The Mid-American Conference (MAC) West is an extremely offensive conference, and I mean that in a good way. Five of the six teams on this side of the MAC finished in the FBS top-40 in points per game in 2020. With so many teams returning the majority of their playmakers, I think we can expect similar explosiveness once again. #MACtion should provide plenty of fantasy goodness for C2C leagues in the year to come.
Western Michigan was a top-10 scoring offense, at 41.7 points per game and while they lost second-round pick D’Wayne Eskridge to the NFL, this team will still be torching the gridiron this season. Ball State is one of the favorites to win the conference with a balanced and deep roster while Toledo and Central Michigan are also knocking at the door. Eastern Michigan has a nice corps lead by fifth-year senior Preston Hutchinson and finally, Northern Illinois could be one of the worst teams in the country and probably will finish last in the MAC West.
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 – starters in most circumstances
- Roster Fillers – bench players with startable production but limited upside
- Stashes – players with unknown production but a profile to pop
- Players to avoid – whether its production or ADP related, don’t invest
All teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Justin Hall is one of the most unsung studs in the FBS. All he’s done at Ball State is lead the team in receptions four years in a row setting the school record with 252. He holds the nation’s longest consecutive receptions streak at 43, having caught a pass in every single game of his college career. Additionally, he has been used on the ground with 85 attempts and excelled as both a punt and kickoff returner. Simply put, Hall is one of the most versatile and dynamic offensive weapons in college football. He will get a chance to add to his school records with the additional year granted to everyone due to the COVID pandemic.
His size and small school prestige will likely limit his draft projection but if he tests well I can see him sneaking into the third round. Given his versatility and return prowess, a team may be interested in the 5’9″ 186-pound Hall. I would happily take him to beef up the college production on my C2C roster and hope all the dominoes fall into place for a rise up the draft boards.
Drew Plitt is the elder statesman of the offense being a sixth-year senior quarterback. He has started 32 games for the Cardinals in his career, with 2020 being his best campaign with his highest completion percentage and yards per attempt. While I don’t think he’s a weekly starter on the college side, he can be called upon in a pinch. Topping 300 yards only three times in eight games, and lacking rushing upside, the ceiling needed just isn’t really in play for Plitt.
An optimist could dream of the fact Ball State lost their workhorse running back Caleb Huntley to the NFL and may rely more on the passing game. He certainly has weapons around him to be a producer. His NFL prospects are essentially non-existent so just enjoy this year.
Yo’Heinz Tyler not only has one of the coolest names in the sport but also enjoyed a break-out year in 2020. The rising senior leads the team in receiving touchdowns and if the offense sees an uptick in the passing game, he is likely to benefit. Standing 6’3″ and weighing 203 pounds he is a bigger compliment to Hall.
Tye Evans and Will Jones look to carry the backfield torch after Caleb Huntley bolted to the NFL. He leaves behind nearly 3000 career yards from scrimmage as the feature back for his entire career. Neither back looked very enticing last season in spot duty. If either one breaks through and takes the lead, they would be worth a stash as Ball State has had a strong running game under coach Mike Neu.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
None. Justin Hall has the highest ADP on our tool and is a fine pick at 390 overall.
Kalil Pimpleton has led the Chippewas in receiving ever since transferring from Virginia Tech. Like Justin Hall, Pimpleton is a multi-dimensional threat for Central Michigan registering a 24-215-3 line on the ground and returning punts in his two seasons. A fifth-year senior, Pimpleton can help your college roster in 2021 and has an outside shot of being drafted into the NFL.
Kobe Lewis will look to get his groove back after accounting for over 1200 yards as a sophomore in 2019 and then disappointing in 2020 with a sluggish 4.7 yards per touch. He still led the backfield and returns as the veteran incumbent.
For fantasy, he may be a frustrating player potentially starting the seasons in a timeshare. However, Jim McElwain offenses have been run-friendly since he went to Central Michigan so there should be fantasy goodness to go around.
Lew Nichols III should continue to be a quality second option in the backfield at Mount Pleasant. He was easily the better back in 2020, outplaying Kobe Lewis in terms of efficiency. He is built like a feature back at 5’10” and 220 pounds and can contribute in the passing game. As a rising redshirt sophomore, Nichols is an intriguing stash should he ever earn bellcow duties.
Dallas Dixon had a remarkable 20.2 yards per reception in 2020, making him a nice compliment to Pimpleton. If he can take a jump forward, there could be some fantasy relevance brewing for Dixon.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
None. No players on CMU have an ADP worth avoiding, but I would not really care to roster quarterback Daniel Richardson outside of a punt play on a MAC daily fantasy slate. The passing offense under McElwain has never been very good and he did not offer much on the ground either.
Hassan Beydoun is one of the sneakiest producers in all of college fantasy football. As a junior in 2020, he caught eight balls for over 100 yards per game. Both those averages were top 20 nationally. He remains under the radar because he didn’t cross the goal line and has only one score to his name over 16 games at EMU. With an ADP that is virtually non-existent, pick him up for easy high-end college production. However, given his age, competition, and 5’8″ stature I wouldn’t expect him to graduate onto your NFL roster.
Preston Hutchinson is another no-brainer pick on the college side of a C2C league. I’ll bet you didn’t know Hutchinson was the QB8 nationally on a points-per-game basis. Supported by a whopping eight rushing touchdowns in six games, he averaged more points per game than Grayson McCall, Spencer Rattler, or Sam Howell.
Of course over a rushing touchdown per game is unrealistic, I still like Hutchinson moving forward. While he won’t be mistaken for Lamar Jackson, the fifth-year senior can legitimately do some damage on the ground. He looks to build on a strong 2020 and with an ADP near 300 overall, he should be highlighted in your queue.
