So what if Zeke is a rookie? And they didn't draft him #4 overall, given that he's a prototype 3-down back, to have him in a timeshare with Morris or McFadden. Behind that line, coupled with his skills as a runner, receiver, and pass blocker, there's no way he should fall past the first round.
Bryant is, without a doubt, the top fantasy receiver in all of college football. He's the amateur Larry Fitzgerald as far as fake sports go. I can't imagine there being another receiver worth taking as highly as Bryant. He's a first-rounder in most leagues, and a smart pick at that.
After outperforming Michael Crabtree in most statistical categories last season, Bryant has only himself to compete with as a junior. In 2008, he put up two 200-plus yard games and went over 100 six times. And that was as an unknown with a first-round pick playing tight end and stealing catches. Now, Bryant's a year better and Brandon Pettigrew is gone, leaving Dez as the clear-cut top target. It won't be easy to up his touchdown total from 19, but he's definitely got the size to compete in the end zone.
Jordan Shipley is going to have a huge year. He's Colt McCoy's roommate, so there's that whole weird connection, he's got speed that most receivers would kill for, and he won't have to compete with Quan Cosby for attention. He's the only Texas player back with more than 35 catches in his career.
So, as a sixth-year senior, Shipley should go nuts. He hauled in 89 passes last season with Cosby still managing to steal 92. With Cosby gone, I think Shipley is about as close as you can get to being a lock for 100-plus catches. I've got him ranked a good deal higher than most, but he'll be McCoy's go-to guy on nearly every play. He's also pretty damn consistent as evidenced by his nine games last season with at least one score. And oh yeah, he's a pretty dangerous return man when he's used back there.
Briscoe would be higher than this if it weren't for Kerry Meier. But, since Meier does exist, he'll have to be happy with third. The Big 12 has its share of decent wideouts, but Briscoe might be the most underrated. With the way Kansas likes to throw the ball, don't expect Briscoe's numbers to drop. I'm just worried that they might not improve much with Meier entering his second season as a full-time receiver who catches as well as any wideout in the country.
Briscoe was one of only two players to have multiple 200 yards games in 2008, and his 269-yard two-touchdown performance against Oklahoma was one of the best all season. For the year, Briscoe had three games with multiple touchdowns (including two games with three scores). Briscoe found the end zone at least once in seven of his last eight games. Of course, the one game he didn't score, he still caught nine passes for 115 yards. Not too bad. Look for Kansas and Briscoe to put up huge numbers early on against Northern Colorado, UTEP, Duke, and Southern Miss.
Finally, we're out of the Big 12. For at least a few seconds anyway. Roosevelt is a virtual unknown to casual fans, but his numbers at Buffalo are worthy of a second glance. He's ranked in the top two or three on most sites, but I'm skeptical now that QB Drew Willy has moved on to play Michael Jackson songs on the piano and sing to orcas. I hope someone got that.
Anyway, with Willy spanking opposing defenses, Roosevelt caught 104 balls and scored 13 times. Turner Gill is returning for one more season in Northern New York, so the philosophy should be simple enough for the new passer - get Naaman the ball. Luckily, Zach Maynard appears to have nailed down the starting quarterback job, and his mobility should allow him to extend some plays and find Roosevelt downfield. I don't think he'll break the 100-catch mark again, but he's proven to be a safe option in the red zone, and he should get a high percentage of the Bulls' targets.
With Case Keenum back to run Kevin Sumlin's high-powered spread attack, Tyron Carrier could end up challenging Bryant, Shipley, and Briscoe for the top ranking among receivers. Carrier was only a freshman in 2008, but he still managed to form an instant rapport with Keenum. That relationship should pay huge dividends to Carrier owners this fall.
With Keenum looking to make one last push for NFL glory, he'll rely on his top target plenty of times in 2009. Last season he caught at least three balls in all 13 of the Cougars' games, and he went over 100 yards five times. Most of his production came against the soft CUSA defenses, so you'll have to hedge your bets in non-conference play, but Carrier is the top option in the best passing game in the country. That alone should make him a serious consideration in your fantasy league. I fully expect his touchdown numbers to rise with Mark Hafner no longer on campus to steal scores.
