Happy mid-summer greetings to college fantasy football owners!
To start off this year’s coverage, we’re giving you some “10 to Watch” lists from the major college FBS conferences. These are the players we’re most excited about on the fantasy football level; players who have already established themselves as production studs, and or have the most upside to blow up in the upcoming year. The Big 10 is a running back heavy conference going into 2014, and wide receiver depth is highly questionable. While there will be receivers who step up to fill the void, the lack of WR depth also holds down the upside of some very talented passing quarterbacks; hence why only one makes the list below.
Also, keep in mind that there are talented players who aren’t likely to produce at a high enough level. For example, Kyle Prater (WR, Northwestern) has all the talent to be a stud, but he plays on a confusingly directed offense and therefore, it is unsure if the stats will match up to his talent. Same with Dontre Wilson (RB, Ohio State), who would have great stats on any passing first offense, but with Braxton Miller in charge, I just don’t foresee consistent production.
Without further wait, here is the “10 to Watch” for Big 10 players for college fantasy purposes in 2014:
1) Braxton Miller (QB, Ohio State)
This could be the year Mr. Miller lands in New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He lacks a proven halfback, but has an arguably improved wide receiver corps going into 2014. If he can stay healthy, I’d bank on improvements on yards across the board with 2500 passing and 1300 rushing. TD’s should stay around the same, but he should be a solid cornerstone to a championship college fantasy team and a first round pick in most leagues.
2) Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Not just another Badger bruiser, Gordon has the quickness, physicality, and breakaway speed to be an NFL first rounder next year. Yes, I said a first round NFL RB pick, and I am not joking. While he may not have the top end speed of a Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia), the whole package is something to behold. With an improved offensive line and a lack of quality WR help for the QB to count on, Gordon’s workload will increase, and while his YPC may drop from the unreal 7.8 YPC, I expect higher yards and TD’s than 2014 (1,700/18). Corey Clement is waiting in the wings, but I don’t foresee Clement stealing the TD carries from this Badger stalwart. Don’t hesitate to snatch this back up in the first round of any draft (I’d take him top 5).
3) Ameer Abdullah (RB, Nebraska)
Ameer is arguably the best pure athlete at running back in the Big 10, and a threat to go the distance at any time. However, looking at 281 carries and 1690 rushing yards from scrimmage, you’d expect more than 9 rushing TD’s. The achilles heel to this otherwise superstud back is the presence of goal line vulture Imani Cross (RB, Nebraska). The reason I still have Abdullah higher than Langford on my board? I believe that Nebraska’s passing oriented offense led by Tommy Armstrong will lead to plenty of swing pass gold coming Abdullah’s way this year. I’d pick up Abdullah starting in the second round of most drafts.
4) Jeremy Langford (RB, Michigan State)
What is there not to like about this Spartan speedster? Langford patiently bided his time behind NFL bound backs, and when last year’s opportunity came he took the reigns and never looked back. While Ameer Abdullah may have the yards, Langford gets the TD’s. Coming into his senior year, there probably isn’t a more consistent fantasy producer at RB in the Big 10. The reason? Top tier QB and WR play on a run-first Michigan State offense will open up big holes for him. While the Spartan offensive line is not a traditional quality unit, I’d still expect another huge year similar to last. I would pick Langford in the second round in the same tier as Abdullah.
5) Stefon Diggs, Jr (WR, Maryland)
For fans of the Big 10 who may not have played college fantasy football last year, and or may have not known about this super stud before his broken leg ended his season early last year, do NOT sleep on him. Stefon Diggs is a NFL quality WR, who along with Deon Long (WR, Maryland), and CJ Brown (QB, Maryland) form a dynamic trio that could potentially torch the Big 10 through the air this year. I’d expect a healthy Diggs to post at least 1,200 yards and 12 TD’s, and Long to be in the 800 yard, 7 TD realm. Keep in mind, that this duo could easily out produce those numbers. I’d pick Diggs as early as late second round early third. Any time after that he’ll be a fantastic value. Keep in mind that if he hadn’t gotten injured you’d likely be investing a late first round pick on him.
6) Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan)
Devin may have only produced middling numbers last year, but with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon and his 1,373 yards receiving, there is nowhere to go but up. While it may not be exciting on the surface to pick a TE jumping into a WR role, Michigan returns the accurate passing of Devin Gardner (QB, Michigan) for another year. Additionally, a surprisingly weak offensive line for a Michigan squad and the lack of a quality RB corps, big passing numbers should be on the way for the Wolverines this season. Funchess has David Boston type talent, and could easily lead the Big 10 in receiving yards this year. I’d expect 1,000 yards and 9 TD’s on the low side, but the sky is the limit for this future first round NFL talent.
7) Venric Mark (RB, Northwestern)
I have to admit that I’m a bit biased towards this shifty Wildcat running back, as a quirk in the CBS Sportsline league I was in two years ago allowed me to slot in a top Big 10 running back as a wide receiver. However, Mark a RB stalwart in his own right and only a year removed from a 1,366 yard rushing season. While his teammate Treyvon Green offers the more traditional Big Ten running back physique and will steal some goal line carries, Venric shows shades of Chip Kelly’s scat backs at Oregon that college football fans have become used to seeing put up massive receiving and rushing yards week to week. He can put up 150 and 2 TD’s on the ground, and 75 and a TD receiving any given week. While his injury may give you pause, I would not hesitate to snatch him up starting in the late fourth. However, don’t reach, his injury will likely have him overlooked by most owners and he could easily fall to the fifth or sixth, where he’d be a tremendous value.
8) David Cobb (RB, Minnesota)
The Gophers are back…well, at least in the top tier of Big 10 rushing teams. While Cobb is almost guaranteed to get overlooked in your draft, he could end up in the top three of Big 10 running backs this year. He only had 11 carries going into last year…11 carries! Once he got the nod as Minnesota’s starter, he totaled 1,202 yards on 237 carries. With a solid and experienced starting offensive line and a full year under his belt as a starter, I expect bigger things from him in 2014. Pick him comfortably in the fifth round, and expect 1,350 yards and 12 TDs.
9) Corey Clement (RB, Wisconsin)
Heard of this guy? No? That’s ok. I’m sure you’d have answered the same way with Melvin Gordon last year and Montee Ball three years ago. Let me fill in the blanks for you – Clement is the real deal. A fast-enough, one-cut, straight line bruising runner who takes two or three tacklers to take him down; aka a Badger stud back in the making. Last year, Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 3,000+ rushing yards and 25 TDs. Even if my predictions for Melvin Gordon hold up, that still leaves 1,300 yards and 7 TD’s for the taking. Excellent value at a sixth round pick, but keep in mind that most owners are hip to the Badgers, so you may need to reach a bit to get Clement.
10) Mark Weisman (RB, Iowa)
Nine, that’s right, nine running backs are currently on the Iowa roster. However, don’t be fooled, without a rash of little injuries last year, Mark Weisman would be far and away the #1 Hawkeye running back. With a typical bruising Iowa O-line to run behind, solid QB play, and a weak overall schedule, we should see Weisman start producing those high 150+ yards & multiple TD games early and often in the season. While last years plethora of little injuries suffered by Weisman may throw you off, everything is available for a monster year for the Hawkeye bruiser. If he’s available in the late seventh or early eigth round and you’re already set at QB and have at least a couple of WRs, you should think about him. He puts up massive games equal to any top back when he’s healthy
Thoughts? Share them below. In any top 10 list you’re going to miss some players; especially in college where the next super stud possibly hasn’t taken his first step on the field.