Drafting an all-Palmetto State team no longer fantasy

Historically, fantasy football players who were also fans of South Carolina colleges have not had a lot of homegrown talent to choose from when filling out their rosters. Sure, the various institutions within our great state have produced a bevy of outstanding National Football League players through the years.

The primary problem has been that most of those players manned positions which are not exactly fantasy relevant. Aside from guys like George Rogers, Stump Mitchell, Terry Allen, Sterling Sharpe and a few others who were stars way before the fantasy football “golden age” began around a decade ago, the pickings for Palmetto State fans have been slim.

This season, however, a case can be made to draft as many as 11 players from SC schools — including Coastal Carolina’s own Mike Tolbert — depending on your non-IDP league format. Another former Chanticleer, Jerome Simpson, just misses out and a couple of familiar names to Gamecock and Tiger fans, Marcus Lattimore and Andre Ellington, are really only worth selecting in dynasty leagues.

I’ll only mention Ryan Succop to say that if there is a such thing as a “sleeper” kicker, he fits the bill. Andy Reid’s teams in Philadelphia almost always had a Top 10 kicker and Succop possesses more pure kicking talent than any of those guys.
The following seven players are the most valuable remaining fantasy options who hail form in-state schools:

* C.J. Spiller – This is the most obvious one. Spiller is an undeniable first-round pick this season and a legitimate case can be made for diehard Clemson fans to select the Bills star at #2 overall. Spiller may be the quickest player in the NFL and could be on the verge of taking a big step forward from last season’s 1,703 total yards and sixtouchdowns, especially with the Bills’ QB issues. The former Tiger will be a coveted commodity in leagues across the land, not just in IPTAY territory.

* Jared Cook – A change of scenery should do a world of good for this former Gamecock. Cook signed with the Rams this offseason and is reunited with Jeff Fisher, the coach who drafted him in Tennessee five seasons ago. Cook has never produced consistently for fantasy owners, but I expect big things from the tight end this season due to the team’s heavy investment in him and an expansion of his role within the St. Louis offense. Cook is my number seven TE and he is being selected just inside the first ten rounds in most drafts.

* Alshon Jeffery – Let’s face it, the second-year wide receiver from South Carolina’s fate hinges largely on his quarterback. If Jay Cutler can see fit to target him 100-plus times in 2013, Jeffery stands to become a reliable starter in three WR leagues. The size is there. The hands are there. The playmaking ability is there. All Jeffery needs now is the opportunity. I have Jeffery ranked as my 40th receiver, but his average draft position has fallen to number 130 due to a lack of faith in Cutler’s ability to quell his man-love for Brandon Marshall.

* DeAndre Hopkins – The rookie from Clemson has impressed everyone who has seen him from the moment he stepped onto Houston’s practice fields. Unlike Jeffery, “Nuke” is on the rise in fantasy drafts. He is currently going in the 12th round as the 45th wide receiver on average and Tiger fans would be justified in reaching all the way up to the 10th round to secure Hopkins in standard leagues.

* Sidney Rice – Rice is pretty much who he is at this point in his career. He’s a big receiver who has exceptional ability to adjust to balls in the air, but he isn’t particularly athletic anymore and he hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy for an entire season. Sidney is probably the second best WR to own in Seattle, but I would not advise drafting him as a potential starter because those days appear long gone. Rice is getting picked slightly ahead of Hopkins and Jeffery primarily because people remember what he did in 2009 and long to catch that same lightning in a bottle.

* Dwayne Allen – There is much debate about which tight end in Indianapolis will become Andrew Luck’s favorite in their new offense. The lazy analysis favors Coby Fleener simply on the basis that Luck and Fleener played together at Stanford under current Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. But if you take the time to watch the games, you can clearly see that Allen is the better player. Whether that translates to the former Tiger taking the reins and becoming a starting fantasy option remains to be seen. But if you draft a second TE, Allen is worth a late-round flier on potential.

* Andre Roberts – This Citadel man is currently the third option in the Arizona passing game, but it’s a passing game that should be greatly improved with the addition of Carson Palmer at quarterback. Even with the spinning door of Cardinals QBs in 2012, Roberts managed 64 catches for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns. It’s conceivable to think that he can improve those numbers and become a helpful WR5 for Citadel alums and fantasy footballers, in general.

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