You can find links to all of my Auburn Realist Blog posts here.
I thought I would mix things up a little this year and broaden the horizons when it comes to college football. Many of you know that I love playing Fantasy Football, specifically College Fantasy Football. With the season only 53 short days away, it's time to start thinking about your fantasy options. So, I wanted to do a little legwork for you. Now, keep in mind that I haven't spent an exhaustive amount of time on Fantasy yet. I will. But I won't tell you about it.
Let's talk QBs first. It is, by far, the easiest. Now, before you look at this list and say "of course", realize that that I am starting out with the "list" I found online. Well, a compilation of lists. I will tell you what I think about them. Then I will add some other players. Now, each league is setup differently. I am assuming the points are per standard CBS Fantasy. That is, 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yard rushing, and 6 points for TDs. This list is in no particular order, other than it's as I pulled it off the lists.
- Bryce Petty, Baylor- It's hard to miss with Petty. The stats for 2013 were unreal. He exploded last year and few people caught the train. He returns his best option out wide out in Goodley, though he lost Reese. Additionally, he lost his entire running game in Seastunk and Martin, leaving only Linwood, though he rushed for nearly 900 yards and 8 TDs. Petty is a stat monster because of his short yardage rushing TDs and his massive passing yardage. The best part of it all is that Baylor has a soft schedule all year. The only three games that are cause of concern are at Oklahoma and at Texas, though those programs have allowed huge scores in the past. Kansas State does come to town the last game of the season, but the Kansas State D has to make up for its losses. Though Oklahoma State proved to be the kryptonite for the Bears, it should be noted that Petty still threw for 360 yards and 2 TDs, though he fumbled one returned for a TD and fell on the 1 yard line, which Linwood eventually fumbled on the ensuing play. It should be noted that the Texas and Kansas State games were also in the bottom 3 of his production, yet they were still pretty good. Petty is a first round lock. He slings the rock for a lot of yards and throws very few picks.He picks up a rushing TD every other game. Get him if you can.
- Marcus Mariota, Oregon- Mariota is another first round lock. He will be missing some big skill position names around him, however. Those include De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff. Additionally, last year saw the emergence of Byron Marshall, a RB that changed the whole dynamic of the offense in the wake of Thomas' injury. Oregon goes as Mariota goes. Mariota was hurt in the back half of the 2013 season and it showed. His production slumped, inevitably leading to a massive collapse against Stanford and Arizona. Because of the emergence of Marshall and the inconsistency of Mariota down the stretch due to injury and big games, I caution against having him as your sole valuable QB. Keep in mind that Oregon also place Michigan State in week 2 followed by a Bye week. While it's hard NOT to draft and start Mariota, especially as well as Oregon does in the front half of seasons, Michigan States D is never a slouch. The thing that bothers me the most is this: Oregon REALLY needs to break back through this year. Additionally, Mariota wants to head to the NFL. He has to prove that he can last all season and he can conform to the NFL system. Meaning: He won't be a running threat, taking away his stat buster ability. Since you need a place filler the next week anyway, it may be best to get another QB.
- Jameis Winston, FSU-Sure, Benjamin is gone, but the top receiving threat for the 'Noles is back. Additionally, TE O'Leary is back. The running game will be missing top man, Freeman but returns Williams. Winston features a 4:1 TD/INT ratio. And considering it was 40 TD passes...it's hard to think you can miss. But, I firmly believe in sophomore slumps. He won't match the numbers from last year. And, FSU opens up with Oklahoma State. While I don't fear their defense, I do fear a shootout which means big yardage, but also lots of INTs. It really wouldn't surprise me to see a sloppy game for Winston out of the gate. Week 4 should get interesting as Clemson comes to town. Winston would not be my first round pick.
- Nick Marshall, Auburn- This year will be a much heavier passing attack from the Auburn offense, so don't expect to draft Marshall for those huge rushing numbers. But, what puts him over the top is the ability to bust 30-40 yard TD rushes when he wants to. Also, there is no place down field that is out of range. While he has struggled with his short game, he will have receivers galore this year that can run with anyone. If defenses allow him to dance or sit in the pocket, he will be devastating down the field. The downside? The schedule is absolutely brutal. However, the front half of the year is a prime opportunity to win some games with his stats and trade him for a long haul or back half QB. Though Kansas State could potentially raise some cane, I don't expect them to. If he performs as expected to that point and has a solid outing, I would trade him. I don't expect him to play much of the La-Tech game with LSU coming to town the following week. And, the schedule is simply brutal afterwards and I don't like his odds of winning me fantasy games.
