2008 Watch List
The playoffs will be soon upon us. Many leagues will kickoff their post season in the next few weeks and if you are lucky enough to be competing for a playoff berth, you’re probably (or hopefully) eyeing week 12, 13 and 14 match-ups just as keenly as you are week 10. But we know there are also a few of you out there that are on the receiving end of endless taunts from your league mates as it will take divine intervention for you to sneak in to the dance. For these fellas, the one that might not have much to play for in 2007 or those that are sick (like me) and already preparing for 2008, we take a little detour this week with our 2008 watch list/suggested waiver pick-ups.
We are getting this list out a little earlier than we had hoped as we saw two of our watch list candidates flex their fantasy muscles last week (Jeremy Avery and Knowshon Moreno). If you are in a keeper league there is no time to wait. It is time to unload some of that roster fodder and start stockpiling for next year. While each of these watch listers come with a fair amount of risk, it is essential to prepare now before others grab next year’s studs as they won’t be there in a few weeks or during next year’s draft.
QB Tyler Graunke, Hawaii - I think it goes without saying how valuable Texas Tech and Hawaii quarterbacks are. With the Hawaii job opening up following the graduation of Colt Brennan at the end of the year, junior Tyler Graunke becomes one of the top rated fantasy quarterbacks for 2008 by default. Complements of some of Brennan’s injury struggles, Graunke has seen a decent amount of action this season, and this certainly bodes well for 2008.
QB Robert Marve, Miami - Marve’s chance to win the starting job as a true freshman was cut short this August following a car accident that necessitated surgery on his left (non-throwing) wrist. Marve is back at practice for the Canes and will compete with Kirby Freeman for the starting gig next summer. From what we’ve seen of Marve’s recruiting videos, he has a very good chance of taking over as the Canes’ starter and could make a huge impact 2008. Besides at this point, isn’t it time for the lackluster Miami offensive to try something (anything) different?
QB Ryan Mallett, Michigan - Mallet is the heir apparent to the starting quarterback job at Michigan. Mallet has been forced into the starting role in three games this year due to injuries to senior Chad Henne. There is no questioning Mallet’s arm as it bears a striking resemblance to a cannon, but there is a great deal of work to be done on his accuracy, and this is to be expected from a true freshman quarterback. Mallett is talented and while he’s the stereotypical drop-back Michigan quarterback (translation: no wheels) he’ll always have weapons at his disposal. The good news here is Mallet will not come into the 2008 season without crucial game day experience to draw from.
QB Cody Hawkins, Colorado - Hawkins has by far the most Saturday experience of those on this list, but we doubt he has made his way on many league rosters this year. Hawkins is not just the beneficiary of nepotism (his dad Dan Hawkins is the head coach), as he also posses a great deal of ability. Hawkins has been far from perfect this year, but he has led the Buffs to upset victories over Oklahoma and Texas Tech this as a freshman. Hawkins has over 2000 yards passing and 16 touchdowns on the year. With another year of seasoning we should see a boost in his touchdowns and a drop in his interceptions (14 to this point) in 2008.
RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma – We are not afraid to admit when we are wrong and we were certainly wrong about Murray taking over as the Sooners’ top running back by mid-season. We were not wrong, however, about his talent. If you’ve had a chance to watch Murray bust long runs against North Texas, Utah State and Texas you know what we are talking about. Nagging injuries and a running back shuffle between him, Allen Patrick and Chris Brown have made the talented back from Las Vegas a risky start every week. With the graduation of Patrick, this degree of split duties should not be the case in 2008. Chris Brown will be back and will see plenty of time, but with a year of seasoning, Murray should be the number one option in Norman next year.
RB Jeremy Avery, Boise State - We were provided a glimpse of Avery’s speed in the blowout win over Weber State. Avery took a number of second half carries for big gains in mop-up duty. Showing speed (that we are still amazed that Boise State is routinely able to recruit) we wrote the next day: “The quick-footed Avery may have to bide his time on the sidelines for a majority of the season this year, but he will eventually get his chance. If you’re in a keeper league with an open roster spot, stash him away.” Avery helped build his case for us with three touchdowns at Fresno State last Friday night filling in for the injured Ian Johnson (bruised kidney). Fellow running mate D.J. Harper will also be a factor next year, but we are banking on Avery’s breakaway ability to be the main driving force behind the Broncos’ running attack next year.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets will lose one the ACC’s top and toughest running backs in Tashard Choice. They will also lose senior back-up Raushan Grant. In mostly back-up duty this year, the freshman Dwyer is Tech’s second leading rusher and he’s provided seven touchdowns on the year. The backfield could be crowded, however, with sophomore Jamaal Evans also back. Evans, however, has not shown the same potential exhibited by Dwyer and this makes young Jonathan our pick to take over as Tech’s starting tailback next year.
RB Noel Devine, West Virginia - Even with the talented Pat White and Steve Slaton in the backfield the diminutive Devine has seen plenty of playing time this year. With each opportunity Devine has shown off his blazing speed and ridiculous cut-back ability. We are worried about Devine’s size and ability around the goal line, but at minimum he will be a solid homerun back. There has also been some speculation in the CFFinsider camp on whether Steve Slaton will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. I personally believe he will, making Devine the top option in Mountaineers’ backfield.
RB Jahvid Best, Cal - Like Devine, Best is not short on speed. The California state sprint champion in high school has spent most of the year behind Justin Forsett. But he did show flashes of brilliance, namely against Tennessee in the opener. Best has been relatively quite this year, which may have led many owners to ignore Best on the waiver wire this year. With Cal’s propensity to run the football, Best becomes a must pick-up for fantasy owners in keeper leagues.
RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia - If there was ever any question if Knowshon could lead the Bulldogs ground game, they were answered last week against Florida. The maturation Knowshon over the course of this year has been something to watch. Knowshon looked tentative and suffered from fumble problems early in the year. Against the Gators last week he looked like a seasoned vet, not only breaking a few long runs, but also putting his nose down and grinding out the tough yards to seal the victory in the second half.
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State - I have to admit when a reader asked if Hunter would be a good start early in the year, I had to do a little research on just who he was. With over a hundred teams to keep track of, we can’t possibly keep an eye on every potential sleeper. A closer look at Kendall’s numbers reveals that the freshman has been a steady back-up for the Cowboys all season long. Even in a limited role since Dantrell Savage’s return, Hunter has put up respectable numbers and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on the year. Oklahoma State running backs have always been a fantasy gold mine and Hunter should continue that tradition with Savage off to play on Sundays.
RB Carlos Brown, Michigan - Heading into the 2007 season there were a great number of question marks surrounding the back-up running back situation at Michigan. These questions were answered after Carlos Brown’s three-game stretch against Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota. Brown has compiled 322 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns during that run and he appears to be the Wolverines’ back of the future. Brandon Minor (156 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota) will also be in the mix, but we are betting on Brown (with maybe a little help from a speedster named Sam McGuffie) to be Michigan’s number one tailback when they open against Utah on August 30th 2008.
RB Mike Ford, South Florida - There were three players that hadn’t played a down of college football that we were high on heading into the 2007 season: WR Michael Crabtree, RB DeMarco Murray and RB Mike Ford. We all know what Crabtree has done this year and we’ve already touched on Murray. Like Murray, Ford has not lived up to our lofty fantasy expectations that we set forth, but call us stubborn as we aren’t giving up on the talented back from Sarasota, Florida. Ford showed flashes of his immense talent at times this year. He has also spent time in Jim Leavitt’s doghouse for fumbling and missing classes. It was clear to us, that while Ford may be the most talented runner for the Bulls, he is still young and needs to continue to work on the little things expected of running backs like pass protection and route running if he wants to see more playing time. This is why Leavitt seems to prefer to lean on junior Benjamin Williams whenever possible. While we are worried about South Florida’s overall commitment to the running game, which they seem to neglect at times, and the return of Williams and the talented Jamar Taylor, Ford will be once again be someone to watch in the off-season.
RB Graig Cooper, Miami (Fl) - It’s hard to imagine the days when the Hurricanes used to be able to drop 50 on opponents without blinking an eye. We haven’t seen offensive production like that from the Canes in the better part of a decade. If the Canes can find some stability at quarterback, Cooper may turn into a fantasy gem in 2008. Like many on this list Cooper is a freshman and has the speed that separates him from other running backs. We fully expect Cooper to see more than the dozen carries a game that he is currently seeing.
RB Demetrius Sumler, Colorado - The re-emergence of Hugh Charles has taken some of the luster of Sumler this year. With Charles graduating and Colorado starting to piece together the Dan Hawkins’ system we would not be surprised if Sumler (along with Cody Hawkins) is a key ingredient to the Buff’s offense next year.
RB Nicholas Grigsby, Arizona - Grigsby was a hot name after his 262 yard rushing and receiving performance against Washington State in week five. Since then Grigsby has been a bit of a fantasy downer for those that nabbed him. But he is still a freshman and the Wildcats’ leading rusher, and this is something that can’t be ignored as we compile a list of potential fantasy impact players for 2008.
RB Jeremiah Johnson, Oregon - Johnson’s year has been cut short because of a torn ACL and the injury does cause us concern heading into 2008. But we saw what Johnson could do last year in a relief role for Jonathan Stewart. If Stewart (junior) cuts his career short and Johnson can fully recover in the off-season, he could be a good fantasy back in 2008.
WR Malcolm Lane, Hawaii - The Rainbows receiving corps might take a big hit in 2008 with the graduation of Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne and the potential early departures of juniors Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen. That would leave Lane, a sophomore, the most experienced and talented receiver on the roster. And this would make him a must-have for those in leagues that allow non-BCS players on fantasy rosters.
WR Jacoby Ford, Clemson – We’ve been talking about Ford since he first enrolled at Clemson in 2005. Ford has yet to break out in true fantasy fashion, but he does posses the type of speed that keep us listing him as a sleeper. Ford will watch the rest of the year from the sidelines after breaking his ankle last week against Maryland. But Jacoby Ford could become the main target in 2008 as Aaron Kelly (junior) could be off to the NFL after this season. If that is the case, Ford could finally become the every week fantasy player that we think he can be.
WR Deon Murphy, Kansas State - Like Hunter, Murphy is not someone we can take credit for scouting out. Murphy was mentioned to us at the beginning of the year by another astute reader. We take every prospect seriously and have quietly watched Murphy throughout the year. Murphy only has 36 catches for 363 yards but does have eight touchdowns (three rushing) on the year. With Jordy Nelson’s collegiate career coming to an end, the freshman Murphy will likely be the number one receiver for the Wildcats in 2008.
Obviously this is not a complete list of players that we are eyeing and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. We’ll be diving more into these players in the coming weeks and we will leave no stone unturned in the off-season. If you’re eyeing the future as any good college fantasy football owner is should do, this is a good starter list as you prepare for the 2008 season. And yes we, once again, recognize how wrong it is to already be looking forward to the 2008 season as we’re not even to November. However if loving college fantasy football is wrong baby, we don’t want to be right.
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