2023 College Fantasy Football Preview Independents

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football Independents

The only college fantasy football preview for 2023 that is left is the independents. Unlike the other previews, this is technically not a conference. Rather, these are the four remaining teams that have not joined a conference for various reasons. I'm going to preview the four of them together, but they are all very different in terms of not only geographic location but also college fantasy football appeal.

Easily the most recognizable name amongst the group is Notre Dame. Notre Dame has been courted by major conferences for years but continues to remain independent. More than likely, this will be the only program of the four independents that has standard league fantasy appeal. However, anything is possible when it comes to finding unexpected value in college fantasy football.

With that in mind, time to read up on the 2023 college fantasy football independents preview!

2023 College Fantasy Football Independents Preview

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Jakobi Buchanan, RB, Army Black Knights

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When you go to college at West Point, football is likely not your main priority. I have the highest amount of respect for anyone who chooses to attend the Army Academy. All that being said, West Point is one of the last places I will look to for college fantasy football production.

For years, Army has utilized the triple-option offense which revolves around running the ball. Last year, the team averaged 54 carries per game and only eight passes per game. The team has hired a new offensive coordinator in Drew Thatcher who will transition away from the triple-option but will still likely be run-oriented.

With the changeover in the offensive system and the recent history of poor college fantasy football production, I will not be selecting any Army players for my college fantasy football teams. I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach with this offense this season. The player who I think will be most fantasy relevant is running back/fullback Jakobi Buchanan. I say that because I believe when they get inside the 5-yard line, Buchanan will most likely get the ball. He has scored 24 touchdowns over the past three seasons. The issue is that touchdowns are hard to predict and can come in bunches, so he is more of a best ball option than a set-your-lineup league option.

Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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If I wrote this preview a few months ago, I likely would have recommended Estime then, too. It would have been with less conviction, though. Last season, three running backs took at least 100 carries for Notre Dame. Logan Diggs led in carries and went over 1,000 total yards between rushing and receiving. Audric Estime led in rushing yards, total yards, and touchdowns. Chris Tyree finished with the fewest carries of the three but was a weapon in the receiving game. Then, in spring, more clarity formed around the running back situation at Notre Dame.

First came information that Tyree was shifted to wide receiver from running back. Suddenly, the three-man competition was a two-man competition. Then, at the end of April, Diggs entered the transfer portal. He would eventually choose LSU to reunite with his old coach Brian Kelly. Suddenly, Estime has found himself as the clear primary back. As such, I expect him to eclipse 200 touches. I value Estime as a top-20 running back. As such, he is someone I'm looking to draft in the first 75 picks.

Victor Rosa, RB, Connecticut Huskies

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Connecticut had one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in all of college football last season under new head coach Jim Mora Jr. Over the prior four seasons the Huskies went 4-32. Mora was able to get his team bowl eligible at 6-7 in his first season.

He did that by leaning into the rushing attack. The team had five different players take at least 65 carries last season. That was good for helping the Huskies win games but not great for fantasy production.

Last season, the leading rusher for the Huskies was Victor Rosa. He led the team in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Those totals were only 140 carries, 635 yards, and 11 touchdowns. After the success that Mora had last season with his committee approach, I'm sure that he'll do that again. Any type of committee has to cap the production of every back involved. I wouldn't be surprised if Rosa added more carries and more rushing yards. I also don't expect him suddenly to take 200 carries and reach 1,000 rushing yards. If it looks as if he is getting a larger share, I'll be willing to add him off of the waiver wire.

Mark Pope, WR, Massachusetts Minutemen

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Massachusetts returned to having a football program in 2012 after a 100-plus-year absence. Since their return to football, their best record by winning percentage has been two seasons of  4-8.

Going into last season, there was some hope for more with a new head coach in Don Brown and Ellis Merriweather at running back. Last season, Merriweather was on a lot of my teams coming off a 1,300-yard total season in 2021. It did not work as the entire offense bottomed out. The team scored a total of 150 points or 12.5 points per game. That ranked dead last in all of college football.

Needless to say, any recommendation from Massachusetts for college fantasy football is not a draftable player but someone to watch. I'm recommending wide receiver Mark Pope as a player to watch. Pope transferred to Massachusetts after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Miami Hurricanes. His best season was in 2020 when he contributed 33 receptions, 403 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Hopefully, he can match those numbers with Massachusetts. Those numbers may not appear impressive, but all of those numbers would have led the Minutemen last season.

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