- Brett Hundley, UCLA- If it weren't for his rushing ability, he wouldn't be on my (or anyone else) list. 24 passing TDs and 9 INTs is fairly Ho-Hum. But, 750 rushing yards and 11 TDs ain't. Furthermore, he lost his number 1 target in Shaq Evans, who accounted for 9 of those passing TDs. Fuller returns but has less than half of those TDs, though he did have as many total catches (both had over 40). Payton did have 38 more with only 1 TD, so it's plausible that everyone simply moves up the ladder. Here is the problem, aside from an upset against USC, UCLA wilted against top teams. Though there aren't a ton of top talent on the schedule, Oregon, Texas, USC, and Stanford are all teams I expect UCLA to lose to. And, as last year showed, when they lose, they lose badly. A lot of people are high on Hundley. I am not. I would pass. I think he will be the biggest high drafted bust of 2014.
- Braxton Miller, Ohio State- If he stays out of trouble and isn't hurt, Miller puts up fantastic numbers. We know that Myer wants him to be a Heisman Contender. Things are stacking up very well for Miller to have a run at the trophy. Myer pulled him for a couple of games last year, but I don't think that's going to happen in 2014. Expect him to put up torrential numbers against opponents in the first half of the season, though I wouldn't be surprised if he gets sat against Kent State. Penn State is a potential down game for Miller and Michigan State is always a threat. With a lack of proven run game surrounding him and his ability to rush for TDs (12 in 2014) and 1,000 rushing yards despite sitting out several games, Miller will be tough to beat. If he is available, take him.
- Taysom Hill, BYU- Hill exploded on the scene against Texas in one of the most dominating performances we have ever seen. Though he wasn't great down the stretch, he caught the fantasy world by surprise in producing 1300 rushing yards and 10 TDs. Though he was a solid fantasy candidate in point per 10-yard rushes, he was fairly dreadful in the passing game, going 19:14 in TD and INTs. Yet, the fantasy numbers were terrific simply because he was getting 20 points a game just rushing. He ended the year with 5 100-yard rushing games in the regular season. In 2014, BYU will play much the same level of competition.....fairly low. The fact is, he is going to continue to have rushing attempts. And, as long as he does, he will be a solid fantasy option. He will have 20 points, minimum, and he has the ability to score 50 on any given Saturday.
- Christian Hackenburg, Penn State- Hackenburg may be one of the most highly regarded passers in college football headed for the NFL. But, he isn't a real fantasy option. He can't run. He did have 4 games with 300+ passing yards, but really only 2 standout games from a fantasy perspective. That is, games where he didn't throw a pic. His best game was a 40 point game against Wisconsin. He has a low completion rate, especially around ANY sort of competition. Additionally, Zwinak came on HARD at the end of the year and he looks to explode in his senior year. UCF could very well be a loss in the opening week and the schedule gets tough down the stretch. Avoid.
- Rakeem Cato, Marshall-Gator Hoskins is gone, which makes me automatically doubt Cato's fantasy viability. Face it, Hoskins caught a TD in every single game from the TE position last year, going for 15 TDs total. But, Shuler, his top target is back. As is Taliaferro, the leading rusher who piled up 1140 yards and 10 TDs. But, although Hoskins and Shuler accounted for 25 of the 39 TDs, Cato spread the rock around a lot. The good news is, though he isn't very efficient (60%), he doesn't throw picks. He also had 100 carries for 300 yards and 6 TDs, though never more than 50 or so yards. The biggest thing is this: he did that as a sophomore. I expect big things from Cato. He faces nearly ZERO competition all year. Meaning, he will get it done one way or the other. Move him to the top of your list.