Darius Boone Jr. was the best runner in the EMU backfield in 2020 but that’s not saying much. Across their six-game schedule, quarterback Preston Hutchinson had the most carries while Boone racked up the most yards. His coming-out party was against Western Michigan when he put up a strong 25-148-1 line.
The running back depth chart is murky and collectively was one of the least productive in the country last season. Given the fact Boone offered at least some semblance of a spark, it would stand to reason the redshirt sophomore will be the lead back in 2021. I think a full-time starter for this quality offense in Ypsilanti is worth a late stash on C2C teams needing a FLEX play.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
Tyrice Richie is yet another hidden gem in the MAC West. In the shortened 2020 season he averaged nearly 100 yards per game, good for a top 20 finish in the country. Unlike the aforementioned Beydoun, Richie had no problem sniffing the end zone scoring four touchdowns in six games, pacing the team two years in a row.
Adjusting for games played in the shortened season, Richie was a top 10 wide receiver for college fantasy. Another fifth-year senior, the six-foot, 195 pounds Richie can be counted on to be a top option with a deep discount in C2C drafts.
Harrison Waylee really came on over the last three games for Northern Illinois, starting over a healthy upperclassman in Erin Collins. The true freshman averaged 22 carries for 101 yards and chipped in 2.3 receptions per game for the second half of the season. Waylee looks to enter 2021 as the feature back for this offense.
At only 180 pounds, he is small for a lead runner and probably doesn’t project well for the NFL but his diverse skillset is tantalizing on the college side. Essentially free in drafts, he can be a high-quality depth piece immediately and may develop into a college fantasy starter for the next few years.
Trayvon Rudolph is another freshman that made a mark on this Huskies depth chart in year one. The speedster won the kick return job out of camp and also contributed some big plays averaging 16.6 yards per reception over the course of the season. This team is probably going to be bad again but they do have some interesting young pieces on offense. Rudolph is a name to keep handy as a waiver wire option should he take another step forward.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
None at ADP. Despite his elite name, I would not have any interest in their new quarterback Rocky Lombardi who doesn’t show many fantasy-friendly skills.
Bryant Koback is a weekly starter at running back on the college side. He lost a step off his prior in efficiency last season but made up for it by catching 24 passes in only six games. He had not previously shown much in the passing game, so that was a pleasant surprise. He was a workhorse for Toledo, topping 20 touches in all but one game and scoring six total touchdowns
Koback may find his way onto an NFL roster in 2022 but for the time being draft him with confidence as a high-end college producer. As long as he can keep up the receiving work this Rocket should have no trouble soaring to a top 10 fantasy finish in 2021.
Isaiah Winstead led the Rockets in receiving last season and emerged as a big-play threat averaging 17.2 yards per reception. He should be the top target again in Toledo. Historically this is not a very high volume passing attack but they do take a fair share of deep shots, so any dropback has splash play potential. Toledo did increase their passing attempts to 36 per game for the 2020 season, indicating a possible philosophy change that will be worth monitoring.
Carter Bradley will take over as the quarterback after two years of learning on the job and shuffling between starter and backup. He showed intriguing skills in 2020 completing over 60% of his passes with a strong 9.5 yards per attempt. As mentioned above, coach Jason Candle dialed up more passes in 2020 than any time in the previous five seasons and well above the national average. Should this trend of increased volume continue, Bradley will emerge as a college side asset given his lofty yards per attempt.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
None. This should be a fun offense and all the players have very reasonable ADPs.
Kaleb Eleby (Kalamazoo stand up!) was a truly dominant quarterback in the NCAA a season ago. One of my favorite statistics that reveals quarterback talent is yards per attempt and all Eleby did was torch the MAC for 11.2 yards every time he threw the ball. He is one of only eight quarterbacks to get over eleven yards per attempt since 2016, and every other QB to hit that mark is now an NFL starter.
With an ADP in the 10th round of college drafts, Eleby represents a value even if you only get a year or two of top five production. However, should he light it up in the same way he did over six games in 2020 we could also be talking about early NFL draft capital.
Skyy Moore blew up on to the scene in 2019, leading the Broncos in receiving as a true freshman. He was an all-conference performer in year one but took a step back as fifth year senior D’Wayne Eskridge went nuts. He has a thick, 5’9″ 195 pound frame that fits nicely in the slot where he can rack up receptions.
He is dangerous with the ball in his hands as well, registering 8.4 yards after catch, good for 15th in the country in 2020. Given his production in year one, if he can get back to the top of the target tree in Kalamazoo this season, Moore does still have some NFL potential as well as college production worthy of a weekly starter.
La’darius Jefferson came over from Michigan State as a transfer in 2020 and it didn’t take long for him to assume a workhorse role. Standing an imposing 6’1″ and tipping the scales at 223 pounds, he carried the ball a whopping 33 times for 150 yards against Central Michigan in week 3. That wasn’t the only big workload as his average line over the last four games was 24-130-1. As a cherry on top he finished the season with three receptions against Ball State.
He isn’t quite established enough to put him in “fantasy relevant” tier but Jefferson has the size and the skills to explode in this offense. With an ADP well outside the top 200, I like him as a roster filler that can grow into a devastating RB1 on the college side.
Jaylen Hall averaged the most yards per reception in the NCAA last season at a ridiculous 27 yards. Granted, he only caught 12 balls but seven of them went for touchdowns. Efficiency doesn’t always lead to increased volume but with outside threat Eskridge playing professionally, Hall could assume that vital role in this offense. Stash him now for free and it’s possible you have a college league winner on your hands by December.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
None. Like most players in the MAC, the ADP is reasonable as expected for college-only producers. The WMU offense has some of the highest potential in all of college football so invest here with confidence.