It's never too early to start talking about next season's college fantasy football sleepers. Let's kick things off with the quarterbacks.
The definition of a sleeper varies depending on whom you talk to. For the sake of this article, sleepers will be defined as players who are projected to make contributions to their teams but could far exceed those projections.
We are leaving incoming freshmen off our sleeper list since we just published a comprehensive analysis of the ‘09 recruiting class earlier this week. See it here.
2009 Pre-Spring Sleepers: Quarterbacks
Andy Schmitt (Eastern Michigan) [pictured]
The E.M.U. quarterback went nuts down the stretch in 2008, compiling the following stats in his final two games:
* 50-76 for 484 yards and five total touchdowns
* 58-80 for 518 yards and six total touchdowns
While those games might be considered aberrations, they cannot be ignored. 76 and 80 passing attempts? That's a fantasy owner's dream.
E.M.U. hired a new coaching staff this year. Ken Karcher is the new offensive coordinator. He was the QB coach at Toledo in 2008.
It remains to be seen what kind of offense the Eagles will employ in 2009, but we still like Schmitt to enjoy success feasting on weak MAC defenses.
He loses wide receiver Tyler Jones (75-760-6) but does get back Jacory Stone (88-943-3).
Riley Dodge (North Texas)
Riley was a hotshot recruit who spurned an offer from Mack Brown to play for his father at U.N.T. He sat on the bench for his rookie campaign as Giovanni Vizza guided the Mean Green to an awful 1-11 record. Vizza has since transferred to Texas A&M.
With Vizza out of the way, Dodge is the clear-cut man for the job. He does lose star wide receiver Casey Fitzgerald to graduation, but if last year was any indication, he will be throwing the ball a lot in 2009. Vizza had 10 games of 37 or more passing attempts.
The reason for all of the passing was two-fold: 1) UNT was playing in come-from-behind mode most of the time, and 2) coach Todd Dodge employs a “QB-friendly” offensive system.
Riley is considered to be more of a running threat than Vizza was, a trait that should help him gain extra fantasy points for owners.
Dwight Dasher (Middle Tennessee State)
Dasher is a dangerous running quarterback. In 2007, he shared time about 50/50 with Joe Craddock and still posted decent stats (passing: 1,148 yards, nine TDs, three INTs; rushing: 121-530-3). Project those stats out over an entire season, and you have a quality fantasy QB.
In 2008, senior Craddock got the majority of snaps. This year, Craddock is gone and the job is all Dasher's. He will be flanked in the backfield by Phillip Tanner, a talented running back.
Dasher will be coached by new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, formerly the O.C. at Auburn and Troy. Franklin struggled at Auburn but was a big success at Troy prior to that. He should inject some new wrinkles into the offense to take full advantage of Dasher’s abilities.
Dasher is one to keep an eye on, especially for those of you playing in non-BCS leagues.
Mike Kafka (Northwestern)
It seems like there’s a Northwestern quarterback on our sleeper list every preseason. This year is no different. With C.J. Bacher graduating, Kafka inherits the job in 2009.
Kafka is best remembered for two performances last season in relief of the injured Bacher. Against Minnesota, Kafka went bonkers, rushing 27 times for 217 yards. He also threw for 143 yards and two scores in the game. Against Ohio State’s vaunted defense the next week, he rushed 29 times for 83 yards and one score and passed for another 177 yards.
In both of those games, it is worth noting that star RB Tyrell Sutton was also on the shelf with injury. Are we making too much out of those two games? Maybe, but remember he also saw considerable playing time back in 2006 and displayed the same dual threat ability. In a little over four games that year, he rushed for 264 yards and three scores.
With Sutton graduating, will Northwestern lean on Kafka to play a key role in the Wildcat running game? If so, he could be a nice surprise this year, especially in Big Ten-only leagues.
Diondre Borel (Utah State)
Borel is another dual threat who shared time with a senior last year (Sean Setzer). His 2008 stats were as follows: rushing 179-632-5; passing 1,705 yards and 11 TDs.
With Setzer and his 635 passing yards out of the mix, it is reasonable to expect Borel to approach 2,400 passing yards and 800 rushing.
Borel does lose his leading receiver (Otis Nelson 37-455-3), but freshman RB Robert Turbin returns to take the pressure off in the running game. Borel is certainly someone to keep on your radar if you’re in a deep league.
Ryan Lindley (San Diego State)
Lindley comes with some risk as a new coaching staff is taking over the reins for the Aztecs. However, the good news is that that “new coach” is none other than Brady Hoke from Ball State.
Hoke was able to work some magic at Ball State in 2008 with Nate Davis, and perhaps some of that will rub off on Lindley.
As a freshman last season, Lindley compiled over 2,600 passing yards and a 16-9 TD-INT ratio. Not bad for his first year.
His top receiver (Vincent Brown) returns, which is a plus. With a year under his belt, Lindley should improve in 2009. Like all of our sleepers, Lindley is someone to watch this spring.
Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.