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June 25, 2013

Big 12 Fantasy Rankings: Quarterbacks

MORE RRS: Houston-area LB has Texas Tech on top | Red Raiders offer East Texas CB

College Fantasy Football is far from a perfect science. It's especially quirky in September when the strength of schedule imbalance is at its worst. Equally imperfect and difficult is the attempt at drawing up CFF rankings in June when numerous, pivotal camp battles are still being waged. However, in the spirit of fun offseason football fodder, we plan to do just that in the coming weeks.

This series of articles aims to spotlight the best CFF talent in the Big 12 and will stack up the league's stars based on each individual's perceived value and projections based on what we know today. Again, with plenty of roles yet to be established, these values and rankings could change dramatically over the next two months and, unlike the NFL, there isn't a large sample size of career stats to fall back on with many of these players -- especially at today's spotlighted Big 12 position group: quarterback.

In 17 seasons of Big 12 football, the league's quarterback pool has produced numerous Heisman trophy finalists, multiple Heisman winners and even a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick (Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in 2010). Many of these studs posted monster numbers, all played on winning teams. Fantasy football though, doesn't care about your winning percentage, only the numbers that you post. While several of the quarterbacks ranked highly on the list below should compete for a Big 12 title, keep in mind that signal callers on mediocre teams constantly engaged in shoot-outs or playing from behind (and thus, forced to throw a ton) can sometimes post stats just as impressive.

The Big 12's illustrious quarterback history also typically has a lot more seasoned veterans at this all-important position than what we'll see in the league in 2013, where only one of the league's projected starters (David Ash), started more than half of his team's games in 2012.

For the purposes of these rankings we'll use a standard fantasy quarterback scoring system:

4 points for every passing TD
6 points for every rushing TD
1 point for every 25 passing yards
1 point for every 10 rushing yards
-2 points for every interception or fumble

Big 12 Fantasy Football Power Rankings - Quarterback
Clint Chelf is a talented senior who leads what should be the most explosive passing attack in the league, but while he narrowly edged out Pachall for No. 1 in these rankings, he's no lock to finish there. There's a lot to love about his situation in the preseason though, based on Oklahoma State's weapons, the system and his own ability.

2012 stats: Passing - 119 of 197 for 1,588 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT; Rushing - 31 att., 162 yards

Pros: Chelf has arguably the best group of weapons to throw to in the league with All-Big 12 wide receiver Josh Stewart returning (101 rec., 1,210 yards, 7 TD in 2012) and Tracy Moore back after missing most of last season with a foot injury. Mike Gundy and the Cowboys love to air it out and are coming off a school record 547 yards of offense per game in 2012. Additionally, OSU ranked third in the nation at 45.7 points per game. Chelf started the final five games of the season, averaging 260 passing yards and 2.6 touchdowns per outing in that stretch, and wound up taking home MVP honors in the Cowboys' bowl win over Purdue.

Cons: Even with Wes Lunt no longer on campus, J.W. Walsh still lurks behind Chelf and will have plenty of opportunities with specific packages to utilize his dual threat skills. Even when Chelf was starting down the stretch, Walsh pilfered away plenty of red zone chances and new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich will have no problem tapping into that potential again in 2013.

Expert take: "Clint Chelf should get the vast majority of the snaps with short yardage and goal line work still going to Walsh. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich had a background of working with several talented running quarterbacks, so Walsh should still get plenty of looks. Having said that, I look for a big year from Chelf and could certainly make a case for him being ranked atop the Big 12 list."
- Gina Mizell, Oklahoma State beat writer for The Oklahoman

Is a focused Casey Pachall a better quarterback than Clint Chelf? I think so. We're not debating reality football though. This is fantasy and if Chelf stays atop the OSU depth chart all year, he'll be handed the keys to an offensive system that should churn out more yards and points  -- and thus, greater fantasy numbers -- than Pachall's unit will. Having said that, a motivated and dialed-in Pachall should have a huge year.

2012 stats: Passing - 64 of 97 for 948 yards, 10 TD, INT; Rushing - 21 att., 23 yards

Pros: He should be more motivated than ever before and has an excellent cast around him. From an ability and measureables standpoint, he's as good as you'll find in the league and he won't make poor on-field decisions that will lead to negative fantasy points.

Cons: The red-flag of his substance abuse history isn't the primary knock on Pachall. If anything, I think that motivates him to be as focused as ever as he looks to extend his career. It's the fact that even in his last season in the Mountain West, his glossy numbers of 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns, still fall short of what Chelf is expected to do in OSU's scheme. Yes, Pachall exited 2012 as one of the nation's leaders in efficiency stats but in fantasy land, a high passer rating and a $3.26 will get you a grande latte at Starbucks. It's all about yards and scores in this realm. He'll have plenty of both, but if the TCU defense is as good as advertised, he won't have to win too many high scoring shootouts. Plus, LSU on the non-con schedule is another knock against him.

