Time For The Chosen One To Reveal Himself
At last, our lord and saviour has arrived...
Jeremiah... let's charm the old keepsake, from Passchendaele!
- Arthur Shelby, The Peaky Blinders
In a college football season steeped in controversy, I think there’s one thing that we can all agree on: only a truly sick individual (or a Volunteers fan) would stick through the full game of whatever that was in the world famous Cheez-It Citrus Bowl between Tennessee and Iowa last Monday.
"Just cut my eyes out and get it over with” I uttered to myself at least a few dozen times while watching Iowa stumble around with what they would call their ‘offence’ versus the Volunteers. Meanwhile, the Orange gave us the annual *B1G defences are overrated* demonstration. A shame that such a prestigious and historic bowl would have its reputation sullied by an insomnia-curing performance, but here we are.
As forgettable as the game was, one thing that will not be forgotten was the absolute blinder of a performance from former five star QB Nico “Peaky Blinder” Iamaleava. PB finished the game accounting for four total TDs against a formidable defence in Iowa. What stood out in particular to me was the rushing upside. Three of the four TDs scored by him came along the ground. I would have liked to see more of what the canon attached to his arm can do, but Iowa’s secondary is pretty elite, and if rushing the football was working, why change it. Oh, and yes, I made up the PB alias because I don’t want to spell out Iamaleava’s whole name every time I reference it, and NI doesn’t quite look right.
As crazy as this might sound, last offseason — despite writing over 100 articles — I had not dedicated a single piece of content to the Tennessee Volunteers program. An oversight on my part? Perhaps. More so it was due to my lack of interest in their players. Usually, after a big year like Tennessee had in 2022, the following year is a big disappointment, both from a collective and individual standpoint, so I figured I’d probably sell when others were buying on that one.
However, the year after, the year after the breakout, is a nice buying opportunity. Usually, expectations have cooled somewhat, and prices on assets become more reasonable.
By now, most of us are aware about Josh Heupel’s system and the wonders it can do for College Fantasy Football (CFF) players. But, just as a refresher, we’ll go through some numbers for precision.
Coaching & System
Most people think Heupel’s system is just another derivation of a pass-first air raid system. This is not correct, his team’s typically skew more run-heavy than pass. This in part makes it important that whoever plays QB under him be a willing and able runner.
Looking through the patterns under Heupel, this past season was a pretty forgettable one for CFF. Joe Milton finished averaging just over 22 PPG, accounting for a total of 27 TDs (20 passing, 7 rushing). Interestingly, Milton actually tied Dylan Sampson for the team-lead in rushing scores this season.
The year prior was an offensive explosion with journey-man QB Hendon Hooker at the helm. In 2022, he accounted for 32 TDs to only 2 INTs. He passed for just over 3100 yards and ran for another 400+. Operating off memory (keep in mind this is post-Christmas holiday VP writing this), I’m pretty sure Hooker finished 2022 averaging in the high 20s for PPG, if not the low 30s.
Hooker had arguably just as good of a year the season prior, accounting for a total of 36 TDs to only 3 INTs, and accumulated over 3500 yards total.
Before spending the last three seasons (2021-2023) at Tennessee, Heupel plied his trade at UCF as the head coach (2018-2020). There were some pretty strong producers at multiple positions during this time, but his QBs— Dillon Gabriel (recognize that name anyone??), and McKenzie Milton were each very strong CFF assets as starters.
Gabriel was the starter in 2019 and 2020. The COVID season saw him account for over 3700 yards and 34 TDs to only 4 INTs. He had similar numbers in the 2019 season.
Milton’s 2018 season was a magical one. The UCF gunslinger accounted for 34 TDs (9 on the ground) and over 2900 yards in only nine games (knocked out early in the 10th). He was actually a Heisman contender that year prior to injury.
If you can believe it, Heupel’s best work actually came before his time with UCF and Tennessee. He spent two seasons as the OC at Missouri (2016-2017), and in 2017 his QB— Drew Lock, had an all time season. Lock accounted for 45 total TDs (44 passing), to 13 INTs. Lock’s 2016 season was a fairly forgettable one (24 TDs to 13 INTs).
Prior to Mizzou, he spent one season as the OC at Utah State (2015) and four as the co-OC at OU (2011-2014). There were some notable seasons in there but nothing worth running through in detail.
I think the point has been made, Heupel’s QBs are valuable assets to hold more often than not. That’s not a guarantee that there’ll be value here though (it never is in CFF), that’ll depend on how fast the new horse can race. So with that in mind, let’s move to the next section.
Nico “PB” Iamaleava — 6’6, 206
Like a machine gun being unveiled from the dark, Iamaleava’s first live action as a starter saw him score 31 points vs. a vaunted Iowa defence. He was 12 for 19 in passing, accounting for 151 yards and a score. On the ground, he dashed in three scores, with 27 yards along the way on 15 carries.
A few things stand out about PB. First is that his rushing upside (surprisingly) looks very strong. That’ll be important (duh) for CFF. In addition to a nice clip of passing volume per contest, our young lad here looks like he’ll be stealing many a redzone TD while in Knoxville (RIP to Volunteer RB shareholders, though).
The second is that he is one tall gentleman— like, maybe even taller than the Southern Counties Welterweight Cockney boxing Champion ‘Goliath’. I don’t know how or if his height will manifest at all in a relevant way for our purposes, but at very least, he shouldn’t have too many passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Ehh… who cares, right? That’s not really a tangible fact to use in any meaningful way, I just wanted to work in another Blinders reference (guilty).
Admittedly, I didn’t want to get my hopes up about Nico this season, given what we’ve seen out of five star QBs lately. Most of them don’t even finish their careers at the same program they committed to out of high school, let alone hit in a meaningful way in CFF.
So when word got out that Joe Milton would be sitting for the Bowl Game (does anybody know why??), I was pretty chuffed about the prospect of getting to see PB in some live action, with a pretty nice barometer to assess his skills on top of that.
Oh Lord! Time for the chosen one… to reveal himself!
The chosen one is probably a bit rich for a freshman coming off one game, but when you’re rumoured to have signed 9+ million in NIL deals before ever stepping foot on campus, yea… the expectations are lofty. Frankly, I am a little surprised he didn’t usurp Milton earlier in the year. I guess the Vols really do have some solid leadership after all. Just ask some of the other CFB programs who let boosters into the decision making process, how that’s gone for them lately.
I know we’re all very excited about the prospect of a former five star superstar-in-the-making playing in a strong CFF system, but I will preach caution here. Even if he averages what he scored in his lone start (31 PPG), in a standard CFF format, how valuable is that? Sure, 31 PPG would put him in the top 10 of CFF scoring QBs most likely, but as any seasoned CFF vet knows, you’ll be able to find QBs that score you 28+ PPG well into the season via the waiver wire. So, this is more of a commentary on how I recommend valuing positions as a whole, rather than an indictment on PB.
If the format you play in is something experimental, such as starting more than two QBs, or playing in a limited player pool (e.g. B1G only), you can ignore my recommendation.
For the rest of ya, I hereby decree a new CFF law for the savvy pigs: do NOT draft QBs in the first rounds of standard CFF re-drafts.
By you know who’s orders…
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