- Chuckie Keeton, Utah State-Keeton will be one of the biggest gambles all year. His 2013 year simply never got off the ground and was halted due to injury, but his 2012 campaign was amazing as he threw for 3373 yards, 27 TDs and 9 INTs while running for 620 and 8 TDs. This kid is the poor man's Jonny Football. But, can he recover from a disastrous 2013 year? Furthermore, will he even start? If he is the starter, lookout for him to be on the board in the mid rounds. He could be a steal in the mid rounds and a sneaky play against Tennesee. One thing we know, he can run. And, running may be the name of the game on Rocky Top. Do I expect him to win? No. But I bet he gets loose. Aside from BYU and Boise State, they don't face much competition. Keep an eye on him in the weeks leading up to your draft. If he is named a starter, you may consider him as a top prospect early. And, if he is on the board late, he makes a fantastic #2 QB.
- Devin Gardener, Michigan- Gardener will be drafted simply because he is a big name on a big team. He has moderate numbers across the board and a penchant for multiple INT games. Across his career he is a 2:1 TD/INT guy. He makes terrible decisions and plays on a team with a terrible offensive line, as per his 34 sacks last year. But, against inferior competition, he can put up big time numbers. He has the edge on Notre Dame as well, making him a good play at any point early in the season. The problem with him is, when he struggles to throwing, he runs. So, you get the benefit on the rushing attack but may have 3 INTs. Could he show drastic improvement in his senior year? Sure. But it isn't a risk I would be willing to take.
- Jacob Coker, Alabama- Honestly, folks, this one is the biggest risk on the board. Someone is going to draft this guy and he could turn out to be a healthy QB. But when has Bama EVER fielded a fantasy QB? I don't care that Kiffin is calling the plays. This guy had all the talent in the world at USC and the offense didn't find their way until he left. Add in an offense built to run with 2 or 3 studs in the backfield...well....I just don't see it. Now, what I CAN see happening is someone dropping him after the West Virginia game because he didn't perform to their expectations (I.E, Bama ran all over WVU). But, Florida ATL and Southern Miss will be good tune up games. But, again, this is a kid that hasn't even practiced yet. To draft him as your QB is just bad planning. He could be the man. But, if you don't draft him, you only have to play him once....as opposed to being stuck with a bust all season. Pass.
- Taylor Kelly, Arizona State- I admit that I don't know much about Kelly. It's hard to argue with the pure numbers that Kelly has put up. 57 Tds and 21 INTs in the last 2 years. He also is a fair rushing threat (8 TDs last year) against his Pac-12 opponents. Keep that in mind. His first 4 games are against loose completion before heading to USC, and I would still consider playing him in that game. He has a lot of NFL scouts drooling. Both of his top receiving threats are back including Foster out of the backfield who had 4 TD grabs. Keep that in mind too.
- Sean Mannion, Oregon State- Mannion is prototypical size at 6-5 220. He can make all the throws, but he lacks on judgement sometimes. He has thrown 68 TDs and 46 picks, but he has shows improvement each and every year. He is zero threat out of the backfield, which limits his fantasy upside. The good news is, Oregon State doesn't run the ball anyway. He lost Cooks (Biletnikoff winner)and his 15 TDs to the draft, however. Cooks was a terrific receiver and I don't know if the Beavers have someone to replace him. Regardless of who they play, Mannion is a solid choice as he is liable to sling it 40 times a game. But, he may also sink the ship. He had back to back to back games against Pac-12 competition with 3 or MORE INTs. He is another one that is great to pawn off the week before they play USC.
- Connor Cook, Michigan State-Honestly, despite his gritty play, he makes me go....SIGH. If 22:6 is what you want, go for it. They play the same teams and their defense isn't nearly as good. This guy is a game manager. He is ZERO threat to run. But, if you need someone to get you 20 points....well....Cook is your guy. He is a terrific "off week" QB, but nothing more. I wouldn't draft him. I would certainly pick him up as a Free Agent.
- Kevin Hogan, Stanford- Talk about a disappointment last year. 20 TDs and 10 INTs. 2 rushing TDs. In the two premier games of the year, he threw multiple INTs. The good news is, Shaw is a heck of a coach and I expect this Senior to improve greatly. The problem is, they play some decent teams in SC, Notre Dame, and Oregon. They also play at UCLA, CAL, and Arizona State. It's a risk to draft Hogan. He hasn't shown the promise that Luck did. The good news is, they play an absolute NOBODY the first game of the season. The bad news? USC is the next week meaning he might play a half. Pass.
