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Mid-American Fantasy Preview: Falcons Looking to Soar

Brad Berreman

Brad Berreman

Berreman covers college football and college basketball for RotoWire. A veteran fantasy writer, Berreman also blogs here.

The Mid-American Conference lost plenty of notable names after last season, particularly at quarterback, but there is still plenty of star potential for fantasy owners. Running backs look likely to lead the way for multiple teams as new signal callers get up to speed, but there is also some exciting talent at wide receiver throughout the conference. Given the relatively obscure nature of the conference as a whole, the best players in the MAC have a good chance to be value picks for fantasy owners.

TOP-5 FANTASY STARS

1. Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State

Edwards missed two games last season, but he still rushed for 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns. With the departure of Keith Wenning and three of their top four receivers from last season, the Cardinals are likely to lean on the running game significantly this year. Edwards is a virtual lock for double-digit rushing touchdowns (39 in three seasons), and even with limitations as receiver (28 career catches) he is line for career highs in carries and yards as a senior.

2. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

Hunt emerged as a force late last season, with five 100-plus yard rushing games (789 total rushing yards) and six touchdowns over the final six weeks when David Fluellen banged up. With Fluellen gone to the NFL, Hunt is in line to be Toledo's No. 1 running back, and his role as a receiver should expand some after he had just 12 receptions during his freshman campaign. With a more prominent role from the start this year, big things are in store for Hunt.

3. Travis Greene, RB, Bowling Green

Greene emerged from a crowded backfield to set a school-record 1,594 rushing yards in 2013 with 13 total touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving) last season. It's fair to assume he'll catch more passes this year (18 last year) with the likelihood of a more pass-happy offense. Greene's consistency -- 12 games with at least 88 rushing yards in 2013 -- will keep him in the good graces of fantasy owners on a weekly basis.

4. Matt Johnson, QB, Bowling Green

Johnson threw for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, including a 393-yard, five-touchdown effort against Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. He also had 238 rushing yards and five more scores, and a faster-paced offense under new coach Dino Babers could lead to even bigger numbers this year. Johnson is likely to be underrated across the board, but fantasy owners who end up with him will be happy with the results.

5. Titus Davis, WR, Central Michigan

Davis has improved his catch and yardage totals in each of his three seasons at Central Michigan, finishing with 61 receptions for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns last year. At 6-foot-2, 190, he has size for the red zone, and his speed gives him big-play ability (18.2 yards per catch last year). Improvement from quarterback Cooper Rush will only help Davis reach a new ceiling during his senior season.

FANTASY SLEEPERS

Ronnie Moore, WR, Bowling Green

Moore proved a big-play threat last season, averaging 19.5 yards per catch and rushing for 138 yards on 14 carries. At 5-9, 164, Moore is small but speedy, and tough to catch in the open field. He enters a situation this season with new coach Dino Babers that should play to his strengths. Babers' big-play offense likely will use him in multiple ways with a solid quarterback in Matt Johnson getting him the ball. Defenses have to respect Travis Greene in the running game, and Moore has little competition for targets with Shaun Joplin and Alex Bayer graduated after catching 91 passes last season.

Kyle Pohl, QB, Akron

Pohl is entering his second season as a starter, and his third season in the same offensive system under coach Terry Bowden. A 300-yard game in a close loss to Michigan last year shows Pohl's potential, and he has a deep and experienced set of skill position players around him. Improved offensive line play will be crucial, but more consistency and career highs are easily attainable for Pohl this year.

Akeem Daniels, RB, Northern Illinois

Daniels missed all last season with a foot injury, but he is line for a significant role as a senior with a new quarterback in place for the Huskies. He had nine touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry in 2012, so with more carries all but certain Daniels carries instant value in deep leagues. If Cameron Stingily struggles or gets injured, Daniels would have excellent upside as Northern Illinois' No. 1 running back.

Saylor Lavallii, RB, Central Michigan

Lavallii became the Chippewas' No. 1 running back when Zurlon Tipton was out last season, and he rushed for 807 yards and five touchdowns. With Tipton moving on to the NFL, Lavallii is now atop the depth chart and a sure bet to top last seasons'182 carries. Add an offensive line that returns all five starters, and Lavallii is set up for success this season.

Devin Campbell, RB, Buffalo

The Bulls have to replace Branden Oliver this year, and Anthone Taylor is first in line to replace him as the starter. But Campbell is moving back to his natural position after spending last season at wide receiver, and his offensive role should expand while he also maintains his role Buffalo's primary kick returner. Don't expect Campbell to be a quintessential workhorse back, but he could be used similarly to how Kent State used Dri Archer.

FANTASY BUSTS

Tommylee Lewis, WR, Northern Illinois

Despite missing two games, Lewis had 86 receptions last season with 356 rushing yards. But a yards per-catch average of just 8.3 is a concern, and the departure of quarterback Jordan Lynch looks likely to bring a much more run-oriented offense this year. Lewis is not without value, and his output as an all-purpose threat should remain notable, but with his receptions certain to drop he has serious downside.

Jordan Williams, WR, Ball State

Williams became a surprise contributor for the Cardinals last season, with 72 receptions for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns. With Willie Snead and Jamill Smith gone, along with their 2013 production (173 receptions, 2,427 yards and 23 touchdowns), a bigger role is in store for Williams this year. But quarterback Keith Wenning also graduated, with sophomore Ozzie Mann or redshirt freshman Jack Milas in line to take over. That is a serious drop in talent under center, which is likely to minimize any impact more targets will have on Williams' production this year.

Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Davis had 67 receptions for 941 yards in 11 games in 2013 on his way to being named MAC Freshman of the Year. He will be the clear No. 1 wide receiver for the Broncos this year, even with the addition of some notable recruits and other experience at the position. But the Broncos seem to be giving serious consideration to starting true freshman Chance Stewart at quarterback, and if multiple players wind up seeing time under center this year Davis' week-to-week consistency would suffer.

Bronson Hill, RB, Eastern Michigan

Hill rushed for 1,101 yards in 2013 despite missing a game, but 400 of his yards came over a two-game stretch and he struggled against Penn State, Rutgers and Bowling Green with just 75 combined rushing yards. Florida and Michigan State are on Eastern Michigan's non-conference schedule this year, and new coach Chris Creighton has hinted at a more balanced offense. With the potential of a reduced workload and a few weeks where he'll be unstartable, Hill has a lot of fantasy downside.

Alonzo Russell, WR, Toledo

With the departure of Bernard Reedy, Russell is the No. 1 wide receiver for the Rockets. He had 59 receptions for 728 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, and has 115 catches for 1,688 yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons. Better production may come in a more prominent role, based purely on more targets, but Toledo's unstable quarterback situation and more attention from opposing defenses stand to put a serious ceiling on Russell's upside this year.

TEAM-BY-TEAM FANTASY STARS

Overall position ranking in parenthesis.

Akron Zips

None

Ball State Cardinals

RB Jahwan Edwards (24), WR Jordan Williams (27)

Bowling Green Falcons

QB Matt Johnson (7), RB Travis Greene (12), WR Ronnie Moore (37), K Tyler Tate (14)

Buffalo Bulls

None

Central Michigan Chippewas

WR Titus Davis (13)

Eastern Michigan

RB Bronson Hill (34), TE Tyreese Russell (7)

Kent State Golden Flashes

TE Casey Pierce (18)

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks

None

Northern Illinois Huskies

None

Ohio Bobcats

None

Toledo Rockets

RB Kareem Hunt (8), WR Alonzo Russell (20), K Jeremiah Detmer (5)

UMass Minutemen

None

Western Michigan

WR Corey Davis (33)