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CFF Targets - Money wins? Texas A$M's Evan Stewart ready to ascend in year two
How high is too high to draft Evan Stewart in CFF? VP takes a look...
A century ago, petroleum — what we call oil — was just an obscure commodity; today it is almost as vital to human existence as water.
- James Buchan, novelist
In a world that is increasingly transitioning away from its dependency on standard oil and gas, the sentiment from the above quote may be losing some of its lustre. Even so, I can still name at least one college football program that is deeply dependent on the obscene gains of deep oil reserves. That program—the Texas A&M (otherwise known as ATM) Aggies, has become the poster boy for everything that is wrong with NIL in the current landscape of college football. While in most instances, perceptions don’t necessarily match the reality—especially in college football, I think in this case it’s appropriate.
I hope we’re past the point of pretending that the infamous 2022 class was strictly merit based. I don’t need to do a run down of how absurd that notion is, those of us who’ve followed the recruiting landscape know what it is. Real recognize real, as the kids say.
Their fans — christ all mighty — insisting that Jimbo and his staff suddenly figured out how to recruit at an elite, elite level the same year NIL get's legalized—don’t you piss down my leg and tell me it’s raining! But the college football gods, in all their glory, always have a way of balancing out the chakras, don’t they?
Despite many from that infamous 2022 class already transferring out, ATM—excuse me—A&M look to be getting back to business on the trail. After a brief respite with the class of 2023, it appears the Aggie boys are kicking the fireworks off early this year.
The feature of todays article—one I’m sure most are familiar with already, is A&M’s superstar sophomore WR Evan Stewart. Fun fact: did you know that Stewart had over 1M followers on Tik Tok before he even got to college? That blew my mind. Stewart continued to impress me after arriving in College Station, too. Now CFF managers are salivating at the possibilities that lie before the Frisco native for the next two seasons. Unfortunately, he still plays in what has been known to be a fairly anemic offence under Jimbo Fisher, begging the question: what should we make of Stewart’s CFF profile headed into 2023?
Coaching & System
Texas A&M OC Bobby Petrino joined the program late in 2022 after spending the previous three seasons (2020-2022) as FCS program Missouri State’s (MSU) head coach. Prior to coaching at MSU, Petrino served as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinal for five seasons (2014-2018). He spent one season as the head coach at WKU in 2013, and also coached at Arkansas from 2008 to 2011.
He did not have a WR break 1000-yards in any season with the Cardinal, but he did have one in his three years with MSU—Tyrone Scott in 2021. Scott secured 66 passes for 1110 yards and 8 TDs. Of the four seasons he spent with the Razorbacks, Petrino’s offences produced one 1000-yard WR in 2011.
So overall, I’d say Petrino’s offences are not that WR-friendly, but there is at least some precedent of elite production at WR. Truth be told, any coach who’s been coaching long enough probably has at least one of everything during his tenure.
The head coach needs no introduction. Señor Jimbo has yet to produce a 1000-yard WR while at A&M, but he did have two seasons with a player that broke that mark at FSU (2013, 2014).
I don’t think either coach has had a WR like Stewart, though. And that’s saying something considering the talent that came through Tallahassee during Jimbo’s reign. Stewart feels like the type of player who would have been a lock to Alabama years ago before NIL, and CFF managers can only fantasize about how potent he would have been with Bryce Young last season. Alas, we have rising sophomore QB Connor Weigman behind the gun for the Aggies—who, to be fair, is a solid player also. In his best performance of the season, the former five star connected with Stewart on 6 passes for 88 yards and a score.
Given what else we know about A&M (you know, the elite recruiting prowess they displayed for the 2022 class), I think the powers at be are going to demand that Stewart be featured heavily some way some how. Now, what that actually looks like in practice is another story. If you’re capturing 35% target share in an offence only scoring 20 PPG, is it still good? It can be, especially in PPR formats. UTEP’s Tyrin Smith (who ironically transferred in-and-out of A&M this offseason) comes to mind in a similar set up. The Aggies QB play should be better than the Miners, and Petrino has worked some magic in the past—his Lamar Jackson led Cardinal averaged 42 and 38 PPG in 2016 and 2017. Will the Aggies offence be more explosive in 2023? It has to be. Otherwise, Jimbo is not long for this life as the CEO of Aggie land. The hiring of Petrino sends a clear message. The question really is: can Jimbo stay out of the way long enough for some magic to happen?
WR Evan Stewart — 6’0, 175
Stewart joined the Aggies program as one of many five stars from that monstrous 2022 class. While the defensive lineman grabbed most of the headlines, it’s probably Stewart who was the jewel of that class in the coach’s eyes. Highly regarded as one of the best WR prospects to ever come out of high school, the Frisco native is an explosive route runner, with impressive polish, and strong hands.
He confirmed the validity of his five star rating immediately as a freshman—catching 53 passes on 103 targets for 649 yards and 2 TDs (13 FPG in 1-ppr), despite some shifty QB play. The TD numbers are lower than you’d expect with that kind of volume, but any freshman WR who receives over 100 targets is immediately VP-approved. Indeed, he even made his was onto my re-draft rosters in October as a waiver-wire add, when he went on a deadly stretch of four games—never catching less than 6 catches, going over 100 yards in two out of the four. His targets in those four games were as follows: 17, 10, 13 and 16.
Stewart’s primary competition for targets is Moose “the Moose” Muhammad the third. Moose garnered 64 targets on the season in 2022, and also had single-game highs of 12 targets vs. Ole Miss and Florida.
QB play is a concern. Weigman has the pedigree, and had some solid performances last season. Besides that, we don’t know much about him.
Play calling is a question mark. We don’t know how much control Jimbo is going to allot to Petrino.
Stewart’s current ADP as of July 8th is 80.3 (~sixth/seven round in a 12-team format), but that might be falling, as his June ADP was 89. That range feels appropriate to me, considering his C/O 2022 companion—Luther Burden, is being selected at an average ADP of 62.7. Burden’s ADP is moving in the opposite direction, though, his June ADP was 52.8. Stewart outscored Burden last season on the whole (13 vs. 11 FPG). He is a comparable talent to Mizzou’s sophomore stud and is also in a similar situation (unknown QB play, not an ideal system overall for WR usage).
Stewart is not a guy I feel like I need to have, so it’s unlikely I will acquire shares at his current ADP, but I think the range is appropriate for his upside. I think the floor is high—I feel pretty good about him seeing a lot of targets this fall. Because if he doesn’t, you know who’s waiting on the other end of the line…
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