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MAC Preview: Strong WRs in the Midwest

Mario Puig

Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.

All-Mac Fantasy Team

1st Team


QB: James Knapke, Bowling Green (24)
RB: Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois (23)
RB: Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan (25)
WR: Corey Davis, Western Michigan (1)
WR: Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green (13)
TE: Mason Schreck, Buffalo (26)


2nd Team


QB: Tommy Woodson, Akron (35)
RB: Jordan Johnson, Buffalo (30)
RB: Kareem Hunt, Toledo (38)
WR: Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois (15)
WR: Cody Thompson, Toledo (18)
TE: Ryan Smith, Miami (OH) (35)


3rd Team


QB: Zach Terrell, Western Michigan (39)
RB: Marquis Young, Massachusetts (51)
RB: Fred Coppet, Bowling Green (57)
WR: KeVonn Mabon, Ball State (32)
WR: Jerome Lane, Akron (49)
TE: Michael Roberts, Toledo (44)

Sleepers

Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan


Rush isn't a sleeper in the sense that he's at all unknown he's heading into his fourth year as Central Michigan's starting quarterback, and by any standard he's already had himself a memorable career. That career includes a 2015 season in which he completed 66.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,848 yards (7.9 YPA) and 25 touchdowns in 13 games, so he's no stranger to standout production. The thing is, I think he can be a good amount better in 2016. I expect him to best last year's 25 touchdowns in one less game, for three reasons. The first is that Rush has steadily improved year to year. The second is that he has an excellent wideout rotation to throw to in Jesse Kroll, Corey Willis, Mark Chapman and Anthony Rice. The third is Central Michigan will be more pass-dependent than anticipated after anticipated starting runner Romello Ross suffered a torn ACL.


Warren Ball, RB, Akron


Ball has done almost nothing at the FBS level and isn't guaranteed to do much in 2016, but just by virtue of being a former Ohio State recruit he projects for a standout showing in the MAC. Thomas Rawls once fit this profile, failing to get on the field for Michigan before producing at a high level in a one-off campaign with Central Michigan. Ball began fall practices working with the starters, and he's expected to hold onto a role that yielded 202 carries for Conor Hundley a year ago, resulting in 911 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Teo Redding, WR, Bowling Green

Redding is something of an unknown since he has just 18 career catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns, but he received a good amount of hype last year for his work in practice, and in 2016 he finally has an obvious opportunity for playing time. Roger Lewis, Gehrig Dieter, Ryan Burbrink and Robbie Rhodes helped block Redding from the field last year, but all of them are gone from Bowling Green. The pass-happy offensive approach remains, however, as coach Dino Babers' replacement is Mike Jinks, who apprenticed under Texas Tech's Air Raid style of offense. Ronnie Moore is the top receiver for Bowling Green, but Redding is the leading favorite to serve as the second-leading receiver on a team that should be among the nation's leaders in passes attempted.

Eddie Daugherty, WR, Eastern Michigan

Daugherty is awfully small at a listed height-weight of just 5-foot-7, 164 pounds, but he showed big potential as a true freshman in 2015, catching 37 passes for four touchdowns while leading Eastern Michigan in receiving yards (557). What's even more impressive is the fact that Daugherty averaged 9.9 yards per target on a team that averaged just 6.5 yards per pass just 6.0 per pass when throwing to anyone other than Daugherty. He's set to see his production take a big step forward in 2016, Eastern Michigan saw its second- and third-leading receivers graduate, taking with them 69 receptions for 724 yards and seven touchdowns from last year. The development of quarterback Brogan Roback figures to further aid Daugherty's progression.

Corey Willis, WR, Central Michigan

Willis' upside is limited due to the depth of the Central Michigan wide receiver rotation, but he's a generally off-the-radar player who stands good chance of developing into a matchup-based fantasy consideration at the very least. In a wideout group mostly defined by reliability, Willis stands out for the explosiveness he offers Willis' average of 15.24 yards per catch last year outpaced the next closest wideout (Kroll) by more than a yard, and Willis' five touchdowns tied for the team lead at just 37 receptions. Particularly with tight end Ben McCord (39 catches for 612 yards and five touchdowns) no longer around, there's more room for Willis in the target distribution. He has at least a slight chance to emerge as the Chippewas' top receiver.

Busts

A.J. Ouellette, RB, Ohio


Ouellette is a fine enough player, but don't expect a breakout campaign in 2016, even if the graduation of Daz'mond Patterson strikes you as a development that might create additional opportunity for Oullette. It's true that Ohio needs to replace Patterson's 106 carries last year, which resulted in 497 yards and nine touchdowns, but the Bobcats won't need to look to Oullette to do it. Indeed, Oullette might actually see his workload decrease from last year to the current one, as the Bobcats might need to reduce his 151 carries to make room for the more explosive trio of Papi White, Maleek Irons and Dorian Brown. While Oullette's 151 carries went for 687 yards (4.6 YPC) and six touchdowns last year, the previously mentioned trio combined for 103 carries for 569 yards (5.5 YPC) and six touchdowns.


Jesse Kroll, WR, Central Michigan


While I expect a big season from Rush, Kroll's quarterback, I think it would be unwise to presume an improvement for Kroll over his 2015 numbers. He's a good MAC receiver and likely remains the lead target for Central Michigan, but this is a four-deep wideout rotation where everyone is nearly on the same level, with Corey Willis and Mark Chapman in particular posing a threat to Kroll's market shares. Playing as sophomores last year, Willis (9.7) and Chapman (9.6) both bested Krolls' yards-per-target figure of 8.9, and their youth implies the probability of further development heading into 2016. Kroll should do well enough for you if you don't bank on him to do much more than he did last year, when he caught 61 passes for 866 yards and four touchdowns, but expecting more than a marginal improvement probably isn't warranted.