Expert take: "If Casey's got a clear head and is focused, he has more talent than Andy Dalton who is a starter in the NFL. From a God-given talent standpoint, he's got a stronger arm, more accurate and probably even more mobile, although he hasn't yet shown that.

"If he has turned the corner and grown up a little bit, he'll surprise people with how good he can be. Running back Waymon James' return will certainly help him and the offensive numbers as well."
- Stefan Stevenson, TCU beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
If Bryce Petty can follow in the footsteps of Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, Baylor fans could see their third consecutive 4,000 yard passer. I wouldn't pencil Petty in for Florence's 4,309 yards and 33 touchdowns, but comparable numbers just shy of that aren't out of the question.

2012 stats: Passing - 7 of 10 for 97 yards, TD; Rushing - 10 att., 13 yards, TD

Pros: When it comes to his weapons, Baylor may have lost All-American Terrance Williams (Cowboys) and Lanear Sampson (Colts) from an incredibly gifted receiving corps a year ago, but Tevin Reese is one of the league's top returning pass catchers and he headlines a list of big upside targets. The system is favorable for huge offensive numbers and Baylor's defense in recent seasons has demanded the offense post gaudy totals. While the defense is expected to make strides, expect the high scoring numbers to continue for the Baylor offense and Petty will be in the thick of it. Plus, with a cushy non-conference schedule, Petty should settle right in by racking up some big fantasy points in September.

Cons: He's only thrown 14 passes at the collegiate level and while a monster year from Lache Seastrunk at running back will certainly aid the offense's balance, could it cut into Petty's stats enough to drop him out of the top three?

Expert take: "Baylor has set the school record for passing yards in a season in each of the last two years, so obviously Petty will benefit by being a part of Art Briles' system, but he's also got all the tools the coaches like as well. He's tall, has a strong arm and plenty of weapons around him. I would have no reservations in saying he could be (Baylor's) third consecutive 4,000 yard passer."
- John Morris, play-by-play voice of the Baylor Bears
We've all heard the stat a thousand times about Blake Bell having more rushing touchdowns at the collegiate level than pass attempts, but it wasn't the Belldozer style that earned him a scholarship and four-star ranking while at Bishop Carroll HS in Wichita. The Oklahoma coaches loved his throwing ability then and still do today and he looks to be guy to lead this offense despite competition from Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight.

2012 stats: Passing - 9 of 16 for 107 yards; Rushing - 60 att., 201 yards, 11 TD

Pros: He's a stud with big upside -- especially as a dual-threat fantasy option. At six points per rushing score, if he has even just 10 scores on the ground this year -- after averaging 12 per year his first two seasons -- that's 60 points more than most on this list will have. He has plenty of talented weapons as Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard are back. Trey Metoyer looks to have a bigger year with Kenny Stills and Justin Brown now gone.

Cons: The schedule is challenging early and if Bell falters, Thompson and Knight are lurking behind him. The stable of running backs could be OU's offensive strength, so don't expect Landry Jones-like passing numbers as Bell gradually begins to assert his identity as a capable passer.

Expert take: "I think OU will learn a lot about its QB situation fairly quickly. The schedule will force Blake Bell to either sink or swim. He'll either solidify it in September/October or open the door for other two, but first six opponents are all coming off bowl games.

"They recruited him because of how well he threw the ball in high school. They've always viewed him as a passer first-the running thing is something they stumbled upon these past two seasons with the Belldozer packages. They are confident in him and believe in him."
- Jake Trotter, ESPN.com
After mentoring Houston's Case Keenum and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel to eye-popping results, Kliff Kingsbury's next project is projected Texas Tech starter, Michael Brewer. Though true freshman Davis Webb turned plenty of heads in the spring, Brewer looks to be the guy and with plenty of experienced weapons around him, a system that should crank out plenty of yards and points, and one of best quarterback mentors in the game today, Brewer has big upside.

2012 stats: Passing - 34 of 48 for 375 yards, 4 TD; Rushing - 9 att., 20 yards

Pros: The Kingsbury factor can't be undersold and his track record -- albeit brief, but with tremendous results -- backs that up. Brewer is a dual-threat who won't post rushing touchdown numbers that Bell is capable of, but could cross the goal line six-plus times in 2013. When he looks to air it out he'll have plenty of familiar faces staring back at him and all have very capable hands and big play potential, headlined by Jace Amaro, the league's top tight end, and All-Big 12 wide receiver Eric Ward who posted 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago. He also has the pedigree -- a third generation college quarterback who won two state titles at Austin's Lake Travis High School.

