Canes Football and the status of college football has been a hot topic all summer long. The status of Pro Football, however, is all but set as a go. So, you know what that means:
FANTASY FOOTBALL TIME!
The Canes are WELL represented in the league, as usual, ranking Fourth among colleges in Active NFL players, with 34 as of last year. That doesn’t include players like Deejay Dallas, Jeff Thomas or K.J. Osborn, all of whom found homes in the league during the off season.
BUT, before you take advice from just ANYBODY, please know that I have (technically) two 1st place finishes over the last two seasons and regularly make the playoffs, so I’m no slouch.
(Technically, I tied last year for 1st, but lost on BENCH points, but I’m claiming the top spot like a UCF stan.)
Now, on to the players.
Among the available players in the 2020 crop of Miami Hurricanes players, we have to pay special attention to two players who would have been notable fantasy players, but chose to Opt Out of the 2020 NFL season using the COVID-19 Opt Out option agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA.
Those players are Travis Benjamin and Allen Hurns.
Don’t be THAT team, that falls asleep at the wheel and drafts one the aforementioned players in your league! Yeah, you’ll have a rotational spot on your bench for streaming, but you may as well change you team name to “ALL-IN Hurns” or “Vapid Benjamin” because your league members won’t let you live it down. I know I wouldn’t.
Cleveland Browns Defense
During Alonzo Highsmith’s time as Vice president of Player Personnel with the Cleveland Browns, the Brownies didn’t shy from showing the Cane bias in their roster load. During his tenure, the Browns would draft starting defensive End Chad Thomas, reserve safety Sheldrick Redwine and acquired 2018 Pro Bowler Olivier Vernon. Since acquiring these Canes, the Browns have jumped from 31st to a steady 20th ranking in the league on defense. The 24th ranked defense hit on 38 sacks,7 from Thomas and Vernon, and 20 turnovers, even missing star Myles Garrett for a 3rd of the season. With an 8th ranked strength of schedule, the Dogs should be a nice streaming option throughout the season.
Los Angeles Chargers Defense
Not to be out done on the West Coast, San Diego similarly boasts a handful of Canes on its defense. That includes starters Denzel Perryman, Rayshawn Jenkins and UDFA Romeo Finley. The 21st ranked 2019 defense, per ESPN, posed little help to fantasy owners following a solid yet unspectacular start. With a defense returning most of their stars and expecting more from previously injured players, the team should return to its 3 year average of 12th overall and be a borderline starting defense.
Receivers KJ Osborn and Jeff Thomas
The two offensive leaders from last year’s team are now NFL ProCanes.
Osborn, selected in the 7th by the Minnesota Vikings, has already wowed coaches with the work ethic that he was known for in Miami. A muddled receiving room with the loss of Stefon Diggs has Osborn in play for snaps in the slot. His ability to stay on the coaches good side could spell sleeper for the former Cane.
On the opposite side is Jeff Thomas. The UDFA was thought to go much higher on draft day, but tales of his time in Coral Gables hurt his draft stock. A pleasant surprise was his signing with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. What seems to be a perfect locker room fit may unlock Thomas’ potential, as well as a top heavy WR core that lacks the speed that Thomas can bring. The speedy playmaker is already becoming a camp favorite among the Foxborough Faithful. Keep an eye here for camp developments.
The Top Ten
10 - Braxton Berrios - New York Jets
Number 10 on the list, Number 10 for the New York Jets, but number one in your Girlfriends heart, Braxton Berrios is carving out a role on the Jets. Last year, he made his mark on the punt return unit (no surprise) as the Jets’ primary punt returner, averaging the second-most yards per return in the league while leading the league with 32 fair catches (again no surprise). Where Berrios looks to break in now is improving on six catches for 115 yards. That will be heavily helped by the departure of South Plantation star Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas.
While he sits directly behind high volume Jamison Crowder, Berrios could easily begin poaching snaps from the vet. Last year was an outlier for the former Duke product in that it was his first full season. The consistent nature of his nagging injuries could spell opportunity for Berrios.
Projected Points (non PPR): 53 points - Draft Round - Undrafted Free Agent
9 - Phillip Dorsett - Seattle Seahawks
Former Cane Stand Out, Phillip Dorsett has traded his first round, New England Patriots garb for the Pacific Blue and Bright Green of the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have struggled to get optimal production from their third receiver in past years, topping out at 445 yards with David Moore in 2017. While Phillip Dorsett has not lit the world on fire in his first years in the league, he provides more versatility from the number 3 whole with his ability to get it done in the slot or split wide. Also, where Phillip exceeds is his ability to find space in defenses while following the quarterback, which will be essential with a running QB like Russell Wilson, behind a weak line that was barely touched in the off season.
