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The 2016 College Fantasy Football Sleeper Extravaganza

If NFL fantasy football is the checkers of the fantasy world, then College fantasy football is the chess. That is not a knock on the merits of the professional version, more a commentary on the bevy of information that is available for pro leagues. From sleepers and busts, to bounce-back candidates, to thoroughly fleshed out draft strategies - even articles that highlight the best pun-based team names of the coming season.

But when it comes to college football, the complexity rises in direct correlation to the decrease in available information. No longer can you log onto your favorite site and navigate to the fantasy tab, fully confident that a slew of articles await your perusal. No no...the college version will have diehards sifting through dozens of team forum pages, searching for news from spring practice that may offer the faintest whisper of a hint as to who has looked good so far, or even a quote from the third-string long-snapper that praises the performance of an under-the-radar player.

And if that wasn't difficult and off-putting enough for those teetering on the college fantasy football fence, there are 65 teams for which you must account - teams whose yearly rosters fluctuate greatly due to transfers, graduation, and the NFL Draft. And that is just the Power 5 conferences - adding in the entire FBS makes it an even more daunting task.

In an ideal world, there would be somebody that has already done this legwork for you and could share their findings in an easy-to-read condensed format. Well sir, today is your lucky day.


John Franklin III - Auburn

The Skinny: Franklin is a former Florida State quarterback, turned East Mississippi Community College backup signal-caller (yes, backup), turned SEC starting quarterback hopeful.

The Concern: Franklin brings a slight frame to the fold, amid concerns that his body may not hold up under the duress of the grueling SEC season. A more immediate concern for would-be drafters is the ongoing status of the three-man quarterback competition.

The Upside: Franklin managed to add 12 pounds of muscle in the off-season and brings an elite dual-threat ability that may resemble what former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall brought to the mix. His strong arm should also lend itself nicely to well-balanced passing numbers.

The Verdict: Gus Malzahn had high praise for Franklin during the SEC Media Day, and while coachspeak is never fully to be trusted, it can provide insight if you know where to look. Malzahn indicated that "John is the guy to be impressed with." Couple that in with the spotty play of Jeremy Johnson and Sean White in 2015 and you have yourself a sleeper to trust.

Kent Myers - Utah State

The Skinny: The understudy to Chuckie Keeton the past two years, Myers proved himself adept on the ground and through the air over his eight starts last season, posting over 2,000 combined yards and 19 total touchdowns.

The Concern: Myers is another small-in-stature dual-threat quarterback, so injury is always a concern. Playing in the MWC will take some of the physicality out of the equation though. Consistency is another area of concern, and is a step forward that Myers will need to take in order to be trusted in weekly lineups.

The Upside: Watching Myers deal, it is difficult not to envision a small dose of Greg Ward to his game. The Utah State offense will not match the high-flying proficiency of the Houston attack, but Myers ability to create for himself will keep the offense churning and allow for the opportunity to post some seismic numbers.

The Verdict: It's Myers turn to lead this team and while 20-plus touchdown passes are not out of range, it will be the output on the ground that determines how far he can carry fantasy teams. Myers, if he stays on the field, should be a shoe-in for at least eight rushing touchdowns, with potential for many more.

Kenny Potter - San Jose State

The Skinny: Potter played in 11 of San Jose State's 13 games last season, accumulating 15 touchdowns through the air and seven on the ground.

The Concern: After taking the reins from Joe Gray, Potter proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the man for the job. Unfortunately, the three clunker games give proof to the concern that the opposition's game plan could limit his effectiveness. And with Potter transitioning into the driving force of the offense, expect him to see more defensive game plans that are geared towards stopping him.

The Upside: With the departure of do-everything running back Tyler Ervin, the Spartans will lean heavily on their senior quarterback this year. Potter flashed glimpses of his potential brilliance in 2015, scoring five touchdowns in one half against Hawaii, followed by a career high 336 yards passing the following week against Boise State.

The Verdict: See Potter pass. See Potter run. See Potter chuck a Hail Mary into a trash can. With Ervin gone, the pressure will be on Potter to produce, so the opportunity to breakout will be there.


Mark Thompson - Florida

The Skinny: The No. 1 JUCO tailback recruit logs in at a beastly 6'2" 242 pounds. Not-so-skinny would probably be a better lead-in here.

