The story of the Big 12 in 2021 is as much about the two teams that are leaving the conference as the teams and players that will remain. 

The departure of Oklahoma and Texas for the SEC figures to have a ripple effect in college football, starting with the fact that the Big 12 must adapt or face its own extinction. Iowa State doesn’t appear to be a particularly strong anchor to keep the conference afloat. But adaptation appears to be on the horizon. Reports are that the conference could merge with the PAC 12 to create a super conference rivaling the SEC. 

But make no mistake, the storylines to track in the Big 12 are as plentiful as porous defenses. From the Texas quarterback situation to the future of Matt Campbell. From Spencer’s Rattler’s projection as the number one overall pick to Lance Leipold’s late hiring in Lawrence; the Big 12 figures to be a very entertaining conference in 2021 and very profitable for C2C players.

For our conference previews, we will try to include all the relevant offensive players for the 2021 season, broken into the following groups:

–        Fantasy Relevant

–        Roster Fillers

–        Stashes

–        Players to Avoid at ADP

All teams are listed in alphabetical order.

BAYLOR BEARS

It’s easy to forget that Dave Aranda was a welcomed addition to a Baylor program still reeling from the tremulous departure of its former head coach. After 2019, NFL and college teams alike raided the Tiger ranks in hopes of finding program-changing assistants to add to their own programs. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady made the jump to the Carolina Panthers, and Aranda got his first head coaching gig in Waco. The Bears are still searching for their footing after finishing 2-7 in Aranda’s first season.

Quarterback Charlie Brewer is gone after transferring to Utah. But the Bears add BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes fresh off an exciting season that launched Zach Wilson up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Brewer’s departure leaves redshirt sophomore Jacob Zeno and redshirt junior Gerry Bohanon to compete for the starting job. Neither has enough film to evaluate their college or pro potential completely. However, neither beat out Brewer, who was at the helm of a Bear’s offense that ranked 118th (out of 127 teams) in total yards per game. 

Fifth-year senior R.J. Sneed leads the Bears in receiving, with Gavin Holmes and Tyquan Thornton rounding out the group. 

Fantasy Relevant

None.

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

Courtesy of 247Sports

Freshman Kyron Drones is a buzzy name in Campus 2 Canton circles. We’ll keep an eye on him, specifically if Grimes and company can replicate the wide zone play-action success that worked so well in Provo. In Drones, the Bears have themselves a fluid improviser with a verified 4.89 40 yard dash and ideal position at 6’2″ and 222 lbs. It isn’t easy to project a freshman to start at any point in their first season. But Drones is an early enrollee, and the incoming Grimes has no incentive for loyalty to either Zeno or Bohanon.

Keep an eye on true sophomore receiver Jaylen Ellis. Ellis has a verified 4.59 40 time, 4.00 shuttle, and 36.50 inch vertical to boot. Ellis came down with a nifty downfield catch against Oklahoma last season and showed that he has the tools to take the top off the defense. But exercise caution. Ellis is at most a stash or someone you should place on a watch list.

Players to Avoid at ADP

None.

IOWA STATE CYCLONES

The Cyclones rebounded for an impressive season in 2020 after getting stung by the upset-minded Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns in last year’s opener. An impressive set of fantasy-relevant players return in quarterback Brock Purdy, running back Breece Hall (a consensus top two back in the 2022 running back class), tight end Charlie Kolar, and the perennially rostered wide receiver/rebounder in Xavier Hutchinson. With so many returners on the roster overall, the Cyclones have to feel like a playoff dark horse at the very least if they can knock off Oklahoma as they did in 2020.

Let’s not forget to follow Matt Campell’s head coaching candidacy. Campbell reportedly turned down down 8-years and $68.5 million from the Detroit Lions. Sheesh. If true, Campbell could be eying more stability and similar money from a blueblood Power 5 school.

Fantasy Relevant

Purdy is arguably a value in Campus 2 Canton leagues. He’s shown competence under Matt Campbell, and he figures to be both a senior bowl invitee and NFL draft pick, even if it is on day two or three. Regardless, Purdy is a future NFL player. 

Courtesy of the Iowa State Cyclones

Hall is one of the top backs in college football and looks to repeat a dominant 2020. He rushed for 1,572 yards and 23 TDs, both top in the FBS. He’s a top-10 fantasy option and a future NFL early draft pick.

Charlie Kolar has had solid TE1 numbers for college fantasy the past two seasons. He will be good for another 600+ yards and 7-8 TDs in 2021. 

Roster Fillers

Xavier Hutchinson, a redshirt junior, is the top receiving option. He had 771 yards and scored four times in 2020, expect the numbers in 2021 to be similar. 

Stashes

Second-year freshman Hunter Dekkers is Purdy’s presumptive backup and has an impressive skill set of his own. A stout 6’3, 235 pounds, and mobile, the southpaw signal caller may not be “hefty lefty,” but his play and size could warrant affectionate nicknaming in Ames. Dekkers’s ADP has been on the rise of late as the community starts to recognize his potential value in a Matt Campbell offense. Further, he was impressive in limited action in 2020, with a touchdown pass against Kansas and a touchdown run against Kansas State. He’s the only high school player in Iowa history to record back-to-back 4,000-yard all-purpose seasons.

The real question is who takes over for Mr. Everything Breece Hall after his presumed jump to the NFL after the 2021 season. Junior Jirehl Brock was a 2,000-yard rusher in his senior season in high school, a 4-star prospect in the 2019 class, and a Polynesian Bowl invitee. He’s only seen 26 career touches but figures to be a more integral part of the offensive game plan in 2021, specifically with Kene Nwangwu making the jump to the NFL as a surprise 4th round pick.