Projected Points Non PPR: 85 - Draft Round - 16th
8 - Michael Badgley - Los Angeles Chargers
The Artist Formerly Known as the Mullet comes in at number 8 from the Kicking Spot. Yes y’all, a kicker. Yes, the position that some reaches for in Round 12 of your draft when it’s said to wait till Round 15. The position that gets overlooked as an afterthought in most drafts is also one of the most consistent if you play your cards right. Get a performance like Harrison Butker from last year and you are looking at top 25 running back type points. Enter Mike Badgley.
Since 2018 -
-Field goals: 28-of-32 (87.5 percent)
-Extra points: 46-of-47 (97.9 percent)
-A franchise-record 59-yard field goal on December 8th, 2018 against the Cincinnati Bengals
After missing half of 2019, Badgley’s accuracy and leg power have him in position to surprise this year.
Projected Points: 140 —- Projected Kicker Rank: 10th —- Draft Round: 14th
6 - David Njoku - Cleveland Browns
The gregarious giant known as the “Nigerian Nightmare” will be back roaming the middle of defenses this year in the AFC North, and not the NFC East. After an off season that haunted him with trade rumors and unrest with his quarterback Baker Mayfield, Njoku announced he would return, despite the off season news. What he returns to is an offense primed to improve under Kevin Stefanski, former Minnesota Vikings OC and new Browns Head Coach. The play action advocate will look to incorporate his tight ends using play action for stretching the field and thing the middle of it. Njoku should thrive in the offense, as well as another year with the new look roster to bond and figure out target distribution. Adding to the group is Austin Hooper, who despite the excitement of his signing in Cleveland, should see a sharp decline in his production, losing Matt Ryan, having to nurture a new relationship with a totally different QB, and see his targets drop from the 80+ he saw in back to back years in Atlanta. Njoku should have a solid if not spectacular year with so many weapons to get the ball, including Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Tight end should see numbers similar to Stefanski’s last TE, Kyle Rudolph, in 2018. 50 catches, 600 yards and 6 touchdowns should be the floor for the talented tight end.
Projected Points: 95 —- Projected Tight End Rank —- 18th —- Draft Round: 11th
5 - Travis Homer - Seattle Seahawks
The Running Back position in 2019 was a fluid one. Running backs that were projected to lead their teams rushing attack gave way to rookies and second year players. Major players like Melvin Gordon and David Johnson were nearly non factors for most of the season. Now with 2020 allowing opt outs, the fluidity takes another unique turn. Enter the Seattle Seahawks. Though top back Chris Carson has taken on the lead back role in the offense, Travis Homers ability and work ethic have created a strong level of trust with Homer and the coaching staff, highlighted by a playoff start last season. Now with Chris Carson taking an indefinite leave and Raashad Penny on the pup, Homer is pushing newcomer Carlos Hyde for snaps in camp. His unique blend of speed, power, catching out of the backfield and pass protection is a combination that would intrigue any coach. At the very least, Homer should take the reins as the new 3rd down back, especially with the noted passing struggles for the Seahawks oline. Among backs for Seattle, Homer’s snaps per reception ratio (11%) is more than double that of any other back on Seattle’s roster last season. With no preseason in 2020, Homer can carve out an early three down role while Carson gets up to speed. Even after that Homer still has 3rd down to shine and could be looking at an interesting year. A season wit 500 rushing yards, 200-300 receiving and a number of touchdowns could be in the cards for Homer.
