The Campus2Canton writing staff will cover all of the conferences from now until the beginning of the college football season. To view previous conferences, click one of the links below:
- Sun Belt – East West
- Mountain West – Mountain West
- MAC – East West
- AAC – Part 1 Part 2
- C-USA – East West
- Pac-12 – North South
- SEC – East West
- Big 12 – Part 1 Part II
The Big 10 West is traditionally weaker at the top than the East and doesn’t boast as many high-powered offenses. And while there may be an influx in team strength shortly with USC and UCLA set to join the Big 10, the West will still look the same for another year. However, there are plenty of fantasy-relevant players in the Big 10 West.
For our conference previews, we will try to include all the relevant offensive players for the 2022 season, broken into the following groups:
- Fantasy Relevant
- Roster Fillers
- Player to avoid at ADP
All teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Chase Brown, RB
After a rough couple of years at Western Michigan and Illinois, Brown had a productive year for the Illini. Brown complied 1,005 yards and five TDs on the ground and 14 catches for 142 yards on a team that was one of the most run-heavy teams in the country. With two 100-yard games and a 200-yard game in his last five, and Illinois likely being a run-heavy team, Brown should be set up for multiple solid fantasy weeks this season.
Josh McCray, RB
The 6’1” 240 lb. 3-star prospect in the class of 2021, McCray made an impact as a true freshman last season. In the two games where he received 20+ carries, McCray ran for 156 yards and 142 yards, respectively. On a team that projects to be run-heavy in 2022, McCray should see some more games with larger workloads and fantasy-relevant weeks if you can figure out when they’ll be.
Isaiah Williams, WR
A 4-star prospect and the #6 Athlete in the class of 2019, Williams chose Illinois over the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, and 40 others. After playing QB his first two years, Williams switched to WR last year and was immediately the most productive player in the room by a wide margin. Despite being a more run-heavy team, he should be the clear-cut WR again in 2022 and could present some fantasy value in the right matchups.
Player to avoid at ADP
Sam LaPorta, TE
The 3-star TE from the class of 2019 is next in the line of strong TEs recently at Iowa. Laporta led Iowa in every major receiving category in his junior year last year. At a position where reliable production can be hard to come by, Laporta is valuable. Combine that with his NFL potential, and he’s one of the most valuable players at the TE position.
Gavin Williams, RB
After a redshirt year in 2020, Williams earned the #2 role last year behind bellcow back Tyler Goodson as a redshirt freshman. With Goodson off to the NFL, there is hope that Williams can assume the bellcow role. However, others believe Gavin Williams will share the load with LeShon Williams. Either way, Williams should have some fantasy-relevant weeks with a run-heavy offense.
Luke Lachey, TE
A 3-star prospect in the class of 2020, Lachey earned the backup TE role last year behind LaPorta. LaPorta is back this year, which will relegate Lachey to the backup role again this year. But being the next man up at Iowa’s TE factory has value, even if it’s a year away.
LeShon Williams, RB
Another redshirt freshman last year, LeShon Williams, didn’t have quite as productive of a season as his counterpoint. But LeShon Williams has been mentioned every time Gavin Williams has. LeShon sounds likely to seize some sort of a role, leading to some fantasy potential depending on the size of the role.
Kaleb Johnson, RB
A 3-star prospect in the class of 2022, Kaleb Johnson is the prototypical Iowa RB with his size and ability between the tackles. He made an early impression and has been tabbed one of five potential breakouts this fall by 24/7 Sports. While he has two solid RBs in front of him with three years of eligibility remaining, Johnson may force his way into this rotation and is worth a stash.
Keegan Johnson, WR
No one will confuse Iowa with a WR factory. Johnson is unlikely to produce much CFF value on a notoriously run-heavy team. However, Iowa put Imhir Smith-Marsette in the NFL as a fifth-round pick. Johnson, a 4-star prospect in the class of 2021, is a similarly dynamic WR and can follow a similar path as Smith-Marsette to some NFL draft capital.
