2023 College Fantasy Football Big Ten Preview

Big Ten Conference

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football Big Ten Preview

The Big Ten is one of the most prominent conferences I'll cover in these college fantasy football previews. The conference has put three different teams—Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State—into the college football playoff since its inception, which is tied for the most of any conference.

A couple of those teams have made repeat appearances, bringing the conference total to eight times. Unfortunately for the Big Ten, the only team to win one of those championships is Ohio State.

There is certainly fantasy goodness to be found in the Big Ten conference. You could make the case that Ohio State is the most valuable team in all of college for fantasy football with a minimum of five draftable players in all leagues. However, the Big Ten is generally more renowned for its defensive dominance and ball-control offenses than high-flying options.

That makes reading this year's college fantasy football preview for the Big Ten all the more important. Time to get to the Big Ten college fantasy football preview realizing that for some teams you may need to temper your expectations of fantasy dominance.

2023 College Fantasy Football Big Ten Preview

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Isaiah Williams, WR, Illinois Fighting Illini

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Typically, the position to target in a Bret Bielema offense is running back. Bielema has been a college football head coach for 14 seasons, and he has had a thousand-yard running back every season but one!

In Bielema's two seasons at Illinois, that thousand-yard back was Chase Brown, but the Cincinnati Bengals have drafted him. The issue with selecting the running back at Illinois this year is that I am unsure which one of Reggie Love III or Josh McCrary to target.

When it comes to targets in the Illinois passing game, there is no question that Isaiah Williams is the main choice. Last season, Williams led the Illini in receptions with 82, which more than doubled the second-place finisher. He also led the way with 715 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. Because of the way he operates underneath in the offense, he is more valuable in a PPR league.

Cam Camper, WR, Indiana Hoosiers

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Cam Camper burst onto the scene last season with multiple big games in September. In the first game of the season, against what would turn out to be one of the best defenses nationally in Illinois, Camper had 11 receptions for 156 yards.

Players used waiver claims or spent free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) dollars to acquire him with that level of receiving volume. And after September, it was looking like a good investment. Through the first four games, Camper had 33 receptions for 418 yards and one touchdown.

Unfortunately, Camper would only play three more games. In those three games, he combined for 13 receptions for 151 yards and one more touchdown. Camper then tore his ACL, which ended his season early.

Finding collegiate football injury updates can prove to be difficult. I was able to locate an update that explains while Camper missed spring practice, he hopes to be ready for the season opener. He is likely someone you can target with your last pick since we've seen him have success already.

Luke Lachey, TE, Iowa Hawkeyes

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Since Kirk Ferentz took over as head coach, Iowa has earned a reputation as tight end university. Rightfully so with their recent successes.

Currently, in the NFL, there are four Iowa tight ends: George Kittle, TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant, and second-round Detroit Lions draftee Sam LaPorta. That's a very impressive list, with Luke Lachey looking to be the next in line.

Lachey's totals from last season are far from impressive with 28 receptions for 398 yards and four touchdowns. However, he has the skill set to step right into this vacated position.

LaPorta caught over 50 receptions and 650 yards last season. Even though LaPorta only scored one touchdown, it was still good enough for a top-10 finish at the tight end position. Top 10 is where I value Lachey at the tight end position going into this season.

Corey Dyches, TE, Maryland Terrapins

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Writing about back-to-back tight ends in college football is certainly rare, but that's the Big Ten. Corey Dyches qualifies at tight end on Fantrax. Essentially, though, he plays wide receiver for the Terrapins.

Last season he was typically the second receiving option in that offense. That was good enough for 39 receptions for 494 yards and three touchdowns. Once again, those numbers aren't overwhelming, but it's the possibility of more that is intriguing.

There has been a lot of turnover in the Maryland receiving corps from one season to the next. Gone are wide receivers Dontay Demus, Jacob Copeland, and Rakim Jarrett to the NFL as undrafted free agents. Transfers in include Tyrese Chambers from Florida International (1,000-yard season in 2021), and Kaden Prather from West Virginia.

Dyches is one of the few holdovers. I'm thinking that means quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa may target someone he recognizes early and often in Dyches.

