2023 College Fantasy Football ACC Preview

Atlantic Coast Conference

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football ACC

Welcome to the 2023 College Fantasy Football ACC Preview!

The first College Fantasy Football Preview started with the American Athletic Conference (AAC). The AAC is a Group of 5 conference meaning the schools within those conferences have a tough schedule to "plow through" to qualify for a New Year's Six Bowl game. Those are the bowls that include the Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Peach, Orange, and Fiesta. The winner of a Power 5 conference, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which I'm covering today, receives an automatic bid to one of those games.

It's a roundabout way to explain that the talent at a Power 5 conference such as the AAC is simply better than the Group of 5 conferences. It doesn't mean that there isn't fantasy gold in the smaller conferences (see UTSA) or that all Power 5 schools are full of fantasy greatness. You still have to know who the "haves" and "have-nots" are in those conferences to become a "fantasy stud."

No more time to waste, let's get to the Atlantic Coast Conference!

2023 College Fantasy Football ACC Preview

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Ryan O'Keefe, WR, Boston College Eagles
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Ryan O'Keefe has put together back-to-back seasons of nearly 1,000 total yards. Last season, he placed 61st in PPR scoring amongst all wide receivers. If you remove graduations and early NFL declarations, he almost reaches the top 40.

You would think with numbers like that I would be excited to roster Ryan O'Keefe on my CFF teams. The problem is that in the offseason, O'Keefe transferred from the University of Central Florida to Boston College. Yes, the same Boston College where Zay Flowers put together a top-10 fantasy wide receiver season. Zay though was a first-round NFL talent who is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Ryan O'Keefe is talented, but a first-round pick he is likely not. I expect a step back from O'Keefe this season.

Will Shipley, RB, Clemson Tigers
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In his second year of college, Will Shipley came into his own with over 1,100 yards rushing and 15 rushing touchdowns. He is also a phenomenal pass-catcher as evidenced by his 38 receptions for another 242 yards. Just repeating last year's numbers would likely have him as a top-10 running back, but I think there is a chance for even more from Shipley.

Clemson has hired Garrett Riley to be their new offensive coordinator. Just last season, Riley was the offensive coordinator that helped lead TCU to the national championship. He also helped TCU running back Kendre Miller reach over 1,500 total yards. Kendre Miller just recently heard his name called on night two of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Shipley is an even better talent who could replicate those numbers.

Riley Leonard, QB, Duke Blue Devils
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When you think of Duke University and sports, I bet it isn't football that you think of. However, Riley Leonard is a borderline QB1 for CFF because of his dual-threat ability. Leonard threw for just under 3,000 yards last season, but also ran for just under 700 yards! Actually, he was the leading rusher on the team.

I would expect very little change in the Blue Devils' offense. Leonard is the clear focal point of the offense. His rushing ability gives him a very high floor week to week, but also a massive ceiling. Select Riley Leonard as a top-15 quarterback and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State Seminoles
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Jordan Travis has developed into one of the most reliable quarterbacks in all of college football. He has three seasons as the primary starting quarterback for Florida State University. Every season he has improved his attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and yards per attempt. He also has decreased his interceptions-just five last season on 353 attempts! He also has over 400 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns in all three of his seasons. Add it all together, and you have the recipe for a top-10 CFF quarterback.

Dontae Smith, RB, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
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Georgia Tech was the most difficult team in the ACC to find a fantasy option to recommend. There is a lot of turnover for the Yellow Jackets including a new head coach and both coordinators. I'm going to recommend Dontae Smith if you choose to roster a Yellow Jacket. Smith has been with Georgia Tech already for four seasons so I believe his dedication to the program will have him as the starting running back at the start of the season. That being said, I likely won't roster any Yellow Jackets this season because there as too many questions.

Jamari Thrash, WR, Louisville Cardinals
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Jeff Brohm takes over as Head Coach of his alma mater after half a decade of putting together impressive offenses at Purdue. While he was coach at Purdue, three different wide receivers went over 1,000 receiving yards including Charlie Jones who just last season finished as WR 2 overall. Jamari Thrash is coming off a season that included 61 receptions, 1,122 yards, and seven touchdowns himself. He had that season, though, at Georgia State.

After his fantastic season at the Group of 5 level, Thrash wanted a larger challenge for his final collegiate season. He now finds himself in a great situation for wide receivers at Louisville. The yards-per-catch will probably drop but will be offset by much more receiving volume. Not counting the shortened COVID season of 2020, the top pass-catcher in Jeff Brohm's offenses has always had over 85 receptions since 2018. I would expect at least that number from Thrash this season.

Xavier Restrepo, WR, Miami Hurricanes
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The Miami Hurricanes are an excellent example of the differences between NFL talent and college fantasy football appeal. Miami has NFL talent at multiple positions including quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. However, for fantasy purposes, the offense has been unreliable. Bringing in Shannon Dawson from Houston as the new offensive coordinator may change that, but there are still uncertainties.

I'm going to go off of the Miami spring game reports and recommend Xavier Restrepo. Restrepo's three years of production are less than stellar. When drafting Restrepo late you're hoping that Dawson's Houston offense translates quickly to Miami. It was at Houston where Nathaniel Dell just had a season that included over 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns. I certainly don't expect that type of production or else Restrepo would be a first-round selection. Instead, he can likely be selected with a last-round pick with upside for more.

Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina Tarheels
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Drake Maye finished second in all of college fantasy football scoring (behind only Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams). Last season, he had over 5,000 combined passing and rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns! With numbers like that, you would expect Maye to be an easy top-two fantasy choice at quarterback again. In the words of the iconic Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!"

There is a lot of changeover in the Tarheels offense from 2022 to 2023.  One such change is that their star wide receiver, Josh Downs, is now an Indianapolis Colt. The Tarheels hope to replace his production with the transfer of Devontez Walker from Kent State. Walker is a receiver who could finish as a top-ten wide receiver in fantasy this year.

Perhaps more important, is the changeover at offensive coordinator from Phil Longo to Chip Lindsey. Lindsey has been an offensive coordinator at a variety of colleges over the past few seasons with moderate success. That being said, Longo has been one of the best coordinators for offensive production with his modified air raid offense.

Overall, I expect a step back from Drake Maye this season. I would still be willing to take him as a top 10 overall quarterback, but not within the top three at this point.

Brennan Armstrong, QB, NC State Wolfpack
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Brennan Armstrong is a quarterback who I wanted no part of last draft season.  That decision proved correct as he took a major step back from his breakout 2021 season. The 2021 season included 40 total touchdowns and 4,700 total yards.  So why was I uninterested last season?

The Virginia offense (Virginia was where Armstrong played his games until this season) was changing offensive coordinators from Robert Anae to Des Kitchings. Anae spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Syracuse University before going to NC State this season. Armstrong has chosen to transfer to NC State to join him. What it means is that Armstrong is back in the system where he proved effective for fantasy just two years ago. I'm doubtful of him replicating two years ago, but I still expect a top-30 fantasy quarterback finish.

Rodney Hammond, RB, Pittsburgh Panthers
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We saw Israel Abanikanda go over 1,500 total yards and lead all of college football with 21 touchdowns as the primary back at Pittsburgh last year.  It was enough for Abanikanda to hear his name called on day three by the New York Jets. This is a team though where I trust the system when it comes to running back.

We haven't seen much of Rodney Hammond, but what we have seen has been very impressive. Abinakanda missed one game last year with an injury and then opted out of the Sun Bowl leaving Hammond as the primary back. In just those two games, Hammond received a whopping 53 carries! He turned those carries into 213 rushing yards and three touchdowns. I expect that volume to continue and for Hammond to finish as a top-30 running back in CFF this season.

Oronde Gadsden II, TE, Syracuse Orange
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If I had written this article a few weeks ago, Oronde Gadsden II would have been an intriguing mid-round pick in a CFF league. Now, he's someone that should go in the first three rounds. The difference is that Fantrax decided to add tight end to his eligible positions as opposed to just wide receiver.

Gadsden is a physically dominant receiving threat at 6'5. Syracuse's team roster lists him at tight end, but he will play almost exclusively split out wide. Now that Fantrax has updated his eligibility to include tight end, he becomes a top-two tight end in all of college fantasy football.

Finding a reliable CFF tight end is almost always a challenge.  Three remaining collegiate tight ends from last season averaged over 12 fantasy points per game last season-Brant Kuithe at Utah, Brock Bowers at Georgia, and Gadsden. Don't be afraid to take the plunge early for a talent like this.

Kobe Pace, RB, Virginia Cavaliers
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Virginia is a tough team to find a player to recommend for CFF purposes. As mentioned above with Brennan Armstrong, their offense struggled last season. Kobe Pace wasn't there to experience that struggle though. Pace found himself buried on the Clemson running back depth chart and chose to transfer. I'm hoping that his talent will show through in practice and he'll command a large portion of the workload. That being said, I plan to take a wait-and-see approach with the Cavaliers and am unlikely to draft any of them.

Ali Jennings, WR, Virginia Tech Hokies
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Ali Jennings is about to start his final season of collegiate eligibility with his third different team. Originally recruited to West Virginia, Jennings found success when he transferred to Old Dominion. For his final season, he is heading back to a Power Five school in Virginia Tech. Will the success transfer with him?

I believe that Jennings is talented enough to have success at the upper level. However, there are a lot of questions with the Virginia Tech offense including who is going to the quarterback this season between Grant Wells and Kyron Drones. Don't take Ali Jennings too early while planning for him to replicate the production of the past few years. Rather, take a chance later on Jennings, and hopefully be rewarded with a quick and successful transition.

Jahmal Banks, WR, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Every year since 2018, Wake Forest has had at least a 1,000-yard receiver (technically, Jaquarii Roberson only had 926 yards but in only 9 games with the shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19). In 2019 and 2021, Wake Forest had multiple receivers go over 1,000 yards! When CFF fans talk of systems, that is the type of consistency from one position, at one school,l that they seek.

A.T. Perry was the thousand-yard receiver last season, but he has since moved on to the New Orleans Saints. Along with Perry, quarterback Sam Hartman has moved on to Notre Dame. Regardless, I expect the thousand-yard receiver trend to continue with Jahmal Banks. Banks offers the same large-bodied frame that Perry offered. Perry was able to finish as WR 12 last season. I believe that Banks is a top 20 option in CFF leagues with the opportunity to have a league-winning type of season.

Be sure to check out the rest of the College Fantasy Football content!

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