2023 College Fantasy Football Preview SEC

Southeastern Conference

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football SEC Preview

The 2023 college fantasy football preview for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is the one that I'm sure people have been waiting for. This is the preeminent conference in college football. The majority of the teams are filled with 4 and 5-star recruits. Plenty of highly talented recruits continue to develop and then become NFL draft picks. In this past draft, the SEC led the way in selections with 62 draft picks! It's easy to understand why an SEC team has won the past four NCAA national championships and 14 of the past 20 championships!

But does that lead to fantasy college football greatness as well? The short answer is a resounding yes. I'm only going to be recommending one player from each team, but these teams are flush with players that should be on fantasy rosters. Many of the teams where I recommend a pass-catching option also have a fantasy-viable quarterback. You may have to do a little research though to make sure.

A good starting point for that research is here in the 2023 college fantasy football preview for the SEC!

2023 College Fantasy Football SEC Preview

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Jase McClellan, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide

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Alabama has had at least one running back eclipse 1,000 total yards every year since 2007! Those also happen to be the 16 seasons that Nick Saban has been the head coach in Tuscaloosa. I wouldn't expect anything to stop that streaks this season with the amount of talent that Alabama has at the running back position. Jase McClellan had over 800 total yards and 10 touchdowns last season as the backup running back to Jahmyr Gibbs who has since moved on to the Detroit Lions leaving McClellan as the new lead back.

More recently in the Nick Saban era, Alabama has had dominant quarterback play as well. Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones, and Bryce Young have all been first-round NFL selections after their college careers ended. This year it seems likely that the quarterback play will take a step back for whoever ends up in that position. With that happening, the team may choose to focus more on rushing the ball. Draft McClellan in the top 30 running backs and hope he gets over 200 carries.

Raheim Sanders, RB, Arkansas Razorbacks

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If you've never seen the Arkansas backfield with quarterback K.J. Jefferson and running back Raheim Sanders, it's a sight to behold. Jefferson is listed at 245 pounds and uses his size to his advantage as both a passer and a runner. He is a top-20 quarterback in any college fantasy football league. Sanders isn't quite as large as Jefferson, but he is a load to bring down himself at 225 pounds. Just ask the SEC defenses that he dominated throughout the year.

Sanders's totals for the season included 1,443 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught an additional 28 passes for 271 more yards and two more touchdowns. Sanders would suffer an injury in the bowl game and only touch the ball three times. Even if you include that game, Sanders averaged over 21 fantasy points per game. Expect a similar workload this year for Sanders. That sets him up for a top-five college fantasy football running back finish and a first-round selection in fantasy drafts.

Jarquez Hunter, RB, Auburn Tigers

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If I had written this preview in December of 2022 I would have been very hyped for the potential of Jarquez Hunter. Hunter was the backup running back to last season to day two NFL draft selection, Tank Bigsby. Even as the backup, Hunter was able to display his talent all season, but especially in the last three games of the season. Even though he didn't receive more than 13 carries in any of those games, he still went over 100 rushing yards in all three including 134 rushing yards against Alabama! Unfortunately for him, 2023 hasn't been as kind so far to Hunter.

In January, running back Brian Battie announced he was transferring to Auburn. While I believe that Hunter will still be the primary back, Battie is still a running back who just had over 1,100 rushing yards at South Florida last season. More concerning than Battie's transfer were the off-the-field issues that surfaced in May of this year. Hunter had a sex tape leaked which has led to Auburn suspending multiple students. It seems likely that he is among the suspended, but for how long? As long as that's a question, you need to get a considerable discount when drafting Hunter.

Montrell Johnson, RB, Florida Gators

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Even the most devoted college football fan may not realize that Florida has finished below a 500 winning percentage in the past two seasons. Even with the struggles last season, there was optimism for fantasy production with quarterback Anthony Richardson. He is off to the NFL as the fourth pick overall by the Indianapolis Colts. What's left for the Gators this season shouldn't inspire confidence in your fantasy football leagues.

The position that offers the most intrigue in this offense is the running back position. The issue is that three running backs are likely to receive carries, which is exactly how head coach Billy Napier prefers it.

Last season, Montrell Johnson led the team in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. He did that with 155 carries, 841 rushing yards, and 10 touchdowns. Finishing second in all those statistics was Travis Ettiene's brother, Trevor Ettiene. Finally, the team received a transfer from former Tulane running back Cameron Carroll who has a season over 700 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in his career.

