Welcome to our 2022 Big Ten Devy Preview.
Last season, the Michigan Wolverines returned to prominence with a 12-2 (8-1) record and a Big Ten Championship— the school’s first since 2003. Michigan also represented the conference in the College Football Playoff, the sixth time a Big Ten school has appeared in the eight-year history of the tournament.
While the Wolverines ultimately made the CFB semis, Ohio State also had a stellar season, notching 11 wins and restoring the luster of that age-old rivalry.
The Big Ten is strong right now, and it appears to be getting even stronger with USC and UCLA set to join the Big Ten in 2024. With the Big 12 losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the college football landscape will feature two distinct heavyweight conferences in the coming years. It remains to be seen what other subsequent moves will be made across the college football world over the next few years, but for now, the Big Ten is in great shape with a bevy of intriguing future-NFL prospects cycling through.
In this, our Big Ten Devy Preview, we will look at all the relevant names from the conference that you need to be aware of. For similar previews of the SEC and Big 12, check out the work from Justin Hulsey (SEC) and Jay Stein (Big 12).
QB C.J. Stroud – Ohio State (NFL Draft eligible: 2023) | DynastyNerds’ Consensus Devy QB2, Andrew’s Devy QB2
Ohio State may not have won the Big Ten title last season, but they take top honors in star power on offense. The Buckeyes were the top offense in the nation in 2021, and Stroud was the catalyst in that success.
Most of the fantasy football community, even those outside of the devy world, already know about Stroud. He finished fourth in Heisman voting last year after throwing for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He will look to repeat those video game numbers in 2022 to propel himself to the top of the 2023 NFL Draft.
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State (2023) | Dynasty Nerds’ WR1, Andrew’s WR2
Like Stroud, everyone in the fantasy community knows about WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba after he went for 95/1606/9 as a nineteen-year-old sophomore in 2021. He is expected by many to be the top WR in that vaunted 2023 NFL Draft class.
Smith-Njigba, a former 247Sports five-star recruit, comes from the same mold as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in that separation through footwork and clean routes are their calling cards. Smith-Njigba seemed to struggle against press-man in 2021, but that’s something I expect him to clean up this season as he eyes the NFL Draft.
RB TreVeyon Henderson – Ohio State (2024) | DynastyNerds’ RB2, Andrew’s RB2
With all of the top three-ranked devy prospects in the conference all on the team, Ohio State seems poised to score early and often this season. That bevy of positive game scripts should do wonders for those with Henderson in C2C.
Henderson certainly lived up to his billing with over 1,200 rushing yards on just 185 attempts and 19 total touchdowns on the season. Devy and dynasty managers should note that Henderson is not a Beanie Wells-type player who simply racks up yardage on a stacked collegiate offense but does not have legit NFL potential.
Henderson is a stellar athlete with plus receiving skills, something that is music to fantasy managers’ ears. He won’t be NFL Draft eligible until 2024, but as long as he stays healthy, he will be worth the wait. Despite the positional premium, I have Smith-Njigba slightly ahead of Henderson on this list because of the extra year. Henderson’s upside as a future asset on your roster is higher. Smith-Njigba, however, is safer at this point.
RB Braelon Allen – Wisconsin (2024) | RB5, RB7
Allen — who didn’t turn 18 years old until last season was over — was obviously the breakout star of 2021, rushing for almost 1,300 and 12 touchdowns in his freshman season. You will have to wait a while to insert him into your fantasy lineups, but Allen is the name to know on the Badgers from a devy/dynasty perspective.
Allen is exciting because he fits many NFL running schemes with his one-cut ability and the power he can run with at 6’2” and 238 pounds. People whisper the name Derrick Henry when talking about Allen’s NFL future. He only caught eight passes in twelve games last season. That would be an area that would be great if Allen could improve if he wants to avoid the dreaded “two-down” RB label.
WR WR Rakim Jarrett – Maryland | WR11, WR9
Jarrett is a former five-star recruit from Washington D.C. and was the fourth-ranked receiver in that impressive 2020 class. Surprisingly to some, Jarrett decided to stay home and attend Maryland after initially committing to LSU in 2019.
At 6’0” and190 pounds, Jarrett is strong and compactly built. He is good in contested catch situations, often seen winning battles with corners at the top of routes and the catch point. However, Jarrett is more than just a bully, as he runs impressive routes, especially for someone of his size. He must show that he can produce more after the catch with the ball in his hands to reach his full potential at the next level.
2022 BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
WR Marvin Harrison Jr. – Ohio State (2024)
Harrison Jr. is a name that fantasy managers already recognize, thanks to his father, who is the Hall of Fame receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. However, Harrison Jr. is carving his own path and is a name devy, and dynasty managers must know going forward.
The 6’3” and 205-pound sophomore introduced himself to the nation last year against Utah in the Rose Bowl with six catches for 71 yards and three touchdowns. Harrison couples impressive size and hands with impressive route-running chops. We should have a star on our hands with more opportunities to play this season.
RB Blake Corum – Michigan (2023)
Corum will likely be considered by many to be too undersized to be a true “bellcow” at the NFL level. This may or may not eventually be the case, but at 5’8” and 200 pounds, Corum is pretty stockily built, similar to Austin Ekeler or even Maurice Jones-Drew. Whatever his size, Corum brings the ability to break off huge chunk plays thanks to his explosive athleticism and tenacious running style.
