It's nice to have a draft order set and the Senior Bowl behind us (other all-star games, too, I suppose). The combine is the other big event of the offseason, so we really are halfway to the draft. Sort of.
I'm not completely sure on this, but I might be the only person in the country who plays college fantasy football and takes it seriously. I mean, why else would all the other teams in my league be named "unfilled slot?" So, yeah, it's either just me, or me and a bunch of 13-year-olds with great senses of humor and a lot of time on their hands.
Anyway, in case you do want to play, here's a list of the top college fantasy football quarterbacks for 2009. I know it sounds backward to NFL fantasy purists, but quarterbacks are the most valuable players in this game - at least for the first five picks or so. So pay close attention here, a guy like Case Keenum can be your amateur Adrian Peterson. Read into that whatever you want...
2009 College Fantasy Football Rankings - Quarterbacks:
Last Updated: July 10, 2009
Case Keenum is the clear-cut No. 1 passer in the budding college fantasy football world. In fact, he's so far ahead of everyone else that I'd honestly be surprised to see him drafted later than first overall in any league. And it's no secret why. In his first year of extended action, Keenum led the nation in total offense (403.2 ypg). Now he's got a season of experience under his belt, and the pass-heavy spread system is the same as 2008.
Keenum is the nation's returning leader in passing yards with 5,020, and was second only to Graham Harrell in 2008. He accounted for 51 TDs (7 on the ground). He's thrown at least one TD pass in his last 16 games, and has gone over 300 yards in 13 of his last 14 contests, including putting up 400-plus on five occasions as a sophomore.
Not to mention the fact that most of his top receivers are back. Freshman Tyron Carrier led all rookies with 80 catches, and his 1,026 yards and nine TDs weren't too bad either. Fellow freshman Patrick Edwards hauled in 46 of his own in only eight games, and he'll be back from injury in 2009. And finally, Keenum's got junior Chaz Rodriguez and his 40 catches along with tailback Bryce Beall, who grabbed 34. And one more thing, there's not a lot of defense going on in Conference USA, so Keenum will be involved in plenty of shootouts.
Colin Kaepernick is another guy that flies under the casual fan's radar. But after a Tebow-esque season in which he managed 39 total TDs, he might raise an eyebrow or two. Basically, he's Matt Jones with better accuracy and less cocaine. Last season, Kaepernick became just the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000. This season, he'll probably have to do even more.
Gone are top receivers Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy, but Kaepernick has become a force in the Pistol offense. Despite losing two high profile guys, the passing won't stop at Nevada. In fact, without Mitchell and McCoy, Kaepernick could add to his rushing total. He's the centerpiece of this offense, and that isn't going to change any time soon. It's a similar situation to what Colt McCoy recently underwent after losing some big names after the 2007 season. And as bad as the defenses are in the Big 12, the WAC tacklers are still flakier. So while Kaepernick will do most of his damage in conference play, his eight WAC games alone could be enough to duplicate last year's incredible totals.
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan 2008 Stats: 251/376 2784 passing yards 21 TD 6 INT, 592 rushing yards 6 TD
OK, so this is a little higher than most rankings have LeFevour heading into 2009, but I like his chances as a senior. For one, he battled an ankle injury for nearly the entire 2008 season and still put up some pretty impressive numbers. That ankle is now 100 percent. Secondly, he's chasing about a dozen records, which will help fuel his determination. Third, he's got two of his favorite targets back in Antonio Brown (93-998-7) and Bryan Anderson (63-865-6). Fourth, he attempted a career-low 376 passes last year and will likely move a good bit closer to his sophomore total of 543 when the Chippewas scored 40 points on a weekly basis.
And finally, the schedule is a bit friendlier. Last season, games at Georgia, Purdue, and even Florida Atlantic were awful offensive days for Central Michigan, and in 2009 all three teams are off the schedule. LeFevour's got a lot to prove if he wants to improve his draft stock, and the fact that he plays in a spread system may hurt his NFL chances, but it's a huge positive for his fantasy outlook. Look for numbers a lot closer to his sophomore totals when he came one rushing touchdown short of Tebow's 20-20 record.
