The MAC West is probably the more exciting division of the two. A similarly fun division, the top of this conference has Toledo, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. It’s the more competitive group, but that doesn’t make West MACtion any less fun. As always, this preview is broken down into four categories:

  • Fantasy Relevant
  • Roster Fillers
  • Stashes
  • Avoids at ADP

All teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Ball State

Fantasy Relevant

True sophomore running back Carson Steele is the most valuable piece on this offense heading into 2022. As a true freshman, Steele eclipsed 1,000 yards on 4.6 yards per carry and an incredibly efficient 13.1 yards per reception. The offensive line returns four of five starters which should improve on 2021’s 75th-ranked offensive line. He should see 200+ carries this season, and with passing game usage, he becomes a quality starter based on the matchups.

Roster Fillers

The departure of Justin Hall, a long-time do-it-all player, opens up room for another receiver to step up. The best guess is Jayshon Jackson. Jackson led the team in receiving last year with 829 yards, but with Hall heading to the NFL, he should see an improvement on his 30.7% market share from 2021.

The biggest concern with projecting passing production this year is John Paddock. Drew Plitt was solid but unspectacular, while Paddock has downright abysmal. Paddock significantly limits this offensive ceiling by averaging only 5.1 yards per attempt and 3.3 adjusted yards per attempt.

Stashes

With Paddock’s struggles in limited time, I’m excited for incoming freshman QB Kaden Cobb. He’s the highest QB recruit in Ball State history and brings a good arm, excellent ball placement, and rushing ability. He has the potential to start most games this year if Paddock struggles early. He was an early enrollee, which certainly helps those odds as well.

In very deep leagues, receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler is also worth a look. He’s been a reliable option for the Cardinals, and if this offense does outperform expectations, he has deep-league upside.

Avoids at ADP

None. All the potential targets are reasonable in leagues. As you’ll see, this is a similar theme among MAC teams.

Central Michigan

Fantasy Relevant

This offense starts with one of the country’s most dominant running backs – Lew Nichols III. Nichols was dominant last season and posted a rushing line of 341-1,848-16 to go with 40 receptions for 338 yards. Another near 400-touch season isn’t out of the question with little backfield competition and a shallow receiver room. The biggest concern in repeating is the loss of Kevin Barbay as offensive coordinator and losing Bernhard Raimann and Luke Goedeke to the NFL. He’s still locked in for Top-5 RB production in 2022.

Tight end Joel Wilson should be considered fantasy relevant with the departure of Kalil Pimpleton and JaCorey Sullivan. Between the two, they vacate 48% of receiving yardage and make Wilson the second-leading returning receiving option.

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

As mentioned above, nearly 50% of the receiving yardage is vacated, meaning there’s a good chance someone steps up into relevancy. Dallas Dixon returns for his final season of eligibility after a 21% market share last season as the second-leading receiver behind Kalil Pimpleton. Transfer receiver Carlos Carriere comes in from Maryland and figures to have a role of sorts. You would have to be desperate to roster him.

QB Daniel Richardson showed flashes of production last year en route to a 2,633 yard and 23 touchdown campaign starting only ten games. In conference play, Richardson is a quality starter and worth a roster spot as a bye week fill-in.

Avoids at ADP

Nichols goes early in drafts for his CFF upside. He’s probably not more than a two-down grinder at the NFL level with day three draft capital. He doesn’t have to be an avoid; know that’s what you’re getting.

Eastern Michigan

Fantasy Relevant

The only fantasy-relevant player on this entire roster is receiver Hassan Beydoun. Despite returning nine starters, it’s not an offense to target in drafts. What makes Beydoun different is his massive target share for the Eagles. Over his last two seasons, Beydoun has averaged a 31% receiving market share despite inconsistent QB play between Ben Bryant and Preston Hutchinson. 2022 should be no different as Troy transfer Taylor Powell is the likely starter. Beydoun, however, has shown the ability to produce despite QB play and is especially valuable in MAC play.

Roster Fillers

None. This offense, while pass-heavy, can’t support more than a single fantasy-relevant receiver.

Stashes

None

Avoids at ADP

Come on…none.

