Big Ten fantasy team loaded with nation's best
America’s favorite way of satisfying its gambling itch has surprisingly not permeated to the college ranks, at least not in mainstream fashion. As everyone prepares for their own fantasy football draft, I thought I’d take a look at the dream team fantasy lineup in the Big Ten for 2015. This isn’t necessarily a metric of the conference’s best players, rather those poised to fill the box score.
QB: Connor Cook, Michigan State
Shocked I didn’t go with a Buckeye? Well, last time I checked, there’s three guys in Columbus who have either earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors or won a national title. There’s no guarantee Urban Meyer’s opening day starter will play 100 percent of the snaps this year. Connor Cook, on the other hand, led Michigan State to its best offensive season in school history last year. No, he won’t rack up the rushing TD’s that the Buckeye QB tandem will, but Cook is the steadiest and most efficient quarterback in the conference. A 30-TD, 4,000-yard senior campaign wouldn’t be outrageous in a Sparty offense that figures to sling it even more in 2015.
RB1: Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State
A no-brainer if there ever was one. In case you forgot, Zeke set rushing records in the Big Ten Championship, Sugar Bowl and first ever College Football Playoff National Championship. No offensive player in the country was better than him in the last month of the season. Any concerns that might’ve surfaced about Elliot being a workhorse were squashed in his 36-carry effort in the national title game. The crop-top wearing back might have to give up his trademark look, but he won’t be giving up his dominant rushing ways anytime soon.
RB2: Corey Clement, Wisconsin
This one actually wasn’t as clear-cut as the Big Ten’s RB1. You could make a case for Jordan Howard, Justin Jackson or even Rodrick Williams here but Corey Clement is the most likely option to bust loose. The Badgers’ history of breakout backs should continue after the departure of Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon. Clement will receive the majority of the carries in Madison, which will mean his 949 rushing yards and nine TD’s will spike in 2015. And if he passes his goal of “2,000 yards at least,” look out.
WR1: DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
DaeSean Hamilton would’ve been the best option last year in a Big Ten points per reception league. This year, Hamilton might not hit 82 receptions, but he should have more than two touchdowns by the time conference play starts. An improved offensive line is expected to make all the difference for Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lion offense. Touchdowns are unpredictable, but a go-to guy like Hamilton is as reliable an option as any to reach paydirt.
WR2: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
Who’s the only returning Big Ten receiver to rack up 1,000 yards and double-digit scores? You guessed it. Leonte Carroo’s breakout campaign showed why he’s as talented as it gets out wide. He will, however, be without running mate Gary Nova, Jr. Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig will battle for the starting job, but neither have thrown a college touchdown pass. For Carroo to live up to his WR2 standing, he’ll need his new signal-caller to settle in quickly.
TE: Josiah Price, Michigan State
Hmmmmm…there’s no more Tony Lippett or Keith Mumphery for Cook to throw to in the red zone. It’s a good thing Josiah Price is still in East Lansing. The 6-4, 250-pound junior racked up six touchdowns playing alongside a talented group of pass-catchers last year. He was named to the John Mackey Award watch list with Jake Butt (Michigan), Kyle Carter (Penn State), Jake Duzey (Iowa) and Nick Vannett (Ohio State). In the Big Ten, rarely does a tight end post monster numbers. But Price’s skill set lends itself to being one of the focal points in a pass-heavy MSU attack.
Flex: Jalin Marshall, Ohio State
Don’t let the one-game suspension deter the preseason feeling about Jalin Marshall. The loaded Buckeye offense has no shortage of versatile weapons, and Marshall is at the top of that list. The former five-star quarterback — not that the Buckeyes need another signal-caller — emerged in the H-back role as a redshirt freshman last season and is expected to line up out wide this season. He’s still listed as a running back, but Marshall figures to be the deep threat for whoever is throwing it to him. With defenses focused on the Buckeye quarterback and Elliot, Marshall should see his fair share of single coverage deep. Get ready for plenty of long, downfield touchdowns from the sophomore.
Kicker: Brad Craddock, Maryland
For all the questions surrounding Maryland’s offense, Brad Craddock certainly isn’t one of them. The Lou Groza Award winner returns after tying a Big Ten record 24 straight made field goals last season. A former punter, the Australian showed off his range with a school record 57-yard boot against Ohio State last year. He also set a new mark for field goal percentage by drilling 94.7 percent of his kicks. Craddock might not get the most attempts among Big Ten kickers, but with his combination of power and accuracy, he’s a safe bet to make to make them count.
Defense/Special Teams: Ohio State
It’s tempting to go with Nebraska here with De’Mornay Pierson-El’s return abilities and Nathan Gerry’s ball-hawkingness (that’s a word now). But with all the playmakers the Buckeyes return on defense, they have to be the pick. Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington are a forced fumble waiting to happen. Safety Vonn Bell tied Maryland’s William Likely for the Big Ten interception lead last year. Cornerback Eli Apple showed why he was a five-star recruit in his redshirt freshman season. Oh, and linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee are back for a Buckeye defense that finished tied for second last year in defensive touchdowns. Need any more reasons to roll with OSU?