This article is part of our Conference Preview series.
Welcome to the first installment of Rotowire's Conference Preview series. Leading things off is Conference-USA, which is rife with league-changing fantasy options such as Florida Atlantic's Devin Singletary and Middle Tennessee's Ty Lee.
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.
All-Conference USA Fantasy Team
QB: Mason Fine, North Texas (42)
RB: Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic (1)
RB: Spencer Brown, UAB (16)
WR:Ty Lee, MTSU (4)
WR: Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech (19)
TE: Mik'Quan Deane, Western Kentucky (8)
QB: Brent Stockstill, MTSU (43)
RB: Jeremy Cox, Old Dominion (54)
RB: Nic Smith, North Texas (NR)
WR: Tyre Brady, Marshall (34)
WR: Willie Wright, Florida Atlantic (53)
TE: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (22)
QB:Kwadra Griggs, Southern Miss (NR)
RB: Keion Davis, Marshall (NR)
RB: Jalen Rhodes, UTSA (NR)
WR: Michael Lawrence, North Texas (57)
WR: Lucky Jackson, Western Kentucky (58)
TE: Xavier Gaines, Marshall (NR)
J'Mar Smith, QB, Louisiana Tech
Smith was a reliable quarterback in his first season as a starter for the Bulldogs. He threw for 2,974 yards with 16 touchdowns to only five picks. He also ended the season on a high note with 216 yards passing and three touchdowns in a bowl game against SMU. The junior also rushed for a touchdown, which speaks to why he's an interesting sleeper. Smith rushed for 376 yards and six scores last season, making him the top returning rusher for Louisiana Tech. With a year as a starter under his belt, he could be ready to take things to the next level.
Nic Smith, RB, North Texas
Last season, Smith was playing second fiddle to Jeff Wilson, who rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns as UNT's lead back. Now, Wilson is gone, and Smith steps into the top role. He showed potential in 2017, rushing for 684 yards on 138 carries (4.95 YPC) with six scores. He also added two more touchdowns through the air. The Mean Green may have the best offense in the conference. Being the primary running back for such an offense bodes well for Smith.
Tavares Thomas, RB, MTSU
Thomas wasn't even playing when the season began in 2017, and it wasn't until almost the end of the season that he got double-digit carries in a game. The first time he did he rushed 29 times for 195 yards and two scores. In the end, he finished with 507 yards on 5.5 yards per carry with a whopping nine touchdowns. He split carries with Brad Anderson pretty evenly last year, but it feels like Thomas has the higher upside of the two.
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss
The top receiver in Conference USA last season was Korey Robertson of USM. He has graduated, as have the second and third-ranked receivers for the Golden Eagles. That leaves Watkins as the top returning receiver, and that means there are a lot of touches up for grabs. Watkins is also only a sophomore, so he has plenty of room to grow. Southern Miss has had a strong passing game for several years, and somebody in this offense is going to put up good numbers at receiver. Watkins is the best bet on that front.
Jalen Guyton, WR, North Texas
North Texas was second only to Western Kentucky in terms of passing yards last season, but while the Hilltoppers are breaking in a new quarterback, the Mean Green are bringing back Mason Fine under center. Continuity is a wonderful thing for a passing game. Guyton was a huge big play threat last season. He finished with 775 yards and nine touchdowns on 49 receptions, and he had four scores of 47 yards or more. Big plays can be hard to rely on, but the junior seems to have a nose for the end zone, not to mention the skills to break off a big one at any time.
Drew Eckels, QB, Western Kentucky
Though Brian Brohm moved on, the Hilltoppers still had a potent passing game last season. That may make you believe that this offense is plug-and-play at the quarterback position. However, last year they had Mike White, a fifth-year senior, under center. Eckels is also a senior, but he's only attempted 24 passes in his three campaigns thus far. Western Kentucky hasn't earned our faith in a post-Brohm world, and neither has Eckels.
Benny LeMay, RB, Charlotte
LeMay is one of the top-five returning rushers, in terms of yards, in Conference USA. Despite that, there is plenty of reason for skepticism. For starters, LeMay only managed two rushing touchdowns last season, and they are the only two in his career thus far. Second, the bulk of his 732 yards came in two games, one against FIU, and one against FCS school North Carolina A&T. Those are two reasons to cast a jaundiced eye upon LeMay. Additionally, Charlotte was pretty terrible last year, and isn't likely to be much better this season.
George Payne, RB, Southern Miss
It's been an eventful college career for Payne, for all the wrong reasons. He missed the entire 2017 season, and that's after he missed the entire 2015 season as well. The guy first played as a freshman way back in 2013! Now, he's back for his senior season, and Ito Smith is not around to block his path. That being said, while it would be great for Payne to end his career on a high note, it's hard to bet on him staying healthy. He also has to fight Tez Parks for touches.
Jovon Durante, WR, Florida Atlantic
Durante is another one of those Lane Kiffin reclamation projects. The former West Virginia Mountaineer sat out 2017 after transferring, and now he's primed for a role for the Owls. However, though FAU had tremendous success offensively last year, much of that was based on the strength of the ground game. The team's passing game is less potent, and quarterback Jason Driskel is also gone. Frankly, betting on Willie Wright may be risky. Betting on anybody else definitely is.
Tony Gaiter, WR, Florida International
Last year, Thomas Owens had 59 catches for 887 yards and six touchdowns, but he's moved on. That means a lot more targets to go around. Gaiter would seem to be the guy in line to get the bulk of those targets, but curb your enthusiasm. The junior only has one touchdown in his career, and he's never had a 100-yard game either. The Golden Panthers are breaking in a new starting quarterback to boot, another point against Gaiter.