s only Power Five (P5) offer coming out of high school was BC — The storylines in CFB just write themselves sometimes don’t they? As usual I’ll dive into the system O’Keefe finds himself in but BC’s got a complicated hierarchy of coaches in their program, so I think it’s useful to first establish who everyone is.
Coaching & System
At the top of the hierarchy is the Eagles' head coach — Jeff Haffley, who has been CEO of the program since 2020. He is primarily a defensive head coach though, which explains the complicated system of staff on offence; prior to joining BC he was Co-Defensive Coordinator at Ohio State.
Then there is Rob Chudzinski, associate head coach/head of offensive development (whatever that means). He joined BC in 2020 with Haffley and served as special assistant to the head coach. Prior to that he was the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL (2015-2017), and spent two years as a head coach prior to that (2013 Cleveland Browns, 2014 Indianapolis). Of note, his top offensive player in terms of production and volume while with the Colts was 5’9, 183 pound slot receiver T.Y. Hilton. TH went over 1000 yards in three of the four seasons coach Chud oversaw the program, and never saw less than 100 targets in those four seasons.
Then there is OC/QBs coach Steve Shimko, who joined the program as TE’s coach in 2020. Shimko was promoted in 2022 to QB’s coach before getting elevated to OC for 2023. It seems safe to assume he and coach Chud will be working on the offence in a collaborative manner, which is good news because Chud’s track record is intriguing, whereas Shimko doesn’t really have a track record. Of note, it turns out coach Shimko was actually a grad assistant at UGA in 2015, so I like his chances at finding success in 2023 already.
And then finally there is WRs coach/pass-game coordinator Darrell Wyatt, who I covered above. That’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but their track records suggest reason to be optimistic about O’Keefe in 2023.
We might as well start with the BC offence of the last two seasons. We all know about Zay Flowers (5’10, 172) by now. Is it too good to be true that Flowers is also an undersized slot/wide receiver like O’Keefe?
It is not, in fact, too good to be true. O’Keefe was likely brought in to be a like-for-like replacement for Flowers. Last season for UCF, O'Keefe lined up 55% on the outside, and 45% in the slot, in comparison Flowers was 67% on the outside, 33% in the slot. In 2022, Flowers led the ACC with 503 YAC (yards after catch), O'Keefe had 463 yards. In '21, he had even more with 563 YAC. O’Keefe and Flowers also have similar drop rates (10.3 to 10.5%).
Similar skill sets, similar builds, a coaching staff with a serious cookie crumb trail for elite small-sized WR production… see where I’m going with this?
Throw in the fact that coach Chud’s favourite weapon in Indy was yet another very similar player and now the pattern of behaviour is undeniable.
O’Keefe positioned to fill in for Zay Flowers as the alpha WR
In 2022, Flowers reeled in 78 passes for 1077 yards and 12 TDs while also rushing 12 times for 40 yards. Those numbers account for a 13.8 ypc average. Those are really good stats, and while it is unwise to suggest O’Keefe will fill in exactly as Flowers in the offence and produce the same output, I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to say our boy can’t hit those numbers and beyond either.
Some will look at this situation with trepidation due to the QB position. I am right there with you, however, it’s worth noting that when BC QB Phil Jurkovic went down with injury last season, Flowers produced as good — if not his best — numbers of the season.
My takeaway from those final four games is that it doesn’t matter as much as many may think that Jurkovic has transferred. This system will still likely focus on getting its top playmaker the ball consistently. We can feel confident about that from a two-dimensional standpoint: 1) as mentioned the current BC WR coach oversaw O’Keefe’s best season at UCF, and 2) the other two coaches architected the system that elevated Flowers into strong production at BC.
QB Emmett Morehead, who filled in for Jurkovic during the final four games of the regular season appeared to perform at a comparable level as far as I can tell. He threw for 330 yards twice, including a 4-TD performance, and attempted over 45 passes twice. He even finished with a 31+ fantasy point performance in his first start. Morehead is still on the spring roster and seems poised to be the QB1 this season.
Additionally, when looking at the rest of the roster, it’s hard not to think that the pathway is wide-open for O’Keefe to be the lead dog in BC’s room in 2023. With Flowers leaving the most productive returning receiver is Joseph Griffin Jr., who caught only 18 passes last season for 234 yards and 5 TDs.
The first is the open QB spot which I have touched on briefly above. While I’d rather there be an established gunslinger returning for the Eagles this season, I don’t think the departure of Phil Jurkovic is going to leave that big of a gap for the next guy.
The second is that O’Keefe is jumping up in competition and it remains to be seen how well he’ll adjust. Though, I don’t know that the ACC is that different from the AAC in terms of average level of play.
The third is that although there are many chefs in the kitchen — some with very intriguing backgrounds — the one who holds the title of OC has an unproven track record as far as what he wants to do on offence.
Overall, I like O’Keefe for 2023, and even more so when considering he can be obtained fairly late in drafts right now. I have participated in three mock drafts where he either went undrafted, or was taken in the 7-10 round range. The undrafted mock was probably an outlier. Still, it seems CFF managers have either forgotten about him or written him off. I, for one, think he’ll be doing some serious talking on the field this season. I recently pulled the trigger on O’Keefe in the 10th round in a mock draft hosted by @CFFJared; I think that’s good value. I’d probably be willing to go even earlier; anywhere in the mid-round range seems appropriate to me. What do you think?
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