We’re a little over a month before the kickoff of college football, and only 3-4 weeks away from drafts!
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 12 is in a transitional year. While Baylor seems to have returning studs at most positions, the rest of the league is in flux. A quick glance shows the top 5 rushers in pure yardage are gone, as well as 10 of the top 14 receivers. While frightening at first glance for an owner looking to invest, keep in mind that this is the Big 12, and that means that there is going to be fantasy gold in this conference.
Without further ado, here is the “10 to Watch” for Big 12 players, for college fantasy purposes, in 2014:
1) Bryce Petty (QB, Baylor)
Bryce Petty is arguably the best pure passing QB out there for fantasy production at the FBS level. I’d personally argue that he’s the best, if for no other reason than his sick 32 TD/3 INT ratio in 2013. The crazy thing is that he is likely to improve on those numbers this year, as the Baylor offense is loaded across the board (as you’ll see below). With a middling defense, don’t be surprised to see him airing the ball out to his top flight receivers throughout the season. While Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon), “Famous” Jameis Wilson (QB, Florida State) (ed. note- “King Crab”?), and Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State), will likely be snatched up before Bryce Petty, his numbers could easily surpass theirs. Don’t hesitate to snatch him up in the second round of any draft. If I could match up a top RB in the late first and Bryce in early second. I’d feel fantastic about my chances of competing in any league. My prediction is a 4,400 passing yard season with 38 TD’s.
2) Shock Linwood (RB, Baylor)
I have to be honest, this kid would probably be on my list based solely on his first name being “Shock,” which makes me wonder about his parent’s discussions in the delivery room, but I digress. Regardless of how his arrival on this planet may have surprised his parents, his arrival as a stud college fantasy back should surprise no one. While previous Baylor stud Lache Seastrunk was averaging an unreal 7.4 ypc., the back who ended up second in the conference was, you guessed it, Mr. Linwood at 6.9. Now, with 286 carries between them to now be distributed, and Glasco Martin, the only other back on the roster with real experience, graduating, I’d say this could be a monster season for Shock. I can’t say this enough, while he’s not as sexy a pick as the three players above, he’s the back I think could truly break out this year and have a monster season. That leaves just one question…can Baylor really produce a 4,500 yard passer and a 1,500 yard rusher? I say they can, and I say they do. Draft him.
3) Tyler Lockett (WR, Kansas State)
Going by pure numbers, this list could have easily started with three Baylor Bears, as Antwan Goodley (WR, Baylor) outshone Lockett in both yards and TD’s in 2013. But this list is all about 2014. With Lockett as the only true threat on the Wildcat offense, no true leader at RB, and a defense that will be solid but apt to give up points, I see a big year for Lockett. Tyler is only 838 yards away from breaking his father, Kevin Lockett’s, Kansas State record for career receiving yards. This shifty 5’11” technician will regularly torch his Big 12 opponents. Although he is KSU’s only true WR threat, and defenses likely will shift in his direction, remember that this is not the NFL, and an NFL quality WR will win most battles and create separation. I’d comfortably expect 1,500 yards and 16 TD’s. Just trust me on this one. Lockett isn’t necessarily the best known WR, so you may be able to grab him in the third/fourth, yet get the production of a first-round pick.
4) Antwan Goodley (WR, Baylor)
NFL.com recently named Goodley as one of the 14 most explosive athletes in college football. His stats last year (18.9 YPC, a Big 12 leading 1,339 receiving yards, and 13 TDs) are impressive, but how he gets there is what really speaks volumes for this kid. He’s the rare player who makes big plays look easy, and happen…a lot. While this future NFL draft pick may be the best athlete at wide receiver in the Big 12, the Baylor offense is simply too loaded for me to see him improving much on his yards and TDs from last year. Don’t get me wrong, I expect another big year out of him, just not enough consistency to make him a must-draft. While I personally hate drafting WRs in the first two rounds, preferring to grab top QBs or RBs, you’ll need to spend a high pick on Goodley this season. That being said, I wouldn’t give anyone flack for picking him high, and I would love to have this kid in my fantasy team starting line up.
