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CFF Targets - UW is the 2023 version of 2019 LSU
Big Penix Energy and his boys are ready to slam dunk the PAC-12 this season
I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
- Michael Jordan, Icon
We’re shaking things up today with this article. I typically try to focus on the lesser known or lesser discussed CFF topics, however, today I am going to write about some of the blue blood assets in the world of college fantasy football. CFF royalty, if you will.
That is the UW Huskies’ trio of QB Michael Phenix Jr. (A.K.A. Big Penix Energy), and WRs Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. This offence performed off the meter last season, and I mention LSU in the title because that’s the team that came to my mind when thinking about this trio in 2022.
In John Laub’s Pros vs. Joes league last year, I was able to acquire all three via the waiver wire; having also had Chase and Jefferson in the 2019 league I played in, it was a familiar feeling. Odunze is like the Ja’Marr Chase of this team, while McMillan — as a slot player — easily fit the Jefferson role.
Like the Tigers, the Huskies also have an elite distributor. Big Penix energy generated significant Heisman buzz last season, and he returns in the year of Michael Jordan on everyone’s pre-season watch list for every award possible. Indeed, everybody wants to be like Mike—damn, should I seek to trademark that line before the season? I feel like VP could make a killing in shoe production—we could call them something like “Air Penix” (somewhere in the background Jason Bateman is yelling “Genius!”).
Now, the cat—errr… husky is out of the bag. Odunze and Penix generally go in the first/second rounds of drafts, with McMillan following not far behind.
This article provides a snapshot of the current state of the UW offence: which players we know are good, which may emerge as good, and as usual, some VP ramblings.
Big time WRs return to UW for what will likely be a massive season
Odunze is a name of African origin, specifically from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. The name Odunze is derived from the Igbo language and it means "first born of the family" or "the one who came first". In Igbo culture, the firstborn child is highly revered and is often given a special name to signify their position as the first child.
Fitting of a firstborn, WR Rome Odunze dons the #1 jersey and he is the WR1 of this offence (don’t let the McMillan stans fool you). He is a big bodied, stable handed, and fast-enough wide receiver who presents a matchup nightmare for many a PAC-12 DB.
It’s hard to imagine that Odunze could be even better entering 2023, but the buzz this spring suggests that could very well be the case. When asked about what Odunze has been working on, UW OC Ryan Grubb said this:
Weight room. Weight room . . . He’s 215 pounds now, and he looks stronger. He looks more physical.
Keeping his body healthy throughout the season, that was Rome’s limiting factor: continuing to beat press coverage. That’s where people are going to continue to look for answers against a big guy. I think as long as he can do that and be physical through it, he’ll be even better.
Here’s an excerpt from a UW beat report on spring camp:
The former 2019 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year (Odunze) has added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, while maintaining the blend of speed and size that earns increased attention from NFL scouts. He consistently dominated in UW’s 15 spring practices, piling up highlight plays against a rotating crew of overmatched corners.
Odunze opted to return to UW when he could have left (undoubtedly to boost his draft stock), that usually doesn’t happen without some assurances. I’d expect Odunze will be a featured volume pig in what is going to be a massive offence in 2023.
I think McMillan is not far behind. You might be looking at the stats of each from 2022, and wondering why there would be a discrepancy in valuation. I say this as someone who had both WRs plus BPE on my rosters last year, and thus watched virtually all of their games (including the one vs. Portland State), and I can say that my impression was that Odunze was the WR1 in this room. It was Odunze who they kept out of ‘easy’ games as a precaution, and not McMillan. Of course, that could have simply been because Odunze was banged up and McMillan was not. But I do know that Odunze was held out of a game that the coaches said he could have played in (Portland State) if they needed him. McMillan ended up scoring 22.7 FPs vs. the lowly FCS program in Odunze’s absence.
Normally, my preference is towards slot receivers due to the lower average depth of target (ADOT). But in this offence, BPE has such an explosive arm (and loves to show it off whenever he can [pause]), that having their deep threat on the boundary is extremely valuable.
I’d describe Jalen McMillan as the robin to Odunze’s batman. Although Odunze finished with a higher FPG average in 2022 (19.84 in 1-ppr), McMillan was not far behind him (18.85). The roles in the offence are pretty defined, as Odunze fills the classic big-bodied boundary role taking the top off the defence, while McMillan moves the chains underneath from the slot.
