Next-up, Vol. 4: Top Freshman Performers, 2020 Season Review

by | Feb 17, 2021


2020 has been a crazy year to say the absolute least.

There has been a lot of hardship and obstacles, and ones that crossed over into the sports world to an extent. But today we’re going to focus on the success stories in the final installment of the “Next-up” series, with Volume 4 highlighting top freshman performers.

If you’re in a devy and/or Campus-To-Canton (C2C) league, this article series is for you. Dynasty players too, for that matter. It never hurts to be a few steps ahead of your leaguemates.

I’ll start Vol. 4 off by listing my 2020 BreakoutFinder All-Freshman Team, then recap the performances of players from Vol. 1Vol. 2, and Vol. 3, and last but not least, dive into the latest additions.

2020 BreakoutFinder All-Freshman Team


Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (Vol. 1)

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (Vol. 1)


Ulysses Bentley IV, Southern Methodist (Vol. 1)

Bijan Robinson, Texas (Vol. 3)

Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State (Vol. 1)



Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh (Vol. 1)

Tahj Washington, Memphis (Vol. 3)

Kayshon Boutte, Louisiana State (Vol. 4)

Marvin Mims, Oklahoma (Vol. 1)



Isaac Rex, Brigham Young (Vol. 3)

Arik Gilbert, Louisiana State (Vol. 1)


Honorable Mentions:

Michael Pratt, Tulane (QB, Vol. 3)

Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech (RB, Vol. 2)

Jaden Walley, Mississippi State (WR, N/A)

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (TE, N/A)



Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

As a redshirt freshman, Spencer Rattler led the Oklahoma to a 9-2 record, including a Cotton Bowl victory over the No. 7-ranked Florida Gators in rather convincing fashion, in addition to a Big 12 Championship victory over the No. 6-ranked Iowa State Cyclones.

After starting 1-2 with back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, Spencer’s Sooners “rattled” off eight straight victories including wins over four top-25 ranked opponents, two of which (the aforementioned Gators and Cyclones) were ranked in the top-7. As the season progressed, Rattler showed more and more poise. Five of his seven interceptions were thrown in his first four games as a starter, and he only threw one interception total in his four games against ranked opponents.

In the Big 12 Championship and the Cotton Bowl, he went 36-for-57 for a total of 519 yards and four passing touchdowns, adding 57 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It seemed like when the stage got bigger and the lights got brighter, “QB1” stepped up. Rattler is locked-and-loaded as my 1.01 at the quarterback position in the 2022 draft class.

SEASON STATS: 11 games played (started all 11), team record as the starter: 9-2; 214-for-317 (67.5-percent), 3,031 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions; 81 carries, 160 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns.

Jeff Sims, Georgia Tech

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finished the season 3-7 with their only wins coming against Florida State, Louisville, and Duke. At the quarterback position, Jeff Sims had a lot of ups and downs. He showed flashes primarily as a rusher and looked competent as a passer in a couple games. If Sims keeps his job, I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses into next year as a second year starter.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played (started all 10), team record as the starter: 3-7; 141-for-257 (54.9-percent), 1,881 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions; 120 carries, 492 yards, 6 rushing touchdowns.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

After starting 11-0, Grayson McCall and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers lost a thriller to Malik Willis and the Liberty Flames in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.

McCall played well, throwing for 318 yards with four total touchdowns and one interception, adding 96 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. The true freshman showed that he’s going to be a problem for defenses in the Sun Belt and all around the country with his dual-threat capabilities. I was very impressed with McCall in 2020 and I’m excited to watch him over the next 2-3 years. Right now, he’s a top 5 quarterback for me in the 2023 class.

SEASON STATS: 12 games played (started all 12), team record as the starter: 11-1; 172-for-250 (68.8-percent), 2,488 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions; 111 carries, 569 yards, 7 rushing touchdowns.



DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson

We haven’t seen much of “DJU” since his two starts against Boston College and Notre Dame, but we’ll see a lot of him next year. Trevor Lawrence has since declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, and Uiagalelei is the presumed starter moving forward.

In his two starts, he averaged 390.5 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. Although Clemson will be losing a few key pieces this year, I think Uiagalelei is the real deal and is ranked as my No. 2 quarterback in the 2023 draft class.

SEASON STATS: Nine games played (started two), team record as the starter: 1-1; 78-for-117 (66.7-percent), 914 passing yards, 5 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions; 28 carries, 60 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns.

Graham Mertz, Wisconsin

Wisconsin only played seven games in 2020, finishing with a 4-3 record. I mentioned in Vol. 2 that Mertz hasn’t looked great ever since the Badgers’ first game of the season against Illinois, and that statement still stands. He looked fine in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl victory over Wake Forest, but still, wasn’t spectacular. I like Mertz’s talent, but he’s going to have to show me more in 2021.