Player to avoid at ADP
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Mo Ibrahim, RB
After a 200 carry, 1,000 yard, and 15 TD season in 2020, Ibrahim was set to explode in 2021. He recorded 163 yards and two TDs on 30 carries in his first game. Unfortunately, he tore his Achilles in that game and missed the rest of the season. Now healthy and on track to start week 1, Ibrahim should lead this backfield again in 2022. Given the success Trey Potts saw in Ibrahim’s absence, he may not return to the same 30 carry per game workload. And he is unlikely to make a significant fantasy impact at the NFL level given his athletic limitations pre-injury. But he should still provide excellent CFF production as long as he is healthy.
Trey Potts, RB
After Ibrahim was lost for the season in 2021, 3-star All-Purpose Back Trey Potts stepped up. Recording 552 yards and six TDs on 112 carries through five games for 19.6 fantasy points per game (fpg), Potts was looking like the next elite CFF Minnesota RB. Unfortunately, Potts was hospitalized for an undisclosed reason and was also lost for the year last year. Like Ibrahim, Potts is reportedly healthy now. While Ibrahim is likely to return to the lead if he remains healthy, Potts played well enough to earn some work in 2022. He could siphon off a significant amount of work if Ibrahim cannot return to form post-Achilles injury.
Chris Autman-Bell, WR
The PJ Fleck’s WR1 was a coveted player for CFF, from Tyler Johnson to Rashod Bateman to Corey Davis in his Western Michigan days. With first-round draft pick Bateman off to the NFL, Chris Autman-Bell entered 2021 with high hopes as the next man up. He could not live up to the hype even after injuries decimated the RB room. Autman-Bell will likely lead the Gophers in every major WR category again this year. But, his CFF value ultimately hinges on Tanner Morgan’s competency, and his NFL future is not as bright as previous Fleck WR1s have been.
Zach Evans, RB
Despite the return and presumed health of both Ibrahim and Potts, the Minnesota RB room does have some opportunities available with the transfers out of Ky Thomas and MarKeise Irving. Evans, a 3-star prospect in the class of 2022, has drawn some buzz this offseason. Even if Ibrahim and Potts return to form, Ibrahim is out of eligibility after this year, and Evans can step into the number two role behind Potts for 2023. If either or both of Ibrahim and Potts are not the same player they were pre-injury, Evans could see a significant workload as early as this year.
Dylan Wright, WR
Despite a disappointing year passing the ball last year, we still have enough of a track record of success for Fleck WR1s to have some optimism for a bounceback. A 4-star prospect and #12 WR who initially enrolled at Texas A&M, Wright appears to be the next man up after Autman-Bell. And with Autman-Bell disappointing last year, there is also an outside chance Wright could overtake him as early as this year.
Player to avoid at ADP
Trey Palmer, WR
A 4-star recruit and #18 WR in the class of 2019, Trey Palmer managed not to be a Year 1 Zero and earned significant work on special teams. After playing behind two of the best WRs to enter the NFL in recent years in Justin Jefferson and Jamarr Chase, Palmer fell behind LSU’s next stud WR in Kayshon Boutte and failed to seize a more significant role in the offense. There is some optimism, however, after transferring to Nebraska. New OC Mark Whipple just produced a 100 catch, 1,600 yard, and 17 TD Biletnikoff Award winner last year. While it’s unrealistic to expect that level of production from Palmer, Palmer seems to be the WR1 for the Cornhuskers this year and should be in line for some sneaky CFF production. With two years of eligibility left, Palmer has the dynamism and versatility to earn a role at the NFL level.
Casey Thompson, QB
After losing the QB battle last year at Texas, Thompson took over after Hudson Card fell flat. While Thompson may not have been stellar, his 2,100 yards and 24:9 TD:INT ratio on 63.2% completion percentage was solid. Whipple’s offense will throw better than Nebraska has previously, and Thompson is good enough to keep the offense on schedule. While he may not light up the stat sheet, Thompson will have some starting caliber weeks and has two years of eligibility left. Thompson is underrated and worthy of an end-of-the-bench roster spot.
