Signing Day - The New Crop
Signing day is a holy day of sorts for many college football fans. It's a day where fans get their first peek at who is going to be donning their school's colors in the seasons to come. A day when UT fan will undoubtedly call Bama's program dirty and vice versa. It's also a day that should not be ignored by the college fantasy football fan. Keeping on top of fresh talent is a vital part of college fantasy football.
Anyone with a pulse can draft Colt Brennan or Graham Harrell in the 1st round. But any good college fantasy football player will tell you that it is not what you do in the 1st round, but what you do in the 7th, 8th, and 9th rounds that matter. Finding sleeper freshmen to insert into your draft board is not easy. It takes the proper blend of talent and team needs. So on this, the holiest of days for some college football fans, we break down how to draft incoming freshman and take a quick peek at tomorrow’s next stars.
There is no question the running back is the single best position to research and to draft as freshman. Almost every other position on the field takes major adjustments in order to be successful at the next level. Whether it is adding bulk, learning technique, or learning reads, the learning curve is usually very steep as one steps up to D-1 college football. With running backs it’s “see hole, hit hole”. Obviously runners mature and get better with age, but there is little stopping the talented running backs from seeing the field early and making an impact.
The next group to consider would be wide receivers. There is a bigger learning curve for wide receivers than most people think. They need to learn to run routes, block, and use proper technique. There is a heftier playbook and skill set to be learned for wide receivers. This is why most of the great WRs are upperclassman. However the truly talented will see the field and can provide an early impact. The key here is speed. The quickest way for a freshman receiver to see the field is to possess that which cannot be taught: pure, jaw-dropping speed. A player may not have the technique down, but if he can run by everyone, the young lad will see the field. As with most freshman, look for wide receivers to catch on later in the season, and the great ones will never look back.
Unless you are in a keeper league, I would avoid quarterbacks. Put away the visions of Chad Henne tossing bombs to Braylon Edwards. It is not going to happen on even a semi-regular basis. True freshman quarterbacks rarely make a big statistical splash. Hell, Henne had a great freshman year as a true freshman, tossing 25 in 2004, but that is an anomaly. Sure there will be a half dozen or so that will grab the reigns right off the bat, but don’t expect a 25 touchdown year out of them. Unless you are socking them away in a keeper league, you are likely not going to get the return on your investment.
This brings us to the single biggest factor in deciding whether or not to draft freshmen: keeper leagues. Those in keeper leagues need to pay close attention to incoming freshmen. You need to lock-up young talent before others can get their grubby paws on them. If you wait till they prove it on the field, it’s too late. Over the past 4 years I’ve snapped up the likes of: Cedric Benson, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Tim Tebow, & Percy Harvin. Of course I’ve had my share of duds…cough cough…Demetrius Summers…cough cough…Carlos Brown. Grabbing a Tim Tebow and shelving him for a year is an exercise in patience. But it could provide huge rewards this coming year. Grabbing young talent is such a premium in our league there is a 3-year waiting list for Texas Tech QBs.
Not only can freshman provide an immediate spark. They are also excellent trade bait. Swapping a talented freshie with upside for a proven vet during a late season title push is a strong possibility. A particularly good tactic (and one I’ve employed on numerous occasions) is to draft freshman from your compadre's alma mater. Make them squirm as you dangle that carrot in front of them throughout the year as trade bait. Eventually, the fight song will start running through their head, and they'll be unable to avoid the temptation of doubling their pleasure while cheering for good old alma mater and their fantasy savior.
Take a look at team rosters. Drafting a 5-star freshman QB will do no good if there is a proven sophomore already at the helm. Keep a close eye on who enrolls early. Not only do they have a leg up, but so do you. Spring ball is a great time for player evaluations and a good litmus test for incoming freshmen. Last year we got a sneak peak of what CJ Spiller was capable of doing in Clemson’s spring practice and we wrote extensively about him. Look for more of the same this year.
Recruitniks are often the target of cheap shots from sports fans and writers alike. It is a tad strange that grown men can let which hat an 18 year old pulls out of the box determine their level of happiness for days, if not weeks. However at the heart of it, these recruitniks are simply people who can't let go of college football, and guys who can't let go of college football are often sipping Milwaukee's Best from a championship trophy in December. Let the other guys in your league write off recruiting rankings as meaningless while you scour the recruiting returns to get the edge. Just keep in mind you are dealing with 17 and 18 year old "prospects".