Watch closely because this is the only time you'll ever see me rank McCoy over Tebow in anything. But in 2009, McCoy should have the better stat sheet. It all starts up front, where the Longhorns look set with one of the better offensive lines in the Big 12 just a year after that unit was a major question mark. McCoy should have Sam Bradford-style time in the pocket. Then there's the huge coup of getting his favorite target, Jordan Shipley, back for another go. McCoy hit Shipley 89 times for 1,060 yards and 11 TDs last year, and with Quan Cosby gone, Shipley will be targeted even more. That's better news for McCoy owners than it sounds considering Shipley's speed and game-breaking ability. Losing Cosby will hurt a little, but the replacements are fine.
Then there's the Heisman/national title push. McCoy will again be asked to hoist the Longhorns offense on his back, and we've all seen how well he can handle that task. His 76.7 completion percentage was an NCAA record last year, and yet he was still shafted in Heisman voting. Not to mention the fact that he'll have to make room for the huge chip on his shoulder after the whole Texas-Oklahoma tiebreaker fiasco. There's no shortage of motivation for the fourth-year starter. And with no sure thing at running back, look for McCoy to have a shot at besting his 561 rushing yards and 11 ground TDs. Oh, and there's also the total lack of defense in the Big 12. That should help.
This is lower than most "experts" have Tebow ranked. I've actually only seen him lower than second one or two times. But as good as Tebow could be as a senior, there are some red flags that can't go unmentioned. Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, clearly his top two targets in 2008, are gone. And although they're replacing talent with talent, the inexperience could be a hindrance to Tebow's numbers.
Then there's the rushing game. For the first time since Tebow arrived in Gainesville, this appears to be a strength spearheaded by actual running backs. Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Emanuel Moody will all take away from Tebow's carries. And finally, new quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler is tweaking Tebow's release and footwork. And while I think that move will prove to be a great one, it does make Tebow a bit riskier than in years past.
Still, this is Tim Tebow, and he's still playing with loads of talent and a major goal of going undefeated. He'll still get the goal-line carries, and he's not a bad passer at the college level, no matter what you think of his pro chances. I'm just worried about the changes affecting his numbers. That and the fact that he may not play past the first half in 10 of the Gators' games.
Again, before you tell me what an idiot I am for having a 55-touchdown quarterback ranked outside the top five, hear me out.
Sam Bradford will have a great season. He's got two excellent years of experience under his belt, and he's still playing against the invisible Big 12 secondaries. And the Sooners will still run up the score against teams like Idaho State and Tulsa. But he's missing his top two targets from a year ago, and unlike Kaepernick, he doesn't have his scrambling ability to fall back on. What he does have is a ground game that could be better and receive more of a workload.
DeMarco Murray could finally be 100 percent, and when coupled with Chris Brown, it will be hard for Bob Stoops not to lean on the ground game. And he'll probably suffer from the same fate as Tebow as far as playing only half of most of the Sooners' games.
But the biggest problem could be the offensive line. Losing three starters from a group that gave him loads of time against so many subpar pass rushes in 2008 won't be as easy to overcome as some would have you believe. I understand that the scheme allows Trent Williams to move over to the left side without much work, but the quality of pass rushers he'll face is going to spike. Thankfully, Bradford still has a hell of a safety valve in Jermaine Gresham, and the ground game could simply put him in position to throw more of those short touchdown passes he likes so much. Bradford is by no means a bad option as your QB1, but I'm expecting around 40 TDs through the air, or 10 less than his 2008 total.
If you're looking for a sleeper to become the top fantasy quarterback in 2009, here you go. Robinson is primed for a huge year, and even by Big 12 standards it could be epic. I really like Robinson as a possible second-round option at quarterback if you feel like going receiver or running back in the first is a better strategy.
