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CFF Targets - The freshman WR1(?) with TE eligibility
Another Orande Gadsden could be emerging in North Carolina...
How’s [VP] working like he got a twin though…
- Champagne Papi, musician
Welcome back to the Pigpen, my friends.
I know that with some of these articles the preamble section can (on occasion) be rather lengthy, undoubtedly leading readers to wonder: how much time is VP spending on the intro?!
Fear not, this one will be short and to the point. Upon discovery that incoming freshman TE JaVonte “Juice” Vereen had converted to WR in new NC State OC Robert Anae’s offence, I knew that I needed to put an article out—but not before grabbing a few shares for myself in various CFF drafts (just think of me like the Gordon Gekko of CFF—manipulating the market and trading on insider information when convenient…).
As I’ll describe in greater detail below, Vereen is the potential WR1 of Anae’s 2023 Wolfpack offence with TE eligibility. Not only that, but as a true freshman, he presents significant value in a dynasty or keeper CFF draft.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s refresh on the new-look NC State offence.
Coaching & System
The Wolfpack head coach—Dave Doeren, applies his trade on the defensive side of the ball, so his track record isn’t of the highest relevance as it relates to this profile. His quotes from this spring suggest that he won’t be involved with the playcalling:
As a head coach, it's hard to be a play-caller, in my opinion, and run the organization the way it needs to be run. I also have a tremendous staff. I have such a great group of guys that coach under me. I feel like I need to be that. I can be more of a recruiter, more of a motivator, more involved in the players on a day-to-day [basis] and making sure that people around me have what they need to be successful.
The star of the show here is OC Robert Anae. Anae spent last season as the OC at Syracuse, before that he spent the previous six seasons as the OC/inside WRs coach at UVA (2016-2021), and all the way back to 2013-2015 he OC’d BYU.
If only we had a player from Anae’s last stop—Syracuse, who was a slender WR with TE eligibility to compare to. Well, in the absence of that, the VolumePig interns tell me that there was this kid named Orande Gadsden II (the cool kids call him OGII…), who was pretty similar…
Apparently he was pretty good, scoring 15 FPG (1-ppr) over the course of 13 games in 2022. OGII, like Vereen, is more of a jumbo slot than an actual TE, which makes him extremely valuable in Anae’s offence. As far as how they compare height/weight-wise, OGII is listed at 6’5, 215, whereas Vereen is 6’4, 210.
We’ve also seen in the past, that generally speaking having Anae’s WR1 is lucrative in CFF. Now, I should add the disclaimer that we don’t know whether that is the case (yet) for Vereen. But since we’re on the subject, the lead receiver (OGII) at Syracuse in 2022 was targeted 91 times, catching 61 of those for 969 yards and 6 TDs (14.9 FPG).
The year prior, when Anae’s QB Armstrong (who also happens to be under Anae again…) went nuclear with UVA, the lead WR caught 57 passes for 1203 yards and 9 TDs (~19 FPG). That player was Dontayvion Wicks, who stood at 6’2, 208 pounds, and operated all over the field. That’s something that is unique about Anae offence, he will have larger players play out of the slot frequently, which is a money spot for targets in this offence. In that same year, swiss-army knife (TE/WR/HB) Keytaon Thompson caught 78 passes for 990 yards and 2 TDs, while also rushing for 247 yards and 4 TDs on 39 carries (19.8 FPG).
In 2020, Anae’s lead receiver did not go over 1000 yards. That was slot player Billy Kemp.
In 2019, it was 6’3, 210 WR Hasise Dubose who led the Cavaliers in receiving, catching 75 passes for 1062 yards and 6 TDs. The year prior 5’8, 193 pound slot receiver Olamide Zaccheaus caught 93 passes for 1058 yards and 9 TDs.
If there’s one thing that is constant about Anae, it’s that his WR1s come in all shapes and sizes—implying he probably just gears the offence toward whoever the best players are.
