Five Unknown High Usage Players in 2015
Five Unknown High Usage Players in 2015
As the season draws closer, I’m putting more and more college football content together to get everyone ready for what should be an awesome 2015 season. Today, I want to give you five potentially high usage players that people aren’t going to be on from day one. It’s this early research that gives you the step up on other players out there and can help you get to the top of the leaderboard. Everyone that's into this sport knows about Robert Foster, the young receiver from Alabama. He’s going to be a great option for them in Lane Kiffin’s typically one-dimensional passing game. Make sure you keep your eye on him from day one. Now, it’s time to get to the guy’s you haven’t heard much about.
Daikiel Shorts, West Virginia – The Mountaineers attempted the 9th most passes last season, and not surprisingly, they have the ability to create big numbers out of receivers. Kevin White and Mario Alford are gone, leaving Shorts and Jordan Thompson as the top two guys in the passing game. I have a hard time believing a 5’7 wide out like Thompson can fill the Kevin White role. Instead, I think it’s Shorts that can spread the field and be the Kevin White of this 2015 passing offense.
Shorts saw a decrease in his stats with the emergence of White, but still had a respectable 24/346/2 as the third or fourth guy on the depth chart. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch in 2014 and did great considering his role in two of Skylar Howard’s three starts. Howard only completed 50.9% of his passes, but if he can improve to a 55% clip and throw 500 passes then we’re looking at 275 completions. Since 2011, the leading receiver for the Mountaineers has caught about 30% of the completions in every year but one. This translates roughly to 80 catches, and over 1,000 yards if he averages 12.5 yards per catch. With a talented quarterback in an up-tempo offense, these are very safe projections for Shorts.
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina – Jones is a known player due to his success in his first two seasons, but people aren’t going to expect a whole lot more than what he has produced so far in his career. Because of this, I have him listed here. The Pirates lost their star quarterback/wide receiver combo, so that just means it’s time to start another one. Due to Jones’ numbers, people think he’s a shorter receiver that doesn’t have a high upside. I don’t believe that last part to be true, though. The 6’1 junior had to compete with Justin Hardy and his record breaking numbers while learning the playbook and getting up to college football speed. Even then, he ended up with 81 catches and 830 yards.
With 51% of last season’s targets gone and a new quarterback, Kurt Benkert, starting - you can bet that Jones will be the guy that Benkert looks to first in his initial season under center. Jones' 8.7 targets per game (big thanks to Wes Huber from Pro Football Focus for that stat) aren’t going to decrease, making him a major threat on a site like DraftKings that has PPR scoring.
Rodrick Williams Jr., Minnesota – Shifting from receiver to running back, this might be my favorite pick of all 5 guys I talk about today. While people are gushing over Jeff Jones and his athleticism, they’re forgetting that Rodrick Williams fits the mold for a Minnesota running back. Last season’s starter, David Cobb, and Williams are the exact same size according to ESPN (5’11, 229). Jeff Jones’ 6’0, 196 frame makes him small for the amount of usage Minnesota backs get. David Cobb ran 315 times last season and did it in a ground and pound type manner. As a team, the Gophers ran it 599 times and were extremely successful with it.
Rodrick Williams has shown talent in his career averaging 5.05 yards per carry on 140 carries. Jeff Jones is inexperienced and has been fantastic at the receiver spot in spring camp - So much so that he could start at a wideout position when Fall arrives. The Golden Gophers need a lot of help at that position and it wouldn’t make much sense to stockpile the talent in the backfield when they can make the offense more dynamic by moving Jones to wide receiver. Look for Rodrick Williams to be the guy carrying the rock in Minnesota.
Patrick Towles, Kentucky – Towles is a known player to a decent amount of college football fans, but very few understand the amount of usage he had week-in and week-out over the course of the 2014 season. He threw it just under 400 times and ran it 146 times, for about 550 touches last season. At 6’5, 240, Towles is pretty comparable to Dak Prescott and the Wildcats use him a lot around the goal line. He was used frequently like Prescott in the final five games of the season, with 79 rushing attempts during that stretch. There's no reason to believe this won’t continue, considering how well the offense played, even in the SEC conference. Kentucky put up 29.2 points per game last season and scored 40+ points in four games, including a match up against a very stingy Louisville defense. With the offense having no real star running back and no goal line back, Towles will continue to fill that role, while throwing 400 times this season.
Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech – This one has to be the wildest of the five total players mentioned in this article, and oddly enough, he’s the guy everyone likely knows. Driskel failed miserably while at Florida, but was able to transfer to Louisiana Tech because of the graduation rule. The Bulldogs have a lot of underrated weapons around, which will allow Jeff to let him live up to his potential. He''ll face lesser competition and he'll play without the bright lights and pressure of "The Swamp", as he did in Gainesville.
With a very solid wide receiver core around him, I could see Driskel easily put up numbers like Cody Sokol put up for the Bulldogs last season. Sokol ended with 3,436 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2014, but was not a threat on the ground. Driskel was the number one dual threat quarterback out of high school and could add another element to the Bulldog offense by running the football. In Driskel's best season for the Gators, he ran for 408 yards and four touchdowns. In the last four seasons, Louisiana Tech has thrown it no less than 448 times. Mix that passing game in with 100+ carry potential for Driskel and you have yourself a poor man's Patrick Towles.
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