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College Fantasy Football Sleepers - Top 10 Impact RB Transfers

The transfer portal had 2,069 entrants for the 2022 season, which was nearly a 25 percent increase from 2021. It wasn't just the quantity, it was the quality as well. Nearly 20% of all FBS players have entered the transfer portal at some time in the last 12 months. College football free agency is much wackier than the NFL will ever be.

We will start my college football season by taking a look at the transfers who will make an immediate impact at their new schools for both our fantasy and DFS lineups from day one. There were so many skill players that I decided to break it down by position to celebrate the sheer number of talented players on the move.

The number of running backs switching addresses pales in comparison (and in star power) to the quarterback list, but we still have some intriguing ones out there. Most schools use a combination of backs now, so just because one of these guys isn't the unquestioned starter doesn't mean that he can't have an impact. We will take a look at the ones most likely to make a difference in your season-long leagues and DFS lineups this season.

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10. Montrell Johnson, Florida (from Louisiana)

I watch more college football than any human should. The Cajuns have used a two-back system for many years now and it has worked to perfection. Elijah Mitchell is just one of the recent NFL backs that came out of Louisiana and have had success in the pros. I'm not saying that Johnson could be a pro. We're a ways away from that right now. Johnson was the guy who stretched the field for the Cajuns last year. He had an electric 99-yard touchdown run against Arkansas State last year and scored 12 touchdowns on 162 carries.

Can he bring that success to Gainesville? It's possible. Dameon Pierce is in the NFL and Emory Jones is now in the desert, so there are plenty of vacated carries. Anthony Richardson operates more passing than rushing. Johnson will face some competition for carries (Travis Etienne's brother Trevor is on the roster), but Johnson is the most experienced back for the Gators. Florida opens the season with Utah and Kentucky. They'll turn to Johnson first in those games at the very least.

 

9. Ky Thomas, Kansas (from Minnesota)

November 13, 2021. That could be the turning point in Kansas football as we know it. They beat Texas in DKR and went on to lose the last two games of the season by a combined nine points against TCU and West Virginia. Hey, it's progress. This team got smoked by a really bad Duke team last year and almost lost to South Dakota. Not South Dakota State...the Jacks could beat a handful of FBS teams...South Dakota. The team that has 17 wins in the last five seasons.

Thomas, a Kansas native, transferred back home after a huge bowl game against West Virginia. Minnesota's backfield is back to full strength and Thomas free-fell back down the depth chart. I would have him higher on this list if Devin Neal weren't still on the Kansas roster. Neal led the Jayhawks in rushing last season and knows the offense. I think the Jayhawks will eventually lean on Thomas more, but that may not happen in the first month or so. This is a situation worth watching. Thomas is probably the most talented player on this roster.

 

8. Christian Beal-Smith, South Carolina (from Wake Forest)

Wake has been a pass-first team, and with guys like Sam Hartman, Jaquarii Roberson, and A.T. Perry, who can blame them? CBS split carries with Kenneth Walker III his first couple of years in Winston-Salem and was again part of a committee that featured Justice Ellison and Christian Turner last year, even though Beal-Smith seemed to be the most talented of the bunch.

He now joins the new-look Gamecocks who made a giant splash by adding Spencer Rattler. South Carolina doesn't have much for experience behind CBS. MarShawn Lloyd is the best-returning rusher from last year and he only went for 228 yards. I'm excited to see what Beal-Smith can bring to the table in this offense.

 

7. Trelon Smith, UTSA (from Arkansas)

You don't see this one often. Smith racked up 1,308 rushing yards and ten touchdowns on the ground in Fayetteville in his two seasons. However, QB KJ Jefferson is the de-facto starting running back on that team, so Smith transferred. Why UTSA? Well, they had this guy named Sincere McCormick who ran for 3,929 yards over the last three seasons in San Antonio. That's a lot of legwork, and exactly what Smith is looking for.

The Roadrunners won ten games last year and return QB Frank Harris, WR Zakhari Franklin, and WR Joshua Cephus. This is still a really good offense and Smith is talented enough to step right in for McCormick, who is now in Las Vegas playing for the Raiders. Don't be shocked if Smith flirts with 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this year.

 

6. Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State (from Wyoming)

If you have read my stuff at all over the last few years, you know what a fan of Valladay I am. He has averaged nearly 5.4 yards per carry in his career behind a questionable-at-best line. Don't forget that Josh Allen played behind that line to little fanfare before becoming a star in the NFL.

