Conference Preview: SEC

Conference Preview: SEC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

Welcome to RotoWire's 2020 Conference Preview series as we look ahead to the upcoming season. As you'd expect, there is some serious star power returning to the SEC this season despite Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Justin Jefferson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and others heading off to the NFL. The headliner is LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, who is coming off an unbelievable 2019 that netted him the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top wide receiver. On top of established stars, there are plenty of talented players ready to finally get their shot in 2020.

For each conference preview, we will have first-, second-, and third-team All-Fantasy teams as well as sleeper and bust selections. To the right of each player's name will be their overall positional ranking.

All-SEC 1st Team

QB: Kyle Trask, Florida (18)

RB: Kylin Hill, Mississippi State   (6)

RB: Najee Harris, Alabama   (4)

WR: Ja'Marr Chase, LSU   (4)

WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama   (7)

TE: Kyle Pitts, Florida   (1)

All-SEC 2nd Team

QB: Kellen Mond, Texas A&M   (16)

RB: Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M   (18)

RB: Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas   (12)

WR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama   (10)

WR: George Pickens, Georgia   (22)

TE: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M   (10)

All-SEC 3rd Team

QB: Jamie Newman, Georgia   (9)

RB: Larry Rountree, Missouri   (41)

RB: Zamir White, Georgia   (50)

WR: Terrace Marshall, LSU   (25)

WR: Seth Williams, Auburn   (28)

TE: Tre' McKitty, Georgia   (17)

Sleepers

K.J. Costello, QB, Mississippi State (21)

A graduate transfer from Stanford, Costello steps into an extremely favorable situation for a quarterback.  New head coach Mike Leach will undoubtedly install his patented "Air Raid" offense, giving Costello a plethora of opportunities to air the ball out all over the field.  In addition, he will have at his disposal arguably the top returning running back in the SEC in the form of Kylin Hill.  With Hill as a threat not only running the ball but also as a pass catcher out of the backfield, the Bulldogs should suddenly have a potent offense with Costello leading the charge.  Costello threw for over 3,500 yards to go along with 29 touchdowns during his best season at Stanford in 2018, so the potential certainly exists for an explosive 2020 campaign.

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (44)

Jones is the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks in the SEC.  He gets no respect.  He seemed to get better as he received more reps last season in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa.  In fact, over the final three games of the season, which included clashes with Auburn and Michigan, Jones threw for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns.  As usual for Alabama, he will have a beefy, talented offensive line in front of him, along with a bevy of skill weapons including running back Najee Harris and wideouts DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.  After not making the College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception, Jones and company will have even more motivation to continue Alabama's historic recent run.  However, the added wrinkle is the presence of Bryce Young, the multi-talented dual-threat true freshman quarterback out of Mater Dei in California.  The lack of practice and preparation time due to the pandemic could play a role in Jones having the upper hand in this quarterback competition to begin the season, though.

D.J. Williams, RB, Auburn (46)

From 2009 through 2017, the Auburn Tigers had at least one 1,000-yard rusher on the squad, and in some cases, even two.  In each of the last two seasons, starting running back JaTarvious Whitlow rushed for less than 800 yards apiece.  Whitlow is gone now, and head coach Gus Malzahn will certainly want to get back to pounding the ball on the ground.  Whitlow did score 16 times on the ground over the last two seasons, though, so those touchdown plunges need to be replaced.  Quarterback Bo Nix has his first season under his belt, and he should form a dynamic duo in the backfield with Williams.  In his best game of the year in 2019, Williams rushed 13 times for 130 yards against LSU in what was probably the Bayou Bengals' biggest test of the season en route to its perfect season.  Williams will have to fend off some other talented options in the form of Shaun Shivers, Harold Joiner, and others, but Williams appears to have the inside track with Whitlow out of the picture.

Jerrion Ealy, RB, Ole Miss (NR)

Ealy will be overlooked in a conference rife with talent at the running back position.  In Ealy's first season with the Rebels, he averaged a stout 6.9 yards per carry en route to 722 yards on the ground.  He ended up outpacing original starter Scottie Phillips in both rushing yards and touchdowns, despite seeing 21 fewer carries out of the backfield.  New head coach Lane Kiffin has always been known for his offensive prowess, and the Rebels return two capable quarterbacks (John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral) along with leading receiver Elijah MooreSnoop Conner will certainly be in the mix for touches, but with Scottie Phillips gone the lead back should be Ealy.

