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 dive in to the SEC.
To see the other entries in this series, check out the following links:
Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant is set to take over at Missouri after the departure of Drew Lock. Bryant was good, not great, as Clemson’s starter in 2017.1 But he’s been hailed for his leadership and deep-ball abilities by Tigers’ head coach Barry Odom. At Mississippi, Matt Corral will get his first crack as the starter. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound redshirt freshman played well in limited action last season. He’s looked strong in spring practices and has the ability to thrive in new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. I expect big numbers here despite the Rebels losing their top-three WRs from last season.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has yet to name a starter between redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix. At 6 feet 5 inches and 234 pounds, Gatewood has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton. Nix is much smaller at 6 feet 1, 207 pounds, but was considered to be one of the best QBs in his recruiting class. And at Mississippi State, Tommy Stevens has been reunited with his former head coach at Penn State in Joe Moorhead. Stevens had more rushing attempts (76) than pass attempts (41) in four seasons at Penn State so this is the epitome of small sample size. I’m hesitant to project Stevens as a future NFL starter at this point. But the buzz is building following his recent performance at the Manning Passing Academy.
The time for Najee Harris to shine at Alabama is now. The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound junior has averaged 6.5 YPC on 178 career carries while vying for touches with the likes of Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs. Massive volume is likely out of the question based on prior history.2 But Harris is in prime position to make a strong push for prime draft capital.
Asim Rose has the unenviable task of replacing Kentucky’s all-time leader rusher Benny Snell. He was very efficient as a sophomore last season (71-442-5) and showed some ability as a receiver (8-82-1). Kylin Hill led all Mississippi State RBs in carries last season (117) as a sophomore averaging 6.3 YPC. He also added 22 receptions and 4 TDs as a receiver. His volume is likely capped by the role of the QB in the Bulldogs’ scheme. But he’s an underrated member of the vaunted 2020 RB class.
Matt Wispe likes Texas A&M RB Jashaun Corbin to replace Trayveon Williams as the workhorse back for the Aggies and I wholeheartedly agree. And at LSU, I’m really coming around on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The 5-foot-9, 212-pound junior was a terrific high school athlete who has played well in limited duty for the Tigers, including as a kick returner. He’s also just 20 years old. D’Andre Swift is already a consensus top-five devy pick and could see his role expand as a junior this season. But Zamir White could eat into his workload if he is in fact finally healthy. Larry Rountree III is also intriguing. Following a stellar sophomore season (225-1216-11) at Missouri in 2018, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound back should become a workhorse for the Tigers and push for draft relevance assuming he declares next spring.
Matt Wispe also pegged Ole Miss sophomore WR Elijah Moore as one to watch in 2019. He’ll have ample opportunity following the departures of D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and DaMarkus Lodge. But there’s also a long list of highly-touted incoming freshman that should push for playing time. At Georgia, things look much different now that Jeremiah Holloman has been dismissed from the team. Miami transfer Lawrence Cager has size but lacks past production. I’m more interested in Demertis Robertson, the likely replacement for Mecole Hardman. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior played in just two games last season at Cal but did post a 0.19 Dominator Rating as a freshman in 2016. Freshmen George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock also come highly regarded and could factor in early.
At Auburn, sophomore Seth Williams is a burgeoning star. At 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, he’s an intriguing blend of size and explosiveness, averaging 11.1 yards per target last season. Sophomore Anthony Schwartz is also worth noting. A legitimate track star, Schwartz is one of the fastest WRs in the country. One of my favorite under-the-radar breakouts from last season was Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. His 0.37 Dominator Rating as a sophomore, coupled with his return game contributions, make him a terrific buy-low in devy formats.
South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards has yet to reach the 0.30 Dominator Rating threshold we look for in WR prospects. But he did manage back-to-back seasons accounting for 28% of the Gamecocks’ receiving production as a freshman and sophomore. Edwards is no stranger to the devy crowd but could use a strong finish to solidify his draft stock. With Deebo Samuel gone, he should be the focal point of the offense in 2019. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is the most familiar name at Missouri but keep an eye on sophomore WR Jalen Knox. Listed as a starter on the Tigers’ preseason depth chart, he’ll look to follow up a strong freshman season in 2018 (27-419-3).
Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Najee Harris.
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