SEASON STATS: Seven games played (started all seven), team record as the starter: 4-3; 118-for-193 (61.1-percent), 1,238 passing yards, 9 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions; 36 carries, 38 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns.



Isaiah Williams, Illinois

After setting the school’s quarterback rushing record in his first start against Rutgers (192 yards), Isaiah Williams didn’t start another game until Lovie Smith was fired on December 13th. Williams started in the season finale against Penn State, completing 8 out of 18 passes for 120 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 102 yards.

Bret Bielema, former head coach at Wisconsin, has since accepted the head coaching position for the Fighting Illini and has Illinois fans feeling optimistic. Back when he was coaching at Wisconsin, Russell Wilson transferred from North Carolina State and joined the Badgers for the 2011 season. Bielema helped him become the accurate and efficient quarterback he is today. Wilson increased his completion percentage all the way up to 72.8-percent in 2011 after never completing more than 59.3-percent of his passes in any of his three seasons at North Carolina State.

The current Seahawk also then had career highs in passing efficiency rating (191.8, led nation), total yards per play (9.1, led nation), yards per attempt (11.8 after a lackluster 6.6 in 2010), passing touchdowns (33), yards per carry (4.3), and even receiving yards (56). All of this was despite throwing 218 fewer passes in 2011 than he did in 2010, and his top receivers being Jared Abbrederis (933 yards) and Nick Toon (926 yards). The Badgers lost by one score in the Rose Bowl and finished 11-3 as the No. 10-ranked team in the final AP poll. I believe Isaiah Williams can have this type of success if Bielema is a believer and gives him a shot. Lil Uno” is a sleeper at the quarterback position going into next year in C2C leagues.

SEASON STATS: Seven games played (started two), team record as the starter: 1-1; 26-for-63 (41.3-percent), 393 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 63 carries, 389 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown. 

Michael Pratt, Tulane

Michael Pratt has played pretty well in 2020, but he also hasn’t really exploded. He’s been fairly consistent, throwing for between 141 and 216 yards in 8 of 10 games. He had a dud in a double overtime loss to Tulsa, throwing for only 76 yards, and had a great game in a win over Memphis, throwing for 254 yards and accounting for four total touchdowns. Pratt needs a good bit of development, and since he doesn’t play in a Power 5 conference, he’s going to have to really show up on the stat sheet to get the attention of NFL scouts.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played (started nine), team record as the starter: 4-5; 140-for-254 (55.1-percent), 1,806 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions; 115 carries, 229 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns.



Seth McGowan, Oklahoma

Well, after not playing at all for a few weeks, McGowan only received four touches (one carry, three catches) in the Cotton Bowl victory over Florida. He totaled a whopping 143 yards on those touches. His carry went for 73 yards and he racked up 70 receiving yards with a long of 47 yards. He looked like the playmaker we saw early in the season, and I feel a lot better about him following T.J. Pledger’s transfer, Rhamondre Stevenson’s NFL Draft declaration, and incoming prospect Camar Wheaton’s commitment to Alabama. Oklahoma’s backfield should be wide open in 2021 barring a splash-transfer, and I believe McGowan can have a true breakout in his second season at Oklahoma.

SEASON STATS: Seven games played; 58 carries, 370 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns; 13 receptions, 201 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown.

Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

After starting the season 4-1, including a win over No. 3-ranked Oklahoma, Kansas State dropped five straight games to finish the season. Although 2020 was a disappointment for the Wildcats, Vaughn was a lone bright spot. In K-State’s final two games, he posted over 100 rushing yards in each, while scoring four total touchdowns.

Vaughn has shown to be an explosive threat through the air and on the ground, and I see him having a role at the next level. The only downside to his profile is his size. A late growth-spurt isn’t out of the question, but also isn’t likely, so I see Vaughn as a nice third down back at the NFL level.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played; 123 carries, 642 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns; 25 receptions, 434 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

Ulysses Bentley IV, Southern Methodist

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

As a whole, Ulysses Bentley IV had a great freshman season.

He totaled four games over 100 yards rushing with one over 200, he had double digit touchdowns, and he reached the coveted 20-reception threshold. I foresee Bentley adding at least 10-pounds over the next couple years, which would be great considering he’s only listed at 184-pounds.

If he can get to around 195-200-pounds, I think he has a fair shot at a role in the NFL. Bentley is a great player to roster in C2C leagues, where his current college production is useful, and you can take a chance on him at the pro level.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played; 170 carries, 913 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns; 21 receptions, 174 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown.



Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech

Jahmyr Gibbs has shown throughout 2020 that he’s a versatile weapon in all phases of the game. He’s a consistent producer in the passing game, catching 24 passes in only seven games, and can handle the ground work too, averaging nearly 13 carries per game as a freshman. I’m ecstatic to see what Gibbs does next year, and even more excited to draft him in 2023, where I have him ranked as a top-3 running back.