Anthony Grant, RB
The number 1 JUCO RB transfer in the class of 2021, Grant failed to make much of an impact on year on Lincoln. However, Grant has been generating some buzz this offseason under a new OC. Mark Whipple tends to use a committee in the backfield. But given the hype around Grant and the lack of top-end talent in that backfield, Grant is worth a stash in the event he can lead this committee.
Gabe Ervin, RB
A 3-star RB in the class of 2021, Ervin earned his way onto the field in his true freshman season. Before his season-ending injury, he had 37 carries for 133 yards and two TDs. With leading rusher from 2021, Rahmir Johnson, back, the offseason hype surrounding Grant, and Whipple’s tendency for deploying a committee, Ervin doesn’t have the same luster he did last season. But he is still a talented back who has garnered some praise this offseason and is worth a stash in deeper leagues if he can seize this backfield.
Omar Manning, WR
For all his ability as a fantasy asset, former Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez was never a great passer and struggled to produce fantasy-relevant WRs. Manning, the #1 JUCO WR transfer in the class of 2020, was the second leading WR on the team last year. Palmer seems likely to be the WR1 this year. But the Nebraska passing attack should be revitalized under Whipple and new QB Casey Thompson, opening up the potential for fantasy relevancy for Manning.
Player to avoid at ADP
Thomas Fidone, TE
A 4-star prospect and the #2 TE in the class of 2021, Fidone was earning praise from the coaching staff last off-season entering his true freshman year. Fidone was lost for the year to a season-ending knee injury and was unable to regain his health or position on the depth chart. Fidone is currently being drafted at 197 overall, which is far too rich for a TE with an injury history, no college production this far, and an unclear standing on this depth chart.
Evan Hull, RB
The lone bright spot on an otherwise abysmal Northwestern offense, Hull managed to produce 1,275 all-purpose yards and nine TDs on 212 touches on his way to an RB46 finish in fpg. While Cam Porter is healthy after missing all of 2021 with a lower-body injury and 3-star Joseph Himon is incoming, Hull seems set to be the focal point of this offense once again. While it may not be pretty, Hull is a cheap source of CFF production in the right matchups.
Joseph Himon, RB
The 3-star RB in the class of 2021 does not have an easy path to early playing time. Workhorse back Hull and intriguing RB2 Can Porter stand in HimonHimon’sfor playing time right now, both of whom have two years of eligibility left. However, Himon is an explosive RB in his own right and has worked his way into the RB3 conversation. It may take two years for him to take over this backfield. But if you can afford to wait, Himon has the talent to be a CFF asset and the dynamism to make an NFL roster in some capacity.
Player to avoid at ADP
Aidan O’Connell, QB
After finally staying healthy last year, O’Connell had a breakout 2021 season. He passed for 3,700 yards and 28 TDs on 440 attempts and a 71.6% completion percentage on his way to being the QB49 on FPG. O’Connell doesn’t have the same level of receiving core he had last year, but that shouldn’t keep him from being a quality CFF QB in his final year of eligibility.
Tyrone Tracy Jr., WR
Purdue managed to produce back-to-back high-end WRs in Rondale Moore and David Bell, who became Day 2 NFL Draft picks. Tyrone Tracy, the Iowa transfer, appears to be set to take over the WR1 mantle for Jeff Brohm after Milton Wright was ruled academically ineligible for 2022. While Tracy is not the talent that Moore and Bell were, Purdue should again be more pass-heavy and have solid to good QB play in 2022. Tracy should provide plenty of fantasy-relevant weeks this season.
Payne Durham, TE
In an offense that threw the ball 440 times last year and had stud WR David Bell and other solid ancillary pieces, Durham still managed to record 45 catches for 467 yards and six TDs. Last year, this was good for TE15 on a fantasy points per game basis. Heading into 2022, the Purdue WR room is unstable and lacks a clear top talent. Durham has the opportunity to lead this team in TDs and should be a significant part of this passing attack, making him an excellent target for CFF production at the always ambiguous TE position.