The Concern: Depending on a JUCO transfer to emerge can be a dicey proposition at best and Thompson's case is hurt by the presence of two highly-touted sophomore running backs and a Florida offense that has lacked punch for quite some time.

The Upside: Size, strength, and the brute force of a rhino. Head coach Jim McElwain referred to Thompson as "an SEC back" and has a tendency to rely on one guy to carry the load. If reports from practice can be trusted, it appears that Thompson is set to be that guy.

The Verdict: Florida tailbacks rushed for 17 touchdowns last season and with the offense breaking in a new quarterback, expect that trend to continue - and expect Mark Thompson to be out in front of the pack.

Izzy Matthews - Colorado State

The Skinny: The 6'0" 215 sophomore scored four touchdowns in the Rams final five games of 2015, handling the bulk of the carries as the games wore to a close.

The Concern: The diminutive Dalyn Dawkins led the Rams with 867 yards and returns for his junior season. Three freshmen tailbacks also arrive to throw their names into the ring.

The Upside: While Dawkins led in touches and yards, he managed just two touchdowns on the ground. Matthews was the back the Rams leaned on to finish teams off over the final six games - games in which he averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Now with a full year under his belt, expect his total carries to exceed 200 this season - a number that, if he reaches, should come with a warm serving of double digits touchdowns on the side.

The Verdict: With the departure of their top four receiving options, head coach Mike Bobo has indicated that the Rams will look to feature the run game a bit more this year and Matthews stands as the back with the most to gain.

Dontrell Hilliard - Tulane

The Skinny: Hilliard rushed for a team-high 646 yards and six touchdowns on a Tulane team that ran the ball 49% of the time last season.

The Concern: The presence of other options. Last season saw five different tailbacks lead in yardage over the first five games, and only one of those backs has departed. Of primary concern is Sherman Badie, who brings elite speed to the table and will certainly eat into Hilliard's touches.

The Upside: Willie Fritz takes over as head coach after spending the prior two seasons at Georgia Southern. Expect him to fire up his triple option, pistol-spread offense that ran the ball 68% of the time over the past four seasons. Hilliard stands to be the primary benefactor from the change, as 2015 saw him reach double digit carries in five of the final seven games. How good was Fritz's attack on the ground last season? Good enough that his top two running backs combined for 30 touchdowns. The overall ground game accounted for an astonishing 54 rushing scores! Tulane will certainly not reach that mark, but this total gives reason to hope for sweeping improvements.

The Verdict: Barring injury, Hilliard should see his rush count easily surpass 200 and with that, comes the possibility of 1,000 yards on the ground and double digit touchdowns. He may go undrafted in many leagues, but it would be wise to grab him with a late pick before he becomes a hot waiver wire commodity.

Shaq Vann - Eastern Michigan

The Skinny: Vann toted the rock in a backup capacity in 2015, rushing for 586 (5.9 ypc) and five touchdowns.

The Concern: This is Eastern Michigan we're talking about here, so in games they are trailing, and let's be honest, there could be quite a few, the run/pass mix may shift heavily to pass as the game progresses. To Eastern Michigan's credit, they were able to maintain a near 50/50 split in 2015, despite their 1-11 record.

The Upside: Last season's lead back, Darius Jackson, accounted for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns, meaning the next man up has some hefty potential numbers waiting in the wings. Eastern Michigan also returns ten offensive lineman who have combined for the fifth most starts (123) in all FBS, so driving lanes should be widely available for Vann.

The Verdict
: Shaq Vann not only brings a great name to the table, but has a background as an elite high school sprinter, packaged in a 5'10", 210-pound frame. Vann enters the season as a guy that could make one of the biggest jumps in all FBS.

Aaron Jones - UTEP

The Skinny: Jones was lost for the season in week two last year and the UTEP run game never recovered. Jones returns healthy looking to replicate his 2014 numbers that saw him post 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Concern: The UTEP offense as a whole flopped last season, averaging just 20.7 points per contest. The ground game in particular was an unmitigated disaster, producing just five touchdowns from the running back position.

The Upside: Jones' talent is undeniable. But season-ending injury aside, a healthy Jones may have even struggled last season as the offensive line suffered much the same fate. Eight of the top ten return from this unit, which should help bolster a stagnant run game into something that resembles a formidable threat.