SEASON STATS: Seven games played; 89 carries, 460 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns; 24 receptions, 303 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns.

Tank Bigsby, Auburn

Bigsby ended 2020 on a high note. In a victory over Mississippi State in the season finale, he carried the ball 26 times for 192 yards. He already has the requisite size and strength, and I believe there are great things in store for this Auburn running back. My only concern is whether he can pose a threat running routes out of the backfield. Bigsby is a top-2 running back for me in 2023, in the first tier with the aforementioned Gibbs and a Texas RB you’ll hear about shortly.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played; 138 carries, 834 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns; 11 receptions, 84 receiving yards.



Bijan Robinson, Texas

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

Bijan Robinson balled out in the Alamo Bowl. He was on a hot streak entering the game and had arguably his best outing of the season in a win over Colorado. Robinson rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown on only 10 carries and added another 37 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He has a very bright future and 2021 is going to be his year to break out in a huge way. Draft Bijan Robinson early and often with confidence in your C2C and devy drafts, as he’s my RB1 in 2023.

SEASON STATS: Nine games played; 86 carries, 703 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns; 15 receptions, 196 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

DeaMonte Trayanum, Arizona State

Arizona State only played four games this year so we didn’t get to see much of Trayanum. Though he did have one game with over 100 rushing yards, averaged one touchdown per game, received double digit carries in all four games, and averaged almost six yards per touch. Trayanum will be put to the test next year when all NCAA teams, including Arizona State, play a full season of games (hopefully).

SEASON STATS: Four games played; 49 carries, 290 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns; 1 reception, 5 receiving yards.


Jordan Addison (WR), Pittsburgh

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

Who has the best Heisman odds of any WR in the 2021 season? Pittsburgh’s Jordan Addison, according to MyBookie and other sportsbooks. Addison is in for a HUGE season next year. His quarterback Kenny Pickett is returning for one more year at Pitt, and they aren’t losing much (if any) talent to the NFL Draft. He had a spectacular year in 2020, leading all FBS freshman in receptions and ranking No. 4 in receiving yards among freshman wide receivers. Also, he ranked No. 3 in school history for receptions by a freshman, behind only Tyler Boyd and Larry Fitzgerald. I’m betting he gets even more national attention in 2021 and I expect him to continue to emerge as a valuable C2C and devy option. Addison is still locked in as my WR1 in 2023.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played; 60 receptions, 666 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns; 9 carries, 58 rushing yards.

Marvin Mims (WR), Oklahoma

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

After posting negative yardage against Baylor, Mims had a huge game in the Big 12 Championship, torching the Iowa State Cyclones for 101 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Mims has clearly built rapport with Spencer Rattler and if he can continue on this trajectory, he’s in great shape.

SEASON STATS: 11 games played; 37 receptions, 610 receiving yards, 9 receiving touchdowns; 2 carry, 17 rushing yards.

Taylor Morin (WR), Wake Forest

Just as I was about to say Taylor Morin is off my radar, he posted 91 receiving yards on five catches in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against Wisconsin. Although I still would like to see a lot of progression from Morin, he has shown flashes in big games. His two best performances were in games against No. 1-ranked Clemson in the season opener (nine receptions, 93 yards, one touchdown) and the aforementioned bowl game. Morin is doing just enough to warrant a look. I’m keeping him on my watch list in C2C, but I’m not drafting him anywhere unless there are at least 50 rounds in the startup draft.

SEASON STATS: Nine games played; 32 receptions, 405 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns; 2 carries, 5 rushing yards.

Arik Gilbert (TE), Louisiana State

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

Arik Gilbert had a solid season for the LSU Tigers in 2020, but he will be wearing a different uniform next year. The top ranked tight end prospect of all time by 247Sports entered the transfer portal. While early rumors suggested Georgia was a possibility, it’s now suspected he may end up replacing Kyle Pitts at Florida. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me where he plays, he’s still my TE1 in 2021 and will not move down barring extremely drastic circumstances.

SEASON STATS: Eight games played; 35 receptions, 368 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.



Tajh Washington (WR), Memphis

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

After a late appearance on the Next-up series, Washington has been chosen for the 2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-American Team.

It’s well deserved, considering Washington led all freshman in receiving yards while posting three games with over 100 yards. He also hasn’t dropped below 48 yards in a single game since October 3rd. He’s explosive and dynamic in every way possible, leaving you on the edge of your seat when you watch him play. Washington averaged 17.3 yards per reception and posted numerous 30-plus and 40-plus yard plays, including a 92-yard touchdown against Cincinnati. Given the way the NFL is trending, leaning towards speed rather than size, I see Tahj Washington having a role at the next level.

