We're gearing up for our first ever Pacific Takes Pac-12 Fantasy Football League draft next week and while we, along with the conference coaches, beat writers, official bloggers, unofficial bloggers, student newspaper writers, Tumblrers and message board trolls, like to come up with our own all-conference honors, we never really get the chance to look at our favorite conference's players from a fantasy football perspective.
Luckily, our personal fantasy league will give us a chance to rank and worry about which players in the conference we think are the best fantasy performers week after week, but the question at hand is, who are the best prospects heading into the draft?
1. Matt Barkley QB USC - I see Barkley this year as a Peyton Manning in his absolute prime type of player. He has a fully loaded arsenal of the best receiving tandem in the nation, a couple good tight ends and a highly anticipated Heisman campaign to fulfill, and he rarely throws interceptions. This is all capped off with a coach who doesn't mind running up the score.
2. DeAnthony Thomas RB/WR Oregon - The Black Mamba could be especially deadly if your league has the Flex position, but either way I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up leading the league in touchdowns not by a QB. He won't be an every down back who puts up a lot of yards, but his big play ability will make that not matter much as he can pick up huge chunks of yards at a time and get in the end zone on the ground or through the air.
3. Kenjon Barner RB Oregon - A safer, more consistent back than Thomas, but not as explosive, Barner is a more traditional choice and should see his production really take off this year with LaMichael James now gone as he moves more into the role of the every down back.
4. Robert Woods WR USC - It says a lot about Woods that he is more valuable than the majority of the very good elite running backs in the conference this year. Possibly the best receiver in the nation, Woods will assuredly benefit from Barkley's accuracy and his coach's aforementioned penchant for running up the score.
5. John White RB Utah - Probably the safest pick available after Barkley and the most consistent back on the board, White was the most productive of any of the returning backs in the conference last year. While not flashy, he is the perfect guy to build a fantasy team around.
6. Marquess Wilson WR Washington State - With Mike Leach steering the ship up in Pullman now, Wilson definitely has the ability to be the most valuable fantasy player in the conference. He might even be worthy of the number one pick if you truly believe in Leach and the Cougs, but should fall a bit since he is a receiver.
7. Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford - Taylor's production in recent seasons suggests that he should be a little more valuable than this, but it will be interesting to see how he does without Luck joining him in the backfield and two All-Americans paving the way for him. He should get even more carries, especially in the red zone, in 2012 with the departure of Jeremy Stewart and Tyler Gaffney.
8. Keenan Allen WR Cal - The only thing holding back Allen might be the inaccuracy of his half-brother, QB Zach Maynard. Allen already looks like an NFL receiver and if Maynard can get him the ball more consistently, he can be the rare kind of receiver that can anchor a fantasy team.
9. Isi Sofele RB Cal - Sofele's production went under the radar last year since Cal had a rather unmemorable season in 2011, but he is a workhorse with a little bit of flash. With the aforementioned Maynard still at QB, it's likely that the Golden Bears will still rely a lot on Sofele to generate their offense in 2012.
10. Silas Redd RB USC - A late addition, it may take a little while for Redd to adjust to USC's offense after spending his entire career in the Big 10, but he should put up consistent and solid numbers on the ground for the Trojans. He will still probably lose some carries to Curtis McNeal but is the kind of workhorse back you want on your fantasy team.
11. Cameron Marshall RB Arizona State - A sleeper in the draft, Marshall is probably the best duel-threat back available after Thomas and Barner. He scored a lot of touchdowns in 2011but it is yet to be seen if he will be able to have the same kind of production in Todd Graham's offense.
12. Marqise Lee WR USC - The other half of USC's remarkable receiving duo, Lee is also a special teams standout who should very much benefit from opponents' best corner usually being assigned Woods. He should be the last of the elite receivers in the conference and is an incredible talent who will likely be available in the second rounds of most drafts.
13. Keith Price QB Washington - Quarterback is far and away the least deep of any of the fantasy positions in the conference this season, but Price is the best option once Barkley is off the board. He has the ability to rack up huge numbers in Steve Sarkisian's offense but probably shouldn't be taken until all of the elite running backs and receivers have been snatched up.
14. Jeff Tuel QB Washington State - Tuel is the biggest gamble in the draft, in Leach's offense, he could be far and away the most productive fantasy player in the conference, but with the injuries that have dogged him and the pressure from backup Connor Halliday, he might end up being a wasted pick. Although, if the safer bets of Barkley and Price are gone, I would immediately jump on Tuel.
15. Curtis McNeal RB USC - A smaller back, McNeal is the only guy returning in the Trojans backfield who has much experience at all so he should see a lot of carries. With the Trojans passing attack being so deadly, it is likely that he will get as many carries as other featured backs in the league, but he should bust a lot of big runs with defenses so keyed in on the passing game.
Others to Consider