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Thor Nystrom

Fantasy Draft

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CFB fantasy TE/K/D rankings

Monday, August 6, 2018


These rankings are intended for PPR leagues.


Tier I

1. Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)
2. Noah Fant (Iowa)
3. Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
4. Matt Bushman (BYU)


  • With TE Mark Andrews (62-958-8) and FB Dimitri Flowers (26-464-5) off to the NFL, Grant Calcaterra (10-162-3) is in line for a huge jump in targets. Standing 6’3/232, Calcaterra doesn’t have Andrews’ prototypical NFL TE frame, but he’s a far better athlete. Some saw Calcaterra, a four-star recruit and a top-200 overall player on the ESPN 300, as a jumbo receiver coming out of high school. Listen to how Shane Beamer, OU’s tight ends/H-backs coach and assistant head coach, talks about him: “His athleticism [impresses me the most],” Beamer said. “He’s tall, he’s athletic, he’s got length and he can just [adjust]. He does a great job, in my opinion, of just making contested catches. ... if there’s a ball up in the air and it’s a one-on-one opportunity with him and a defender, I’ll take my chances with him every time. He’s just got a unique skillset in my opinion of being able to come down with the ball when it’s a 50-50 ball in the air.” ESPN’s scouting report of Calcaterra coming out of high school noted that he is a “lengthy target with speed to work the seam” who “displays excellent ball skills” and a “nice catch radius” along with the ability to “consistently extend and snatch [the] ball away from [his] frame.” Full disclosure: I thought all summer that I would rank Noah Fant TE1 in CFF. But Calcaterra’s upside is just too great — he’s legitimately a threat for 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns if everything breaks just right. Oklahoma essentially has no other pass-catcher on the roster equipped to do what Calcaterra can do. Top WRs CeeDee Lamb (6’2/189), Marquise Brown (5’10/168), Mykel Jones (5’11/188), A.D. Miller (6’3/193) and Charleston Rambo (6’1/175) are all fabulous athletes lacking in bulk. Last year, we expected the 6-foot-5 Jeff Mead to turn into a usable possession receiver for the Sooners. Nah. Instead, the Sooners just directed all of Mead's hypothetical targets at Andrews, the team’s true possession receiver/goal line target. Same scenario this time around, only Mead and Flowers aren’t around anymore. And while you can expect a drop-off in passing efficiency going from Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray, I see Murray leaning hard on Calcaterra this fall. Murray doesn’t have Mayfield’s accuracy, which should lead him to naturally gravitate to the team’s pass-catcher with the biggest catch radius, to the guy who’s best in traffic and contested situations. Calcaterra is this roster’s undisputed king in all three areas.

 

  • Noah Fant is my TE1 for the 2019 NFL Draft, but he'll have to settle for TE2 on this list. He’s an athletic freak who posted a nifty 30-494-11 line in 2017, leading returning TEs with 25-or-more receptions in yards per reception and tying for the national TE lead in touchdowns (with the man below him on this list). Because of his physical gifts, I’m not concerned with Fant’s production dropping off. Fant set a pair of team positional records in the spring with a 42.1-inch vertical jump (which incredibly would have topped any jump at the NBA Combine this year and would have been the best TE mark at the NFL Combine over the past seven years) and a 3.95-second short shuttle. The 6-foot-5, 243-pounder is also a strong blocker, so he never has to leave the field. The only thing holding Fant back is Iowa’s conservative offense. The Hawkeyes may be conservative, but they aren't stupid. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was Rob Gronkowski's position coach with the New England Patriots in 2011. Fant is easily Ferentz's best weapon in Iowa City (Iowa’s WR corps is mediocre, and its RB corps is unproven). Might Ferentz channel his inner Bill Belichick as a play-caller and dream up more creative ways to get Fant the ball this year? 

 

  • Though I have deep concerns about Drew Lock and his set of receivers due to the scheme change from Josh Heupel’s aggressive spread attack to Derek Dooley’s conservative pro-style system, I think Albert “Aqua Man” Okwuegbunam is inoculated from fantasy damage here. Dooley spent the past five years as WR coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to that, he spent three years as Tennessee’s HC (2010-2012) and also three years as Louisiana Tech’s HC (2007-2009). In 2012 for the Vols, TE Mychal Rivera posted a strong 36-562-5 line. The year before that, on a team that wasn't nearly as good at passing, Rivera’s numbers were only 29-344-1 -- but that was still good for the second-most receptions and receiving yards on the squad. In 2010, TE Luke Stocker finished No. 3 on the team with a 39-417-2 line. Rivera and Stocker both went on to be drafted. And in his last year at LTU in 2009, Dooley’s No. 1 pass-catcher was a TE (Dennis Morris; 38-623-12). Those numbers are all the more impressive when you consider that only once in Dooley’s six-year coaching career did he have a quarterback throw for over 2,250 yards. I wouldn’t want Derek Dooley calling plays for my offense, but that being said, Okwuegbunam is a sure-thing to see his reception total jump (from 29 last year), even though his TD total will almost assuredly drop, perhaps significantly so (from 11).