The Verdict: After a stellar 2014 campaign, it could be said that Jones' star may be a bit too bright to be labeled a true sleeper. But consider this a reminder not to forgot his name because of an injury washed-out 2015. Big numbers could be on the way.


Noah Brown - Ohio State

The Skinny: Checking in at 6'2" 222 pounds, this former four-star recruit missed the entire 2015 season after breaking his leg during spring camp, but has the size, hands, and opportunity to make himself a household name in 2016.

The Concern: Brown has one career catch. And while I am sure that catch was quite a beauty, it does give one a pause for concern. Ohio State also oozes talent and the wide receiver position is stocked with the pass-catching potential of Corey Smith, Torrence Gibson, and true frosh phenom Austin Mack.

The Upside: When your quarterback can't stop gushing about your merits, you know you are in line for a big season. J.T. Barrett shared his thoughts on Brown recently, saying "He has suction cups for hands. Throw it around Noah and he'll go get it." Sounds good to me.

The Verdict: Michael Thomas posted 781 yards and nine touchdowns as the lead horse last year, but expect Brown to eclipse both of these numbers. He will be lining up as the number one target for Barret and has all the tools to submit a top-20 season at the wide receiver position.

Ishmael Zamora - Baylor

The Skinny: Zamora caught only nine passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in his first year of action, but enters the season listed as a starting outside receiver, opposite of K.D. Cannon.

The Concern: Off-season turmoil has been the ongoing story for Baylor and questions will arise as to how much of this distraction will carry over into the season. Will the Baylor high-flying offense remain just that in 2016?

The Upside: The word on the street is that interim head coach, Jim Grobe, will allow offensive coordinator Kendall Briles to continue to run the show at the same breakneck speed we are used to seeing from the Bears. And that is certainly good news for Zamora, as the 6'4" 220 pounds wideout possesses physical tools that no other starting receiver in Waco can boast.

The Verdict
: Fantasy owners over the years have cashed in on the Baylor wide receiver position - see Corey Coleman, Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, Antwan Goodley, etc. - and this year will be no different. K.D. Coleman remains the top dog to own, but Zamora offers a tantalizing combination of size, speed, and physicality that cannot be ignored come draft day.

Derrick Willies - Texas Tech

The Skinny: Former Iowa Hawkeye, now JUCO transfer, with the requisite size and athleticism to ensure him the opportunity to earn significant playing time come fall.

The Concern: Texas Tech returns four veteran receivers that notched over 300 yards in 2015: Devin Lauderdale, Ian Sadler, Reginald Davis, and Cameron Batson. Not to mention running back Justin Stockton's solid output out of the backfield.

The Upside: The ingredients are there for a breakout season. A star quarterback, a pass-happy system, and a man who proved himself a deep threat in the JUCO ranks. And out of the glut of returning options, Willies is the only one with the prototypical size that will make him the prime red zone target. And remember, not long ago a JUCO wide receiver arrived on the scene in Lubbock and made waves in his first season - a guy by the name of Michael Crabtree.

The Verdict: Digging deep on Willies is made even tougher by the fact that all anyone wants to talk about was his sitting 60-inch vertical leap, video of which can be seen here. Calling it impressive fails to do justice to the feat. But leaping alone will not ensure that Patrick Mahomes will look his way more often. If Willies can earn the trust of his quarterback, he could be in line for something special. Make sure you reach for this Red Raider wide receiver on draft day.

Tanner Gentry - Wyoming
The Skinny: The 6'2" senior racked up 678 yards receiving and four touchdowns before a separated shoulder in week seven derailed what was shaping up to be a breakout season.

The Concern: Wyoming will break in a new quarterback this year. Josh Allen won the job coming out of spring, but his game experience so far has been limited to just six passes.

The Upside: Gentry averaged 96.7 yards per game in 2015 - a total that would have placed him 16th nationally had he played in enough games to qualify.

The Verdict: Gentry possesses all the tools needed to have a big year: size, soft hands, shiftiness, and the ability to get deep. Look for a healthy Gentry to push past 1,000 receiving yards in 2016.

Equanimeous St. Brown - Notre Dame

The Skinny
: St. Brown spent last season blocked on the depth chart by Will Fuller, but has the size and pedigree to post big numbers for Notre Dame.

