2023 SEC Conference Preview: Sleepers, Busts and All-Conference Teams

2023 SEC Conference Preview: Sleepers, Busts and All-Conference Teams

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

We open our fantasy conference previews with the SEC, which features a healthy amount of fantasy-relevant players across the board. The significant turnover at numerous positions leads to a slightly down year in terms of the fantasy rankings at some positions, but there are still numerous high-value fantasy picks entering the season, especially under center and at the top of the running back rankings.

Below, you will find content from our 2023 College Fantasy Football Draft Kit, along with All-Conference SEC teams plus sleepers and busts for the upcoming season.

2023 College Fantasy Football Draft Kit

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SEC All-Conference Fantasy Teams

All-SEC First Team

All-SEC Second Team

All-SEC Third Team

2023 SEC Fantasy Sleepers

Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina A strong finish to the 2022 campaign salvaged the season, and perhaps Rattler's career.  Through the first eight games of the 2022 season, he posted a 5:9 TD:INT.  Rattler shook off the haters and responded to the adversity with multiple touchdown passes in four of the final five games of the season, including a six-touchdown virtuoso performance against Tennessee, followed by a 360-yard outing in a thrilling 31-30 win over Clemson. The Gamecocks posted back-to-back wins over top-10 schools to end the regular season. He even kept South Carolina in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl despite ultimately falling to the Irish, 45-38. Rattler continues to make puzzling decisions at times and still must minimize his turnovers, but a softer SEC East than in recent years could allow Rattler to have his best collegiate season yet.

Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama Can an Alabama quarterback really be called a sleeper?  The fact remains that Milroe is the least talked about Tide quarterback in years.  He struggled with his accuracy last season replacing Bryce Young in spots, and also battled turnover issues.  However, he still possesses game-breaking ability both with his arm as well as his wheels. He averaged over 8.5 yards per tote when on the field, and piloted the Tide to a 24-20 victory over a stout Texas A&M defense in place of an injured Young.  With Young off to the NFL, Milroe is the likely candidate to succeed him, but do not expect the offense to look the same. Milroe is not a pocket passer, and as such coach Nick Saban will transform the offense around Milroe's strengths. With a ferocious offensive line as per usual, the uber-athletic Milroe should have no trouble finding room to roam on the ground, while also occasionally finding open receivers down the field. He will have reliable pass catchers in the form of Jermaine Burton and Ja'Corey Brooks at his disposal as well. Ty Simpson appears to be pushing Milroe for the job, but it would be a surprise if Simpson beat out Milroe, especially given the strength of this Alabama team that will be running the football.

Ray Davis, RB, Kentucky While NC State transfer Demie Sumo-Karngbaye has received a lot of attention, it was the former Vanderbilt running back Davis who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season.  Davis is now on his third school in five years but nearly went over the 1,000-yard mark back in 2019 while at Temple. Though there is some competition for touches in this backfield, Davis is by far the most experienced candidate, and the Wildcats will be looking for a replacement for Chris Rodriguez, who carried the ball a staggering 175 times in just eight games played last season.  Davis also flashed his ability as a receiver last season, hauling in career-bests of 29 receptions and three touchdowns through the air. With a new quarterback under center to boot with Will Levis taking his talents to the NFL, expect Davis to be fed the rock early and often in this offense.

Tyrone Broden, WR, Arkansas Broden is one of a slew of transfers expected to help the Arkansas passing game this season. Arkansas lost its top three pass catchers from a season ago in the form of Matt Landers, Jadon Haselwood and Trey Knox. In sum, the Razorbacks will attempt to replace a staggering 125 receptions from the 2022 campaign. In steps Broden, a mammoth 6-7 wideout who has averaged over 16 yards per catch during his collegiate career. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Broden has been heavily targeted in the red zone, and he has largely delivered. Over the past two seasons with the Falcons, Broden has scored 12 touchdowns. Andrew Armstrong, Isaac TeSlaa and Marlon Crockett are also transfers who were brought in to aid veteran quarterback Jefferson. With so many new faces, it will be interesting to see how the targets shake out, though Broden is expected to be one of the chief beneficiaries right out of the gate for the Razorbacks.

2023 SEC Fantasy Busts

Graham Mertz, QB, Florida Anthony Richardson was a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft, largely based on his freakish athletic ability. The Gators brought in Mertz from Wisconsin in the transfer portal, though Mertz represents a play-caller standing in stark contrast to Richardson. Mertz is a pocket passer, though has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes during his collegiate career. He did throw a career-high 19 touchdowns a season ago but has not lived up to his potential. If the change of scenery does not help Mertz, then former Ohio State transfer Jack Miller is next in line. Miller started the Las Vegas Bowl for the Gators, completing 13-of-22 passes for 180 yards. Florida should lean on its very talented backfield this season, but will obviously need production out of Mertz to stand any chance against Georgia in the SEC East, which is far from a given.

Payton Thorne, QB, Auburn Thorne transferred to Auburn after two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Michigan State Spartans. Thorne is expected to beat out Robby Ashford, who largely struggled with his chances under center a season ago.  Thorne will have offensive-minded new head coach Hugh Freeze directing him, whose offenses at Liberty averaged over 400 yards per game in four seasons. Thorne had a standout campaign as a redshirt freshman in 2021, passing for 3,240 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He took a step back last season, though, passing for just 2,679 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Thorne did complete a career-best 62.5 percent of his passes in 2022, though this number still likely needs improvement if he is to enter the conversation of upper-echelon starters. He also does not provide much in the way of rushing; Thorne managed just one rushing touchdown last year, and his yards lost in terms of sacks all but swallowed up any yards he gained with his legs.

Bru McCoy, WR, Tennessee The Vols have plenty of receptions available after losing both Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman. However, the competition for touches remains stiff, and the change at quarterback could be harmful to the passing game. Milton steps in for Hendon Hooker, and accuracy has not been a consistent part of Milton's game during his collegiate career. McCoy still had an exceptional year despite the two talented aforementioned wideouts ahead of him, reeling in 52 balls for 667 yards and four touchdowns. However, White averaged 16 yards per grab and also returns to the fold. Meanwhile, Oregon transfer Dont'e Thornton could be the X-factor, as he has impressed since coming to Knoxville with both his size and speed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thornton was a big-play threat during his time with the Ducks. There is no guarantee that the Tennessee passing game looks the same under Milton, and there is also no guarantee that McCoy lands as the No. 1 receiver in the offense despite a successful campaign just one year ago.

Zakhari Franklin, WR, Ole Miss Franklin will not necessarily be a bust, but his inclusion on this list is more so about his ability to live up to the hype and the expectations. His production the last two years at UTSA has been outrageous; Franklin has posted back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit receiving touchdowns. He has good size and great experience.  The Rebels are looking to replace 111 catches for 1,832 yards lost between Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath. Franklin also will have the benefit of playing in the high-octane offense run by Lane Kiffin with the Rebels. However, the potential downsides must be noted. For starters, Franklin is battling an undisclosed injury, which has limited his participation in fall camp thus far. Returning quarterback Jaxson Dart had just two 300-yard passing games last season, and tossed only 20 touchdowns in 13 games. Lastly, the Rebels possess arguably the top back in the nation in the form of Judkins, who will be the focal point of the offense and also dominate touches in the red zone.  Once again, that's not to say Franklin will not have an impact, merely that it would be unwise to expect similar statistics as those put up during his time as a member of the Roadrunners in an inferior conference.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesse Siegel
Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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