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College stars don't always graduate to fantasy studs


In the world of fantasy football, we use data and statistics to determine which players we should draft and which ones to avoid. It's not completely unlike what actual NFL general managers have done for years. In my preparation for a new fantasy season, I also like to examine trends. Whether it's looking into trends involving players entering contract years, wide receivers in their second or third season or the recent emergence of kickers, I want to have all possible data at my disposal.

There is one trend in particular that some people brush off as concidence that I think holds water in some cases. That trend involves the high "fail rate" of players at certain offensive skill positions drafted out of certain colleges. Laugh if you will, but such trends can be backed by factual evidence.

Still don't believe me? Well, I have the data to prove it...

USC wide receivers

Marqise Lee showed flashes of potential during his time at USC and landed in a good position to find success with the Jacksonville Jaguars, making him a sleeper candidate in the eyes of countless analysts. However, you can't overlook how bad Trojan wideouts have been at the pro level in the last 15 years. Since 2000, eight USC receivers have been picked in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. That list includes R. Jay Soward (2000), Keary Colbert (2004), Mike Williams (2005), Dwayne Jarrett (2007), Steve Smith (2007), Patrick Turner (2009), Damian Williams (2010) and Robert Woods (2013).

Smith is the lone wideout to record a 1,000-yard campaign, and he did it just once. Soward and Mike Williams, both drafted in the first round, combined to record 1,680 yards and six touchdowns in their NFL careers. The jury is still out on Woods, but his Southern California ties have to make you think twice about picking him too high. The same holds true of Lee, who isn't likely to make an impact as a rookie, if at all, in his NFL tenure.

While we're on the topic of the Trojans, fantasy leaguers should also avoid their quarterbacks. Since 2000, Carson Palmer (2003) is the lone former USC field general to make a consistent statistical impact. Matt Leinart (2006), Mark Sanchez (2009) and Matt Barkley (2013) have all been mostly irrelevant in the world of fantasy football. If you want to go even further back in time, Rob Johnson (1995) and one-time star prospect Todd Marinovich (1991) both flamed out at the pro level.

USC fans, let the Twitter rage begin...

Florida State offense

A lot of fantasy owners are excited about the potential of EJ Manuel, Devonta Freeman and Kelvin Benjamin, and all three could very well become bargains in 2014 drafts. However, there is a long list of former Seminoles who haven't hit the mark as pros. Sure, Anquan Boldin (2003) and Laveranues Coles (2000) made solid contributions for owners in their respective primes. Heck, Boldin was a nice wideout in 2013. But those two players have been the exception to an otherwise ugly trend.

Since 2000, a total of 15 offensive skill position players have been drafted out of Florida State. I could argue that no one other than Boldin and Coles made a significant impact based on fantasy points. Javon Walker (2002) did have a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, but look at his overall numbers ... he averaged a mediocre 501 receiving yards per year during his NFL career. The Seminoles haven't produced a solid fantasy runner since Warrick Dunn (1997) either, and the best quarterback to come out of the school since 1990 is Brad Johnson (1992).

Other prominent members of the Seminoles who failed to meet expectations at the next level include Peter Warrick (2000), Ron Dugans (2000), Snoop Minnis (2001), Travis Minor (2001), Willie Reid (2006) and Lorenzo Booker (2007). Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the quarterbacks. Names like Christian Ponder (2011), Chris Weinke (2001), Danny Kanell (1996), Casey Weldon (1992) and Peter Tom Willis (1990) all come to mind.

Who knows, maybe Charlie Ward would have been a decent fantasy quarterback had he not passed on the NFL and went to the NBA instead.

Notre Dame offense

Fantasy owners should be familiar with three former Golden Domers heading into 2014 ... Michael Floyd, Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph. While I'm excited about this trio from a fantasy perspective, we should remember that more than a fair share of Notre Dame products have failed to become reliable fantasy football options. That list is a long one and includes players such as Julius Jones (2004), Anthony Fasano (2006), Brady Quinn (2007), John Carlson (2008) and Jimmy Clausen (2010). What did all of those players have in common, besides coming out of Notre Dame?

All of them were selected in one of the first two rounds in their respective drafts.

Looking back into the 1990s, it can be argued that the last drafted offensive skill position player from the Irish to make a consistent and productive impact was Jerome Bettis (1993). Ricky Watters, who was drafted in 1991, was also quite a solid option for owners. That's about it, though, and we've covered almost 25 years of drafts.

Oklahoma wide receivers

Are you a fan of Kenny Stills heading into the 2014 campaign? You might want to re-think that, because Oklahoma wide receivers have had about as much success in the NFL as Stannis Baratheon did in the Battle of the Blackwater. Since 2000, a total of 10 Sooner wideouts have been picked in the NFL draft (not counting Jalen Saunders, who was taken this past May). Not a single one of them has had a 1,000-yard season.

That includes eight players who were picked in one of the first three rounds of the draft. Mark Clayton (2005) was closest with 939 yards, but he averaged just 492 yards during his seven pro seasons. Other former Sooner wideouts to crash and burn in the NFL are Mark Bradley (2005), Brandon Jones (2005), Travis Wilson (2006), Malcolm Kelly (2008) and Juaquin Iglesias (2009). Overall, the last Oklahoma receiver to post a 1,000-yard season at the NFL level was Lance Rentzel ... in 1968.

Oregon offense

Over the last 14 years, Oregon has produced a lot of cool uniforms ... and very few strong fantasy football players. A total of 20 Ducks have been drafted into the NFL since 2000, including 12 taken in one of the first four rounds. Just two have done anything in the stat sheets, and neither had long-term fantasy success. The first is Jonathan Stewart (2008), who rushed for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009. He also scored a combined 21 total touchdowns in his first two years. Since then, however, Stewart has averaged a mere 512 yards as injuries have put a major dent into his production.

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Reuben Droughns (2000) also had a pair of successful seasons, rushing for 1,200-plus yards for the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. Of course, he also rushed for a mere 1,130 combined yards in his six other NFL campaigns. Some of the other "big names" who left Oregon and failed to produce at the pro level include Akili Smith (1999), Joey Harrington (2002), Kellen Clemens (2006), Samie Parker (2004) and LaMichael James (2012).

But hey, at least former "Quack Attacker" Onterrio Smith (2003) gave us the Whizzinator.

This obvious and factual trend of Oregon failures should be worrisome for fantasy fans in dynasty leagues who have their eyes on quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is projected to become one of the top-rated players at his position in the 2015 draft. Should he fall into the same fate as his predecessors, Mariota is almost sure to disappoint.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!


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