The college football season is upon us! While many Power-5 conference matchups are scheduled for later in the season, this early season, typically non-conference, window is an excellent chance to see Group of Five teams take center stage against some of college football’s heavyweights. For those unfamiliar, Group of Five refers to teams in the American Athletic, Sunbelt, Conference USA, Mid-American, and Mountain West conferences.
Traditionally considered a lower tier of Division I college football, the Group of Five continues to produce NFL prospects. Last year’s draft saw several highly valued dynasty commodities rise from G5 schools. Tyjae Spears and Rashee Rice were day two selections from Tulane and SMU, respectively. With the relative ease of transfer and the college football playoff expansion scheduled for 2024, Group of Five schools continue to gain traction in an ever-changing CFB landscape. While still a lower tier of competition, G5 television exposure is becoming less of a problem, and playing time is becoming a greater selling point for transfers. With that in mind, let’s look at the top devy assets in this rapidly expanding subsection of college football.
Michael Pratt, QB, Tulane
A year removed from leading the Green Wave to a 12-2 record, AAC Championship, and Cotton Bowl victory over USC, Pratt is back for his senior season. A three-year starter for Tulane, Pratt took a significant step forward in 2022, showcasing good arm strength and deceptive mobility within the pocket.
Despite top playmakers Tyjae Spears and Deuce Watts departing campus for pro opportunities, Pratt will again play behind a solid offensive line. Emerging weapons Jha’Quan Jackson, Lawrence Keys III, and tight end Alex Bauman will look to capitalize on the most pro-ready QB prospect in the group of five at this moment. A likely Senior Bowl participant, Pratt, and Tulane appear primed to build on last season’s success.
Austin Reed, QB, Western Kentucky
After beginning his collegiate career quarterbacking West Florida to a Division II national championship, Reed transferred to Western Kentucky before the 2022 season. While unable to match Bailey Zappe’s record-setting season a year prior for the Hilltoppers, Reed quickly established himself as a top signal caller in Conference USA.
Following a 4,700-yard, 40-touchdown campaign, Reed was courted by several Power-5 schools but elected to remain at Western Kentucky. Despite average arm strength, Reed has excellent anticipation and touch on intermediate throws. Quick decision-making and a rapid release pair nicely with his top playmaker, Malachi Corley, who we will discuss in a moment. Another season of massive production will undoubtedly result in a Senior Bowl Invite, and I expect Reed to deliver.
Taylen Green, QB, Boise State
The Mountain West Freshman of the Year, Green, is among the most exciting players to watch in college football. Now a redshirt sophomore, Green is only entering his second season of starting and his first season of draft eligibility. While he may still be two seasons away from the NFL, Green is a power forward playing quarterback. With fluid mobility and rare top-end speed for a 6’6″ player, he is more than just a scrambler. Decision-making, ball placement, and anticipation all must improve.
However, Green has a natural and loose throwing motion that creates enormous ball velocity. While still a thrower and not a passer, Green has a skill set that, if developed, could lead to a first-round selection in the NFL Draft.
- Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina
- Frank Harris, QB, UTSA
- JT Daniels, QB, Rice
- Seth Henigan, QB, Memphis
- Preston Stone, QB, SMU
Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky
A yard-after-catch specialist, Corley is an absolute nightmare to tackle. Primarily targeted on screens and quick-breaking concepts, the Western Kentucky receiver racked up over 100 receptions in 2022. Despite lacking top-end speed and quickness, he has incredible lower-body strength and contact balance. Corley is a dependable route runner in the short and intermediate areas and demonstrates good spatial awareness within zone coverage concepts.
A potentially lower-upside player due to his projected role at the next level, Corley will offer an NFL offense flexibility as a slot wide receiver and satellite running back. However, this isn’t an archetype typically associated with fantasy success. Despite his high ranking on this list, as we start to frame these prospects in an NFL context, Corley ranks for me amongst the most overvalued assets currently in devy.
Frank Gore Jr., RB, Southern Mississippi
If having a legacy father and nearly 3,000 yards in three seasons at Southern Mississippi hadn’t convinced you of Gore Jr.’s brilliance, his record-setting 329-yard performance in the LendingTree Bowl surely would’ve. Gore Jr. is undersized but demonstrated his durability and toughness last season, handling 228 carries and operating often as a wildcat quarterback.
While his pass-catching profile is lacking, it’s hard to penalize a player for not catching passes when he’s also being asked to throw them. Hopefully, with more stable quarterback play in 2023, Gore will bouy his profile with that final piece. Regardless, Gore Jr. is a shifty and fluid cutter and excels between the tackles with the same vision and patience that made his dad so special. He can potentially be a day-2 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Ashton Jeanty, RB, Boise State
The only 2024 draft-ineligible player on this list, Ashton Jeanty, still isn’t even listed as the starter for Boise State. George Holani is back for his fifth season on campus, and while Holani offers some late-round NFL intrigue, Jeanty is the runner that has scouts and devy managers salivating. A breakout performance in the Frisco Bowl to end last season foreshadows what is to come for the Bronco offense in 2023.
Jeanty has excellent short-area quickness and change-of-direction skills. Despite his wiry, undersized frame, he excels at stepping out of and bouncing off tackles. Combined with Taylen Green and the veteran Holani, Boise State can lead the nation in rushing.
- Rasheen Ali, RB, Marshall
- Antario Brown, RB, Northern Illinois
- Jaylen Knighton, RB, SMU
- Dylan Goffney, WR, Colorado State
- RJ Maryland, TE, SMU
With the Group of Five comprising 61 different teams, we have an immense player pool to choose from. Without a doubt, some prospects got missed. Make sure to comment on your favorite G5 devy prospect missing. Additionally, follow @DynastyNerds on Twitter/X as we continue to help dynasty and devy managers dominate their leagues.