The recent injury to Braxton Miller was discouraging to the Ohio State faithful as well as the Big Ten. The Big Ten has been trying its best to slowly repair its national image, but the recent news of Braxton Miller’s season ending shoulder injury could prove to be a huge blow to the entire conference. Depending on the outcome of two early season match-ups, the Big Ten’s chances of having a representative in the newly implemented four team playoff could be over before conference play begins. Wisconsin’s week one showdown with SEC powerhouse, LSU and Michigan State’s week two road matchup with Oregon will prove to be must win game’s for both teams. At least one of those games must be won in order for any Big Ten program to gain consideration for a final four selection. Now that Miller is hurt, national opinion will either be “you should beat Ohio State, they don’t have Braxton Miller” or, if Ohio State were to go undefeated people will argue that, “the Big Ten is weak, Ohio State ran the table without Braxton Miller.” The injury is a lose/lose situation for everyone involved, except those players who will be expected to crank up their offensive productivity due to the absence of Miller. Let’s take a look at the “beneficiaries” of the Braxton Miller injury from a fantasy football perspective.
QB – J.T. Barrett (STOCK – UP)
If you were an owner of Braxton Miller, I highly suggest you add Barrett, if you haven’t already. I’m not saying that Barrett is the next big thing, but when your led by offensive genius, Urban Meyer anything and everything is possible. Almost every single quarterback to ever play under Meyer has had some level of success, we all know what Tim Tebow did at Florida. Alex Smith turned out to be a number one overall NFL pick playing under Meyer at Utah. Meyer’s developmental prowess and offensive scheme helped Joshua Harris finish his 3 year career at Bowling Green as only the second quarterback in FBS history at the time to both throw and run for over 40 touchdowns in his career. Time after time, Meyer’s philosophy and talent evaluation has proved to be a formula for quarterbacking success. Barrett was a highly coveted dual threat quarterback recruit in the class of 2013. He had all of last season to learn the offense, as he enters this season as a redshirt freshman. Obviously J.T. isn’t going to win the Heisman… But the last two Heisman winners have in fact been redshirt freshmen, which obviously was monumental in their development and immediate success in the college ranks. If you can remember what Kenny Guiton was able to accomplish last season (14/2 – TD/INT in limited time) it was impressive to say the least. Again I am not suggesting that Barrett will be your fantasy savior, but his schedule is very favorable and he is playing under one of greatest coaches and offensive minds in football. Barrett will be on a short leash so keep an eye on Cardale Jones if Barrett isn’t performing. Projection: 2,300 yards passing, 900 yards rushing, 30 total touchdowns.
RB – Ezekiel Elliot (STOCK – UP)
With an unproven, young quarterback now taking the reigns under center, what will Ohio State do with their offense now that Miller is hurt? The logical answer would be to give the running backs more touches than last season. If that theory proves to be true, Ezekiel Elliot could be in for a big year. Last season, Carlos Hyde was the first running back under Urban Meyer to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. Hyde finished the season with 1,521 yards on the ground, with 18 total touchdowns. In addition to Hyde, Braxton Miller ran for 1,068 yards with 12 rushing touchdowns last season. JT Miller is not Braxton Miller, so expect the Buckeyes to rely on Elliot’s talents quite a bit this season. But then again Ezekiel Elliot isn’t Carlos Hyde. Regardless of who the Buckeyes had last year, Elliot will have to carry more weight on his shoulders with Barrett under center. Projection: 1,200 yards on the ground with 11 total touchdowns.
RB/WR – Dontre Wilson (STOCK – NEUTRAL)
Wilson should receive more touches than thought before, now that Braxton Miller is out of the offensive equation in Columbus. Wilson fits into the Percy Harvin (hybrid) role well in Meyer’s offense, and looks to have a very bright future. Dontre has proved to be incredibly explosive, but when the best player in the offense went down, in my eyes Wilson became the Buckeyes biggest game changer. In return Wilson could be a focus of opposing defensive schemes, and will be in the back of defensive coordinators minds all season long. Wilson should still be in for a very nice season, especially considering the relatively light schedule the Buckeye’s face 80% of the season. Keep an eye on Wilson’s productivity over the first few weeks of the season. Like I said before anything and everything is possible in this offense. If he proves to be the playmaker some believe he can be, with added touches he could be in for a very nice season. He should gain WR eligibility fairly quick, which gives fantasy owners additional value. Projection: 500 yards receiving, 600 yards rushing, 7 total touchdowns.
WR – Devin Smith (STOCK – DOWN)
I consider Smith’s stock to be down because I believe Ohio State will be less effective through the air then they were last season. In 2013, Smith had 660 yards receiving to go along with 8 reception touchdowns. This season he could surpass those numbers, considering his familiarity with the offense, and being the most productive returner from last years offense. But again he has an unproven youthful quarterback under center, as opposed to Miller and Guiton. Expect a similar season from Devin Smith. Projection: 700 yards receiving, 8 total touchdowns.
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS TRIO:
RB-Curtis Samuel, RB-Jalin Marshall, & WR-Johnnie Dixon (STOCK – UP)
These three young playmakers are hungry, and Meyer will be looking to find difference makers on the offensive side of the football. When you lose a player like Braxton Miller, you go into desperation mode. Urban will be less patient then he would’ve been had Miller stayed healthy; Curtis Samuel has been incredibly impressive in camp and will be fighting for carries in the backfield with Elliot. If Dontre Wilson doesn’t happen to be as good as some expect him to be, Jalin Marshall figures to be next in line, in the oh-so important “Percy Harvin” role. Johnnie Dixon is another explosive athlete who has had a good camp, and is pushing for playing time at wide receiver with seniors, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, along with Michael Thomas and Corey Smith. Dixon, Marshall, and Samuel all deserve roster consideration in dynasty leagues right now and could make a significant impact this season if they make the most of playing time. As a Minnesota kid, here’s a quote from the late, legendary hockey coach, Herb Brooks: “Great moments are born from great opportunities.”
It will be incredibly interesting to see how this situation plays out. This injury could have significant ramifications on the four team playoff. Barrett and the rest of the Buckeyes will be tested on September 6th when they take on Virginia Tech. Their opening game is less than a week away. Most people believe that this injury has all but eliminated the Buckeyes from playoff contention, but that is why we play the games. Only time will tell.
How do you think the Buckeyes will fair? Post a comment below and feel free to follow me on Twitter @PutBoobieIn