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NCAA Prospects to Watch: Week 2


The football world is working itself into a frenzy as the NFL season finally began Thursday with the Packers and the Bears. However, football fans don’t have to wait until Sunday for more action.

This series will cover NCAA football players featured in nationally-televised games who could likely emerge as fantasy assets after next year’s draft.

Whether you’re worried about your team’s prospects or expecting a Super Bowl, it’s never too early to take a look at some of the guys who could become fantasy factors next year. Dynasty and devy league owners will be keeping an especially close eye on some of these players each week. Let's see who could make some noise in the second week of college football action.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Marshall – Boise St

Friday 9 PM ET on ESPN 2

John Hightower – Boise State Wide Receiver, Senior

Hightower is JUCO transfer who put up over 500 yards in his first season at Boise State last year, despite only starting four games. He possesses an intriguing blend of size and speed, uses his 6’2” frame well to shield off defenders and is able to pluck the ball out of the air with solid hands, like this:


He also has the open field ability to do this:

 


Since this is his first year as a full-time starter, football fans should keep an eye on how he handles the increased role. He’s likely not going to turn into an NFL team’s #1 option, but he should be a good day two or early day three pick who could become the second option in the passing attack and be capable of making big plays.

 

Nebraska – Colorado

3:30 PM ET on Fox

Steven Montez  - Colorado Quarterback, Senior

At 6’5” 225 pounds, Montez has the perfect frame for a quarterback. With a father that played in the pros, he also ostensibly knows what it takes to be successful at the highest level. He had near-identical seasons stats-wise in his sophomore and junior year at Colorado; although, his completion percentage jumped over 4% last year.

Since he has excellent arm strength, continuing to show growth in his accuracy would be huge for a player that is likely a mid-round pick right now. Nebraska only allowed 238 yards per game through the air last year (partially because they weren’t a good team and opponents ran wild on them), but this should be a good test to see if Montez can have success in a game where there should be open receivers.

Laviska Shenault Jr. - Colorado Wide Receiver, Junior 

Part of Montez’s success is due to Shenault Jr., a likely top half of the first-round selection. The junior exploded last year for 1,011 yards and 6 TDs after only catching seven passes his freshman year. A raw receiver with good size (6’2” 220 pounds), Shenault Jr. has been compared to JuJu Smith-Schuster because of his natural gifts and athleticism. He’s an incredibly versatile playmaker, as this great breakdown shows, who also lines up in the Wildcat formation frequently for Colorado. He’s an exciting player to watch and one who will make an NFL team more dynamic.

JD Spielman – Nebraska Wide Receiver, Junior

On the Nebraska side of the ball, keep an eye on diminutive wide receiver JD Speilman. He’s been a factor for the Cornhuskers since he first stepped on campus, totally over 800 yards in both his freshman and sophomore years. Speilman, and really the entire Nebraska offense, disappointed against South Alabama in week one, but the 5’9” 180-pound receiver should likely be lined up all over the field versus the Buffaloes and can do damage in space with good body control and quickness. Despite his versatility in college, he’s likely a day three selection as a slot receiver, but one who can become a key cog in a passing attack, much like a healthy Jamison Crowder.

  

LSU – Texas

7:30 PM ET on ABC

Collin Johnson – Texas Wide Receiver, Senior

Johnson is a massive target, who has just seemed to get better every year on Texas’ campus. At 6’6” 220 pounds, he has the physique of a plodder, but he’s shown the ability to run quick and crisp routes. When he does that, he’s near impossible to contain given his size, elite body control, and strong hands. He can sometimes rely too much on his size and strength, which will likely be matched by the LSU defense, so if he can show consistent route work against a defense at this level, he would likely announce himself as a clear first-round pick. This is a big test for the big man.

Justin Jefferson – LSU Wide Receiver, Junior

After not catching one pass his freshman season, Jefferson notched 54 catches for 875 yards and 6 TDs last year. The 6’3” 195 pounder continued the success in the Week 1 blowout of Georgia Southern. He gets a much stiffer test against Texas, which will show if the new spread offense principles LSU is using will propel Jefferson to a big season. In a more run-oriented offense, the recent LSU receivers who went on to the NFL (DJ Chark, Malachi Dupre, Rueben Randle, Brandon LaFell) haven’t been successful, outside of the one year that produced Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry. As of right now, Jefferson looks like an early day three pick or a player who will return for his senior year.

Sam Ehlinger – Texas Quarterback, Junior

An exciting dual-threat quarterback, Ehlinger has begun to refine his skills as a passer, throwing for 3,292 yards and a 25:5 TD: INT ratio while also rushing for 482 yards and 16 TDs last year. Like Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield before him, Ehlinger is a prolific Big 12 QB facing questions about his transition to the NFL. However, unlike those Oklahoma gunslingers, Ehlinger hasn’t yet shown the arm strength or ball placement to suggest he can be a starter in the NFL. A strong performance against an elite defense like Texas might help change people’s minds.

 

Stanford – USC

10:30 PM ET on ESPN

Walker Little – Stanford Offensive Tackle, Junior

Little isn’t a fantasy prospect in his own right, but keep an eye on this kid when you watch the game. He can be dominant, and he’s likely to be a top ten selection in the draft, if not top five. He’s the type of offensive tackle who can drastically improve a team’s offense.

Colby Parkinson – Stanford Tight End, Junior

After losing Kaden Smith and JJ Arcega-Whiteside to the NFL, the Stanford passing game will look a little different in 2019. Head Coach David Shaw hinted this off-season that the 6’7” 250-pound Parkinson will play a major role in that new offensive identity. A massive red zone target, he’s caught touchdowns on over 25% of his total catches so far in his collegiate career. At his size, he’s clearly not an elite athlete, but he has good short area quickness and body control. He’s likely a 2nd round pick right now, but displaying a more diverse route tree while continuing his consistent red zone production could add him to the list of starting NFL tight ends from Stanford.

KJ Costello – Stanford Quarterback, Senior

USC quarterback JT Daniels’ meniscus tear means that we won’t see an elite QB showdown in this game, but watching Costello by himself isn’t so bad. The 6’5” senior took massive steps forward last year, completing 65% of his passes for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Costello has always shown good arm strength to go along with average mobility but a lack of consistency – in his mechanics and performance – has raised questions over the years. He hasn’t handled pressure well and can force bad passes because of his strong arm. In a loaded quarterback class, Costello will need to show good decision-making and consistency in rivalry games like this in order to lock in his value in the 1st or 2nd round.

Michael Pittman Jr. – USC Wide Receiver, Senior

On the USC side of the ball, Pittman Jr. has emerged as the main playmaker. A 6’4” 220-pound target, Pittman stepped up in the biggest games last year for the Trojans and seems an ideal fit for the Air Raid scheme. A solid athlete with good speed for his size, Pittman Jr was unable to make much of his six catches in last week’s win over Fresno State. It will be interesting to see if freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, who’s taking over for the injured Daniels, can build chemistry with Pittman and keep the Trojans wide receiver climbing up draft boards in the day two conversation.

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