But keep an eye on freshmen Eli Sanders out of Chandler, Arizona, and Deon Silas from Lutz, Florida. Sanders was designated as an athlete but will play running back for the Cyclones and has the fame to add the requisite weight for the position. Silas is smaller in stature but posted 20 plus catches in three of his four high school seasons.

Another stash is wide receiver, Jaylin Noel. Noel is a very sudden athlete who was also used in the running game. He has a release or two in his highlight package that will make your jaw drop.

Players to Avoid at ADP

Charlie Kolar. If the NFL taught us anything in 2021, it was that we have no idea how it will value tight ends, which are not elite athletes. See Brevin Jordan.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

In Lawrence, the Jayhawks football program seems to be in a constant state of rebuilding. But the program may have found its cornerstones in new head coach Lance Leipold and local running back product Devin Neal. In Leipold, the Jayhawks steal a coach who built a bully in Buffalo. Seven Buffalo players have transferred to Kansas, following Leipold to Lawrence, including All-MAC center Mike Novitsky. That says something about the respect his players have for Leipold. 

Outside of Devin Neal, the cupboard is bare when it comes to fantasy-relevant players. Wide receiver Quaydarius Davis was considered a sleeper as a 4-star prospect but was cut from the football program after domestic violence allegations surfaced on social media.

Leipold must now focus on recruiting since his May 1 hire put the program firmly behind securing any new 2021 commits on the tails of his acquisition.

Fantasy Relevant

Neal, a freshman RB, could be a cornerstone for the Jayhawks to rebound. In Neal, the Jayhawks keep in-state one of the most versatile running backs in the 2021 freshman class. Luckily for Kansas, Neal grew up not far from campus while attending Lawrence high school. The two-sport (baseball) stand-out figures to be at the center of what the Jayhawks attempt to establish, if not in 2021, then beginning in 2022.

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

None.

Players to Avoid at ADP

None.

KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Fantasy Relevant

Kansas State went 2-1 with dual-threat quarterback Skylar Thompson at the helm,  including a win against Oklahoma. But Thompson went down with an “upper-body” injury during the third game against Texas Tech, and the Wildcats were never the same after. Thompson is back for a sixth season and a deeper league possible start. He is a dangerous runner and can pile up fantasy points quickly. 

The biggest revelation in 2020 was running back Deuce Vaughn, who led the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving despite standing just 5’6, 173 pounds. Pro Football Focus College has planted its proverbial flag on Vaughn, ranking him the second highest-graded running back returning for the 2021 season.

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

Keep an eye on 4-star quarterback Jake Rubley. Rubley is the highest-rated recruit for the KSU program in the last five years. He’s a pocket passer with enough arm strength. He should take over for Thompson after this season.

Players to Avoid at ADP

None.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

The Sooners could use an article all to themselves. In Norman, finding fantasy-relevant players is about as easy as going to the team roster and pointing out any QB, RB, TE, or WR. Oklahoma has the players and system to put up numbers comparable to the 2019 LSU team as they look to capture the team’s first national championship since 2000. All eyes will be on Rattler, and Lincoln Riley as OU looks to secure its first national championship since 2000. Call me a believer. 

Fantasy Relevant

Courtesy of PM News

The Sooners are loaded. They have two top 10 quarterbacks, according to Campus2Canton’s most recent ADP. Spencer Rattler is a Heisman front runner. After his early benching, Rattler finished the season with 28 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. All the skill positions around Rattler have improved. If we project another year of development, Rattler could be the 2021 number 1 pick. The offense flows through Rattler, and Riley knows how to highlight his strengths. 

Transfer Eric Gray is widely considered the third-best running back in the 2022 class and adds pass-catching versatility that was absent from the offense in 2020. Gray upgrades the RB room and gives the offense yet another weapon.

According to our most recent ADP, they have two top 30 WRs, with Marvin Mims being the lead WR and most fantasy relevant. He caught 37 balls for 610 yards and 9 scores in his freshman season; that number could nearly double in 2020 as he steps into the lead role. Arkansas transfer Mike Woods adds another reliable deep threat to a team that didn’t need another and will be fantasy relevant in 2021. 

Tight End Austin Stogner has NFL size and should dominate the red zone for an explosive offense. 

Roster Fillers

None.

Stashes

Caleb and Mario Williams (no relation) have been the talk of OU’s freshman class. Caleb looked amazing in the spring game and is our top QB of the incoming freshman. He is a dangerous runner and will inherit the team with Rattler departs. Mario is an electric player who has already flashed in spring and through the fall. He’s got sure hands and is incredibly dangerous after the catch – Oklahoma could get him involved early and he’s going to be a stud.

But there are other 2021 commits that present some interesting prospects outside of those two. OU added two additional 4 star wide receivers in Cody Jackson and Jalil Farooq. Jackson put up over 3,300+ yards receiving in 3 years at Texas 5A Foster high school. Athleticism is a question, though, for Jackson because he does not have any verified testing. In Farooq, the Sooners got a receiver already built for college football weighing in at 6’1, and over 200 pounds. His film shows terrific burst and lateral agility for a player of his size.

Players to Avoid at ADP

Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease. Haselwood is a third-year player and has produced very little since being a 5-star prospect in 2019. Injuries have played a role. Even if Haselwood emerges, there are safer options behind him at his July positional ADP of 33. On the other hand, it isn’t easy to see Wease getting any significant playing time with a healthy Mims, Haselwood, Williams, Woods, and Stogner. Riley wasn’t “thrilled” with his wide receivers in 2020, and both Haselwood and Wease played their part in that disappointment. 

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