Wednesday, June 17

Fantasy Football - Big 12 QB Preview

The Big 12 was the conference of quarterbacks in 2008, combining talent at the position behind beefy offensive lines in a conference where some phenom receivers outclassed the skill in the secondary. To recap, Sam Bradford threw for 50 TDs and won the Heisman, Colt McCoy set an NCAA completion % record at 77%, Graham Harrell threw for over 5,000 yards, and Chase Daniel topped 4,500 - for the first few weeks having thrown more TDs than incompletions. The conference was documented as having the best passing season for a conference in the BCS era, beating out the 2002 Pac 10.

2008 Statistics, with returning players bolded:
Graham Harrell: 442/626, 71%, 5111 yds, 45 TD, 9 INT, -15 yds rush, 6 TD
Sam Bradford: 328/483, 68%, 4720 yds, 50 TD, 8 INT, 47 yds rush, 5 TD
Colt McCoy: 332/433, 77%, 3859 yds, 34 TD, 8 INT, 561 yds rush, 11 TD
Chase Daniel: 385/528, 73%, 4335 yds, 39 TD, 18 INT, 281 yds rush, 1 TD
Todd Reesing: 329/495, 67%, 3888 yds, 32 TD, 13 INT, 224 yds rush, 4 TD
Zac Robinson: 204/314, 65%, 3064 yds, 25 TD, 10 INT, 562 yds rush, 8 TD
Josh Freeman: 224/382, 59%, 2945 yds, 20 TD, 8 INT, 404 yds rush, 14 TD
Robert Griffin: 160/267, 56%, 2091 yds, 15 TD, 3 INT, 843 yds rush, 13 TD
Joe Ganz: 285/420, 68%, 3568 yds, 25 TD, 11 INT, 258 yds rush, 5 TD
Austen Arnaud: 247/401, 62%, 2792 yds, 15 TD, 10 INT, 401 yds rush, 5 TD
Jerrod Johnson: 194/326, 60%, 2435 yds, 21 TD, 10 INT, 114 yds rush, 3 TD
Cody Hawkins: 183/320, 57%, 1892 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT, -23 yds rush, 3 TD

2009 will not be a duplication of those conference-wide numbers. However, there will be about a half-dozen really potent offenses in the conference, led by QBs that will be putting up strong fantasy values.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas
Sure, I'm a homer. But Texas returns every major receiver except for Quan Cosby - importantly, including Jordan Shipley (there was some concern about this after the Fiesta Bowl). Athlete/backup QB John Chiles has decided he's tired of waiting in McCoy's shadow, and converted to WR during the offseason. He will be a real playmaker in the open field assuming his hands make him a viable target. Williams and Kirkendoll became more involved in the offense later in the season and are back as well. Up front, the Horns return 4 starters on the offensive line - the lone new starter is Michael Huey, a junior right guard who was a top 10 prospect at that position. The pieces are all there - Texas will have a stronger offense in 2009 if McCoy even stays at the same level he was at in 2008.

Texas also has an embarassingly easy nonconference schedule for a title contender (ULM, Wyoming, UTEP, UCF) while Oklahoma faces BYU, Idaho State, Tulsa, and Miami FL - in all, Oklahoma has Steele's #3-toughest schedule in the country while Texas is just #40. With the easier schedule and with more starters returning, McCoy should have the better season of two great choices at QB.

2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
I think a lot of people will argue Bradford is the #1 B12 QB pick. However, Oklahoma is returning just five starters on offense. Every player on the offensive line is new save for Trent Williams at LT. Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson are both gone, as is Quentin Chaney the #4WR. That is just shy of 2400 receiving yards between the three of them. Now, super tight end Jermaine Gresham is returning, and Adron Tennell was a big recruit who will now get the chance to step up as a senior. But I'm expecting Oklahoma to go a little more back to the running game this year as they are returning two 1000-yard rushers. A more balanced attack may be good for the Sooners, but that and the loss of so many WR/OL will probably see Bradford's numbers drop in 2009. Not that he won't be a strong pick regardless. Bradford has a monster arm and Gresham is a coverage nightmare.

3. Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
(ie, generic Tech QB)
In his final two years at Tech, Graham Harrell threw for over 5000 yards both seasons. Michael Crabtree is gone and that will be a huge, huge loss. In fact just four starters are returning on this offense, including two on the offensive line. In the two seasons before the Harrell/Crabtree duo started terrorizing defenses, Texas Tech threw for about 380 ypg. In something I'd only do for Texas Tech, I'm just going to assume that Potts can throw for at least 350 ypg, plug that in and get 4200 yards for the season. In fact, 350 is probably conservative for Leach's offense. Syyyssssstemmmm.