SEASON STATS: 11 games played; 43 receptions, 743 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns; 4 carries, 11 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown.

Isaac Rex (TE), Brigham Young

2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

Brigham Young tight end Isaac Rex ended the 2020 season with a bang:

In the Boca Raton Bowl, he caught five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. This performance tied a career high in receptions and set a new career high in receiving yardage. He also scored 11 out of his 12 touchdowns over the last seven games of the season, after only scoring one touchdown through the first four games. Although a lot of his emergence can be attributed to Matt Bushman’s season ending injury, Rex had a phenomenal season and put his name in the national conversation for 2022 tight end prospects. Isaac Rex is a legit NFL Draft prospect, especially if he tests well at the combine when he attends. Although, I’m still interested to see how he looks after QB Zach Wilson is gone.

SEASON STATS: 11 games played; 37 receptions, 429 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns.




It looks like Louisiana State may have found their replacement for Joe Burrow.

After throwing 24 or fewer passes in relief in his previous three games, Max Johnson was unleashed in full form over the last two weeks of the Tigers’ season, taking down No. 6-ranked Florida on the road and Ole Miss at home as the starter. The Tigers didn’t beat either opponent with defense either. Johnson racked up 239 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, and three passing touchdowns against Florida without throwing an interception, while logging 435 passing yards, 45 rushing yards, three passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns against Ole Miss. He looked really solid and his performance assisted in the breakout of a certain player I’ll be mentioning in the wide receiver section below.

The 6-5, 219-pound signal caller is the son of former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson and was a 4-star recruit with a 0.9090 composite rating from 247SportsThere will be a quarterback controversy at LSU to begin 2021, and I expect Johnson to come out on top. From there, he has major upside given the incoming offensive talent for the Tigers.

SEASON STATS: Six games played (started two), team record as the starter: 2-0; 88-for-150 (58.7-percent), 1,069 passing yards, 8 passing touchdown, 1 interception; 54 carries, 119 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns.





As you may have heard by now, Ty Jordan tragically passed away on December 26, 2020 at the age of 19 years old. It’s a heartbreaking situation and my thoughts and prayers are with Jordan’s family, teammates, coaches, and friends.

The Utah running back was listed as an honorable mention on Vol. 3 and I had planned to include him in Vol. 4 of the Next-up article series following his tremendous season in which the Utes only played five games. Ty Jordan was a 3-star recruit with a 0.8830 composite rating from 247Sports, and he absolutely deserves this spot given his performance down the stretch, especially in December.

In his college debut, the 5-7, 200-pound freshman didn’t get much run against the USC Trojans, but he received at least 14 touches in the final four games of the season. He racked up 128 scrimmage yards in his second game against Washington and accumulated at least 166 scrimmage yards in each of his last three games, all of which the Utes defeated their opponents. In that three-game stretch, he scored six total touchdowns. In his final game, he carried the ball 22 times for 154 rushing yards and caught two passes for 33 yards. He scored three rushing touchdowns in the game and led Utah to a 17-point victory over the Washington State Cougars. Ty Jordan was a great talent, and had legit potential in the NCAA and at the next level. Rest in peace.

SEASON STATS: Five games played; 83 carries, 597 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns; 11 receptions, 126 receiving yards.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Cam Porter (Northwestern), Jo’quavious Marks (Mississippi State)




2020 BREAKOUT FINDER All-Freshman Team

After a fairly slow start to his freshman season, Kayshon Boutte went OFF in the final three games of the season.

The 6-0, 185-pound receiver was a premier prospect coming out of high school, given a 5-star grade and a 0.9892 composite rating by 247Sports. After Ja’Marr Chase opted out this season, the Tigers lacked a true alpha at the receiver spot, and it looks like Boutte has filled that role with Chase gone next year as well.

Boutte didn’t have a game with over 49 receiving yards going into the final three matchups of the year. He ended the season with three 100-plus yard games, one of which was a 300-plus yard game (yes, THREE hundred). In a loss to the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, Boutte caught eight passes for 111 yards. He followed up this breakout performance with another big game in a win over Florida, where he caught five passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

In the season finale, Boutte was on the receiving end of 308 of Max Johnson’s 435 passing yards. He went out with a bang, tallying 14 receptions for 308 yards and three touchdowns. These last three games were all electrifying performances and I’ve got my eyes on Boutte to claim a top-3 spot in my 2023 WR rankings.

SEASON STATS: 10 games played; 45 receptions, 735 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Kyle Williams (UNLV), Quentin Johnson (Texas Christian)


I’ll be back with more content soon, but the Next-up series is concluded for the year and will hopefully see a reboot version in the 2021 season. I know there’s not much of an off-season for C2C, devy, and dynasty fantasy football gamers, but happy off-season nonetheless!


In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @LaneMitchell96 for more dynasty, devy, C2C, and sports card collecting content!

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