Perhaps just as important as Anae’s track record of WR excellence, is that NC State’s lead receivers from a year ago are all gone, creating an opportunity for a certain true freshman (or two, more on that later…) to step in. WR1 Thayer Thomas (57/642/4) is now in the NFL, and Devin Carter (25/406/2), who I wrote about here, is with WVU making headlines in spring ball.
Don’t worry about those receiving stats for NC State’s WR1/2 last year, that was a different offence. But just for completeness, Thomas and Carter’s absence creates a vacancy of 82 catches, 1048 yards, and 6 TDs.
In addition to a new OC, the Wolfpack welcome in QB Brennan Armstrong. The last time these two gentleman were together, Armstrong attempted 46 passes per game—and someone’s got to get on the other end of those this season.
WR/TE JaVonte "Juice" Vereen — 6’4, 210
Here is something that was written on Vereen in 247 Sports’ list of potential impact freshman this year:
Ranked as a tight end by 247Sports, Vereen converted to wide receiver early in his time with the Wolfpack. A big slot threat at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Vereen is someone who consistently flashed during spring practice in the slot, which can often be a taller player under new OC Robert Anae. Vereen was seeing reps with the ones late in spring ball, and he projects to have a big role for a Wolfpack offense that searched all season in 2022 for impact wide receiver production.
That seems pretty good to me. The Wolfpack also bring in another potential impact freshman in WR Kevin Concepcion (5’11, 180). I like his name already. He’ll probably fill more of an underneath receiving threat from the slot if he’s starting. Vereen, as more of a jumbo slot, will probably be deployed around the field, that’s just me guessing based on what Syracuse did last season.
As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of cooks in the Wolfpack kitchen currently, and so a player like Vereen could be an immediate impact contributor for the Wolfpack (and—more importantly—our CFF squads).
Here is the 247 Sports player evaluation out of high school on him:
Size is not verified. Listed 6-4, 205 but does not necessarily appear that tall on tape. Nevertheless, looks to possess a large catch radius and big build that overwhelm smaller defenders. Regularly wins contested situations with high-pointing ability, timing, and dexterity. Strong and competitive in those 50-50 situations as well. Fairly natural plucker who snags throws outside of frame with hands-catching acumen. Above average field athlete. Runs hard and provides a run-after-catch threat. Experienced as an attached tight end and flexed out. Good initial burst and acceleration, especially out of a three-point stance. Knows how to leak to open space and give his QB a window. Possesses a terrific athletic profile that includes basketball and baseball. Like size, athleticism is also unverified in a combine testing sense. Long speed still catching up to linear burst and acceleration. Still developing route-running polish and leveraging abilities, which will need to be enhanced vs. high-major defenders. Projects to the Power Five level with some upside that could make him an impact player.
The “size is not verified” thing is the only part that makes me pause, but even if he is 6’3/6’2.5, that’ll work. In a perfect world there’d be some verifiable measurements for his athletic ability too, but now we’re splitting hairs. We’re not drafting this guy to the NFL here, we are simply interested in the CFF profile, which projects well.
This is a pure projection profile, since he’s a true freshman.
The lack of verified times/size is a slight concern. I was hoping he’d be a carbon copy to OGII. It sounds like he’s smaller, but I don’t know how they compare in athleticism. As such, it’s not fair to expect that this kid will be a re-hash of OGII in CFF, but there should still be value at the TE slot.
I don’t typically like drafting freshman in re-draft formats. But that is more so the case with the five-star overhyped freshman; an under-the-radar guy who actually has a good chance of starting in year one — with some positional eligibility cheese — is a definite buy for me.
Not only in a standard re-draft, but absolutely in a dynasty or keeper league. If he’s not contributing in a big way this season, he’ll likely be doing so next year (NC State has up-and-coming star QB MJ Morris waiting in the wings…). There’s the possibility that Anae moves again in the near term, but then that concern is present for any dynasty value player with longevity baked into their profile.
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