In about two and a half hours, I’ll be getting my yearly fantasy football draft underway. It’s not a particularly serious league – we’re competitive, but we don’t put any money down. That’s probably a good thing, since I work at an NCAA school and I’ve recently learned that college athletes are not supposed to participate in fantasy football. Who knew, right? But apparently, that’s the word that was given by the Syracuse University compliance office to the Orange players.
With that in mind, since the Orange can’t actually compete in a fantasy football league without potentially bringing the ire of the NCAA, I figured I could at least talk about which Orange players would score you the most points in a hypothetical college football fantasy league. We’ll say it’s a standard league that bases its points on things like yards and touchdowns, and unfortunately for the guys on the defensive side of the ball, that means we’d be drafting the D/ST as a whole. Sorry, Zaire Franklin, the 90 or so tackles I expect from you this season won’t do our fantasy team much good.
Let’s talk about the guys who would go in the first round, without question. Syracuse has a lot of talented young players, but there are only a handful of guys you can count on to earn you fantasy points on a weekly basis. The top three point-getters this year, in all likelihood, would be Terrel Hunt, Ervin Philips, and Steve Ishmael. Let’s say we’re going with a league that doesn’t award points for receptions, though, and that suddenly makes Hunt the clear choice for the top pick in the draft as we head into the season.
While Philips is going to get plenty of rushing and receiving yards, and might get between 5-10 touchdowns this season, and Ishmael will be the top target and could get around 700-800 receiving yards and probably six or seven TD catches, it’ll be Hunt tearing up the stat page from a fantasy perspective. With his ability to get yards and touchdowns on the ground, he will hopefully be Syracuse’s fantasy football version of Cam Newton. With the aerial yards (I’d bet it’ll be in the neighborhood of 1,500-2,000 this season) combined with rushing yards (probably 400-500 by the end of the year), he’s going to be racking up points. Add in at least five rushing touchdowns and probably between 10-15 passing scores, and he’s far and away the top pick this season.
Now we’re getting to the guys who won’t put up the kinds of numbers that Hunt will, and likely won’t be as much of a factor as either Philips or Ishmael, but will still be counted on heavily throughout the season. The first player to look at in the middle-to-later part of the first round is Devante McFarlane. Syracuse will be looking to run the ball more this season, and McFarlane is in line for the lion’s share of the carries. It would’t be unreasonable to see him put up a season with between 700-900 yards and a handful of touchdowns, making him one of the best options after the top three are off the board.
After McFarlane, your best bet for points would likely wind up being Brisly Estime. The speedy receiver has a chance to impact the game in a number of areas this season, including on punt returns. Now, we’re not going with a league here in which punt return yardage counts, but punt return touchdowns certainly do. Estime could give Syracuse a real home run threat as a punt returner, while also blossoming into one of the team’s top deep threats on offense. Ben Lewis is another name to consider in the second tier, and could be a sneaky smart pick with a late first round selection. He’s going to be coming off the bench behind Philips at the express back position, but is a natural receiver and has been looking better than expected running the ball.
Now we’re edging into sleeper territory. This is the part of the draft where you’ll take a bit of a risk on someone you think has a chance to surpass expectations. The first two names to consider here are Jamal Custis and Adly Enoicy, Syracuse’s two 6-foot-5 receivers who could be absolute nightmares for opponents in the redzone. At this point, you’re drafting either Custis or Enoicy solely for the potential touchdown production they could give you on fades, with Hunt tossing it up for his two behemoths to go and snag for scores.
Alvin Cornelius is another name to consider at this point in the draft. He’s only had a few catches in his career, but he’s poised to become a starter this season and will be lined up opposite Ishmael at the receiver spot. With defenses focusing on Ishmael, Philips, and McFarlane, and potentially even Estime coming out of the slot, it could leave Cornelius in prime position to be the recipient of “leftovers” so to speak. Don’t be surprised if he tosses up a stat line of about 25 catches, 400 yards, and two or three touchdowns. Another name to look at here is George Morris, the primary backup at running back and a more natural receiver than McFarlane. Morris has had a disappointing career so far but will have the chance to make some noise. Josh Parris is another player to consider here, as the team’s top tight end, but until we see just how much Tim Lester’s offense will utilize the position it’s too risky to take him early. He’ll get you a couple touchdowns, but it’s unclear how many times he’ll be targeted on a week to week basis.
Now we’re getting into the guys who will be feast or famine, and either make you look like the smartest guy at the draft table or the dumbest. These are the guys you’re going to be taking a gamble on, and who may not even make it to the field enough to be worth a pick. The first name on the list, and probably the surest sleeper to get some points for you this season? Jordan Fredericks. The true freshman running back looked terrific in the team’s Fan Fest scrimmage, and with McFarlane and Morris still pretty unproven, it’s not inconceivable that he could quickly work his way up the depth chart and be a real factor in the run game.
Two other names to look at here are Dontae Strickland and Tyrone Perkins, with Strickland probably being more likely to play since Perkins is coming back from an ACL injury. Strickland is a dynamic athlete who will split time between RB and hybrid, and could even get into the action on kick and punt returns. He’s a home run threat whenever he touches the ball, and is worth a late pick. If you’re looking for someone to potentially break out at the tight end position, take a chance with Trey Dunkelberger. The 6-foot-4, 250 pound JUCO transfer is a solid athlete who catches the ball well and, like Parris, could become a factor in the passing game depending on how much the tight ends are used on a weekly basis.
So what would a top 10 draft look like for Syracuse Orange Fantasy Football? We’ll keep the D/ST out of things, since that group would likely crack the first 10 spots in our hypothetical draft.