Offseasons are all about deciding who is going to be the one to take the field for the first snap of the regular season. Some position battles stand out above the rest due to their fantasy upside. These are a few of the offseason position battles that will produce big time fantasy players Week 1 this season.
Oklahoma Running Back
Contenders: Abdul Adams, Rodney Anderson, Marcelias Sutton, Trey Sermon
Oklahoma has produced some of the best NFL talents in the backfield with guys like Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray and just sent off two more backs in Joe Mixon and Semaje Perine. Perine currently holds the career rushing record for the Sooners and the FBS record for rushing yards in a game. Joe Mixon may have made some negative headlines, but he was a phenomenal football player with a chance to score anytime the ball was in his hands. No matter who takes over the starting role for Oklahoma this season, they will benefit from having one of the more experienced offensive lines and a Heisman candidate quarterback to work with.
Prediction: Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson split time
Contenders: Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Zerrick Cooper
Clemson is coming off of a huge season in which they won a National Title for the first time since ’81, and the Tiger fans could not have been more ecstatic. That is until they realized that they had just witnessed the final game of their two-time Heisman Finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson. None of the current options are as good as Deshaun is (then again not many are) but the quarterback for such a higher powered offense can’t be ignored. Clemson returns playmakers Dion Cain, Ray Ray McCloud, and Hunter Renfrow as well as an experienced offensive line. They may have lost players like Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett but bringing in talent like Tee Higgins may help with the transition. No matter who takes over for the quarterback at Clemson, expect them to score like a QB2.
Prediction: Kelly Bryant starts against Kent State, but Hunter Johnson will have the job by the time they play South Carolina.
Contenders: Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa
What an interesting situation that’s brewing down in Tuscaloosa. A quarterback who led his team to a national title is currently being pushed by a lefty from Hawaii. Until a few weeks ago, Hurts was flying off draft boards in the first two rounds but after Saban said that Alabama is “going to need him to play” in reference to Tua, college football fans aren’t so sure anymore. Alabama will have no issue producing points at quarterback with either of these players, as Jalen Hurts finished top 10 of the returning quarterbacks in fantasy points from last season. Alabama also has play makers in Calvin Ridley and Bo Scarbrough that can open up the offense.
Prediction: Hurts will retain the job.
Texas A&M Quarterback
Contenders: Kellen Mond, Jake Hubenack, Nick Starkel
Kevin Sumlin is in a position where he needs a guy to produce. He has failed on one too many projects and with Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen, and Kyler Murray all transferring away from the program and Trevor Knight graduating, Sumlin has to get it right this time. Hubenack is the safest bet but has the lowest upside and even if he takes the job, I’m writing the same piece about the same spot at the same school next year. A&M has good talent at running back with Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams, and a Biletnikoff Award watch list receiver in Christian Kirk. Kevin Sumlin has produced talent out of young guys but has more failures than successes. Will this be the year he turns it around?
Prediction: Nick Starkel takes the job due to his arm.
South Florida Running Backs
Contenders: Darius Tice, D’Earnest Johnson, Trevon Sands
South Florida will have one of the best offenses in the nation yet again as long as Quinton Flowers stays healthy. The running back position at South Florida has been consistently potent throughout the past few seasons but the main contributor to this success, Marlon Mack, went pro and left a role that needs to be filled. D’Earnest Johnson was a big contributor behind Mack last year with 836 total yards and 13 total touchdowns. Tice showed flashes of what’s to come last season by producing 223 yards on 32 touches before being sidelined with an injury.
Prediction: Tice and Johnson split reps.
Pittsburgh Running Backs
Contenders: Quadree Ollison, Chawntez Moss
Pittsburgh has a glaring hole in its offense this season and his name is James Connor. Connor has conquered cancer and is off to the NFL in one of the most heartwarming comeback stories in college football. In his two full seasons at Pittsburgh, Connor amassed 3225 yards from scrimmage and the workload at running back doesn’t seem to be decreasing in Pat Narduzzi’s third season. Quadree Ollison had a thousand yard season in his freshman campaign but had only 165 total yards in 2016. Chawntez Moss has only 245 yards in his college career and showed flashes last season but doesn’t have the numbers to show it. Whichever player takes the job over in Pittsburgh will put up big-time numbers, and both are worth grabbing.
Prediction: Ollison has the job when all is said and done.
Contenders: Quinten Dormandy, Jarrett Guarantano
Josh Dobbs is off to the NFL, leaving a gaping hole in the Tennessee offense at quarterback. Quinton Dormandy seems to be a player favorite at Tennessee. Former Tennessee wideout Josh Malone said that Dormandy throws a perfect ball almost every time and that he’s very poised. Guarantano has a natural spin when he throws the ball and has a set of wheels on him that allows him to move out of the pocket. The good news is that both of these guys are incredibly talented and operate in a highly productive spread offense. The bad news is, football fans won’t know which quarterback is taking over until they take the field week one.
Prediction: Dormandy is on top come August.
Western Kentucky Running Back
Contenders: D’Andre Ferby, Quinton Baker, Leon Allen
Western Kentucky has a rare offense that allows almost anyone starting to be a top player at their position. The running backs have a large involvement in the pass-heavy offense while also putting up huge numbers on the ground as well. This has been shown for several seasons now with Bobby Rainey (2010: 1879 YFS; 2011: 2056 YFS), Antonio Andrews (2012: 2160 YFS; 2013: 2208 YFS), Leon Allen (2014: 2018 YFS), and Anthony Wales (2015: 1311 YFS; 2016: 1944 YFS) all putting up close to 2,000 total yards and no less than 11 touchdowns. D’Andre Ferby and Leon Allen both have experience starting, but Ferby went down last season with a shoulder injury and Allen has been sidelined since Week 2 in 2015. Quinton Baker is a talented back but is facing a suspension to start the 2017 season due to an assault charge.
Prediction: Ferby is the Week 1 starter.
Contenders: Anu Solomon, Zach Smith
Let’s focus less on the probable NCAA sanctions looming in Waco and focus on the quarterback battle at Baylor. In what should’ve been Jarrett Stidham’s money season, we are looking at Zach Smith, who ended the season as the starter for the Bears and Arizona transfer Anu Solomon. Zach Smith took over against Oklahoma last season after Seth Russell went down with a season ending ankle injury and started the final four games of the season. Smith threw for 1,254 yards and 11 touchdowns in his four starts but also went 1-3 to end the season. Anu Solomon’s once promising career has been hindered by injuries and now one last season with the Bears could show to be Solomon’s saving grace. Solomon threw for 6,910 yards in his 30 games as a Wildcat and is golden if he can manage to stay healthy.
Prediction: Zach Smith starts Week 1 but don’t sleep on Anu Solomon.
Utah Running Back
Contenders: Armand Shyne, Zack Moss, Devonta’e Henry Cole
Utah running backs have proven to the center point of the Utes offense. Devontae Booker finished his career with 3,395 YFS and 23 touchdowns and Joe Williams, who most thought would not return to the field after leaving the squad while dealing with the death of his sister, went for 1,514 yards in his nine starts last season. Armand Shyne was looking hot after Williams’ retirement but blew out his knee against Arizona. Zach Moss took over as the next man up under Shyne last season and showed flashes of being the next big thing for Utah, but he needs to clean up his rookie mistakes. Henry Cole made strides with Moss and Shyne both out of Spring camp, and Troy Taylor’s offensive scheme favors his skill set.
Prediction: If Armand Shyne can ball like he did before the knee injury, my money is on him. If not, it’s Moss’ job to lose.