Let’s keep this to the point – this is a jam-packed slate with 13 games and some high-octane offenses. This piece will operate as a preview as we head into the rest of the week.
Stanford @ Kansas State (-2.5) OU: 53
Stanford brings a team that could be poor once again in 2021. Although the Cardinals caught fire at the end of the year, their total wins are set at 4, which reflects the current state of the program more than anything. The entire offense for Stanford is built around RB, Austin Jones ($7,200). The fourth-most expensive RB on the slate – Jones is a dual-threat option, averaging 3.5 receptions per game in 2020 along with 21 rushes (24.5 total touches per game). Kansas State is vulnerable on the ground allowing 177.2 yards per game and 4.73 yards per rush in 2020. Even at his price point, Jones is in play since he’ll be involved regardless of games-script.
Stanford’s passing offense is largely undesirable. With Davis Mills off to the NFL, QB, Tanner McKee ($6,000) is priced extremely low on this slate but it’s hard to see a path to slate-breaking upside for McKee. We haven’t seen much of him yet, but McKee he was a 4-star quarterback in the 2018 class. The 3rd ranked pro-style QB on the 247 composite, he went on a mission trip before returning to Stanford in 2020. If you want to take a risk, he’s cheap enough but largely an avoid for me.
Stanford does have the 9th highest implied team total on the slate at 26.5 points and if McKee plays well, one of his receivers could hit. The highest-priced of the group is WR, Brycen Tremayne ($5,700). With a 15.4% receiving share in 2020, Tremayne is the WR1 with Simi Fehoko now a professional, but at his price there are better options. The other option in play for Stanford is WR, Elijah Higgins ($3,900) with Michael Wilson out. Despite the discount, there are better options.
Kansas State comes into this game as a 2.5-point favorite, which has been rising over the last few weeks. Last year QB, Skylar Thompson ($6,600) started the year well including a win at Oklahoma but subsequently got injured and the wheels fell off this Kansas State team. Thompson hit the 300-yard bonus against the Sooners, and contributes on the ground highlighted by 22 rushing touchdowns in 35 career games. The big issue with Thompson is that he’s a floor play and not the guy you want to target in a tournament, despite being cheap.
The real stud and favorite play in this game is RB, Deuce Vaughn ($6,300). Vaughn is simply dynamite for this K-State team and will continue to be the focal point of the Wildcats offense in 2021. As a true freshman in 2020, Vaughn led the Wildcats with 642 rushing yards and 25 receptions. His 5.2 yards per carry and 17.4 yards per reception speak to his efficiency even if he doesn’t get 20+ touches. Vaughn comes in as the 12th-highest priced RB on the slate and has the upside to hit either rushing or receiving bonuses in this matchup (which he did 4 times in 10 games). Given game script, Vaughn is the best play in his price range against a Stanford defense that projects as the 92nd-best according to ESPN SP+ and gave up 222 rushing yards per game last season.
Outside of Vaughn, no receiver is particularly attractive. WR, Malik Knowles ($5,300) is probably the second leading receiver but again, at his price point, there is no chance he makes a single lineup for me. Incoming tight-end WR, Daniel Imatorbhebhe ($3,200) has gotten some buzz in camp but even at his close to min price, he’s not in play.
Tulane @ Oklahoma (-31.5) – OU: 68.5
Hurricane Ida has stolen away the most unique game on the slate which was Oklahoma traveling to the Big Easy to face Tulane. In 2020 QB, Michael Pratt ($6800) came out blazing as a true freshman accounting for 28 total touchdowns in only 10 games. He flashed mobility in the pocket as well as some dual-threat ability on the ground.
Before getting hired at Tulane, Chip Long posted a 14th ranked and 24th ranked offense at Notre Dame Prior to South Bend he orchestrated the nation’s 16th best scoring offense at Memphis in 2016. Long’s Tigers ranked 19th in passing efficiency which bodes well for Pratt. While the Green Wave had a very low 42% pass rate in neutral scripts, Tulane should throw more under Long, hopefully approaching a median rate. The Oklahoma defense is good but Tulane boasts one of the best G5 offenses in 2021. If Pratt takes a step forward, they could give the Sooners a run for their money. The implied team total of 23.8 is 16th on the slate but all of their production should come through the air. Oklahoma allowed 315 yards per game in 2020. Pratt is a good way to save value as the 40th most expensive QB.