He's got arguably the top left tackle in the game returning to protect him in Russell Okung. He plays in the Big 12, but we've already been over that. He's got a suspect defense that should keep him throwing late into most games. He returns one of the top receivers in the sport in Dez Bryant. And he's become one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation after only one season as the full-time starter.
With so many offensive pieces back for the Cowboys, Robinson is a safe bet for a career year. That would mean more than 25 TD passes (I'm thinking around 32), and more rushing touchdowns (probably in the 10-12 range.) There's just a lot to like about his fantasy chances as a senior. And I can't stress enough the fact that his defense will almost guarantee that he'll be on the field more than most top quarterbacks.
Until last season, Reesing was a solid fantasy option as a pure passer. That might have changed after Reesing carried the ball 126 times as a junior and added 224 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. He won't become Zac Robinson anytime soon, but that rushing total could again jump in 2009.
Sure, the ground game is set with Jake Sharp at tailback, but Reesing's never shown any fear about sacrificing himself to make a play, and with Mizzou out of the way in the North, he could be playing for a division title. That means more effort from the whole team, but especially from Reesing.
Then there's his receiver situation, which might be the most underrated corps in the nation. Dezmon Briscoe is a year wiser as a junior after he caught 92 balls for 1,407 yards and 15 TDs in his second season. Then there's Kerry Meier. The former quarterback has become one of the best possession receivers around. He simply catches everything thrown within two yards of himself. And you can't discount the fact that he caught 97 passes of his own while adding eight TDs. Pretty scary to think that he's only been a full-time receiver for a year.
Expect Reesing's passing touchdowns to jump into the 40s with two of the best and biggest wideouts in the conference playing with him one more time. And he's a threat to add five or six scores on the ground.
And the most underrated passer in the nation is... Trevor Vittatoe. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of him; most people haven't. He plays for UTEP for pete's sake. But if you're looking to win your college fantasy league, which seems like a smart goal, Vittatoe could be another guy who allows you to take a top running back in the first and still get an elite quarterback in the second.
As a freshman, Vittatoe put up 3,000 yards and then bested that feat with 3,274 as a sophomore. He's got 58 TDs and only 16 INTS in his two years at the college level. He guided the Miners' 14th-ranked passing attack in 2008, putting up 284.2 ypg, and that number will almost definitely grow.
Coach Mike Price is no stranger to top-notch air attacks, and he may have his best college passer yet in Vittatoe. It won't hurt that two 50-plus catch receivers return, along with a defense that ranked 115th. Expect Vittatoe to be involved in more of the same shootouts that allowed him to toss 33 TDs in 2008 despite missing a game. He's only going to get better, and if his interception total drops from nine, he'll be a solid contributor every week.
This is a bit of a wild-card pick, especially since Jason Smith won't be up front to give Griffin ample time to pick apart defenses. Of course that may not matter. Griffin is being touted as the fastest quarterback in the country, and while I can't technically confirm that, he's definitely up there. After a freshman season that saw him take a step toward relevance for Baylor, Griffin should be allowed to do more as a second-year player. That's not good news for opposing defenses.
One of Griffin's most impressive stats was his avoidance of throwing a single interception until November, despite starting every game for the Bears. He rushed for more than 100 yards on four occasions, 99 yards once, and 217 yards on only 11 carries against Washington State. Yeah, he'll be heavily game-planned against, but with eight other returning starters on offense, he's in a great position to reach elite status as a fantasy quarterback. One of those starters is fellow sophomore and favorite target Kendall Wright who caught 50 balls and five TDs from Griffin in 2008. With so much experience returning and a winter practice game as the goal, Griffin should best all of his impressive freshman numbers as he once again looks to carry this offense.
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech
Max Hall, BYU
Kellen Moore, Boise State
Austin Davis, Southern Miss (dual-threat)
Jacob Bower, Tulsa
Jake Locker, Washington (dual-threat)
Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (dual-threat who could end up much higher)