- Everett Golson, Notre Dame- Two words: Playmaker. But, we don't even know if he is a starter yet. Additionally, he took a year away from the spot. And, if you look at his stats...he wasn't THAT good. Pass.
- Bo Wallace, Ole Miss- Wallace made strides in cutting down the INTs last year, though he alone cost his team games against Auburn, Bama, and Mississippi State. Wallace will be good for a minimum of 30 total TDs including 8-10 on the ground, which is what makes him so valuable. One could make a valuable argument that this could be the year of the Bo. Though Moncrief is gone, Treadwell burst on the scene early last year and I expect him to be terrific this year. Mathers is back behind him, but the do all Scott is not. Expect Wallace to be huge in the first 4 games of the year. The combination of low competition and the enigma that is the Hugh Freeze offense will be big early. Aside form the Alabama and Auburn games, I expect him to be a solid starter. Consider him as one of the top overall picks.
- Dak Prescott, Mississippi State- If (and this is a big IF) Prescott has improved as a passer in 2014, he will be a fantasy dream. He had 4 100 yard rushing games. 3 of those were against SEC WEST TEAMS! He doesn't throw much, but he does a lot of damage when he does. The problem is, his loan SEC games with multple TD tosses was TAMU and Kentucky. In total SEC matchups, he tossed 5 INTs. Yikes. But, as we have seen, rushing stats in most leagues are valued heavy, so Prescott, like Hill from BYU, is a real option. He gets 3 chump games leading into LSU. Take him if he is on the board. Start him. Then keep an open mind about trading. He won't slip up on any SEC West teams again.
- Matt Johnson, Bowling Green- 25 TD tosses and 7 INTs. He also can break out and run for scores. Though he may take negative yards in some games, he averages 30 yards and a TD in every other game rushing. He never throws multiple picks in a game. The problem? He can go back to back games with no TD tosses. Additionally, he has a returning 1500 yard rusher in Greene. Most teams will key in on the run and give him the ability to throw down field. What makes him valuable is that he was held under 200 yards passing only twice last year, so you are assured of at least 10 points every time he steps on the field. That may not be enough to help you sleep at night. Consider this, he has a lot of upside and low downside. He could be that guy that blows up and puts you over the top. I don't see many people drafting him high, so keep a careful eye on him in later rounds. He does have a 4th game at Wisconsin.
- Jeff Driskel, Florida- Yall are laughing, I know. He hasn't been very good in his first years as a Gator. But, he has gotten ZERO help from his team and coaching staff. I really felt like last year would have gone a lot differently for the Gators had he not been hurt. Yeah yeah...he didn't start off so hot. Driskel can run and he can throw. There is still a lot of talent in Gainesville and the Gators HAVE to win games this year. He gets 3 tune up games where I fully expect him to stack up stats against Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. There is no way I would play him against Bama. He will be a solid trade to someone else who isn't the wiser. You may be able to get 2 position players for him. Just be ready to pull the trigger.
- Connor Halliday, Washington State-Anyone who throws for 35+ times in almost very single game is worth looking at. The kid threw for 34 TDs and 4600 yards. WOW. What a number. Yet, he tossed 22 INTs in his first season under Leach. He is zero threat out of the backfield. He spreads the ball around, but his top target in Gabe Marks, who caught 70 passes and 7 TDs is back. They have zero run game to speak of, which is good...I guess. The main issue is that Halliday struggles against ANY competition. He may throw 3 TDs, but he will more than likely throw 3 INTs as well. Only against inferior competition and the lower levels of the Pac-12 did he eclipse the 1:1 ratio. However, I expect him to greatly improve this year. I expect him to hit 40 TDs and drop the INTs to 15, making him a can't miss.
Zach's Top 5 Can't Miss Fantasy QBs
- Bryce Petty, Baylor- Barring a complete meltdown, it's hard to imagine his production falling off.
- Braxton Miller, Ohio State-Senior QB on the Heisman Watch list. Low competition. Dual threat.
- Connor Halliday, Washingon State-Throws it 30-40 times a game. No rushing attack. If he cuts down on the INTs just a LITTLE, he will be a monster.
- Rakeem Cato, Marshall-Don't let this guy get passed you. He plays no competition and doesn't turn the ball over.
- Taysom Hill, BYU-He runs. A lot. And that's good enough.