Below is an early look at some of the nation’s top incoming talent and where they are headed. Keep an eye out at www.CFFinsider.com for more news regarding these talents in the coming months.
Rk Name School Notes
1 Joe McKnight USC Two more 5-Star running backs head to USC
2 Marc Tyler USC Two more 5-Star running backs head to USC
3 Graig Cooper Miami-FL He could push James for PT
4 Noel Devine TBD
5 Caleb King Georgia The bulldogs are in need of stability at tailback
7 Robert Hughes Notre Dame He'll have to get past Aldridge and fellow freshman A. Allen
8 Enrique Davis Auburn Looking for a replacement for Irons
9 LeSean McCoy Pittsburgh He could push LaRod for PT
10 Chris Rainey Florida Meyer is still looking for a running back to lean on
11 Mike Ford So. Florida JC/Prep school transfer and is enrolled for spring ball
12 P.T. Gates (JC) Colorado The Buffs need some instant offense
13 Lennon Creer Tennessee The Vols are deep at RB
14 Javid Best Cal He'll be behind Forsett, but we all know what Cal RBs can do
15 John Clay Wisconsin He'll be behind PJ Hill, but Wisky RBs are worth watching
Rk Name School Notes
1 Ronald Johnson USC Arguably the top athlete in the country, but he could play DB
2 Arrelious Benn Illinois Zook is a masterful recruiter and he should see the field early
3 Terrance Toliver LSU Bye bye Mr. Bowe
4 Chris Culliver So. Carolina Who wouldn't want to play for Spurrier?
5 Brent Vinson Tennessee Bye bye Mr. Meachem
6 Duval Kamara Notre Dame No Samardzija, No McNight
7 DeAngelo Benton LSU Bye bye Mr. Bowe
8 Deonte Thompson Florida Florida's commit list swells
9 Kenny O'Neal (JC) Tennessee Bye bye Mr. Meachem
10 Niles Paul Nebraska The Cornhuskers are still looking for weapons for their offense
11 AJ Jackson (JC) Ole Miss AJ played with Brent Schaeffer in Junior College
12 Gerald Jones Tennessee Bye bye Mr. Meachem
13 Ron Brooks LSU Bye bye Mr. Bowe
14 Dwight Jones NC Butch Davis lands a dandy
15 K. Farquharson (JC) Miami-Fl Miami needs help at WR
Rk Name School Notes
1 Jimmy Clausen Notre Dame His been hyped for years and the job is open
2 Willy Korn Clemson He could push Cullen Harper
3 Robert Marve Miami-Fl CFFinsider freshman QB sleeper pick for '07
4 Tyrod Taylor Vir Tech He could push Glennon
5 Mike Paulus N. Carolina The job is open
6 Pat Bostick Pittsburgh The job is open
7 Jarrett Lee LSU The job is open
8 Keith Nichol Oklahoma Stoops made a nice end around once JLS was let go from MSU
9 Steven Threet Ga Tech The job is open
10 Josh Nesbitt Ga Tech The job is open
11 Stephen Garcia S. Carolina The ole ball coach is looking for a QB to run the show.
12 Ryan Mallett UofM He'll have to wait a year
13 Aaron Corp USC He'll have to wait a year
14 Kodi Burns Auburn He'll have to wait a year
15 John Brantley Florida Have the 3 QB recruits not seen Tim Tebow play?
Rk Name School Notes
1 Aaron Hernandez Florida Considered by most to be the top incoming TE in the country
2 Mike Ragone Notre Dame ND has been a hotbed for TEs
3 Rob Gronkowski Arizona Tuitama will like having a big target
4 Nate Chandler UCLA Visions of Mercedes Lewis?
5 Aron White Georgia Bye bye Milner
Rk Name School Notes
1 Wes Byrum Auburn The job is open
2 Josh Cherry Kansas St The job is open
3 Shea Brewster Baylor The job is open
4 Dave Taggart UConn The job is open
5 Brandon Walker Notre Dame The job is open
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