Conference Preview: Pac-12 Breakdown

Conference Preview: Pac-12 Breakdown

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

Note: Sorry about the delay with this, folks. Tasks that weren't budgeted for have been popping up with the season looming. It won't happen next year.

Fantasy Stars

1. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Freeman was improbably good as a true freshman last year, proving so dominant that Oregon moved lead 2013 rusher Byron Marshall to wide receiver, also passing blue chip sophomore Thomas Tyner for the starting role at running back. He was a huge hit in that role, bolting for 1,365 yards (5.4 YPC) and 18 touchdowns on 252 carries in 15 games. With Tyner (shoulder) out for the year, Freeman might push for 250 carries in 12 games instead of 15, so his fantasy value is set to surge considerably higher in his sophomore year. You'd have to go to 2009 to find the last time an Oregon offense wasn't a top-five scoring offense nationwide, and Freeman is locked in as both the workhorse and short-yardage runner. The touchdown upside here is immense.


2. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins was quietly one of the nation's absolute best running backs last year, and he might be a bit louder in 2015. Perkins raced to 1,575 yards (6.3 YPC) and nine touchdowns on 251 carries in 13 games, and he showed his standout pass-catching skills by snagging 26 passes for 201 yards and two scores. Perkins should get leaned on more often this year due to the exit of quarterback Brett Hundley, who was prominently featured in

Note: Sorry about the delay with this, folks. Tasks that weren't budgeted for have been popping up with the season looming. It won't happen next year.

Fantasy Stars

1. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Freeman was improbably good as a true freshman last year, proving so dominant that Oregon moved lead 2013 rusher Byron Marshall to wide receiver, also passing blue chip sophomore Thomas Tyner for the starting role at running back. He was a huge hit in that role, bolting for 1,365 yards (5.4 YPC) and 18 touchdowns on 252 carries in 15 games. With Tyner (shoulder) out for the year, Freeman might push for 250 carries in 12 games instead of 15, so his fantasy value is set to surge considerably higher in his sophomore year. You'd have to go to 2009 to find the last time an Oregon offense wasn't a top-five scoring offense nationwide, and Freeman is locked in as both the workhorse and short-yardage runner. The touchdown upside here is immense.


2. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins was quietly one of the nation's absolute best running backs last year, and he might be a bit louder in 2015. Perkins raced to 1,575 yards (6.3 YPC) and nine touchdowns on 251 carries in 13 games, and he showed his standout pass-catching skills by snagging 26 passes for 201 yards and two scores. Perkins should get leaned on more often this year due to the exit of quarterback Brett Hundley, who was prominently featured in the UCLA running game. Hundley's 30 rushing touchdowns over three years imply that Perkins will easily surpass double-digit touchdowns this time around. Perkins' YPC might regress a bit without Hundley scaring defenses with his outside running, but the increase in workload and increase in scoring opportunities make Perkins a blue chip fantasy pick.


3. Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona

A true freshman last year, Wilson quickly established himself as one of the best runners nationwide. He ran wild for 1,375 yards (5.8 YPC) and 16 touchdowns on 236 carries, showing he was every bit of the top prospect his recruiting ranking implied. Backup Terris Jones-Grigsby graduated in the offseason after securing 121 carries last year, so Wilson's workload could increase in 2015. In a Rich Rodriguez offense that returns QB Anu Solomon, Wilson's touchdown rate and rushing average are both sustainable.


4. Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State

Marks is an obvious Comeback Player of the Year favorite after a healthy redshirt season in 2014. Marks was far and away Washington State's leading receiver as a sophomore in 2013, and there's a huge opportunity this year with Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers gone. Although they combined for 184 receptions last year, Mayle and Myers combined for only 79 receptions in 2013 while Marks accounted for 74 receptions on his own, totaling 807 yards and seven touchdowns. He's poised to play red-hot from start to finish in 2015, especially since quarterback Luke Falk showed encouraging play in relief starts last year. Few players nationwide are a better bet to hit triple-digit receptions.


5. Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Smith-Schuster is more than likely the next great USC receiver, picking up the torch in the lineage that made All-America candidates out of Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. Previously known as just Juju Smith, the true sophomore was a five-star recruit who validated his ranking with a strong freshman season, catching 54 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns even as Agholor ripped his way to the first round of the NFL Draft by catching 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 scores. Quarterback Cody Kessler returns, but Agholor doesn't, so Smith-Schuster has every chance to go off.


6. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Booker has to be the heavy favorite to see the most touches from scrimmage in the entire country this year. He earned a huge workload as a JUCO transfer last year despite having to work his way into a starting role after the season's start, finishing with 1,512 yards (5.2 YPC) and 10 touchdowns on 292 carries in 13 games, adding 42 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of roughly 25.7 touches from scrimmage per game – an enormous number – yet coach Kyle Willingham said he intends to up Booker's workload to 30-to-35 touches per game. The higher end of that range might be impossible if it's not outright insane, but a push for 30 touches per game just might be possible. Booker's enormous workload almost entirely negates the mediocre efficiency of his touches.

