Yahoo! came out with College Fantasy Football yesterday, and the world rejoiced. Or at least, that’s the interpretation the rest of my office had while watching me yell triumphantly through the paned glass. For years I’ve had to create excel spreadsheets to calculate my Big Ten Fantasy Football scores, and now, finally, the world has caught up.
In honor of a subject not widely publicized but completely necessary, here are the top 5 rankings for Big Ten quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and even defenses.
1. Trace McSorley, Penn State - With Saquon Barkley in the NFL, all the attention will be on McSorley to lead the Penn State offense in 2018. That won’t necessarily be a bad thing for his numbers, which stand to grow with an improved offensive line and stable of athletic receivers that have matured around the Heisman candidate at QB. McSorley led the Big Ten in passing by over 400 yards in 2017, and that was when the most dangerous weapon for Penn State was a handoff. Trace can also put up points with his legs, where he rushed for 491 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior.
2. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State - I’m of the opinion that Ohio State held itself back with JT Barrett at quarterback, and wouldn’t have hit that midseason lull if Haskins had the keys to the offense. I first fell in love with Haskins at The Opening before his senior year, when he was committed to Maryland. He broke out and proved to be an Ohio State caliber of quarterback - watch how the weapons around him are accentuated by his talents. I wouldn’t be shocked if Haskins ends up the no. 1 quarterback in the conference if Urban Meyer opens things up in the downfield passing game.
3. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State - Lewerke had a really bad haircut for Big Ten Media Day, but that doesn’t mean the Spartan revelation from last year won’t have big time totals. In his first full year as a starter, Lewerke threw for 20 touchdowns and 2793 yards, but he’s a difference maker on the ground, rushing for 559 and 5 TDs. Assume all those totals will go up with more familiarity.
4. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern - Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde of the Big Ten. Thorson either comes out and lives up to the NFL billing he’s received largely on physical attributes, or, he comes out and makes you question everything you’ve ever believed in. Like McSorley and Lewerke, Thorson has good speed and will find extra points on the ground.
5. Shea Patterson, Michigan - Patterson is ranked solely on situational fluency. I haven’t seen him play in years, but I do know he’s going to start, was a highly ranked prospect, and is surrounded by amazing talent at wide receiver and tight end. I also think Harbaugh has a lot to prove this year on offense, and could have the quarterback to start silencing the doubters.
Wildcard - Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin - He doesn’t have the arm talent of some others, and won’t break 5.0 in the 40 yard dash, but Hornibrook has very good accuracy and the best crop of receivers Wisconsin has seen in a long time.
1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin - The guy rushed for 1977 and 13 TDs as a true freshman and returns his entire offensive line at Wisconsin. Don’t get cute or make this harder than this has to be.
2. JK Dobbins, Ohio State - Dobbins stole the show when Mike Weber started the season with a pulled hamstring, and rushed for 1403 and 7 TDs as a true freshman. Weber is back and healthy and could easily be in the no. 2 slot on this list should Dobbins have not existed, and that’s going to take away a lot of garbage points during Ohio State blowouts, but can’t argue with Dobbins talent and opportunity in this offense.
3. Karan Higdon, Michigan - Higdon emerged from a crowded Michigan backfield to post 994 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Now that Higdon is the clear no. 1, and the Michigan quarterback should be able to tie his own shoes, Higdon should see even more opportunity and space through the line.
4. LJ Scott, Michigan State - Scott has plenty to prove as a senior, having never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. But the big back from Michigan State should have the lions share of the carries and not see the stacked boxes he did as a sophomore and junior.
5. Toren Young, Iowa - I’ll kick myself for not having Toren Young higher, I just haven’t seen him play. Akrum Wadley was a stud for the past few years in Iowa’s backfield, and at this juncture I’m not 100% sure the role will be Young’s alone. If it is, Young should clearly be a few spots higher on this list.
Wildcard - Ricky Slade, Penn State - The 5-9, 190 pound true freshman has gigantic shoes and quads to fill in the Nittany Lion backfield, and isn’t even supposed to start. But I don’t think Miles Sanders is very good, and we’ve seen what a 5-star talent can do with McSorley in Happy Valley.
1. Juwan Johnson, Penn State - One of the Penn State receivers is going to emerge in a big way, and my money’s on the monster from New Jersey. Johnson had flashes of Allen Robinson in 2017, and with the numbers McSorley is going to post, there is plenty of fantasy goodness to be had.
2. Parris Campbell, Ohio State - You wanna see how bad JT Barrett retarded the Buckeye passing attack? Check out what Haskins and Campbell do in 2018. Campbell is a freak athlete that couldn’t catch the ball over the top or in stride. Haskins has ridiculous ball placement and will let this freak fly.
3. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota - All about the opportunity in Fleck’s offense. He’s filling the Corey Davis role and should lead the league in targets.
4. Stanley Morgan, Nebraska - I”m excited to see what Scott Frost has in store at quarterback and receiver, but leading receiver Stanley Morgan should be featured at wideout. It took a while to get going with Tanner Lee in 2017, but Morgan finished with 986 receiving yards and 10 TDs. Morgan is a game-breaker with the ball in his hands, and the Frost screen game should be frightening.
5. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan - At this point we’re just guessing between Peoples-Jones and teammate Tarik Black. One Michigan receiver, if not both, are going to put up monster numbers. The wide receiving stars are back in Ann Arbor, and I’m banking on Peoples-Jones to conjure up images of Braylen Edwards and David Terrell.
Wildcard - Mikey Dudek, Illinois - Finally, a little home cooking. I believe in karma, and nobody deserves a monster season more than Dudek. In Rod Smith’s new offense, he could see exponentially more looks with room to shake and bake upfield.
1. Noah Fant, Iowa - Led the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns and is a big time freak of nature. Simple math here folks.
2. Louis Dorsey, Illinois - Home cooking part II. Dorsey was one of the highlights of Illinois’ 2017 season.
3. Brycen Hopkins, Purdue - Coach Brohm knows how to take advantage of his weapons, and after graduating most, Hopkins is in for a huge role.
4. Zach Gentry, Michigan - Coach Harbaugh, despite all his creepy faults, knows how to use his tight ends.
5. Rashod Berry, Ohio State - Berry moved over from defense to fill a void at tight end, but finished 2017 with confidence and some flash.
Wildcard - Zander Neuville, Wisconsin - Never heard of him, but he’s a Wisconsin tight end.
2. Ohio State
4. Penn State