You're not going to mistake a big back like Valladay for Eno Benjamin or Rachaad White anytime soon, but he was also active in the passing game for the Cowboys. Arizona State only returns Daniyel Ngata and Deonce Elliott from last year's running back room. If they didn't have a run-first quarterback like Emory Jones, I would be even higher on Valladay. He's a horse and can carry this backfield if Herm Edwards asks him to.

 

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5. Tiyon Evans, Louisville (from Tennessee)

Evans had a strong year for Tennessee last year, racking up 525 yards and six touchdowns on only 81 carries. He moves into a situation where he will be the top running back, but what is that really worth on a team that has Malik Cunningham, one of the most prolific running quarterbacks outside of a service academy? Well...maybe more than you think.

Louisville doesn't want Cunningham to not be himself, but they did limit his carries down the stretch last year after the Clemson game, a game in which Cunningham toted it 22 times. Cunningham is the key to the success of the Louisville offense. The last thing they want is him carrying the ball 175 times again this year. Evans is in line for quite a few carries and was very good for the Vols when they used him last year. Evans should be the 1,000-yard rusher this year for the Cardinals, not Cunningham. The ceiling on Evans isn't what it is for these other backs, but he should still get plenty of chances.

 

4. Jarek Broussard, Michigan State (from Colorado)

Broussard has been a very good back on a very bad team out in Boulder. Few noticed. A big reason for that is Colorado trailed early and often, which resulted in few chances for Broussard to prove himself. We know Michigan State loves to run the ball. They turned a solid Wake transfer into a high (for a running back) NFL Draft pick.

Great, so why isn't Broussard higher? Two words: Jalen freaking Berger. Berger, a fellow transfer (from Wisconsin) himself, will be vying for carries as well. Broussard is likely the better back, but Berger's bruising style will earn him a lot of carries, especially in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten(14). Both backs have a path to success, but the fact that Broussard will at the very least be splitting the carries 70/30 seriously caps his upside.

 

3. Noah Cain, LSU (from Penn State)

How many of the offensive issues in not-so-Happy-Valley were Sean Clifford? The coaches? The other players? Who knows, but that offense was downright offensive for much of last year, and not in a good way. Cain gets a fresh start on the bayou for a team that has churned out some good NFL backs of late. Cain doesn't have the three-name power of Tyrion Davis-Price and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but he might be just as talented.

The Ed Orgeron era is over in Red Stick. LSU had two good quarterbacks transfer in along with Cain, so this offense should be the best one Cain has been a part of. The only question I have is whether Cain can shoulder a full load. With Armoni Goodwin and his 65 rushing yards being the leading returning rusher for the Tigers, we should see early on against Florida State whether Cain can handle it or not.

 

2. Travis Dye, USC (from Oregon)

When I said the Trojans were freaking loaded, I wasn't lying. Stanford transfer Austin Jones will be competing for carries as well, but Dye flourished in a timeshare up in Eugene. Dye took the job outright at the end of last year and finished with 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns. We likely can't count on that high of a touchdown total due to the talent around him, but Dye is a dynamic back that can break one at any time. He should get a majority of the carries over Jones, but the presence of Jones keeps Dye out of the top slot. The rest of the talent on the team will cut into his numbers a bit as well.

 

1. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama (from Georgia Tech)

Bama usually doesn't need the portal. They're good enough as-is. They used it last year to net superstar Jameson Williams. Gibbs could be that guy this year. Gibbs toiled away on a really bad Georgia Tech team for the last two years. The Bees cratered after upsetting North Carolina in September, culminating in being outscored 100-0 in the last two games. That's not a typo.

So what makes me so sure that Gibbs can succeed here? Alabama's line will give him holes, something he never had the luxury of in Atlanta. The prolific passing game will open up all kinds of things for Gibbs. He is a home run waiting to happen, and I'm glad to see him get a chance on a good team. This guy has the talent. Sit back and watch the fun!

Honorable Mention: Jawaun Price, Syracuse (from New Mexico State); Zach Evans, Mississippi (from TCU); Emani Bailey, TCU (from Louisiana); Lyn-J Dixon, West Virginia (from Clemson); Dae Dae Hunter, Liberty (from Hawaii)



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