It's never too early to begin thinking about what future fantasy football stars are looming on college campuses this Fall. With that in mind, I give you my list of skill players to keep an eye on in 2009 NCAA play as they may be fantasy studs in the making.
Curtis Painter - Purdue
The 6-4, 230 signal caller possesses an NFL-ready QB body and announced his readiness for the next level by punctuating a regular season campaign that compiled 3,846 passing yards (62.6 % completion rate), 29 touchdowns and 11 picks with a game MVP performance of 34 of 54 for 546 yards and three touchdowns against Central Michigan in the 2007 Motor City Bowl. The red-shirt senior enters his final collegiate campaign poised to ascend many of the school’s all-time passing records and eventually take his seat at the quarterback table in the NFL next to fellow Boilermaker and current New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees.
Hunter Cantwell - Louisville
After waiting patiently behind longtime Cardinal starter Jeff Brohm (a projected 1st Day pick in the 2008 NFL Draft), the 6-4, 231 pound Cantwell is ready to burst on the college football scene in 2008. At the university of Louisville’s recent Pro Day, many scouts clamored to speak with the rifle-armed junior in addition to their scheduled duties of recording the workout results of this year’s pro prospects. Cantwell’s had little on-field experience thanks to the durable Brohm, but his NFL size and arm strength place him in an ideal position to become the No.1 quarterback in the 2009 Draft class.
James Davis - Clemson
Actually returned to Clemson in January more than week after turning pro based on favorable first-day projections from NFL scouts, the two-time, All-ACC selection combines good size (5-11, 210) and explosiveness and already boasts a considerable college resume that includes most career touchdowns of any active ACC player (26). Had it not been for the large number of quality running backs that declared early for the 2008 Draft (Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, Steve Slaton), Davis would be well on his way to becoming an impact rookie in the National Football League.
Arian Foster - Tennessee
Boasting ideal NFL size (6-1, 225) and a highly-productive junior season in which he totaled 1,193 yards rushing on 245 attempts (4.9 avg.) with 12 touchdowns and an equally impressive 39 receptions for 340 yards and two scores, the do-it-all tailback stands ready for a senior season that should act as a first-round launch pad for the 2009 Draft. The powerful ball-carrier has the look of a start-right-away type player and should pay immediate dividends in his first NFL season, given the proper surroundings to help him succeed.
Javon Ringer - Michigan State
In 2007, the junior ranked among the Big Ten Conference leader’s in all-purpose yards (No. 5 with 135.3 yards per game) and rushing (No.4 with 112.2 yards per game) after leading the Spartans with 1,346 yards (ranks eighth best single season rushing total in school history) on 224 carries (6.0 avg). Ringer combines an compact-build with an explosive running style and is counted amongst the nation’s best running backs as he heads into his final schoolboy campaign.
Chris Wells - Ohio State
A true junior heading into the 2008 season, the physically mature Wells (6-1, 237) is a shoo-in to declare early for the 2009 NFL Draft after posting a sophomore season of 1,609 yards on 274 carries (5.9 avg.) and 15 touchdowns. Wells managed to be one of the few bright spots in Ohio State’s national championship loss to LSU last season, rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (7.3 avg.), despite being on the wrong end of the 38-24 rout. If the Akron, Ohio native does choose to declare early for the NFL, there’s a strong likelihood he will be the first running back taken in the 2009 Draft.
Keiland Williams - LSU
Another early-declare candidate, the explosive true junior is also powerfully- constructed (5-11, 223) and will be the starting tailback for the defending national champions now that Jacob Hester has graduated to the pro ranks. Williams, despite dealing with limited carries in an overcrowded Tigers backfield, has already compiled a noteworthy football resume, currently highlighted by his freshman performance in the 2007 Sugar Bowl when he rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in LSU’s blowout win over Notre Dame.
Demetrius Byrd - LSU
The JUCO (Pearl River) transfer will be readily mentioned as a first round projection for the 2009 Draft by combining classic height, weight and speed tangibles (6-2, 197 and a 4.3 forty) with on-field production (35 receptions for 621 yards (17.7 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns in 2007) in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference. With Early Doucet graduated, Byrd will become the primary receiver on one of the nation’s best college football programs.
Brian Robiskie - Ohio State
Robiskie is the total package with regard to wide receivers who will be playing in the NFL soon. The son of Terry Robiskie, one-time interim head coach (and current assistant under Romeo Crennell) for the Cleveland Browns, the 6-3, 200 pound pass-catcher was the leading receiver for the Buckeyes last year with 55 receptions for 935 yards (17.0 avg.) and 11 scores after taking over Ted Ginn Jr.’s spot in the offense. The coach’s son blends speed and quickness with sharp route-running to consistently find openings in opposing defensive secondaries.
Aaron Kelly - Clemson
After toying with leaving school early due to a loud chorus of first day Draft projections from NFL teams, Kelly surprised many pundits by returning to Clemson for a final season after dominating the 2007 campaign with 88 receptions for 1,081 yards (12.3) and 11 touchdowns. Given his pure athletic talent and on-field production, the first team All-ACC pass-catcher, barring injury in his final college season, will compete to be the top receiver in the 2009 Draft. The downfield speed is already present, but his 6-5, 190 pound frame needs additional time to become stronger and more durable and another year at Clemson should provide him that.
Greg Carr - Florida State
The rangy (6-6, 210) wide-out has been a starter for the Seminoles since his freshman year, compiling 109 receptions, 2,032 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns during that time, despite the uphill climb of inconsistent quarterback play and an unexpected lack of continuity from the Seminoles coaching staff. The Florida native will enter the 2008 season leading the country amongst returning active players with the highest per catch average (18.6) of players with 100 or more catches. Many observer’s feel Carr’s best football lies ahead of him in the NFL, where he is likely to benefit from improved quarterback play and schemes that highlight his unique talents.