 

  • Matt Bushman leads all returning TEs with 46 receptions last year. Bushman scored only three TD, however. A suppressed TD number is once again the only concern. BYU’s offense was unwatchable last year.


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Tier II

5. Dax Raymond (Utah State)
6. Caleb Wilson (UCLA)
7. Mik'Quan Deane (Western Kentucky)
8. Tommy Sweeney (Boston College)
9. Farrod Green (Mississippi State)
10. Ravian Pierce (Syracuse)
11. Jacob Breeland (Oregon)
12. Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic)

 

  • Dax Raymond had the second-most receptions of all returning TEs behind Matt Bushman last season with 41. Raymond’s receiving line was eerily similar to Bushman’s, outside of a few less catches and two less touchdowns (41-456-1). The low TD number was fluky in the first place, and I fully expect Utah State’s offense to take a step forward this season now that Jordan Love is a year older and freak athlete RB Darwin Thompson has been added from the JUCO ranks.

 

  • Before going down with a season-ending broken foot in late-September last year, Caleb Wilson looked like one of the nation’s premier receiving tight ends. He posted a 38-490-1 line across five games, an average of 7.6 catches, 98 yards and .2 TD per game. Over a 12-game schedule, that works out to a 91-1176-2 pace. A few causes for concern before we get ahead of ourselves. 1.) Josh Rosen has been replaced by a collection of warm bodies led by uninspiring options Devon Modster and Wilton Speight. 2.) Chip Kelly’s system is an enormous schematic shift from Jim Mora’s (to what extent Kelly plans to use Wilson as a receiver is unclear at this time). 3.) Wilson wasn’t able to run until April and noted that he was “rusty” in coming back from the injury. If there’s a bit of good news, it’s that UCLA lost its top-two receivers in Jordan Lasley and Darren Andrews (combined 129-2037-19 last year) and doesn't have a sure thing on the perimeter outside of Theo Howard. That's a lot of available targets up for grabs.

 

  • Mik'Quan Deane is something of an unknown, but it would be hard to rank him much lower than this. Year 1 of the Mike Sanford Era featured an uneven, pass-heavy strategy. It’s clear that Sanford’s Western Kentucky offense wants to make great use of the mismatches its athletic TEs create against CUSA linebackers. Last season, Deon Yelder (52-688-7) was one of Mike White’s favorite targets. Yelder is gone now (so is White), which thrusts Deane into the high-target role.

 

  • Tommy Sweeney led Boston College in receptions (36), yards (512) and receiving touchdowns (4) last season. Sweeney posted those numbers despite the Eagles’ tenuous quarterback situation after Anthony Brown went down with an injury. Brown is back now, and Sweeney remains the team’s No. 1 aerial target in between ample handoffs to A.J. Dillon.

 

  • My friend Kyle Francis, one of the best CFF writers out there, has been hyping Farrod Green incessantly over the past month. He makes an extremely compelling case. 1.) Green is a talented receiving tight end (he’s a former three-star receiver who’s packed on 25 pounds since arriving on campus). 2.) Mississippi State has one of the most TE-friendly offenses in college football (because it’s run by new HC Joe Moorhead; in Moorhead’s four seasons at Fordham,  his top TE averaged a 48-464-4 receiving line, and in his two years at Penn State, Mike Gesicki posted lines of 38-679-5 and 57-563-9). 3.) Mississippi State has precious little receiving talent and desperately needs pass-catchers to step up. The Bulldogs had one of the nation’s worst receiving corps last year (leading receiver had a 27-276-0 line). This is the recipe for a true breakout campaign, and I'm buying speculative shares where I can.
 
  • The return of a healthy Justin Herbert is greats news for Jacob Breeland. In the seven games Herbert started and finished last year, the Ducks averaged 49.7 points per game. Breeland posted a 14-251-3 line in those seven. In the other six games, Breeland limped to a 4-69-2 line. The Ducks have a pretty meh receiving corps, which makes it all the more imperative for Herbert to develop chemistry with Breeland.

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Thor Nystrom is a former MLB.com associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
Email :Thor Nystrom



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