Nathan Carter, RB, Michigan State Spartans

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There are three different transfer running backs on the Michigan State roster who could realistically lead the team in carries. Jalen Berger transferred in last season from Wisconsin with high expectations to replace Kenneth Walker. While effective at times, there were many games he was unusable for fantasy purposes because of his sporadic carry count.

Running back option No. 2 would be Jaren Mangham. Mangham is transferring for the second time in his collegiate career. This time he is coming from South Florida. This past season he was injured and only played in four games. The season before that, he was able to rush for 15 touchdowns in his first year at South Florida. Could he repeat a similar effort in the Big Ten?

The running back that is my personal choice to lead the team in rushing is Nathan Carter. Carter is a transfer this season from UConn. Carter had two games last season where he was able to get to 20 or more carries. In those games, he had over 120 rushing yards. It's a very small sample, but it shows the talent is there. He is going to a much greater level of competition, though.

All in all, this many fantasy options mean there is not a clear option to roster at the beginning of the season. Michigan State is a situation to generally avoid in your CFF draft.

Blake Corum, RB, Michigan Wolverines

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Blake Corum was second amongst returning running backs in fantasy scoring last season only behind Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins. Corum would likely have gone to the NFL himself had he not injured his left knee late in the season and required surgery. Recently we learned that Jim Harbaugh still encouraged Corum to pursue an NFL career.

Luckily for us college fantasy football fans, we get one more season of Corum at Michigan. Assuming his meniscus has fully recovered from his surgery, I don't see any reason to expect a difference in Corum's workload, which was routinely 20 carries or more.

He used that workload to score at least one touchdown in the first 11 games of the season last year and go over 1,400 rushing yards. Corum should be drafted as a top-10 running back in college fantasy football.

Zach Evans, RB, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Zach Evans has fewer career yards than most of the players on this list have had in a game (hence the no picture). Mohamed Ibrahim, on the other hand, had 867 carries in his collegiate career for over 4,600 yards and 53 touchdowns! A truly remarkable career that has come to an end. I'm not predicting that anyone will step into his 320 carries last season, but I'm taking my chances on Evans.

First, Evans has to beat out incoming transfer running back Sean Tyler. Tyler is coming to Minnesota after back-to-back thousand-yard seasons at Western Michigan.

Based on the spring game report, it would appear that Evans has the upper hand in the competition at this point. I'm willing to select Evans with a mid-round pick with the potential for much more if he receives a full workload.

Jeff Sims, QB, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Not long ago, the combination of Jeff Sims and Jahmyr Gibbs had fans of Georgia Tech excited for the future. Gibbs would transfer to Alabama for a season before going in the first round of the recent NFL draft. Sims is now trying a transfer of his own to Lincoln, Nebraska. He also has a new coach in Matt Rhule with plenty of achievements at the collegiate level.

Matt Rhule may have had little success with the Carolina Panthers, but he had lots of success at both Temple and Baylor. In his last season at Baylor his quarterback, Charlie Brewer, had over 3,500 total yards and 32 touchdowns.

Jeff Sims is a phenomenal athlete who could excel in Rhule's offense. He's likely not someone that you need to draft, but if he gets off to a hot start, be ready to pounce early in the season.

Cam Porter, RB, Northwestern Wildcats

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The 2022 season was a tough year if you're a fan of the Northwestern Wildcats.  The team won their first game of the season before losing the next 11 games.

One bright spot was the play of running back Evan Hull. Hull had 1,450 total yards and seven touchdowns. He led all NCAA running backs with 55 receptions.

Cam Porter was the backup to Hull last season. Hull is now playing football for the Indianapolis Colts. I don't expect Northwestern to be considerably better than last season, so there is a chance that Porter just takes over Hull's role.

If that should happen, Porter could be a fantasy asset certainly in the right matchups. Target him later in drafts and hope that is the case this season.

Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

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There are so many possible recommendations for the Buckeyes. Kyle McCord as the next starting quarterback for Ohio State is instantly a top-15 option. Running backs Treveyon Henderson and Miyan Williams are both options. Then, at wide receiver, both of the top options Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. finished as top-10 wide receivers in fantasy scoring last year.