Northern Illinois

Fantasy Relevant

The returning regular season MAC champions have a handful of fantasy assets headed into the 2022 season. Starting with the rushing game – the offense flows through the running backs and returns one of the heaviest neutral game script rush rates – 70%. The two biggest factors in the RB room are sophomore Antario Brown and third-year back Harrison Waylee. Brown is the thunder to Waylee’s lightning and, as the bigger back, far more likely to have the goal-line work. Last year this offense had 36 rushing touchdowns, and full back Clint Ratkovich accounted for 13 himself. He departs, as does leading rusher Jeyvon Ducker, opening massive opportunities for both backs. I prefer Brown given his recruiting pedigree and likelihood to see red zone attempts, but Waylee will have his weeks.

One of my favorite receivers this season is Trayvon Rudolph. He’s one of the country’s most dynamic athletes; he returns kicks (leading the country in 2020 in return yards), features in the rushing game, and is an explosive downfield option for the Huskies. He can potentially explode this year for his best season yet, going over 1,000 yards and becoming one of the best WRs in the MAC.

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

In deep leagues, QB Rocky Lombardi has upside in conference play. He rushed for over 400 yards and nine touchdowns last season and had three games over 284 passing yards. He has the potential to be a great bye-week fill-in in good matchups.

Avoids at ADP

None.

Toledo

Fantasy Relevant

Everyone’s favorite upside QB Dequan Finn makes an appearance as Toledo’s most consistent starter. A prolific rusher on the ground, evidenced by his 501 yards and nine touchdowns, Finn also has passing upside. He averaged a 9.3 adjusted yard per attempt, meaning he was effectively pushing the ball downfield. Although Finn only averaged 234 yards per game as a starter but connected deep often, giving him 17 touchdowns. However, he has tremendous week-to-week upside as an elite rusher.

Leading receiver Devin Maddox is one of the biggest beneficiaries of an improved Finn. Maddox led the team in receiving in 2021 and is the only returning starter. Although his production was somewhat pedestrian, the loss of Isaiah Winstead and Matt Landers allows Maddox to see a larger receiving share. The team loses 58% of last year’s receiving production overall.

Roster Fillers

The Toledo RB is a hot commodity in fantasy leagues. Bryant Koback was a massive producer last year, and given how much Jason Candle features the RB, it’s smart to target one. Incumbent Micah Kelly is on the slightly smaller side at 5’9” 195 lbs. but can shoulder the workload if asked. He’s a quality receiver despite not being asked to do it much. He was second on the team in rush attempts last season behind Koback. Transfer Peny Boone couldn’t carve out a role at Maryland and comes to Toledo as the larger of the two backs. Kelly is, in my opinion, the guy to target as the incumbent, but his price is depressed given the addition of Boone. Overall, one of these guys likely outperforms expectations.

Stashes

None.

Avoids at ADP

A consistent theme in the MAC – none of the players are going high enough in Campus2Canton ADP to be concerned about acquisition cost.

Western Michigan

Fantasy Relevant

The Broncos lose two key offensive weapons in WR Skyy Moore and QB Kaleb Eleby. They do return their leading rusher Sean Tyler. Tyler ran for 1,150 yards and nine touchdowns while splitting carries with Ladarius Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson out-rushed Tyler 185-178 but had a short-yardage role as the bigger back. Tyler is more explosive and in conference play last season. In his last seven games, Tyler averaged 18.9 points per game but had games of 22.9, 31.2, and 21.8. In MAC play, he has elite upside.

Despite a 96th-ranked neutral game script pass rate, the offense has been able to sustain receiving production the last two years. Between both Moore declaring for the draft and Jaylen Hall transferring to Western Kentucky, the two vacate 52% of offensive receiving production. In steps receiver Corey Crooms. Last year, Crooms secured a 23% receiving yardage share alongside Moore and Hall and is certainly the primary receiving option in 2022.

Roster Fillers

None. Between Tyler and Crooms, they are the only fantasy-relevant options right now.

Stashes

Depending on your league size, QB Jack Salopek could be fantasy relevant. In 2021, Eleby had over 25 points in six of twelve games and, in 2020, averaged over 35 points per game. The offense has been historically explosive, and despite Salopek’s lack of experience, he’s worth a stash.

Avoids at ADP

None. Something, something, MAC.

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