Kobe Lewis, RB
After a dynamic 2019 season that saw him put up 1,200 yards and 12 TDs on 205 touches, many thought Lewis was in for a big 2020 season. However, that was the beginning of Lew Nichols’s emergence. Lewis transferred at the beginning of this offseason and wound up at Purdue, a team in need of an addition to the RB room. A versatile RB, Lewis is already pushing for the starting role. Should he win the gig, Lewis could provide some sneaky CFF production in an offense lacking its usual skill position talent.
Curtis Deville, WR
A 4-star prospect and the #50WR in the class of 2022, Deville was the highest-rated WR Purdue has brought in since David Bell in 2019. After Bell departed for the NFL, the WR room desperately needed an influx of talent. Deville’s train got derailed before it could leave the station. Out for 6-8 months with a hip injury, Deville will have to wait until 2023 to make his mark. However, talented Purdue WRs are worth investing in, and Deville could provide some high-end CFF production during his time at Purdue.
Brady Allen, QB
The 4-star prospect and #10 QB in the class of 2022, Allen is unlikely to make an impact this year barring a major Aidan O’Connell. However, O’ConO’Connellut of eligibility after this year and recent 2023 4-star former Purdue commit Rickie Collins has since committed to LSU. Allen will have a golden opportunity to take over one of the more passing-heavy offenses in the country in 2023, making him one of the better CFF QB stashes this year.
Elijah Canion, WR
Entering Auburn without much fanfare as a 3-star WR recruit in the class of 2020, Canton narrowly avoided being a Year 1 zero, recording three catches for 80 yards and a TD through one game as a freshman. As a sophomore, Canion failed to earn more opportunities and only had four catches through four games. Transferring to Purdue and entering a wide-open WE room, Canion earned serious praise in the first week of fall camp. He failed to continue that momentum in Week 2. But with no other proven options in the room, the monster WR could earn some playing time and presents an intriguing late-round WR in a room lacking star power.
Player to avoid at ADP
Braelon Allen, RB
After reclassifying last year to the class of 2021, the 17-year-old size/speed freak took over the Wisconsin backfield and never looked back. Allen recorded 1,268 yards and 12 TDs as a true freshman last year, with most of his damage coming at the end of the season. Wisconsin RBs are always a coveted CFF asset. But, Wisconsin RBs with three years of eligibility left who are this big and this athletic are pure gold. He should be an annual RB1 for CFF as an absolute worst-case scenario. Best case scenario, he is an NFL bellcow RB. Allen will need to improve his ability as a rusher and receiver to reach that ceiling. But his floor/ceiling combination is among the best at the RB position in college football.
Chez Mellusi, RB
Initially enrolled at Clemson, the 4-star prospect and #14 RB in the class of 2019 transferred to Wisconsin after two seasons of minimal work. Mellusi began the season last year as the starter, seeing over 20 carries in the first two games. Even after the emergence of Allen, Mellusi was still more involved than people remember, finishing with 15 or more carries in his last five games prior to injury and 13 fewer carries than Allen through three fewer games. Despite the hype around Allen, there is a very real scenario where Mellusi siphons off enough carries to be a thorn in AllenAllen’s and potentially carry some standalone CFF value.
Player to avoid at ADP
Graham Mertz, QB
Mertz entered college as one of the top QB recruits to attend Wisconsin. The high 4-star prospect and #3 Pro-Style QB in the class of 2019 had some impressive moments as a true sophomore in 2020, throwing for 1,238 yards, nine TDs, five INTs, and a 61% completion percentage through seven games. Mertz fell flat on his face after entering 2021 with the most hype for a Wisconsin QB since Russell Wilson. He threw for an abysmal 1,958 yards, ten TDs, eleven INTs, and a 59% completion percentage through 12 games. Stuck in a conservative, run-heavy offense, Mertz is unlikely to provide any CFF value. Mertz has fallen, once drafted with an ADP of 227 in February, so drafters are catching on. However, Mertz has no CFF value, and a poor season last year led to his Devy value fading. Any hope left makes it difficult to justify drafting him until the final few rounds.