Baylor Cupp, TE, Texas A&M (24)

Even though Jalen Wydermyer turned heads last season at tight end for the Aggies, Cupp was the No. 1 rated recruit at the position in 2019.  Expected to be an impact contributor as soon as he stepped on campus, Cupp suffered an injury in fall camp which caused him to redshirt and miss the entire 2019 campaign.  He is healthy now, though, and the Aggies return Kellen Mond at quarterback in Year Three of a Jimbo Fisher offense.  With Isaiah Spiller toting the pigskin out of the backfield, the passing game should be wide open for the likes of Wydermyer, Cupp and Jhamon Ausbon at wideout.

Busts

Feleipe Franks, QB, Arkansas (33)

Franks broke his ankle last season as the starting quarterback at Florida, and then Kyle Trask went 8-2 as a starter, including a victory over Virginia in the Orange Bowl.  Franks moved on to Arkansas as a graduate transfer, but the talent surrounding him will not be nearly as stellar as he had been accustomed to in Gainesville.  It has been almost a decade since the Hogs finished a season in the top 25 of the rankings, and they have been doormats in the SEC over the past 2-3 seasons.  New head coach Sam Pittman may have the best quarterback the program has had in several years in 2020 in the form of Franks.  However, Franks still has his flaws, and other than Rakeem Boyd at running back, his weapons are inexperienced and inconsistent.  In his first two seasons at Florida, Franks completed under 60-percent of his passes.  In sum, Franks has ideal physical attributes for the position, but his accuracy is lacking, and with subpar talent around him, he could be in for a long season in the SEC.

Asim Rose, RB, Kentucky (NR)

Rose is technically the starting running back for the Wildcats, but that depends on what outlet you believe.  Firstly, Terry Wilson is expected to return from a knee injury and is a running threat at quarterback.  Meanwhile, Rose will have redshirt sophomore Kavosiey Smoke breathing down his neck for touches.  While Rose rushed 146 times for 826 yards and six touchdowns out of the backfield, Smoke actually averaged more yards per tote (6.1) and had the same number of rushing touchdowns despite 45 fewer carries. Chris Rodriguez came on strong near the end of the season as well, with five touchdowns in the final four games.  As such, it appears as though Kentucky could end up with a running back by committee, which is a nightmare for fantasy owners.

Jamauri Wakefield, RB, Vanderbilt (NR)

Wakefield missed all of 2019 due to a leg injury but is expected to be the starting running back during the 2020 campaign.  The senior has played behind stalwarts in Ralph Webb and Ke'Shawn Vaughn but should get his chance to shine as a senior.  Unfortunately, Vanderbilt will be working in a new quarterback and lost standout skill players in the form of the aforementioned Vaughn as well as Kalija Lipscomb at wideout and Jared Pinkney at tight end.  A new, uptempo offense could help Wakefield's case, but he remains rather inexperienced despite being a senior, and sophomore Keyon Brooks could also figure into the mix for touches.  With an SEC-Only slate possibly looming, it could be an extremely long season for Wakefield and the Commodores.

Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU (25)

Marshall's efficiency was extraordinary in 2019 even despite missing several games during the middle of the season due to a foot injury.  13 of his 46 receptions went for touchdowns, including five scores during LSU's postseason run to the National Championship.  Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow is gone, though, and as such it remains to be seen how effective new quarterback Myles Brennan will be.  There is also the presence of Ja'Marr Chase.  Certainly, Chase will garner plenty of attention from the opposition, which could free up Marshall, but not having Burrow tossing the pigskin must be taken into account.  In addition, it will be hard to repeat the 13 touchdowns, which placed him fourth in the SEC behind the aforementioned Chase and former teammate Justin Jefferson, who is also now in the NFL.

Damon Hazelton, WR, Missouri (NR)

Hazelton scored 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons as a member of the Virginia Tech Hokies.  As a graduate transfer for the Tigers, he will be joining a roster with a huge question mark at quarterback.  Kelly Bryant's tenure with the Tigers was rather unspectacular, but his exit leaves almost no experience under center.  TCU transfer Shawn Robinson has been with the team for the past year, as he was denied a waiver to play immediately in 2019.  Connor Bazelak had surgery in December to repair a torn ACL, leaving his status up in the air.  Junior Taylor Powell has 35 completions in two seasons.  With perhaps a "conference only" schedule due to COVID-19, along with limited time and reps to gain rapport with whoever lines up under center, Hazelton may find it difficult to make plays with such uncertainty

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesse Siegel
Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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