4. Robert Griffin, Baylor
You'll want to check out your fantasy scoring if he and Robinson are still on the board. How much rushing counts compared to passing, and possibly rush TDs vs pass TDs, could sway this one. To me, this comes down to Griffin being a sophomore (biggest season for improvement) and Baylor returning 8 offensive starters. Losing the #3WR (Thomas White) isn't a big deal, but Griffin may miss LT Jason Smith, who went second in the NFL Draft. Fortunately he is a fast, mobile QB (All-American Baylor track team, specializing in hurdles) so that will be somewhat negated. You will also note that Griffin does not turn the ball over. He only completed 56% of his passes because of drops, this guy is dead-accurate. If the receiving corps has improved at all, this should go up to 65%.

5. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State
OSU is returning seven offensive starters, but TE Brandon Pettigrew will be sorely missed. He was one of just two players to catch over 22 passes, the other being darkhorse Heisman candidate Dez Bryant. Keith Toston was kinda discovered in midseason, so OSU may run the ball a little more aggressively this year with that plus the losses to the receiving corps. Robinson's numbers could go either way, as he's more experienced and his two most talented offensive teammates are returning, which could offset some of the losses as well as the upgrade from Troy to Georgia in the nonconference schedule.

6. Todd Reesing, Kansas
Kansas returns seven offensive starters, but just two on the line and will be starting a pair of redshirt freshmen there. This will be a case of high experience at the skill positions versus low experience in protection, as even the tight end is new. I'm also concerned about the loss of three 90+ tacklers weakening the defense enough to cost this offense some time of possession, as the entire linebacker corps is being replaced and those were the defensive leaders in 2008 - a season in which KU already gave up 80 ypg more than in 2007. Reesing had 400 yards more in 2008 than 2007, perhaps due in part to Meier fully switching over from QB to WR, but at the cost of another 6 INT and 1 fewer TD. With the new line I don't see an improvement in offensive production - the question is will it even be as good?

7. Austen Arnaud, Iowa State
This is the official borderline of acceptable Big 12 QBs to draft. Iowa State is horrible, but like the Baylor situation, that doesn't rule out one QB to account for most of their offense and be a decent fantasy pick. ISU returns 9 offensive starters. Arnaud had over 3000 total yards last year and should be able to duplicate that. The Cyclones avoid both Texas and Oklahoma. I'm not really recommending Arnaud, so much as saying watch out for the train wrecks below...

8. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
Johnson plays for Texas A&M. TAMU is terrible. They're going to duplicate the failures of 2008, and offense is a big reason why (along with defense, God's hatred of Aggies, etc). 10 offensive starters return, but at some point that means more of the same. TAMU also faces Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State - three teams that will keep the ball away with their offenses and play solid defense.

9. Zac Lee, Nebraska
Is Zac Lee the #9 QB in the Big 12? I have no idea. I'd be shocked if he's in the top 6, and anything beyond that is largely speculation. Joe Ganz had a reasonably strong season here last year, and some of the starters return - notably, not the top two receivers or the #2 rusher.But hey, three starters on the line, including C and LT. Ehh....

10. Cody Hawkins, Colorado
Hawkins was terrible in 2008. He was decent but inconsistent in 2007. Contrary to what some magazines say, Josh Smith has left, so receivers #2-4 are all gone. Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart return at RB, so maybe the spread option has some hope. Ehh...

11. Daniel Thomas / Whoever Starts at Kansas State
Bill Snyder has returned, and with him a nonconference schedule including two FCS schools. Brandon Banks was a 1000 yard receiver in 2008, so at least he has someone to throw to...

12. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
... as opposed to Gabbert, who will watch the Missouri offense flounder without Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and Tommy Saunders. Chase Daniel's backup, Chase Patton, also graduated - this guy wasn't even getting clean-up time last year. On top of all that, OC Dave Christensen took the HC job at Wyoming. Missouri is going to complete the fall from a team who should have been in the BCS to mid-level ranked to complete fail, all in consecutive seasons. For what it's worth, Gabbert was actually a top 10 QB prospect, but the Tigers have just lost so much there can't not be a rebuilding year.