Kris Adams again benefits from having a strong quarterback, a great coach who understands the passing game and the importance of tipping strippers, and playing in the defensively challenged Conference USA. With Trevor Vittatoe back for his third season as the starter, Adams will be targeted early and often, especially around the goal line. That's what happens when you're a 6-3 receiver who turned nearly 30 percent of 50 catches into touchdowns last year.
With a full year of starting experience under his belt, Adams should end up with somewhere around 70 catches, at least. And 30 percent of 70 is 21. I'm not certain he'll end up with 20-plus scores, but he's a near lock to improve his already impressive total of 14.
Vittatoe has improved his touchdown numbers each year, and Adams really didn't turn it on until late last season. In his last four games, he caught at least five balls, went over 100 yards three times, and scored NINE touchdowns (including two games with three scores). If he continues to improve, he should become a monster.
Banks doesn't look like much. He's 5-7, 170 on a tall day, and he's in for an iffy season with Josh Freeman off to the NFL. But with Bill Snyder back to coach the Wildcats, Banks could benefit from being one of the only proven commodities on this offense.
I had Banks last year and he was surprisingly a consistent scorer every week. His 67 catches and nine touchdowns helped make him the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. I'm still skeptical about his chances with a new coach and a new quarterback, and he'll never be a red zone threat at Tom Cruise height, but he did grab six balls for 141 yards and a score in the spring game. Hopefully that wasn't just because the Kansas State defense is awful.
Gilyard will be the top target on a team that will have to throw the ball quite a bit due to the fact that they have no running game. And considering the Bearcats lost all but one starter from their 2008 defense, they could be throwing late on a very consistent basis.
I'm not sold on Tony Pike's ability to stay healthy, and if Cincinnati undergoes another quarterback derby, Gilyard could see his numbers drop.
Still, if you're looking at best-case scenarios, Gilyard is a pretty solid option. He won't have as much competition for passes with Dominick Goodman gone, and he already grabbed 81 sharing the spotlight. He'll be the focus of nearly every defense, but he's got good enough size, and his 11 touchdowns speak to his ability to score.
One of the big plusses with Gilyard is his second role as the Bearcats' kick returner. He ended up with 994 yards and two touchdowns as a returner, and he'll probably be receiving about twice as many kickoffs with the way teams should score on Cincinnati.
Remember when Hawaii had all those receivers who seemed to grab 1,000 yards and double-digit scores on an every year basis? Well, now June Jones and his ultra-spread are in Dallas, and Robinson is the next Davone Bess. He's probably got a decent chip on his shoulder too after only earning all-CUSA honorable mention after a stellar year.
His numbers are even more impressive when you consider he missed the last two games of the 2008 season with a suspension. With the Mustangs still in rebuilding mode for about the 30th year in a row, they should be throwing even more than a Jones-coached team normally does. I wouldn't be surprised to see him best his two top games from last fall (210 against UCF, and 186 against Houston). He'll probably break his personal best of five straight games with a score as well. SMU isn't going to stop passing anytime soon, and Robinson is the top target for the Stangs.
Arrelious Benn is just too talented to continue putting up mediocre touchdown numbers. I mean, eventually he has to break out and have a huge season right? Even with Juice Williams at quarterback, he can't be contained for a third straight season.
The good news is that Juice is in his final season, and has plenty of experience. And there aren't any receivers even close to Benn's talent level on the roster. Illinois doesn't even list a backup for him on their depth chart. And Ron Zook teams are notorious for finding one target and going all tunnel vision on him.
Benn will get the passes, and he'll be on a mission to become a top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. I look at that kind of like an NFL player in a contract year, so if Benn's going to have a monster season, it will come this fall. Illinois likes to get him the ball in a variety of ways, and he did have a two-rushing-touchdown game last season. I'm ranking him here based mostly on upside, but if he hits, you'll get a steal in the second or third round.