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Pac-12 Fantasy Preview: Ready to Quack

Brian Peacock

Brian Peacock

Brian Peacock writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Pac-12 enters 2014 in a position to make waves as a "Power Five" conference leading up to the inaugural college football playoff. Half of the conference, a 6-Pac, if you will, is ranked in the preseason AP top-25. Oregon leads the way at No. 3, followed by UCLA (7), Stanford (11), USC (15), Arizona State (19) and Washington (25).

For fantasy purposes, the Pac-12 has an abundance of talent, especially at quarterback, where it boasts the best collection of signal-callers in the country. Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley are headliners of the group with Heisman Trophy and first-round NFL potential. Sean Mannion is returning to Oregon State after a record-setting junior campaign. Due to the big-name quarterbacks, seniors Taylor Kelly from Arizona State, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and Washington State's Connor Halliday often get overlooked despite extensive resumes. Not to mention underclassmen like Cal's Jared Goff, Utah's Travis Wilson, Cody Kessler of USC and Washington sophomore Cyler Miles, who are fantasy relevant and poised to break out.

Top-5 FANTASY STARS


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota is a dual-threat quarterback who not only possesses elite physical tools, but is efficient while running a high-volume offense as witnessed by his 30:4 touchdown to interception ratio as a sophomore in 2013. The only thing that can keep the 6-foot-4 Hawaii native from improving on his 3,665 passing and 715 rushing yards is the talent around him after losing offensive weapons Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas to the NFL. A deep group of tight ends and the entire starting line from last season, though, make that less of a concern.

2. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Hundley joins Mariota as the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks. Hundley, 6-3, 227, threw for 3,071 yards and rushed for 748 yards with 35 total scores last season. Hundley has a cannon arm and focused on his mechanics this summer along with taking snaps under center to improve his precision in the passing game. If Hundley stays healthy, 4,000 total yards and 40 TDs are within reach.

3. D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State

Foster finished 2013 with 501 rushing yards on 93 attempts (5.4 YPC), 63 receptions for 653 yards and 10 total touchdowns. The biggest reason Foster will continue to star for Arizona State this season is opportunity. The junior replaces Marion Grice, who carried 191 times for 996 yards last year, as the lead back for the Sun Devils. Foster should have added value in PPR formats with his receiving ability as QB Taylor Price's safety valve out of the backfield.

4. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

At 6-4, 212, Strong was one of the nation's most physically imposing wide receivers last year when he caught 75 balls for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. That was before he reportedly put on even more muscle this offseason. Strong is equally effective as a deep threat and in the redzone with his size and 39-inch vertical. Expect him to be the No. 1 option for QB Taylor Price and the Arizona State passing game once again in 2014.

5. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

Agholor played second fiddle to Marqise Lee in 2013 but showed he could be the man for USC while Lee was nursing a knee injury. As a sophomore, the speedy 6-footer averaged 16.4 yards per catch for a team-leading 918 yards on 56 receptions with six touchdowns. He added two scores on punt returns. Coach Steve Sarkisian has already singled out Agholor's work ethic, athleticism and ability to step up as the Trojans' go-to receiver. With a more experienced Cody Kessler under center this year, Agholor should easily surpass last year's numbers.

FANTASY SLEEPERS

Kasen Williams, WR, Washington

Williams is a forgotten man in the Pac-12 landscape after a broken foot ended his season last October. He caught only 29 passes for 421 yards and a touchdown in a disappointing season even before the injury. With QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins gone, a healthy Williams is the unquestioned leader of the Huskies offense heading into 2014. At 6-3, 217, Williams should get back to his numbers from 2012 (77-878-6), with the potential for more as the No. 1 option for new coach Chris Peterson.

Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon


Last year's starter, Byron Marshall, has a battle on his hands with Thomas Tyner. The 5-11, 215, back is a former track athlete and 5-star recruit. Expect the sophomore to get 150-plus carries this fall, which at his lofty 6.2 yards per carry, would put him in the 1,000-yard and 10-touchdown conversation. Those numbers make Tyner a steal at his ADP, and there is potential for even more if he wins the starting job outright.

Kelsey Young, RB, Stanford

Tyler Gaffney and his 330 rushing attempts are gone, leaving Young, Barry Sanders Jr., Remound Wright and freshman Christian McCaffrey competing for touches in Stanford's power running attack. Young, a speedster who has only 28 carries in three years while playing both running back and wide receiver, is working with the first-team offense. The Cardinal have had a 1,000-yard rusher every year since 2008, so this is a competition to monitor closely. Young is the most explosive runner and has the best chance to lead the team in carries.

