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CFF Targets - This SEC bottom feeder has a VOLUME PIG worth your consideration
Will Sheppard is a 100+ target WR who costs no more than a late round pick in CFF, I think that's a steal...
Everybody always forgets about poor old Vandy in the SEC. It’s probably because they don’t really fit the mold of the other programs it shares a conference with. Yet, they are a valuable commodity to the league, as their baseball program is elite, and they bring an impressive academic pedigree.
The feeling is the same in CFF — Vandy being an often forgotten about program, that is. But there have been sneaky assets in the past. Some of you may remember Keyshawn Vaughn, who played with the Commodores in 2018 and 2019. Vaughn went for over 1000 yards in both seasons. Former Commodore WR Kalija Lipscomb had a solid season in 2018, catching 87 passes for 916 yards and 9 TDs. This past season, Vandy’s RB1 Ray Davis went for over 1000 yards rushing.
Their lead receiver — Will Sheppard also had a notable season. In 12 games, Sheppard caught 60 passes (123 targets) for 776 yards and 9 TDs. The target numbers are what really caught my eye. Sheppard was targeted on average 10+ times a game in 2022. Unfortunately, the conversion rate was less than 50%. But what if it was better? He already averaged 15.6 FPG last season.
Coaching & System
Vandy’s head coach Clark Lea cut his teeth on the defensive side of the ball. Accordingly, instead of his background we will dive deeper into his OC’s — Joey Lynch. Lynch joined Vanderbilt as the pass game coordinator and QBs coach in 2021, before being promoted to OC in 2022. He spent one season as the OC at Colorado State (CSU) in 2020, after a long stint as the OC at Ball State (BSU) between the 2014 and 2019 seasons.
During his time with BSU, Lynch had two 1000-yard WRs in the 2014 and 2016 seasons. Below is a year-by-year list of his leading receiver’s stats while with the MAC program.
2014: Jordan Williams: 74 receptions, 1,067 yards, 6 touchdowns
2015: KeVonn Mabon: 75 receptions, 943 yards, 9 touchdowns
2016: KeVonn Mabon: 80 receptions, 1,035 yards, 7 touchdowns
2017: Justin Hall: 87 receptions, 926 yards, 4 touchdowns
2018: Riley Miller: 71 receptions, 874 yards, 4 touchdowns
2019: Justin Hall: 66 receptions, 770 yards, 6 touchdowns
In his sole season with the CSU Rams, his lead receiver — Warren ‘action’ Jackson caught 77 passes for 1119 yards and 8 TDs.
As mentioned, in his first season calling plays for the Commodores, Lynch’s WR1 Sheppard caught 60 passes (123 targets) for 776 yards and 9 TDs. Those numbers were also with a QB change midseason and a true freshman (AJ Swann) throwing him passes for the majority of the year — that might partly explain the low completion percentage. Now in year two, I expect QB Swann to take a step forward as a passer, and in turn more of those targets to Sheppard should be converted to receptions.
With 2022 volume pig at RB Ray Davis having moved on, the Commodores may also rely on the pass game to anchor its offence more in 2023.
WR Will Sheppard — 6’3, 195
Sheppard enters his fourth season with the Commodores headed into 2023. The big-bodied receiver did not play much in his freshman season, but he’s been a CFF relevant asset in his last two (11.3 FPG in 2021, 15.6 FPG in 2022 in 1-ppr formats). He hasn't really had stability at QB during his career, which makes his production all the more impressive.
His primary competition for targets is returning WR2 Jayden McGowan, who is another rising sophomore (*makes mental note*, if Swann turns into a player, lookout for Vandy in 2024…). JM was targeted 62 times in 12 games last season, he caught 44 passes for 453 yards and 3 TDs (9 FPG). The starting TE from 2022 — Ben Bresnahan (3.4 FPG) left for the NFL this offseason. He doesn’t vacate very many targets though (25 in 12 games).
In the past, Lynch’s WRs who have cracked 1000 yards in a season are large-bodied boundary receivers. The height-weight listings of the three players are: 6’3-198, 6’1-215, and 6’6-219. As it happens, Sheppard plays this role in Vandy’s offence too.
Overall, the system in place is very attractive for Sheppard’s profile. The questions really revolve around how efficient this offence can be. In my opinion, anytime you can acquire a 100+ target WR beyond the tenth round, I think it is noteworthy.
The same concern that is always present with Vandy’s players — the team is a bottom feeder and generally has a hard time beating in-conference opponents. I would be more leery of their RBs, though even those have gone over 1000 yards in recent years. In the case of Sheppard, playing the position of WR is a good thing if Vandy is going to trail in most of its games. He scored 9 TDs in 12 games last season, so we know he can still be TD productive on this poor team.
While the target volume is outstanding, we need to see those get converted into receptions at a higher rate. I am relying on a year two jump for rising sophomore QB AJ Swann.
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