My philosophy when it comes to these types of scenarios (two WRs with similar FPG, one drafted higher than the other) is that I would always rather have the second guy drafted. That’s not to say that I plan to draft McMillan, but rather, if I had to draft one it would be him. As mentioned earlier, the FPGs are not that different, so if one can be obtained at a discount from the other it’s a no brainer for me. That being said, I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these WRs, and if we’re talking an all-else equal scenario, Odunze is my preference.
The ‘others’ of the WR room
Something that bothered me last season as an owner of both Odunze and McMillan was the fact that on numerous occasions the other WRs momentarily reached volume pig status in UWs game plan. With the amount of shuffling they do on their offence, I think UW will have a fantasy relevant WR3 this season. The two names that come to mind are Giles Jackson (5.85 FPG) and Jaylin Polk (11.68 FPG).
Jackson had a low average but he finished two games going over over 16 FPs in 2022. Polk seems the more likely of the two to be WR3; he popped off against Washington State (18.2), Oregon (18.5) and Michigan State (39.3).
Big Penix Energy ready to decimate the PAC-12 in 2023
Among the similarities to the 2019 LSU program is that UW brings back a sixth year super senior in journeyman Michael Penix Jr. BPE had a fantastic season last year in both a real sense and (more importantly) a CFF sense. We had seen flashes in his career with Indiana, but injuries and inconsistent play plagued him throughout his earlier years.
The 2022 season was a renaissance for his play, with former Fresno State and Indiana coach Kalen Deboer taking over the UW Huskies program. BPE finished the year with 29 FPG, passing for 4641 yards and 31 TDs on 362 completions out of 554 attempts. He also rushed 35 times for 92 yards and 4 TDs.
The powerful lefty lit off deep shot after deep shot in PAC-12 play and found himself garnering some Heisman hype in October. Unfortunately, a few poor performances vs. Colorado and Oregon State derailed those dreams in November. That was sort of a theme in CFF too (again, I know this from firsthand account…). During the season I actually joked (with myself—how lame is that?) that BPE was an every-other week play—indeed for the first eights weeks of the season he would have a good game and then a bad one on a bi-weekly basis. Here are his FP stat lines over his first eight games: 36.5, 21.5, 36, 22, 31, 16, 48, 27. Up and down, up and down, up and down…
He was pretty frustrating to play in real-time. But when things were good (like vs. UCLA and Arizona), it was fucking bananas.
As a matter of pure principle, I don’t draft QBs in the first three rounds, so I’m never going to have BPE in CFF again (barring something crazy happening), but for those who are interested, I think we need to see more consistency from him to justify a round one or two pick. I think round three/four is more appropriate. At the end of the day, if you fall into the camp that believes in drafting BPE with one of your first or second round picks, consider this fact: he still only averaged 29 FPG (4-pt passing TD) by season’s end in 2022. You can get that for free off of the waiver wire in most league formats well into October (indeed, this is how I acquired BPE in 2022). Doesn’t it make more sense to seek to acquire the next BPE rather than pay the price like a sucker? That’s just me, though.
I’m sure somewhere out there one of you sickos is going to find a way to draft all three of this trio. Fair play to you. It’s extremely rare to see this level of elite, veteran production return to a CFB program all at once. In almost all instances, after a year like the Huskies had in 2022, the draft-eligible players will leave; 2023 figures to be more fireworks than a 4th of July celebration gone wrong for the Huskies.
Who’s UW’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
Okay, so maybe the comparison breaks down a little bit here. DeBoer’s track record is pretty clear. He’s a committee-man, save for one season in 2015 when his lead runner at EMU—Darius Jackson, rushed 208 times for 1078 yards and 14 TDs. Even still, in that season the next RB carried the rock 100 times for 586 yards and 5 TDs. He did have a good shortened-season in 2020 with central California’s finest—Ronnie Rivers. But 2020 was such an odd season, and especially for programs that played shorted campaigns, the patterns from this season are generally not useful for our purposes.
One name that does stand out, however, is former Mississippi State Bulldog Dillon Johnson. The 6’0, 215 pound runner enters his fourth year of CFB. His best statistical season was in 2021, when he rushed 89 times for 485 yards and 4 TDs. But wait! There’s more… UW fans should be familiar with the Pirate—Mike Leach (RIP) and his tendency to use his runners as receivers extensively from his time at WSU. In that same season, Johnson caught 65 passes for 422 yards and another score. All told, he accumulated 907 yards and 5 TDs (14 FPG). His 2022 output wasn’t quite as strong, but he still averaged 13 FPG through 13 games.
Fuck it, who am I kidding? This is going to be a committee again, with last year’s RB2 Cam Davis returning, as well as former ASU RB Daniel Ngata now in the fold.
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