In case you haven’t tuned into ESPN anytime in the last day, it’s fantasy football season. While the Worldwide Leader continues its fantasy football marathon, we’re obviously a little more concerned with what’s going on at John Wildhack’s new home, as opposed to his old one.
With that in mind, let’s pretend for a moment that we’re starting up a college football fantasy league. Thanks to the new offense being installed by Dino Babers, the Orange could wind up putting a lot of points on the board this year. But how would individual Syracuse players rate as fantasy options?
Now, for our purposes here, I’m going to stick to standard fantasy football rules. That means no individual defensive players, so unfortunately for guys on that side of the ball, we won’t be talking about you today. With all of that in mind, let’s dive on in with my predictions for the 11 best fantasy football options on the Syracuse offense. Yes, I went with 11 instead of 10, because frankly, I just couldn’t leave our first guy off the list…
11. QB Zack Mahoney
Obviously, Zack Mahoney’s value is entirely dependent on Eric Dungey’s health. If Dungey stays healthy, then Mahoney falls completely out of the top 10. But if Dungey continues to struggle staying on the field, like last season, Mahoney rockets up into the top five. I think that the No. 11 spot is a pretty fair compromise right now. Basically, if you were drafting a fantasy football team and wanted a high risk, high reward backup QB option to stash on your bench, Zack Mahoney is your guy.
10. WR Devin Butler
Honesty time: I’m on the verge of getting way too hyped up about true freshman wideout Devin Butler. I always had a sneaking suspicion that he could blossom into a good wide receiver, but all indications are that he’s vastly farther along than any of us could have anticipated. At 6-foot-3, 195 with a legitimate sub-4.5 time in the 40, the only thing holding Butler back is the fact that he’s still new to the position, and he’s got more experienced guys battling with him for reps at outside receiver.
9. RB Moe Neal
Another true freshman, and a guy who, like Butler, is battling more seasoned vets for playing time. There are only so many carries to go around, and at least for the time being, Moe Neal is firmly entrenched in the RB3 role. But the thing about Moe Neal is that he’s a dynamic athlete with great hands, meaning he’s going to line up in the slot and potentially return kicks in addition to getting carries. If you want an all-purpose guy this year, you probably won’t do much better than Neal.
8. WR Amba Etta-Tawo
This was a tough one for me to slot. The newcomer to Syracuse actually has more on-field experience at the college level than anyone at receiver outside of Steve Ishmael, and was a reasonably productive receiver at Maryland. He’s got blazing speed, but the thing holding him back are questions about his hands. He suffered from some drops during his days with the Terps, which could ultimately hold him back this season. However, reports out of camp are positive. He could be quite the productive playmaker as a deep threat.
7. WR Jamal Custis
There’s so much to get excited about with Jamal Custis. He’s got tremendous size at 6-foot-5, 224, and he’s a terrific athlete. Remember, the guy was offered a basketball scholarship from SMU, after all. But through his first couple years at Syracuse, his production has been virtually nonexistent. Now, that could be because the previous staff never really figured out how to use him, of course. Like Etta-Tawo, reports out of camp are exciting. With his combination of size and athleticism he could make for a fantastic red zone target. Even if he only catches 20 balls this year, there’s a solid chance nearly half of them wind up being touchdowns.
6. WR Brisly Estime
Have you noticed a pattern here? This is a high octane offense, and there are going to be a lot of catches to go around. Brisly Estime could be one of the primary recipients. Last season he only had 17 catches, but that number should increase significantly in this new offense. Estime is also one of the best punt returners in America, making him a threat to take a couple back for scores during the course of the season. I would bet that Estime winds up being about third or fourth on the team in catches, but given how explosive he is, he could also wind up among the top 2-3 in touchdowns.
5. WR Ervin Philips
Speaking of leading the team in touchdowns, we come to Erv Philips. Last season as a true sophomore, he found the end zone eight times on the ground and in the passing game. This year he’s working exclusively as a slot receiver, and given his excellent quickness and agility in the open field, he could be a dangerous weapon in the Dino Babers offense. Right now, I’m predicting that Philips winds up second on the team in receptions, though I think his yardage total will be a little farther down the team leaderboard.
4. RB Jordan Fredericks
Last season, as a true freshman, Jordan Fredericks led Syracuse in rushing with 607 yards. He’s got good vision and is a patient runner, and is arguably the team’s best option in short yardage situations. That means he could get a lot of work around the goal line. But Fredericks battled some weight issues in the spring, and while he seems to have his fitness in check now, the fact that it looms as a possible recurrence bumps him down the list, right behind the guy who jumped him on the depth chart to become RB1.
3. RB Dontae Strickland
Yep, this guy. Dontae Strickland didn’t get a ton of touches as a true freshman, but when he did he showed signs of being an explosive playmaker. He’s one of the most dynamic players on the team when the ball is in his hands, with good speed and agility. Now that he’s in line to get the most carries, he’s got a chance to push for 1,000 yards on the ground this year. Remember, while Dino is known for producing big-time passing numbers, his leading rushers have averaged better than 1,000 yards in his four seasons as a head coach, and the pass/run ratio was nearly 50/50 last year at Bowling Green.
2. WR Steve Ishmael
I’ve talked about Steve Ishmael’s potential enough that it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him come in at the No. 2 spot. He’s got a chance to break every single season receiving record in books at Syracuse. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s got terrific size, outstanding hands, and sensational body control. His catch radius is excellent as well. Put the ball near him, and the chances are he’s going to snag it. There’s a very real chance he could wind up with 75 catches and over 1,000 yards through the air this year. But he’s still only second on this list, because someone has to throw him the ball.
1. QB Eric Dungey
And Eric Dungey is that someone, at least as long as he stays healthy. Dungey has bulked up significantly in the offseason, and while he hasn’t officially been named the starting quarterback, the assumption is that he’s going to be QB1 against Colgate. He put up massive numbers in the spring game, and while the competition in the spring between he and Mahoney was apparently a lot closer than people might think, right now it’s his show. Dungey has a chance for a truly special season throwing the football, and like Ishmael, there’s a strong possibility that his name will be rocketing up the SU record books this year.