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When The Devy Breaks: 2019 Big Ten Opportunity Report

Opportunity is the most important factor to consider when analyzing fantasy football. Whether it’s at the NFL level or in college, the more pass attempts, carries, and targets that a player gets, the better. It’s far from an exact science. But last year’s opportunity reports highlighted the likes of Eno Benjamin, Jalen Reagor, Hakeem Butler, and Miles Sanders as targets in devy leagues set to see a boost in value.

In last year’s set of articles I profiled two or three specific prospects at each position. This year I’m going to take a more holistic look at the opportunity landscape in each power five conference. In doing so I hope to cast a wider net of potential beneficiaries of vacated opportunity. Not every name mentioned here will end up panning out. But each prospect should have a chance to boost their potential draft positions this season and beyond.

Let’s dig into the Big Ten.

Quarterback

The most obvious starting point here is Justin Fields. The much ballyhooed high school recruit and Georgia transfer is set to take over a Buckeyes’ offense absolutely overflowing with talent. He’s also one of the most athletic QBs in the country. Reports of Fields not yet nailing down the starting spot feels a lot like coach speak and should be considered a buying opportunity in devy leagues.

Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson is another mega-recruit on his second college stop as the new starter at Northwestern. His athleticism and arm strength should get both devy owners and Wildcats’ fans excited. But it’s yet to be determined how his unique skill set will fit into the existing offense in Evanston. You could do much worse if you’re looking for a cheap dart throw at QB.

Elijah Sindelar and Sean Clifford are the likely starters at Purdue and Penn State, respectively. While Sindelar has the benefit of being tied to one of the best WRs in the country in Rondale Moore, he’s already 23 years old, a red flag historically speaking. Clifford, however, has yet to turn 21 and has reportedly been wowing Penn State’s coaches with his improved athleticism. A highly touted recruit in his own right, Clifford is intriguing based on his background and his place in an offense that typically revolves around the QB position.

Running Back

Who will follow in the footsteps of Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders? Ricky Slade is a good athlete with a tremendous recruiting pedigree. Journey Brown has had a great spring and is also a solid athlete. True freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford could also be in the picture by season’s end. It’s possible we see a committee approach to start the season but if history is any indicator, a workhorse could emerge. My advice would be to invest in this backfield whenever you can and play the odds.

At Michigan, graduation and dismissals have paved the way for Zach Charbonnet to assume a significant role. A knee procedure kept him out of spring practices, but if he’s healthy, he’s likely the most talented RB on the Wolverines’ roster. I’m buying aggressively. No one at Ohio State is going to take carries away from J.K. Dobbins. In fact, it’s likely he sees an increase in touches compared to his 2018 total (256). But with Mike Weber gone, the backup position is wide open. Master Teague tested very well in high school and looks to be the front runner to be Dobbins’ backup. He’s a solid candidate to see his devy value rise this season. King Doerue and Da’Joun Hewitt are also worth monitoring as Purdue sifts through an inexperienced backfield.

Wide Receiver

Northwestern lost its top two receivers from last season but they return a ton of guys at the position. Junior Kyric McGowan and sophomore J.J. Jefferson are worth a glance but it’s tough to recommend anyone here from a devy perspective. At Ohio State, freshman Garrett Wilson has been tabbed as an impact freshman by major media outlets, reflected in his rising ADP. He’s the best devy prospect at WR for the Buckeyes but K.J. Hill, Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor, and Austin Mack will all push for targets. The time to buy Wilson might be at the end of the 2019 season if he fails to live up to his lofty expectations.

For Iowa, junior Brandon Smith is the guy I’m most interested in despite his minimal production to this point (31-371-2). There’s a chance the Hawkeyes’ pull another stud TE out of the ether but Smith is an intriguing athlete with size who could make a jump tied to a potential NFL QB in Nate Stanley. Rondale Moore was a target hog (155) as a freshman at Purdue. There’s no reason to think that will change in 2019 but there is room for a secondary target to emerge. True freshman David Bell and Milton Wright are highly-touted recruits tabbed as candidates to potentially fill that void.

J.D. Spielman (Nebraska) and Nick Westbrook (Indiana) both notched breakout seasons as sophomores and are likely undervalued. Spielman is tied to one of the best sophomore QBs in the country in Adrian Martinez and should soak up some of Stanley Morgan Jr.‘s vacated targets. Westbrook is an older prospect (22.3) but could thrive in his final college season in a new offensive scheme headed by Kalen DeBoer.

Image Credit: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: J.D. Spielman.

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