Honorable mention:Nelson Spruce (WR, Colorado), Luke Falk (QB, Washington State), River Cracraft (WR, Washington State), Storm Barrs-Woods (RB, Oregon State)

Busts

1. Remound Wright, RB, Stanford

Wright was the lead runner for Stanford last year, but the underwhelming results indicate he was in a bit over his head. He finished with 135 carries for 601 yards and 11 touchdowns, with a rushing average of just 4.5 yards per carry. Kelsey Young (66 carries in 2014) transferred to Boise State, but Wright will get pushed to the margins by the emergence of Christian McCaffrey, who was far more explosive and efficient than Wright a year ago.


2. Justin Davis, RB, USC

Davis is definitely a player to keep in mind in fantasy drafts, but don't go overpaying. Davis was not particularly efficient off the bench last year, taking 129 carries for just 595 yards (4.6 YPC) while scoring four times. Starter Javorius Allen was obviously the more useful player, posting much better efficiency than Davis with a 5.4 YPC despite carrying a workload more than twice as big. Davis' presumed status as starter is probably a bit off target – Tre Madden is back for another year after getting the last wiped out by injury, and Madden is capable of forcing a workload split if he's healthy. Madden began 2013 as the starting runner ahead of Allen, and showed big playmaking ability as both a runner (703 yards and three touchdowns on 138 carries) and receiver (201 yards and four touchdowns on 15 receptions).


3. Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff is a very good quarterback, and his 'bust' entry here doesn't apply nearly as much in formats that give six points for passing touchdowns, but he'll likely be overdrafted in most formats. Goff is likely to take negative rushing yardage due to his inability to offset sacks with positive yardage on the ground, and even his passing stats from last year were a bit inflated from a single game. Although Goff's average of 331 yards and nearly three passing touchdowns per game is very impressive, those numbers were boosted a fair amount by a double-overtime game against Colorado in which he threw for 458 yards and seven touchdowns. Goff only threw for a combined 763 yards and two touchdowns over three games against Washington, Oregon State, and Stanford, however.

Honorable mention:Victor Bolden (WR, Oregon State), Jordan Villamin (WR, Oregon State)

Sleepers

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Remound Wright started at running back for Stanford last year, but he'll be on the way out of the picture in 2015. McCaffrey is too good to keep out of a starting role, and he's expected to be the foundation of the Stanford offense after bulking up a bit in the offseason. While Wright plodded his way to just 601 yards on 135 carries (4.5 YPC), McCaffrey was torching defenses as an off-the-bench player, totaling 300 yards on 42 carries (7.1 YPC) while adding 17 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns. One of the sons of Ed McCaffrey, Christian steps into the perfect situation to take the conference and maybe the country by storm.


2. Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon

Adams couldn't get to Oregon until Aug. 13 due to academic issues, but he still quickly ran away with the Oregon starting quarterback competition. Adams is smaller, slower, and likely a less-talented passer than Marcus Mariota was, but his accomplishments at Eastern Washington give reason to believe he'll thrive in Oregon's infallible scheme. Adams has a deep group of receivers to capitalize on as he tries to maintain the momentum of an FCS career where he threw for 1,0438 yards and 110 touchdowns in just 37 games, adding 1,232 yards (4.1 YPC) and 11 touchdowns on the ground.


3. Stephen Anderson, TE, California

Listed as a WR last year, Anderson probably was no worse than California's second-best player at the position. In an offense as high-flying as Cal's – they scored 38.3 points per game last year – Anderson will be in position to put heat on FIU's Jonnu Smith as the nation's top fantasy tight end. Anderson finished the 2014 season with 661 yards and five touchdowns on 46 receptions – in just 10 games. Now a senior, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Anderson is a quiet double-digit touchdown threat at a position where upside is hard to find.


4. Tre Madden, RB, USC

Justin Davis is the public favorite to emerge as the next Javorius Allen, but Madden won't let that happen if he's fully healthy. Even if Davis claims the starting role, Madden is too good to not force a timeshare. For the reasons mentioned in the Davis 'Bust' blurb, Madden will likely force something close to an even split if he's fully healthy. If you draft Madden, though, just be aware of the fact that he has had a lot of injury troubles throughout his career.

Honorable mention:Mike Bercovici (QB, Arizona State), Demario Richard (RB, Arizona State), Dom Williams (WR, Washington State), Devon Cajuste (WR, Stanford), Dwayne Washington (RB, Washington)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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