If any one of them were to receive a lion's share of the carries, any one of them could be interesting. Until I see that happen though, I'm unlikely to invest in any Florida Gator.

Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia Bulldogs

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Georgia is the two-time defending national champion in college football. It's not surprising given that Georgia is full of elite college talent and is a factory of NFL draft picks. Notably though, when they were able to finally break through and win the national championships also happened to be the two seasons that tight end Brock Bowers has been on campus. He offers a skillset that has NFL teams salivating for the opportunity to add him to their offense.

Bowers has led the Bulldogs in receiving yards each of the past two seasons. He has been right around 900 receiving yards each of the seasons which for a tight end in college fantasy football is already dominant. What sets Bowers apart is the additional rushing yardage that he offers. In his two seasons, Bowers has received 13 rushing attempts which he has converted into 165 rushing yards and four more touchdowns. Bowers is most assuredly a top-two tight end option and one that should come off in the first two rounds of college fantasy football drafts.

Re'Mahn Davis, RB, Kentucky Wildcats

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It hasn't mattered which program Re'Mahn Davis has played at. He has had seasons over 1,000 yards at both Temple and Vanderbilt. Now, he is taking his talents to a third program but his second with the SEC. Seeing the success he was able to have at Vanderbilt should lead you to feel confident that he can show success at Kentucky which has a recent history of rushing production.

Some of the recent running backs at Kentucky include NFL talents Benny Snell, Lynn Bowden Jr., and most recently Chris Rodriguez Jr. who was selected in the 6th round of the NFL draft by the Washington Commanders.

If you look at the 904 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns last season from Rodriguez, it looks like a fine season. But when you look deeper and see that Rodriguez was suspended for four games and had that production in only eight games is when you really start to get excited about what Davis could do. Rodriguez averaged 21 carries per game in the games he played.

If Davis gets that same workload over the full season, I think he could reach 1,300 rushing yards. Davis is a running back I'm targeting in the middle rounds because I feel very confident in his workload from week to week.

Malik Nabers, WR, LSU Tigers

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LSU has earned a reputation as a wide receiver talent factory. It's an earned reputation with talents like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Justin Jefferson turning into NFL superstars. Of course, the next in that line was supposed to be Kayshon Boutte last year, but that didn't work out for college production. Instead, he was replaced with Malik Nabers who could be the next NFL talent.

Nabers had over 1,000 yards receiving last year, but only scored three receiving touchdowns. If he matches that receiving volume again you have to expect that more touchdowns will come. Even if he just replicates the season he had last year, he's a top-25 receiving option. If the touchdowns come at a more typical rate for a receiver of his caliber, he could have a top-10 season for fantasy wide receiver production.

Jo'Quavius Marks, RB, Mississippi State Bulldogs

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This is going to be a whole new Mississippi State program this season. Unfortunately, previous head coach Mike Leach unexpectedly passed away last December. He was an innovator of the Air Raid offense and his teams were routinely fantasy gold for both quarterbacks and wide receivers. It seems though that the new regime of Zach Arnett (head coach) and Kevin Barbay (offensive coordinator) wants to return the team to a more traditional offense. That should mean a new level of production from running back Jo'Quavius Marks.

Marks has been usable in college fantasy football the past few seasons in an unconventional way. In his three collegiate seasons, Marks only has 289 carries, but has 191 receptions! You can tell why he's been especially valuable in leagues that give points for receptions. With the change over in offenses, it seems like we're going to get to see a new version of Marks. On a per-carry basis last season, he averaged over 5 yards per carry. Actually, for his career, he has averaged 4.5 yards per carry against the difficult SEC defenses. The expectations of a bigger workload have me willing to select Marks in the middle rounds.

Luther Burden, WR, Missouri Tigers

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One of the top wide receiver recruits of the 2022 season, Luther Burden didn't have the production in his freshman season that was expected of him. In his freshman season, Burden had 45 receptions for 375 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also received 18 carries which he turned into 88 more yards and two more touchdowns. Even in his limited touches, they were still flashes of absolute brilliance including this screen pass.

Coming off an underutilized freshman season, Burden was reportedly offered large sums of NIL money to transfer to more established powerhouses such as Alabama. Burden would rebuff those offers and choose to stay with Missouri for the 2023 season. In his second season in the offense, I wouldn't be surprised if Burden more than doubled his production from his first season. I'm going to be aggressively targeting Burden after pick 50 in fantasy drafts because his talent warrants it.

Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss Rebels

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In most college fantasy football drafts, Quinshon Judkins should be the first running back selected. He started his true freshman season strong and never really looked back. He had at least 10 carries every week and had over 22 carries each of the last seven weeks of the Rebels' season. His lowest rushing total of the season was 46 yards but he still scored two touchdowns in that game. It is his 'poor' games like that which show the value that makes Judkins an ideal early selection. He is unlikely to not show up for your team with the upside of 30-plus points every week.

Officially, Judkins finished seventh in rushing yards last season in all of college football. However, the six players ahead of him have all moved on to their careers leaving Judkins as the most yards from last season. It is hard to see him replicating the nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns we had from him last season. However, I also wouldn't be surprised if he was able to repeat it, either. He's a special running back. Select him in the first five picks overall.

Antwane Wells Jr., WR, South Carolina Gamecocks

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As a sophomore, Antwane Wells Jr. set the receiving yardage record at James Madison. Even though James Madison was making the transition from the FCS level to the Sun Belt conference, it wasn't enough of a challenge for Wells. Instead, he decided to transfer to the toughest conference in all of college football and go to South Carolina. With that large of a jump in competition, I was leery of selecting Wells in any of my drafts last season, but he hit the ground running.

In his first season at South Carolina, Wells led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. His season included 68 receptions, 928 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. Just repeating those numbers would likely have Wells finish as a top-40 wide receiver, but I think there is a possibility for more. The four players who finished second through fifth in receiving yards have all moved from South Carolina. That vacates 96 receptions for over 1,200 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. You have to expect that some of that production has to go to Wells which is why I'm willing to draft him in the top-30 wide receivers.

Squirrel White, WR, Tennessee Volunteers

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The Tennessee offense is going to need to replace their quarterback and top wide receivers from last season. Quarterback Hendon Hooker and receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman were all selected in round three of the NFL draft. Luckily, they have a head coach in Josh Heupel who is a master at generating offense. The offense scored just over 46 points per game last season which was first in all of college football. A big reason for offensive prowess is the breakneck pace the team operates at which shouldn't change this season.

The most likely option to replace some of the receiving production is Squirrel White. The only real question with White is his diminutive size. Tennessee's roster website lists him at 5'10" and only 165 pounds. The good news is that Hyatt wasn't a whole lot bigger and thrived in this offense because of his blazing speed which White also offers. Plus, we were able to see how effective White could be in the Orange Bowl last season when both the starting wide receivers opted out to prepare for the NFL. Taking on a very talented Clemson defense, White was dominant. He finished that game with nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. I'm willing to take him as my first wide receiver in the third round in any draft.

Evan Stewart, WR, Texas A&M Aggies

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It was an unbelievably disappointing season for the Aggies last season. The team finished below a 500 winning percentage (5-7) for the first time since 2009 and did not play in a bowl game. A big reason for that was the rotating door at quarterback which saw three different quarterbacks play in multiple games. The good news was that all of the different quarterbacks knew to target their star freshman wide receiver, Evan Stewart.

Stewart missed a couple of games due to injury last season, but still led the team in receiving yards. The totals won't blow you away with 53 receptions, 649 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Then you realize that his 649 yards were just under a quarter of the team's total passing yards for the season. Finding a single healthy, consistent quarterback will help the offense, as should the addition of Bobby Petrino as the new offensive coordinator. Having not seen how it will all play out, I'm not going to spend a premium pick on Stewart, but I'm willing to draft him in the mid-rounds with his talent and upside.

Will Sheppard, WR, Vanderbilt Commodores

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Last season was a definite step forward for the Commodores. The team only finished 5-7 but, for perspective, they had a total of five wins the previous three seasons combined. A big reason for that was the offense as the team added almost 10 more points per game from the previous season. Running back Re'Mahn Davis was mentioned under the Kentucky write-up because that's where he is now playing. At wide receiver, Will Sheppard was the focal point of the passing offense.

Recommending any player on Vanderbilt means realizing that these aren't plug-and-play weekly starters, but choose your matchup types. Looking at Will Sheppard's game log shows just that. In non-conference play, Sheppard had 96.1 fantasy points in PPR scoring. Once the SEC play hit, Sheppard played in all eight games and scored only 95.3 fantasy points in those games. I'm willing to draft Sheppard towards the end of drafts knowing I can play him early in the season and then adjust from there.

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