Projected Points: 120 —- Projected Position Rank: 40th —- Draft Round: Late Handcuff
4 - Lamar Miller - New England Patriots
Coming off an ACL surgery from two years ago and a year away from the field to get right, Lamar Miller has landed in the precarious space known as Bill Belichick’s Running Back Room. How can Miller carve out a role, with a room featuring James White, Sony Michel and Damien Harris, significant enough to warrant being FIFTH on this list? Well, it’s complicated. Cam Newton’s entrance to the Patriots lead spot is a big reason why I believe Miller can make an impact. Each running back plays a role in a Patriots offense. James White is a 3rd down and redzone style back to catch out of the backfield. Sony Michel is your 20 to 20 guy. Harris is the big back for the goal line, though talented enough to do more, and Burkhead is the reserve to all of those spots. Lots of moving parts. The introduction of Cam steals the value of Harris at the goal line, and Burkhead as a reserve, while making life of the 20 to 20 back easier as a threat to run. So this should favor Michel right? Yes, as long as he is healthy. He’s a back that carries more nagging injuries than most and is entering the season of foot surgery and is currently on the PUP list. For the Patriots to even consider Miller means there is big concern around Michel’s health. Miller stepping in to the most valuable spot on the RB carousel makes that spot more valuable, because he can score from anywhere on the field. If Miller shows his ability for the Patriots, he could keep that spot and have a sneaky good season as the Patriots guy. 750 rushing yards, 350 receiving and 7 total touchdowns is a fair assessment if the ball rolls right for Miller.
Projected Points: 150 —- Projected Running Back Rank: 20th Projected Draft Round - 12th
3 - Greg Olsen - Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Graham isn’t the only former Canes tight end changing teams. Longtime Carolina Panther Greg Olsen is going across the county to play with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. A room bereft of true challengers, the TE spot is one that should be wide open for Olsen to take. While Wilson hasn’t had great options recently at the spot he’s still throwing to the tight end the 3rd most of any spot on his team. The last time he happened to have talent at the spot, it was, surprise, Jimmy Graham. Graham received 74, 95 and 96 targets in three seasons with Wilson. Olsen, as long as he can stay healthy, is a safe target and still underrated athlete who should see anywhere between 70 to 90 targets and bring in the majority of those throws. 70 Catches 800 yards and 6-8 touchdowns . Before you say he’s too old, Jason Witten, a lesser athlete at the spot in his 34, 35 and 37 year old seasons averaged 88 targets, 65 catches, 575 yards and 3 scores. Olsen can have a special season even at his age.
Projected Points: 130 —- Project Tight End Rank: 10th —- Draft Round: 8th
2 - Christopher Herndon IV - New York Jets
The top tight end choice this year on a list filled with them (The TEU), Herndon should see the explosion this year he should have seen last year, before a 4 game suspension and injuries derailed his sophomore season. With Robby Anderson gone, Herndon should become quarterback Sam Darnold’s number one target. Herndon reportedly has been prepping himself to take on a lead role, knowing Adam Gase’s playbook inside and out while getting into better shape working out at home in Georgia. A freshman season that totaled 39 catches and 500 yards were only a preview of Herndon’s talent. The unicorn type talent at tight end should see a big increase in targets and receptions, on his way to top 5 tight end season and a possible pro bowl berth. I project Herndon to see something around 80 catches and 1000 yards with 8-10 touchdowns. Big things ahead for the third year man in New York.
Projected Points: 170 —- Projected Tight End Rank: 5th —— Draft Round: 6th
1 - Duke Johnson - Houston Texans
Finally, out of the doldrums of Cleveland, Duke Johnson should have a breakout season of sorts in the heart of Texas with the Houston Texans. With the horrid defense the Texans are projected to bring this year the points will need to be there on offense. With the mind numbing trade of Deandre Hopkins, a top 3 receiver in the league for oft injured running back David Johnson, the Texans opened up approximately 160 targets. Adding Brandin Cooks should soak up a few of those, yet I see Johnson being the cog that helps Deshaun Watson make this offense run. Johnson should be on the field very often as either a running back or slot receiver and will be a backup of sorts to the often injured top 3 receivers of Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills. Among the trio only twice have any played full seasons. Add in David Johnson’s last three seasons and that two jumps to three, not adding much confidence to the health of this offense. Meanwhile Duke Johnson hasn’t missed a game in 5 seasons. With limited tread on his wills despite this I’m projecting him to have huge season. Think Darren Sproles best season with New Orleans, with more rushing yards. Think around 800 rushing yards, 60 receptions, 700 receiving yards and 12-14 touchdowns. I feel that there is even more room here but I will leave that to chance, and the health of the mentioned players.
Projected Points: 240 points —- Project RB Rank: Borderline Top Ten —- Draft Round: 5th
If you couldn’t tell there was some home cooking and aspirational projections. The talent on this list, however, is not debatable. Each player has the ability to reach their projections and more, but will be carried by the situation around them. Either way, it will be great to see them succeed in 2020!