Conference Preview: Big 12

Conference Preview: Big 12

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

We continue our College Football conference previews with the Big 12, where offense leads the way and typically where fantasy owners sharply follow. The conference has experienced some recent controversy with Oklahoma and Texas bolting for the SEC, however, that won't happen until 2025 which means we should enjoy the fantasy-friendly football while we can. This season will not be short on excitement with some enormous stars in the conference, including some Heisman hopefuls which I highlight in an article back in June. On a team level, I previewed the Big 12 in early July and pegged Oklahoma & Iowa State as two of the best squads in the country.

Here at Rotowire, we have some other conference previews already out, so please give them a look as well:

All-Big 12 Fantasy Team (2021 Position Rank)

Note: Rankings listed are for half-point PPR to best encompass both PPR and standard formats

First Team

QB: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (4)

RB: Breece Hall, Iowa State (1)

RB: Bijan Robinson, Texas (3)

WR: Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech (24)

WR: Kaylon Geiger, Texas Tech (30)

TE: Charlie Kolar, Iowa State (8)

Second Team

QB: Tyler Shough, Texas Tech (13)

RB: Leddie Brown, West Virginia (5)

RB: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State (11)

WR: Marvin Mims, Oklahoma (33)

WR: Winston Wright, West Virginia (54)

TE: Austin Stogner, Oklahoma (19)

Third Team

QB: Brock Purdy, Iowa State (29)

RB: Eric Gray, Oklahoma (34)

RB: Zach Evans, TCU (39)

WR: Joshua Moore, Texas (56)

WR: Quentin Johnston, TCU (76)

TE: Chase Allen, Iowa State (37)

Sleepers

QB: Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State

When it comes down to the signal-caller for the Horned Frogs or the Cowboys for sleeper status, I'm siding with Sanders because TCU will likely have the ability to lean on their stout defense at times. Sanders has been hyped up for a while now and showed in last year's Cheez-It Bowl his upside which was 305 passing yards and four touchdowns. He's a true dual-threat quarterback with at least 100 carries in each of his first two seasons and will have many talented weapons in Stillwater. 

Another to consider: Max Duggan, TCU

RB: Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma

Due to Tennessee transfer Eric Gray being drafted in the first and second round of most early fantasy drafts, this makes Brooks an instant value. The Sooners have been known to utilize more than one player in the backfield and I envision Brooks to be a perfect fit around the goal-line for this high-scoring Oklahoma team. Although he did not see action in 2020, you shouldn't forget that Brooks posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons for Oklahoma in 2018 and 2019, including 18 touchdowns over that span. 

RB: SaRodorick Thompson, Texas Tech

While Shough, Ezukanma and Geiger have received all the high projections for the Red Raiders coming in to the season and deservedly so, Thompson should not be discounted. Not only did he average 5.6 yards per carry in 2020, he reeled in 21 catches on 33 targets and showed that he can play a significant role in the passing game. In a full season in 2019, he had 39 catches on 48 targets, so there's a ton of upside with this pick. The crazy part about the 2021 Red Raiders is that their defense will be underrated, however, I don't expect that to change how they play one bit which means all kinds of production for all the key players on the Texas Tech offense.

WR: Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State

Hutchinson just missed the Third All-Big 12 Fantasy Team, yet, that's exactly where we want him as he can bring great fantasy value to any owner who drafts him. He was the undisputed number one receiver in the Cyclones offense in 2020 with 64 catches for 771 yards and four touchdowns on 92 targets. Hutchinson had at least five targets in nine games, including a season-high 10 catches on 15 targets for 114 yards against Oklahoma. That production cannot be ignored and I have zero doubt he'll follow up his Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year campaign with a breakout season for a fantastic Iowa State squad.

WR: Tay Martin, Oklahoma State

The Washington State transfer joined the Cowboys in 2020 and is now ready for a huge leap considering Tylan Wallace's departure to the NFL. He should be the team's ideal big-play receiver with Braydon Johnson and Brennan Presley slotting behind on the depth chart. In a down year, Oklahoma State averaged 426.8 yards of total offense per game (39th in the nation) and Martin has a sleeper candidate in Spencer Sanders to sling him the ball. He'll have no problem returning his draft value and potentially even more in a conference that's full of great wide receiver options.

Busts

QB: Skylar Thompson, Kansas State

On paper, Thompson looks like a dream come true with a sixth year of eligibility and a knack for racking up rushing touchdowns. However, I'm a bit worried about last year's season-ending shoulder injury and Kansas State's offense should be finding ways to get RB Deuce Vaughn the ball instead of leaving it with the quarterback too often. In 27 career games, Thompson has passed for more than 300 yards in just one game which means if there's a limit on the rushing production, there's some huge bust potential with this pick.

RB: Eric Gray, Oklahoma

As mentioned with Brooks above, Gray is being drafted far too high as there's no guarantee he will be the primary running back in Oklahoma's offense. I do think he will do a great job catching passes out of the backfield; however, that might be his primary role as Brooks is far too talented to not utilize him in power-running situations. I love Gray as a player and prospect, yet there's a great chance he doesn't return the value needed to be a running back drafted in the first or second round of fantasy drafts. 

RB: Velton Gardner, Kansas

There will undoubtedly be some sharp fantasy owners looking to Gardner to have the recent success of Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson at Buffalo now that Lance Leipold is the coach. Not so fast though as Kansas has perhaps the worst skill and depth at any position in the conference. It will take some time for Leipold to recruit his players to Lawrence and it will be a legitimate timeshare with Amauri Pesek-Hickson and Daniel Hishaw at running back. It would be really hard to consider any Jayhawks for fantasy in 2021.

WR: Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

Thornton was a breakout candidate in 2020 and injuries derailed those plans with him grabbing just 16 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown on 34 targets. Not only will he have to put that forgettable season behind him, he'll have to build chemistry with a new quarterback in Gerry Bohanon or Jacob Zeno. Neither of those guys have the passing ability of Charlie Brewer who departed for Utah which means it could be an extremely long season for the Baylor offense and unfortunately Thornton who just wants to get back to the 45 catches for 782 yards and four touchdowns he enjoyed in 13 games in 2019. 

WR: Malik Knowles, Kansas State

If you watch snippets of Kansas State games, Knowles has everything you want in a dynamic number one receiver when the ball is thrown his way. The only problem is that Kansas State's offense does not give him enough volume to make him a dependable fantasy asset. In his 22 career games, he has just 50 catches on 91 targets, which averages out to 2.3 catches and 4.1 targets per game which is minimal production in the college fantasy game. While yes, he's likely to improve his numbers in 2021, they're not going to improve dramatically where he becomes worth snatching up in fantasy drafts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Grays
Grays covers college football for RotoWire by night and is a Financial Analyst by day.
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