This article is part of our College Football Fantasy Five series.
Even though there are no official college football games being played, it doesn't mean that we can't start preparing for the 2021 fantasy college football season. I've scrubbed the current headlines and here's a countdown of the top five stories with fantasy implications.
5.) Spring Games Begin! South Florida Took the Field on Saturday
While the Bulls are not one of the flashiest teams to start off the Spring Game season, it's FBS football nonetheless. South Florida welcomes new coach Jeff Scott and appear to be trending towards Cade Fortin at quarterback for the upcoming season. He will battle with JUCO transfer Jarren Williams and Matt Baker at the Tampa Bay Times reported that freshman Timmy McClain is also a name to know. McClain has been compared to Michael Vick and has dual threat ability which is always something fantasy owners are on the lookout for.
4.) Fantasy Darling Malik Willis Looks Sharp in Spring Preview for Liberty
"The Flames return 10 out of 11 starters on both sides of the football and 87.1 percent of their offensive production from 2020 (returning players accounted for 366 of Liberty's 420 points scored last season)."
The bulk of that production was from Willis who looked sharp at Liberty's Annual Red, White, and Blue Preview this past Saturday. Willis pretty much went undrafted in most leagues last season on his way to 34 total touchdowns in 10 games. This year, he's looking to be the number one player drafted and I'm fully behind that notion as the Flames have a schedule full of bad defenses. Here's the schedule; Campbell, at Troy, Old Dominion, at Syracuse, UAB, Middle Tennessee, at ULM, at North Texas, UMass, at Ole Miss, Louisiana and Army. Half of those teams had some of the worst defenses in the nation last year. For this reason, I'm also drafting RB Joshua Mack and WR DJ Stubbs if I can.
As I discussed a few weeks ago, Thompson was a 2021 QB Newcomer to Watch as he led the Longhorns on six scoring drives in the 2020 Alamo Bowl. I may have jumped the gun on that one as youngster Hudson Card is reportedly splitting first-team reps this spring. With a new coach in Steve Sarkisian, there's no loyalty to either quarterback which will be the story to watch in the fantasy-friendly Big 12. Tua Tagovailoa, Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker and Mac Jones were all highly-productive collegiate quarterbacks that Sarkisian coached, so I'm interested in whoever wins that job at Texas.
2.) Stock for Chris Rodriguez Going Up at Kentucky
In a recent industry mock draft, Rodriguez went 7.5 in a 13-person fantasy draft. That's far too late for a player who averaged 6.6 yards per carry on 119 totes last year. He eclipsed the century mark on the ground in three of his last four appearances and had seven touchdowns during that hot stretch. Josh Moore of the Lexington Herald-Leader recently reported that new offensive coordinator Liam Coen wants the sophomore to get 20-25 touches per game, including more work in the passing game as he had only one catch last season. Coen was most recently an assistant wide receivers and quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Rams, so I'm guessing he'll know how to take full advantage of Rodriguez's skill set. His stock should continue to go up as we approach the season as the casual college football fan won't be looking for Kentucky playmakers.
1.) George Pickens Suffers Torn ACL in Spring Practice for Georgia
Tough news out of Athens as Pickens, who was projected to be the number one wide-out for a Georgia offense that was expected to make some noise in 2021, is now on the mend from a torn ACL. With surgery expected, it elevates Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock on the depth chart. Here is where those receivers stacked up last year:
Jackson (10-games) – 36 catches for 514 yards and 3-TD on 55 targets
Pickens (8-games) – 36 catches for 513 yards and 6-TD on 56 targets
Burton (10-games) – 27 catches for 404 yards and 4-TD on 55 targets
Blaylock – Returning from 2nd Torn ACL
With JT Daniels at QB and a strong run-game, I think Jackson and Burton will be excellent values in fantasy drafts as I don't see their names drawing a ton of buzz, especially with an anticipated deep receiver class. Blaylock is likely a dart-throw for late rounds and intriguing for early season DFS contests. Pickens was going to be the highest-rated of them all, which could have fantasy owners looking at other offenses this fall.