College Fantasy Football: Players ready to take next step to stardom
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These players aren’t unknowns. Some already had big seasons – with plenty more expected this fall. Others transferred and could play bigger roles. Here is a look at 15 players who could take the next step and emerge even more as a star this season.
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
As if Akers did not have a breakout freshman season when he rushed for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns, expect an even bigger year from the star running back. New FSU coach Willie Taggart loves to run the ball – his teams at Oregon and USF were highly-ranked nationally – so Akers will get the ball a lot. If FSU’s offensive line can show marked improvement, Akers could put up huge numbers.
Jhamon Ausbon, WR, Texas A&M
Two of Texas A&M’s top three receivers are gone in Christian Kirk and Damion Ratley. That leaves Ausbon left to be the primary target in the Aggies’ revamped offense under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher. There are questions about which quarterback will start and what the offense will look like, which could be a concern, but Ausbon is going to get the ball thrown his way a lot with Kirk and Ratley now in the pros.
Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State
Barnes is coming back after an excellent season, the offensive line should be a strength and Kansas State’s receivers are still a huge question mark. If Skylar Thompson gets the starting nod at quarterback that could help Barnes even more since Alex Delton, the other candidate at QB, rushed for a team-high eight scores last season. It’s hard to believe Barnes won’t have a huge year.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Dobbins certainly broke out in his freshman year with 1,403 yards and seven touchdowns. The scary thought is that there’s so much more for Dobbins to accomplish with the Buckeyes especially now that J.T. Barrett is gone; last season Barrett rushed for 798 yards and 12 scores. There will be a two-headed monster in Ohio State’s backfield with Dobbins and Mike Weber. The good news for Dobbins is that if Dwayne Haskins is named the starter, he’s more of a pocket passer so Dobbins should see the ball in his hands even more.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The top-rated prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, Harris had only 61 attempts in his freshman season. Welcome to Alabama’s crowded backfield. The former five-star told media outlets he considered leaving Tuscaloosa after a challenging first year and said he hopes he’s on the field more. Harris should be. Now as the second option in Alabama’s rush attack behind Damien Harris, the former No. 1 recruit has all the skills to have a tremendous season, has great speed and size, and he’s so super skilled that coach Nick Saban should want to keep Harris relatively happy.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
With Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud gone, Clemson’s young and talented receivers have a huge opportunity to step up and maybe none of them are better than Higgins, a former five-star prospect. The quarterback situation is going to be interesting whether incumbent Kelly Bryant or star freshman Trevor Lawrence is under center but either way, Higgins could have an absolutely huge season.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Calvin Ridley had 63 catches last season. The next receiver had only 14 and that was Jeudy, who has a huge opportunity to become the top target in Alabama’s passing attack. There will be others that contribute for the Crimson Tide such as DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs but Jeudy should be the top target for Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts, whomever wins the starting QB job.
Chris Platt, WR, Baylor
Platt had five touchdown catches and finished third for Baylor in receiving yards even though he only played in four games before going down with an injury. He’s back for another season with a quarterback in Charlie Brewer, who’s poised for a big year and an absolutely loaded corps of receivers. Platt averaged more than 25 yards per catch last season. In a fantasy setting, he could go off.
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
In his freshman season, Reagor led the Horned Frogs with eight receiving touchdowns and he averaged 17.5 yards per catch on only 33 catches. It’s very reasonable to think Reagor’s numbers will continue to climb since TCU’s offensive line is questionable so the Horned Frogs could be throwing the ball even more. TCU is loaded at the skill positions but that should help Reagor even more since defenses will have to stay honest.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Samuel is already a well-known name for the Gamecocks but he could be poised for a huge season. Even though he was sidelined with a broken leg last season after playing in only three games, Samuel still tied for second among receivers with three scores and he’s been explosive in the past all over the field. South Carolina’s offense was bad last season, in part, because Samuel wasn’t on the field. With a lot of pieces back, quarterback Jake Bentley should target Samuel a whole lot.
Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
Saquon Barkley will be missed but Sanders is a highly talented running back in his own right who should become Penn State’s featured player in the backfield. Quarterback Trace McSorley won’t want to absorb as many hits and with an improved offensive line, Sanders could put up big yards. There might be a running-back-by-committee approach in Happy Valley but if Sanders grabs that No. 1 spot and keeps it, then he’ll be off to the races.
T.J. Simmons, WR, West Virginia
The Mountaineers are going to score a lot of points this year. A lot. Receivers Gary Jennings and David Sills are going to be quarterback Will Grier’s top two targets but let’s not forget Simmons is transferring in from Alabama and is highly skilled. West Virginia is going to throw it around and Jennings and Sills are going to be the focus of opposing defenses. That means Simmons could break free often.
Dillon Stoner, WR, Oklahoma State
James Washington and Marcell Ateman are gone and with them those two receivers take more than 2,700 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and his gaudy numbers are gone, too. The change at quarterback could be something to watch – coach Mike Gundy seemed to say Taylor Cornelius is the favorite to win the job – and the Cowboys are still going to throw the ball a lot and put up tons of points. Stoner is in a prime position to have a breakout season after averaging 13 yards per catch last year with six TDs.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Swift finished with 618 rushing yards and three touchdowns (he also had one receiving TD) in a freshman year where he watched Nick Chubb and Sony Michel handle most of the carries. Now Chubb and Michel are gone and Swift should be option No. 1 in Georgia’s backfield. There are other potential stars such as Zamir White and others available. But with a solid offensive line in front of him, Swift can be used in a variety of ways and pick up a lot of the stats left behind by Chubb and Michel.
Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC
Top receiver Deontay Burnett is gone and Vaughns came into his own last season so an even bigger year is expected as he takes over that No. 1 receiver role. Burnett takes with him 1,114 receiving yards and nine scores, and Vaughns should pick up a lot of those looks. USC has a new quarterback (expected to be freshman JT Daniels) and his favorite early target could be high school teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown but Vaughns could have a huge season if Daniels finds him all over the field.