If Corum continues to show the ability to make big plays and shows growth as a receiver in 2022, his NFL Draft stock should trend up come 2023. It could be argued that Corum already broke out in 2021. He touched the ball 168 times on offense and had 1093 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. I think he can produce twice as much in 2022.
QB Graham Mertz – Wisconsin (2023)
Mertz is another highly touted prospect who just hasn’t put together that expected signature season yet.
Mertz is a former Mr. Kansas Football award winner and was the MVP of the high school All-American Bowl after his senior season. He was ranked the top pocket passer in the 2019 class by ESPN. The pedigree is there. If Mertz can take the next step, he could easily enter the fray of fantasy relevance down the road.
RB Chase Brown – Illinois (2023)
Brown had 1,147 yards from scrimmage for an Illini team that ranked 116th in the nation in scoring. He was the bright spot on an otherwise mediocre offense. According to PFF, Brown ranked in the top five in FBS with 5.7 yards per carry on non-perfectly blocked plays. Brown will have to be equally special for Illinois to have a chance this year.
At 5-11, 205 pounds, Brown doesn’t have transcendent physical tools, but he’s got good footwork and makes sudden cuts in the open field. With little passing game to speak of, Brown will be afforded another hefty workload in 2021. I expect him to put up impressive numbers with that volume.
WR Parker Washington – Penn State (2023)
Washington caught 64 balls for 820 yards in 2021 while playing second fiddle to Jahan Dotson in the Penn State passing attack. He is poised to breakout this season now that Dotson is in the NFL.
Washington runs sharp routes and can win contested balls, which is a great combo. He isn’t a track star in terms of straight-line speed, but he doesn’t need to be to secure targets. It will be interesting to see if he can show a little more after the catch in 2022, but he’s already an intriguing devy prospect who should have great numbers this year.
WR Jacob Copeland – Maryland (from Florida)
Copeland caught 84 passes for 1,331 yards and nine touchdowns in his career before transferring to Maryland to join their already-talented receiver group for QB Taulia Tagovailoa. Copeland has good size at 6’0” and 205 lbs. and exceptionally strong hands to win in contested catch situations. He showed good ball-tracking ability and body control to succeed down the field.
Alongside Jarret and Dontay Demus Jr., Copeland will face plenty of single coverage for the Terrapins. He might not see the raw volume to put up eye-popping stats, but he is talented enough to move the needle for Maryland’s offense.
QB Conner Bazelak – Indiana (from Missouri)
Bazelak, the former SEC co-Freshman of the Year, was on the Davey O’Brien watch list before last year, but he was somewhat disappointing in his final season for Missouri. He passed for 2,548 yards and 16 touchdowns against 11 interceptions before moving to Indiana.
Bazelak will need to battle Jack Tuttle for the starting quarterback nod for the Hoosiers. Still, after participating in the Manning Passing Academy this past summer, I expect him to win the competition.
TE Daniel Barker – Michigan State (from Illinois)
Barker, a graduate transfer, caught 64 passes for 827 yards and 11 touchdowns during his four seasons at Illinois. He will join a Michigan State team looking for production at TE, especially with last year’s offensive centerpiece Kenneth Walker moving on to the NFL. Barker will need to prove he can block enough for the Spartan coaches, but if he secures a full-time role on the field, Barker has the receiving chops to make a difference in 2022.
WR Taj Harris – Rutgers
Harris is coming over from Syracuse, where he has already proven he can handle a significant role in the passing game. He put up a 58/733/5 receiving line in 11 games in 2020 before missing all but three games last season for Syracuse.
Bo Melton had been Rutgers’s leading receiver in the past four seasons. The Scarlet Knights will need someone to step into Melton’s vacated production in 2022. Despite being new to the program, Harris is talented enough to step into that role.
FRESHMAN TO KNOW
QB Brady Allen – Purdue
Purdue landed a top-ten QB from this 2022 class, which is a home run for that program. Allen is 6’5”, with a frame that could add 20-30 pounds without a problem. As his college career unfolds, the arm talent and size will keep him top of mind for many NFL scouts.
QB Drew Allar – Penn State
A top-five-ranked QB out of Medina, Ohio, Allar chose Happy Valley over Ohio State, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. Allar has the size (6’4” 230), velocity, and athleticism to develop into an NFL player one day.
QB Devin Brown – Ohio State
Brown was the No. 6 quarterback in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports.com. He has a basketball background and is an outstanding athlete despite being considered a pocket passer. He is said to have excellent arm strength and the ability to routinely make throws in suboptimal conditions. Brown will need to bide his time, but he will likely be handed the keys soon after Stroud’s collegiate career ends.
WR – Kaden Saunders – Penn State
Saunders is fast. He is twitchy. He can get in and out of breaks and make cuts at an alarming speed. If he develops as a receiver, look out.
RB Nick Singleton – Penn State
Some scouts have compared Singleton to Nick Chubb, which is high praise. Singleton was the top-ranked running back in the 2022 class and a top-32 recruit overall. Nittany Lion fans have to be excited about the future after landing all three of Singleton, Saunders, and Allar.
OTHER NAMES TO KNOW/PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2022
QB Tanner Morgan – Minnesota
TE Erick All – Michigan
WR Chris Autman-Bell – Minnesota
WR Cornelius Johnson – Michigan
RB Donovan Edwards – Michigan
RB Mohamed Ibrahim – Minnesota
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