I will focus on Harrison Jr. because he is widely considered the best wide receiver for college fantasy football and a likely early first-round pick in the NFL draft next year. The accolades are already numerous.

When the comparisons made to you are Hall of Fame caliber players, you can see the talent that Harrison Jr. offers. For college fantasy football, he is a safe first-round selection who can easily surpass 150 yards and multiple touchdowns any given week.

Nicholas Singleton, RB, Penn State Nittany Lions

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247sports top running back recruit Nicholas Singleton chose Penn State. It wasn't all that surprising given that Singleton was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Singleton would have been raised watching recent running backs like Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders dominate their competition at Penn State. Singleton is arguably the most talented of the group.

Expectations were sky-high for Singleton in both fantasy and real life. On a per-carry basis, he delivered. He went over 1,000 yards rushing on just 156 carries because he averaged 6.8 yards per carry!

Sadly, it's hard to envision him getting a lot more carries because Kaytron Allen is also there. Allen led the team in carries last season and while he wasn't as productive as Singleton, he more than held his own as well.

It likely means that once again the ceiling of Singleton will be capped. Feel free to take him with a pick in the top 50 even with Allen splitting Singleton's carries.

Devin Mockobee, RB, Purdue Boilermakers

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Purdue has a new coaching staff in place this season. This will be Ryan Walters's first head coaching position. He is bringing Graham Harrell along as his offensive coordinator.

Harrell has had high-scoring offenses recently at both West Virginia and USC. However, he has to replace three different offensive skill-position players in quarterback Aidan O'Connell, wide receiver Charlie Jones, and tight end Payne Durham who were all drafted into the NFL.

Harrell's offenses have usually been based around the passing attack, but I think his offense this year will involve more rushing because of the talent of Devin Mockobee. Mockobee is the most proven of the remaining offensive skill-position players at Purdue. Mockobee went over 100 total yards in six different games last season. He also showed he can be a threat in the receiving game with over 30 receptions last season.

Mockobee should be a mid-round pick in fantasy drafts. If the Graham Harrell offense gets rolling early, that value could be an absolute steal.

Johnny Langan, TE, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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I will recommend Johnny Langan as my preferred Rutgers option. I also recognize that Rutgers had a bottom-10 offense in both points per game and yards per game last season (Iowa had the second-worst offense in yards per game nationally last season). The recommendation of Langan is based on the unique skill set that he offers with tight end eligibility.

Langan came to Rutgers as a quarterback but has transitioned fully to tight end. Last season, he only attempted three passes but completed a touchdown in those passes. He also rushed 31 times for 139 yards and an additional touchdown. Finally, he had 31 receptions for 296 more yards and another touchdown.

Add the whole skillset together and he should have some productive games as a tight end option. No Rutgers player will be drafted in a standard CFF league, but Langan is one to consider if you need a bye-week tight end replacement.

Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin Badgers

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Wisconsin has been the school to target when looking for CFF running backs. The last two years with Braelon Allen have been no different. Allen has gone over 1,300 total yards in both seasons with at least 11 touchdowns. You would expect more of the same, but is it possible that this could be a different Wisconsin than the one we have seen before?

This offseason Wisconsin hired prominent head coach Luke Fickell. Fickell was able to convince offensive coordinator Phil Longo to leave North Carolina. Longo has been one of the most successful offensive coordinators in college football over the last decade. However, he has done that while operating an air raid offense based around the quarterback. Recently, that has led to productive fantasy seasons for Sam Howell and Drake Maye.

I don't think that Longo is going to completely abandon his passing tendencies having convinced quarterback Tanner Mordecai to transfer in for his last season of eligibility. Luckily, we've also seen running backs have significant years in this offense before including Javonte Williams and Michael Carter each going over 1,000 rushing yards in 2020.

I believe this is my longest preview yet, but it's necessary with all the changes at Wisconsin. Drafting Braelon Allen will likely require a top-20 pick. I'm willing to use a second-round pick on Allen, but I am unlikely to draft him in the top 10. While Allen is a sensational talent, there are enough questions about how all the pieces in Madison will fit together for me to push him down a round.


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