Future Fantasy Football Stars to Watch this College Bowl Season

Future Fantasy Football Stars to Watch this College Bowl Season

Dec 19, 2013

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By Jared Smola, DraftSharks
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The college bowl season is a great opportunity for us to get a look at the next crop of fantasy football stars.  Pre-draft Combine and Pro Day workouts are fun, but nothing beats evaluating a player in live game action under the bright lights of a bowl game.
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So get ahead of your competition and check out these 12 future fantasy football stars.
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Marqise Lee, WR, USC
vs. Fresno State, Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Lee is the most NFL-ready WR on this list.  He wins with short-area quickness, smooth route-running and reliable hands.  Lee has the versatility to line up all over the field. His numbers have suffered this season because of knee and shoulder injuries and shaky QB play.  But he’s just a year removed from a huge 118-catch, 1,721-yard campaign.  He went for 73 catches and 1,143 yards in his freshman year. Lee isn’t a true game breaker, but his polish could result in big numbers in the pros.  Think Marvin Harrison.
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Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
vs. Cincinnati, Belk Bowl, Dec. 28 at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN

Ebron is more WR than TE.  And that’s just fine for fantasy owners. This guy has all the tools to post big-time receiving numbers at the next level.  Ebron goes 6’4, 245 pounds with impressive speed, acceleration and change-of-direction ability.  He’s averaged a sizzling 16.3 yards per catch as the focal point of North Carolina’s passing game this year.  He’s had catches of 71 and 79 yards.  You don’t see that type of explosive ability from many TEs.
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Ebron’s athleticism will allow him to line up all over the formation for his NFL team.  The junior is expected to declare for the 2014 draft and will likely be a 1st-round pick.  It shouldn’t take him long to emerge as a fantasy factor.
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Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
vs. Miami, Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28 at 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN

Bridgewater’s draft stock has taken a hit recently, and recent reports have him contemplating staying in school another year.  But he remains the most polished and well-rounded QB prospect in college football.  He’s tossed 55 TDs vs. 12 INTs over the past 2 seasons.  That’s impressive — even if Bridgewater isn’t facing elite competition. He has NFL-caliber arm strength and accuracy.  Scouts laud his quick release.  But it’s his ability to read defenses and dissect coverages that will help him make a seamless transition to the NFL.  Bridgewater is a pocket passer but can pick up yards on the ground when he needs to.  That will add to his fantasy potential. If there’s a concern here, it’s Bridgewater’s wiry 6’3, 196-pound frame.  He at least does a good job avoiding hits when he scrambles.
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Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
vs. Texas, Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 30 at 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN

Mariota made a surprising decision to return to school for 2014.  He might have been in the mix to go #1 overall had he declared.  The kid’s game could still use some polishing, though.  He’ll only be more ready to make a fantasy impact when he comes out in 2015. The most obvious comparison for Mariota is Colin Kaepernick.  That might be a bit lofty — Mariota doesn’t have Kaepernick’s arm strength and might fall a bit short in the accuracy department, too.  But he has a similar combination of passing and rushing ability. Mariota threw 30 TDs vs. just 4 INTs in 2013.  On the ground, he’s ripped off 1,334 yards and 14 TDs over the past 2 seasons.  Former Oregon HC Mike Bellotti calls Mariota “a more natural runner” than Robert Griffin. Mariota isn’t as safe a fantasy prospect as Bridgewater, but he certainly has more upside.
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Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
vs. Arizona State, National University Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

This isn’t the next Jimmy Graham.  But he’s the closest thing in the college game. Amaro is a 6’5, 260-pound freak of an athlete.  He’s projected to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range. He’s posted some videogame-like numbers in 2013.  Amaro sits 11th among all players with 1,240 receiving yards.  His 98 catches rank 7th.  (Remember that this is a TE we’re talking about.)  He’s topped 100 yards in 5 of 12 games.  Texas Tech’s pass-heavy spread offense has surely boosted Amaro’s production, but this guy is the real deal.
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Amaro does damage as a traditional in-line TE or split out in the slot.  He’s explosive off the snap with a size-speed combination that makes him a matchup nightmare.  Amaro knows how to use his big frame to shield smaller defenders.  And he has a pair of big, sticky hands. In short, he’s everything NFL teams are looking for in a “new-age” TE.  Amaro will be wildly productive in the NFL — and a difference-maker in fantasy.  The junior hasn’t officially declared for the 2014 draft but will compete with Ebron to be the 1st TE off the board if he does.
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Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
vs. Duke, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Johnny Manziel’s top target will likely emerge as a better pro than the 2012 Heisman winner. Evans brings a mix of Anquan Boldin’s physicality and Vincent Jackson’s downfield playmaking ability.  This is a 6’5, 225-pounder with excellent leaping ability, body control and vice-grip hands.  Even when he’s covered, he’s open because of his dominant catch-point skills.
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Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline ranks Evans as the top WR in the class. “Large, game impacting receiver that physically beats defenders in the middle of the field or outraces opponents down the flanks,” Pauline wrote.  “Has all the necessary talents to be a big time number one wide out in the NFL.” Evans might not rack up huge yardage at the next level, but he could be a catch and TD machine.
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Click here for six additional future fantasy football stars to watch this College Bowl season.

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