Cons: Even if Brewer thrives under Kingsbury's tutelage, he's no lock to repeat Seth Doege's 4,205 yards and 39 touchdowns. He's a third-year sophomore with more passing experience than two guys above him on this list, but there's still the "a lot to prove" factor and Webb looming should he falter.

Expert take: "When trying to project what Michael Brewer will do this season -- assuming he wins the job -- I think you have to look at what Seth Doege did from 2011-12 when he averaged 4,300 yards and 35 touchdown passes per season. Will Brewer his those marks? Much will depend on his own performance, but variables that are outside of his control will also play a role -- injuries, how quickly the offensive line can gel and play-calling.

"Brewer has an 'it' quality about him that reminds many of former Texas Tech signal caller Graham Harrell. Fans have high expectations of Brewer but that's nothing new for him -- he replaced all-everything Garrett Gilbert in high school and led his team to two-straight state championships."
- Chris Level, publisher of RedRaiderSports.com
JUCO transfer Jake Waters may wind up starting for the Wildcats on Aug. 31 against North Dakota State, but if I'm participating in a Big 12-only CFF draft today, I'm taking a flyer on Daniel Sams.

With Collin Klein -- last season's preseason No. 1 CFF draft pick in the nation -- graduated, his understudy, Sams, is ready to take the reins. And based on some of the flashes he showed last year in relief of Klein, many are buzzing in the Little Apple. His athleticism and a fully intact offensive line create all kinds of upside for Sams IF he wins the job.

2012 stats: Passing - 6 of 8, 55 yards; Rushing - 32 att., 235 yards, 3 TD

Pros: Sams could post 15-plus rushing touchdowns behind one of the best blocking units in the league. With all five starters back from a team that rushed for over 2,500 yards a year ago, there are plenty of ground gains to be made even with running back John Hubert commanding a big role. Sams also has a very strong arm -- although he's untested to this point.

Cons: He might not win the job. Waters has impressed and could be the guy in what is shaping up to be a photo finish. Even if Sams wins it, Waters waits in the wings should he falter. At receiver, although Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson return, KSU has to replace its leading receiver from 2012, Chris Harper.

Expert take: "I do think it's up for grabs right now because you have two quarterbacks with very good skill sets. One is considered a better runner, one a better passer, but both are still very good at what isn't considered to be their strength.

"It's going to go down to the wire before that first game. Knowing Coach Snyder he won't name a starter until about a week out. Usually with something like this when there's that tight of competition, Coach Snyder is going to want to battle it out as long as possible. Daniel may have a bit of an edge because he's been in the system, but Jake is quick learner and has put himself in position to make a run at the job. If it's Sams though, he could definitely run for 15-20 touchdowns."
- Matt Walters, sideline reporter for the K-State Sports Network
Consistency has plagued David Ash over his first two seasons, but he certainly possesses great talent himself and has plenty of talent around him to post nice numbers as a junior. He's Texas' clear cut starter in 2013, after giving way to Case McCoy four times a year ago. He should see a considerable improvement from his modest 2012 totals of 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns, even if the running game steals the show.

2012 stats: Passing - 214 of 318 for 2,699 yards, 19 TD, 8 INT; Rushing - 51 att., 244 yards, 3 TD

Pros: All consistency issues aside, he's still the Dean of the Big 12's quarterbacks when it comes to starts within the league and has his entire offensive line back. Marquise Goodwin (Bills) is off to the NFL, but plenty of playmakers return including Mike Davis (939 yards and 7 TD in 2012) and Jaxon Shipley (737 yards and 6 TD in 2012). The excellent running game takes the pressure off a bit and certainly aids in creating more red zone opportunities, but when Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcom Brown combine for 23 touchdowns like they did last season, those are fantasy points that aren't going to the signal caller.

Cons: The trio of running backs mentioned above will pilfer away plenty of the scoring chances inside the 10-yard line, and though certainly very mobile, Ash isn't counted upon to crank out enough yards (141) or touchdowns (2) on the ground to put him in the dual-threat category as it pertains to fantasy. He's plays on a very good team that will have plenty of scoring chances, but it won't be predominantly his contributions that get them there like some of his Big 12 counterparts.

Expert take: "The key for Ash is turnovers. He's got to be much cleaner with the ball and I think he will be. He made some big plays in the bowl game with his feet. The productivity from last year will be up this year, but the big thing with him will be, does he have those lapses where when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. I wouldn't predict a monster year, but I think he'll have a better year, because he'll be more careful with the ball."
- Chad Hastings, radio host for ESPN Austin
Jake Heaps, the former prized recruit at BYU, finally gets to lace'em up as a Jayhawk after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Heaps used last season to study Charlie Weis' system, while building rapport with his new KU teammates including Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay. He came to Kansas hoping to join the list of Weis' talented quarterback pupils including names like Brady, Cassel and Clausen, and resurrect a much-anticipated career that stalled during his sophomore year at BYU.