5) Jakeem Grant (WR, Texas Tech)
When you see Jakeem Grant, ignore his short stature (5’6″) and simply watch him play. This guy has the goods to be a super stud in the high flying Texas Tech offense, and with receiving stalwarts Jace Amaro and Eric Ward no longer suiting up for the Red Raiders, it’s now Jakeem’s time to shine. If his training & physical growth in the off season can match up with his natural open field skills and nose for the end zone, Grant could be at the very top of college football wide receivers by the end of the 2014 season. Personally, I’d expect at least 1,300 yards and 13 TD’s for this spritely WR; however, with over 2,299 yards of receiving to account for from last years graduates, his numbers could be much, much higher than that. Although Bradley Marquez will also be a big factor in the Red Raider passing game, I don’t see him gaining more than 900 yards in this offense. That means there are a LOT of passing yards left to account for. Any way you look at it, the numbers point to a huge year for this extremely talented athlete.
6) Johnathan Gray (RB, Texas)
Johnathan Gray has the talent to be one of the top backs in the country, and finally has an offense that is squarely behind him coming into the year. With a new QB taking the reigns and a new Texas coaching staff led by Charlie Strong, I’m looking for big rushing games out of the top Longhorn back. While you may read that Malcolm Gray (RB, Texas), or Joe Bergeron (RB, Texas) will be taking the lead, I just don’t buy it. If Johnathan Gray is healthy, he should and will be the lead back in Texas. His talent demands it. I know I’m reaching a bit here based on the fact he’s coming off an Achilles injury and just started practicing this week, but that may also make him a tremendous draft value. Presupposing he is healthy and full speed, I’d expect at least 1,200 yards and 12 TD’s from Gray in 2014.
7) Davis Webb (QB, Texas Tech)
While he’s down here at #7 on the list, I love this kid’s potential. Let me restate that…I LOVE this kid’s potential. While, sure, some of that has to do with being the starting quarterback at Texas Tech, he’s also 6’4″, 215 lbs., with a rocket arm, quick delivery, and had a 2013 pass efficiency rating in the top 10 in the country. He should NOT be ignored in fantasy drafts and is an awesome #2 QB value. Every year we have a surprise QB that blossoms into a top tier fantasy QB, and I believe this year it will be Webb. Keep him in your back pocket in drafts and draft him a round sooner than you think you’ll need to. Looking back on it next year, I think you’ll agree it wasn’t a reach. I expect 4,000+ yards and 30 TD’s from him, but he could easily top both numbers. Don’t be surprised if it is Webb, not Petty, who leads the Big 12 in passing yards at the end of the season.
8) Keith Ford (RB, Oklahoma)
This running back blew the top off the running back world last year with an amazing 134 yards on 20 carries. Ok, ok, so while I know that’s a sad stat line for someone on a “Top 10” list for any conference, but I’m expecting much bigger things this year from the Oklahoma running back. Keep in mind that he was a 5 star recruit, has blazing speed, and has the size and toughness to fall forward for yards. While he seemed to be in over his head last year, Ford’s incredible talent will win out, and without any real competition for the job, I expect him to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark and push for 10 TDs. This is a major upside pick though, as if Ford shows true top level running, it will lead to more carries and potentially many more yards. Certainly don’t reach for him in the draft, but he’s got upside potential of 1,500 yards rushing. I expect Oklahoma to bury many teams early, and if this kid shows up as he should, he could really rake in the yards in 2014
9) Desmond Roland (RB, Oklahoma State)
I really like Oklahoma State running backs, and I do like Desmond Roland, but his performance last year left me wanting. He’s got all the talent in the world, and an offense that traditionally churns out 1400+ yard rushers, but he showed a lot of inconsistency last year. Still, the talent is there and the Sooners graduated all of their top wide receivers. Just based on his position as Oklahoma State’s only real returning weapon, I’d count on him for 1,000 yards+ rushing. Keep in mind that he did have minor shoulder surgery coming out of the season last year, which should be fully healed by camp, but it is something to keep an eye on. That being said, if Roland is running with confidence, draft him and you’ll get production. Just don’t reach for him, as it probably won’t be necessary.
10) Jaxon Shipley (WR, Texas)
While I’m as sick as everyone else of all the “this is Jaxon’s year” articles that have come out in the past two years, this kid has talent. With all the question marks in the Texas offense, and the graduation of Mike Davis (who seemingly played for the Longhorns for the past 20 years), the Longhorn passing game will be leaning on Jaxon heavily in 2014. Shipley has all the talent to be higher up the list, but he simply can’t be counted on to produce until a QB finally shows up in Austin. While there are certainly more exciting upside receivers arriving on the scene, like Daikeil Shorts (WR, WVU), this is Shipley’s senior year, and he should finally have a serviceable QB throwing him the ball. I’d pick up Shipley as you’re sure to get him for a bargain and he could easily produce over 1,000 yards and 7-8 TD’s.
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.