Conference Preview: AAC
Conference Preview: AAC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

Welcome to the AAC edition of our Conference Preview series. The AAC might not be a Power 5 conference, but to ignore its depth and utility for fantasy purposes would be a grave mistake. Not only does our top-ranked overall player, D'Eriq King, reside here, but also our Top-50 at each position is littered with players hailing from the American Athletic Conference.

For each conference preview, we will have first-, second-, and third-team All-Fantasy teams as well as sleeper and bust selections. To the right of each player's name will be their overall positional ranking.

First Team

QB: D'Eriq King, Houston (1)

RB: Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis (4)

RB: Malcolm Perry, Navy (5)

WR: Damonte Coxie, Memphis (6)

WR: James Proche, SMU (9)

TE: Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati (8)

Second Team

QB: Holton Ahlers, East Carolina (21)

RB: Michael Warren II, Cincinnati (12)

RB: Jordan Cronkrite, South Florida (36)

WR: Marquez Stevenson, Houston (16)

WR: Reggie Roberson, SMU (33)

TE: Mitchell Wilcox, South Florida   (18)

Third Team

QB: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (18)

RB: Greg McCrae, UCF (44)

RB: Shamari Brooks, Tulsa (54)

WR: Gabriel Davis, UCF (41) 

WR: Branden Mack, Temple (46)

Joey Magnifico, Memphis   (23)

Sleepers

Johnny Ford, WR, South Florida

By the end of last season, you could have made a serious argument that Ford was the best running back on the Bulls' roster with 85.0 rushing yards per game over the last seven games, including three games over the century mark. He now makes the move to wide receiver in an attempt to maximize play makers on the field with Cronkrite still in the backfield, but his shifty frame should still help him shake loose of cornerbacks and linebackers. Charlie Strong seems intent on using him, too, after he recorded six catches in his debut at the position in the spring game.

Timothy Taylor, RB, Memphis

Even as the second running back on the depth chart last season, Patrick Taylor Jr. was still able to end the season with 1,122 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, good enough for sixth and third in the conference. With him moving up after Darrell Henderson's graduation, Timothy Taylor is set to take on the reserve role. He's yet to do much collegiately, but he was recruited to the Tigers out of high school with the ability to change direction and break tackles. He'll be challenged by the likes of Kenny Gainwell, Kylan Watkins and Rodrigues Clark behind him, but whoever breaks out of that bunch is projected to play a big part in the offense behind Patrick Taylor Jr.

Shane Buechele, QB, SMU

It took a while for SMU's Air Raid offense to kick into high-gear last season, but the players were able to get a grasp and the unit went on to over 300 passing yards in each of the team's five games. That quarterback, Ben Hicks, is now at Arkansas, but Buechele represents a step up, especially if he can return to his freshman form when he threw for nearly 3,000 yards with 21 touchdowns at Texas. The system can be tough on newcomers trying to learn, but he'll be given every chance to throw the ball, and James Proche and Reggie Roberson won't often have trouble getting open.

Jalen McCleskey, WR, Tulane

Tulane is a system who really rode their top two playmakers heavily last season with wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Terren Encalade, who both ended in the top nine in the conference in receiving yards. Mooney returns, but Encalade is gone after graduating, and the coaches addressed that departure by securing a commitment from McCleskey as a transfer from Oklahoma State. He showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore with 73 catches for 812 yards and seven touchdowns on 99 targets before taking a step back, but a fresh start and an important role could certainly bring out his high ceiling again.

Holton Ahlers, QB, East Carolina

This one might go without saying, since he's listed right above as the preseason second team quarterback for the conference, but it's certainly acceptable to be confused about a East Carolina player receiving accolades, so some explanation is probably necessary. Once he took over as the Pirates' starter in 2018, he went on to throw for over 400 yards in two straight games in Week 8 against UCF and Week 9 against Memphis, and he then ran for over 100 yards in Week 11 against UConn. A coaching change might justify some hesitancy, as the new staff is likely to throw the ball less than the previous regime, which won't allow Ahlers to overcome poor accuracy with pure volume like he did a year ago. But his ability to run and throw makes him a dangerous fantasy quarterback, and the Pirates will rely on him as one of their only noteworthy weapons.

Busts

Jordan Cronkrite, RB, South Florida

At first glance, Cronkrite appears as if he met expectations last season, finishing seventh in the conference with 1,121 yards. However, much of that came due to a 302 yard game against UMass, which came in a string of five of six games with over 100 yards to start the season. But over the final six games, he only averaged 43.5 yards per game and only scored three times as he lost carries. The main culprit, Ford, is now moved to wide receiver, but burning out last year leads to fears that he will do it again, and there's always other backs capable of digging into carries even with Ford eliminated from the competition.

Adrian Killins, RB, UCF

The senior played a big role in the offense two years ago during the Golden Knights' undefeated season and win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, and followed that up last season with another 700-yard rushing season. But the end of the year saw the emergence of Greg McCrae, who had nearly 800 yards with eight touchdowns in the final half-dozen contests. The two are expected to play the role by committee once again this season, with Killins getting the call in the passing game, but his rushing yards will have a hard ceiling with McCrae taking the bulk of the carries.

Justin McMillan, QB, Tulane

McMillan was expected by some to make the short trip from LSU to Tulane last season and instantly grab the offense by the horns, but instead he stayed on the bench until the year was essentially over. When he did make the first team, he was extremely lackluster over his final seven games, only completing the majority of his passes once while averaging 176.9 yards per game. A year in the system should help, and his legs will certainly gain him some fantasy points (44.8 yards per game in the last six contests), but his performance doesn't remind anybody of somebody who almost started in the SEC.

Isaiah Wright, WR, Temple

Temple appears to be heading towards a rebuilding year on offense after the graduation of Ryquell Armstead, and there's going to be guys who take a hit because of it. The most likely to not reach those expectations is Wright. Jager Gardner takes over at running back, and he isn't nearly the runner that Armstead was, which will allow teams to not have to stack the box as much as they did a year ago. Branden Mack should still be able to get his on the outside, but even the speedy Wright will have trouble finding holes against crowded secondaries.

Kevin Mensah, RB, UConn

Even on the disaster that was the 2018 Huskies, Mensah finished in the top 10 of the conference in rushing yards with 1,045 as the offense pounded the rush to keep their defense off the field. Even with that philosophy, Mensah was able to find holes because of the opposing defense's focus on quarterback David Pindell. Pindell is graduated, and although a replacement hasn't emerged yet, none of the candidates appear to be threatening with their legs. That should allow defenses to focus on Mensah, the one true weapon the Huskies have on offense, limiting his upside.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Helm
Working as a writer for college football and basketball since he started in 2016, Erik considers himself a champion of the little guy and the mid-majors. While yet to win any writing awards, he was the proud recipient of the Best Benchwarmer Award on his high school volleyball team.
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