The Concern: Similar to many on this list, St. Brown faces concern where position competition and playing time are concerned. Torii Hunter has one wide receiver spot on lock down. Corey Holmes, Miles Boykin, C.J. Sanders, and spring standout Kevin Stepherson are all jockeying with St. Brown for a bigger piece of the pie - and there is only so much pie to go around.

The upside: With the retirement of Corey Robinson and academic ineligibility ruling against tight end Alize Jones, some of the dust has already settled. And with the praise that Brian Kelly has heaped on St. Brown, it appears that he will get the first chance to step up opposite Hunter. The starting quarterback battle will carry into the fall, but both Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire have shown themselves as more than capable passers, so the receivers should be in good hands regardless of the outcome.

The Verdict: Keep a close eye on fall practice. If St. Brown earns a starting spot, he will have excellent value in what should be another dynamic Fighting Irish offense.

Missing the Cut

QB - Chase Litton (Marshall) - A strong argument can be made that Litton broke out his freshman year after throwing for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns. But look for the sophomore, who excelled down the stretch, to take a large leap in his development in a potentially high-scoring Marshall offense.

RB - Lexington Thomas (UNLV)
- At 5'9" 175 pounds, Thomas lacks ideal size to pack a punch around the goal line, but with the recent dismissal of 2015 leading rusher Keith Whitely, Thomas stands to be the primary beneficiary of the additional carries. Word out of spring camp was that Thomas was electric, breaking off big run after big run.

RB - Warren Ball (Akron) - Ball comes to Akron as a grad transfer from Ohio State and former elite running back recruit. His first challenge will be to win the starting job, but with the combination of pedigree and a reduced talent base in the MAC, Ball could shine in his final collegiate season.

RB - Devwah Whaley (Arkansas) - "He's probably the most talented high school running back that I have ever coached." Words from head coach Bret Bielema's mouth. Bielema is a man that knows running back talent having coached stud tailback Alex Collins last season and a slew of accomplished backs during his Wisconsin tenure. Whaley will have plenty of competition but could have the highest upside out of anyone on this list.

WR - Korey Robertson / Marquise Ricard (Southern Miss) - D.J. Thompson will be the top option for the potent Southern Miss aerial attack, but look for either Robertson or Ricard, who is back from injury, to slot into the No. 2 position and post usable numbers. Certainly, coaching changes may affect the offensive philosophy, but the key pieces are still in place for success.

WR - Trey Griffey (Arizona) - Son of recent Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr., Trey Griffey battled injuries in 2015 and will enter the new season as the only returning wide receiver on the Wildcats roster that can bring prototypical size to the red zone. It's now or never for the talented senior.

WR - John Burt / Collin Johnson (Texas) - Texas has not exactly been a breeding ground for fantasy excellence lately, but new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert will bring his explosive attack over from Tulsa in hopes of returning the Longhorns offense to its former glory days. Sophomore Burt and 6'6" freshman Johnson stand out as potential breakthrough candidates.

Dynasty Names to Remember for 2017

QB - Zach Smith (Baylor) - With the transfer of backup Jarrett Stidham and the coming graduation of Seth Russell, true freshman Zach Smith is the current odds-on favorite to lead next year's squad. Smith was in for spring and ran a version of the Baylor offense in high school.

RB - Bryce Love (Stanford) - Love was dynamic as a true freshman last season, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. A large increase to the workload is in the mix for 2016, with a feature role waiting next season.

RB - Derrius Guice (LSU) - Speaking of dynamic, Guice was just that when given the opportunity. A role of Robin to Leonard Fournette's Batman is in the cards for this year, but Guice waits in the wings for a potential monster 2017 season. Need more convincing? Count the broken tackles in this kick return.

WR - Justin Hobbs (Tulsa) - 2017 will bring a new quarterback to the fold, but the top two wide receivers graduate, leaving the 6'4" Hobbs as the man to lead the way.

WR - Cedric Wilson (Boise State) - Similar to Hobbs, Wilson will see the two guys in front of him graduate. Unlike Hobbs, Wilson will see the return of a rising sophomore quarterback in the form of Brett Rypien. Wilson, a 6'3" JUCO transfer, earned a starting spot during spring ball and could emerge as the primary deep threat in the Bronco offense as early as this season.