Devon Allen, WR, Oregon

The redshirt freshman has turned heads at Ducks training camp with his speed and ability to gain separation from defenders. Allen is a former prep track star, holding Arizona state records in 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles. The door is wide open for an impact receiver to emerge at Oregon this fall after the Ducks lost their two leading receivers from 2013 -- Josh Huff to the NFL and junior Bralon Addison to an ACL. Allen has taken advantage of his opportunity to develop chemistry with quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason.

Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State

Bolden is a deep sleeper who steps into Brandin Cooks' old spot at Z-receiver for the Beavers. Nobody expects the 5-9 sophomore to catch 128 passes this year as Cooks did in 2013 -- that would be 122 more than he caught as a freshman last year -- but he does have a similar size/athleticism profile to Cooks. Bolden took a fly sweep 95 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 98-yard kick return last season, so he's shown the ability to translate his track speed to the football field.

FANTASY BUSTS

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon

Addison is Marcus Mariota's No. 1 returning target in 2014. That is, if he ever gets back on the field. The 5-10, 189-pound receiver tore his ACL in April but insists he'll return this year -- as early as Week 2. That, however, is unlikely. ACL injuries typically take nine months to a year to heal completely. Don't expect any impact from Addison early in the season and really anything the junior provides Oregon in 2014 will be a bonus.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State

It will be difficult for Mannion to repeat his record-setting numbers from 2013. As a junior, he threw for a Pac-12-record 4,662 yards and school-record 37 touchdowns. The biggest reason for regression is the loss of the nation's leading receiver and first-round NFL draft pick, Brandin Cooks, who gained a lot of those yards after the catch. Mannion also loses three starting offensive linemen from a year ago.

Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon

Normally, a talented player like Byron Marshall would be primed to improve on his 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2013. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the junior will split carries with sophomore Thomas Tyner, who has gained serious ground in a tight competition in training camp for the starting role. No matter who wins, both backs will have value in the run-heavy Ducks offense, but Marshall's upside is capped if part of a committee. If he doesn't earn a 60/40 split of the carries, it could be difficult to surpass 1,000 yards again in 2014.

Cody Kessler, QB, USC

Kessler was actually recruited by USC coach Steve Sarkisian while at Washington in 2010. The Bakersfield, Calif., native hasn't developed as expected for the Trojans, passing for 2,968 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a sophomore in 2013. Kessler is still the starter and has the potential to flourish under his new coaching staff, but Sarkisian said five-star freshman QB Max Browne, "isn't going away." The competition could wage on into the season, but reading between the lines, Sark might have bigger plans for Browne than Kessler.

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

Stanford is 16-3 with Hogan under center and 10-1 versus ranked opponents. That said, coach David Shaw has no plans to let the 6-4 senior chuck the ball more in 2014. Despite having an experienced winner at quarterback, two talented senior wide receivers in Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste and no returning running backs who carried more than 20 times last season, they will do what they do -- run the football. Expect the signature Cardinal ball control offense again in 2014, dampening Hogan's fantasy value.

TEAM-BY-TEAM FANTASY STARS

Overall position ranking in parenthesis.

Arizona Wildcats

WR Austin Hill (12)

Arizona State Sun Devils

QB Taylor Kelly (7), RB D.J. Foster (3), WR Jaelen Strong (5), TE De'Marieya Nelson (10), K Zane Gonzalez (3)

California Golden Bears

QB Jared Goff (26), WR Chris Harper (34)

Colorado Buffalos

None

Oregon Ducks

QB Marcus Mariota (1), RB Byron Marshall (9), RB Thomas Tyner (29), Jonny Mundt (15), Team Defense (13)

Oregon State Beavers

WR Richard Mullaney (30), TE Connor Hamlett (6), TE Caleb Smith (11)

Stanford Cardinal

RB Barry Sanders Jr. (35), WR Ty Montgomery (27), Team Defense (3),

UCLA Bruins

QB Brett Hundley (4), K Ka'imi Fairbairn (15)

USC Trojans

RB Javorius Allen (42) WR Nelson Agholor (6),

Utah Utes

QB Travis Wilson (30), WR Dres Anderson (42)

Washington Huskies

QB Cyler Miles (32), RB Deontae Cooper (44)

Washington State Cougars

None