2012 stats: DNP

Pros: Coming out of high school, Heaps was widely considered to be the top quarterback prospect in the nation and he's been working with Weis, one of the game's great quarterback mentors, for the past year. He has a terrific arm, plenty of experience from his two years at BYU -- he passed for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman -- and plenty of motivation to prove he is worthy of the hype he garnered three years ago. Kansas also could be playing from behind frequently in league play, which can be a good thing in fantasy land, leading to plenty of opportunities to pile up yardage during second-half comeback attempts.

Cons: The Kansas offensive line was a strength last season and three multi-year starters must be replaced from that group. While McCay's upside has folks in Lawrence enthused and Andrew Turzilli could be a nice deep threat, the fact remains that no Jayhawk receiver caught a touchdown pass last year, so there's plenty to prove and improve in the receiving corps.

Expert take: "Although he hasn't played a live game in a couple of years, Heaps stayed sharp last year with the scout team and has improved a ton both physically and mentally since leaving BYU. With plenty of options in place around him, I expect Heaps to have a solid year and believe the key to his success will be making quick decisions and reads so that he can get the ball to his play makers and take the pressure off the offensive line."
- Matt Tait, Kansas beat writer for the Lawrence Journal-World
The winner of the West Virginia quarterback race will likely leap frog Sam Richardson, but that has more to do with the Mountaineers system than anything about Richardson's skill set. Richardson broke out with four touchdowns in the Cyclones' game against Kansas and then started the last two games of the year. With Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett gone the job is his.

2012 stats: Passing - 46 of 79 for 541 yards, 8 TD, INT; Rushing - 41 att., 233 yards, TD

Pros: He's a starter on a team with an undervalued offense and showed some nice potential late in 2012. He has a nice arm and a good rapport with former scout team buddy, Quenton Bundrage, who could become ISU's best playmaker.

Cons: He's a sophomore with limited experience on a team whose real strength is its bevy of running backs. Plus, the Cyclones lost their top three pass catchers from a year ago and system-wise doesn't compare to some of the other prolific pass offenses in the league.

Expert take: "Richardson is the clear cut No. 1 and is a guy that'll probably pass for over 2,000 yards, rush for 500 and throw for 15-20 TDs. The next step for him is improving consistency and becoming a more accurate passer. He's a deceptively good runner, I think he's going to surprise some teams with how well he runs."
- Paul Clark, publisher of CycloneReport.com
Jonathan Kimble is back for his second season the Mountaineers' burly, bearded mascot and, until we get more separation in the West Virginia quarterback race, he'll be the place holder for that spot. Depending on who emerges, the Mountaineers' quarterback could climb a couple of spots on this list but nothing more. This three horse race is very tough to call between junior Paul Millard, redshirt freshman Ford Childress and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett. It's Dana Holgorsen's first quarterback competition since his first season as an assistant at Houston in 2008.

2012 stats: N/A

Pros: Holgorsen has helped develop some terrific quarterbacks over the years and all three candidates have nice tools with which to work. Millard has experience within the program, Childress is the long-term stud but Trickett played in 17 games over the last two seasons at Florida State as EJ Manuel's backup and didn't come to Morgantown to sit and watch... or hold the Mountaineer's musket.

Cons: It's a neck and neck and neck race that is way to early to call and the WVU staff is keeping it close to the vest. Plus, six of the team's top 10 pass catchers from 2012 are gone including the most prolific duo in school history -- Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey (both to the Rams). The Mountaineers will also likely lean on the running game more this year with Houston transfer Charles Sims and JUCO transfer Dreamius Smith joining Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison.

Expert take: "The coaches aren't tipping their hand at all. I don't think there was an edge at all coming out of the spring game. They tried to split it pretty evenly and their stats were pretty comparable.

"Millard is more experienced, but hasn't played much the last few years since Geno didn't have any serious injuries. He seems to know the offense having been more immersed in it more than Childress. Childress looks the part though. Tall, strong and looks like your prototypical pocket passer.

"Trickett, I think he's very much in the mix. It's fair to say that going into fall camp it's completely open… they weren't blown away with either Millard or Childress."
- Drew Rubenstein, West Virginia beat writer for the Dominion Post

There you have it -- an early fantasy forecast for the Big 12's quarterbacks. The list is sure to fluctuate in the months ahead and will be worth even less than that grande latte by the end of the season, but for now, it's fun football fodder to get you through the dog days as we count down the minutes until kick-off.

Brian Hanni is the play-by-play voice of Texas Tech Men's Basketball and Baseball and co-hosts a mid-day show on Double T 104.3 in Lubbock. Reach him on Twitter @BHanni.

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