Although RB, Tyjae Spears ($5,600) was productive last season for the Green Wave, the addition of Chip Long as OC and the team being 21-point underdogs, does not make a compelling case. Even as the 22nd most expensive RB, Spears is simply not rosterable.
Assuming the passing offense can get traction against the Sooners, WR, Duece Watts ($4,800) should be the biggest beneficiary. In 9 games last year, Watts posted a 31-512-6 line on a strong 24.2% receiving yard share. At his price point, there are few better values than Watts on this slate and he can be played as a runback if rolling with Rattler in your lineup. Watts is a great way to get action on the slate’s highest total.
The other receiving game option is WR, Jha’Quan Jackson ($4,400) who returns as the team’s second-leading receiver. Jackson, who had a 20.1% receiving share in 2020 should be involved at low rostership with most flocking to Watts if they play a Tulane receiver at all. I definitely prefer Watts since he’s only $400 more and the clear alpha but Jackson is a way to get different and free up dollars. WR, Tyrick James ($3,800) could be the third option in this game as the TE had a 9.5% market share last season but it’s more likely to be WR, Mykel Jones ($3,000). Neither player is worth trying to fit into your lineup even at sub-4k with Tulane having the 16th highest implied team total on the slate.
The highest implied team total (44.75) in the highest game total, the Sooners offense should have a monster day Saturday. With potential number one NFL draft pick QB, Spencer Rattler ($9,700) at the helm, look for this team to come out swinging. Rattler, the most expensive QB on the slate, may see lower rostership as there are cheaper options to focus on. Still, he’s a good bet to be the highest-scoring player on the entire slate. Given the uncertainty at the QB position this week, Rattler is worth paying up for as a key staple in lineups. The only downside is if the game gets out of hand and he sits in the second half, they choose to milk the clock, or both. Even in that scenario, Rattler is likely the reason they are up big. I love him this week.
Given the monstrous team total, RB, Eric Gray ($6,900) is firmly in play as well. The 6th most expensive RB on the slate, Gray sees the most favorable game-script as a 21-point favorite against a Tulane defense ranked 83rd in ESPN’s SP+ heading into the season. Gray is mispriced on this slate and should see a lot of run in tournaments because of it. He’s worth rostering since he could easily hit the 100-yard bonus in this matchup but beware of the game getting out of hand and the transfer ceding some work to the other RBs on the roster. Overall, he’s a very solid play at his price but you’ll likely need to get different elsewhere.
Given that we love Rattler, it’s only fair we hype up his receiving options. WR, Marvin Mims ($7,700) is the returning leading receiver after securing a 17.6% yardage share as a true freshman for the Sooners. The second-most expensive WR on the slate, I don’t think there’s reason to overthink this. The Rattler-Mims stack is firmly in play, don’t galaxy brain out of the Sooners stack.
After Mims, the targets get dispersed fairly evenly and I am pivoting to cheaper passing game options. The absence of Theo Wease this week could loom large for the secondaryoptions. One of those options is WR/TE, Austin Stogner ($4,400). Stogner, who returns as the 3rd leading receiver from 2020 is the perfect cheap option to get action in this game. WR, Jadon Haselwood ($4,500) could see run as the WR2 alongside WR, Mike Woods ($5,400). Haselwood could be interesting since he’s a savings over Woods this week. Overall, Stogner is a strong option for red-zone work and at his price can easily pay off. Last season he had 422 yards in only 8 games and outproduced Wease on a PPG basis using DraftKings scoring. Finally, there are a few freshmen making noise in camp including WR, Mario Williams ($3,000). He comes in at the min but he’s not a starter and his role is entirely undefined for this week. WR, Cody Jackson ($3,000) is the other freshman getting hype but like Williams, he’s a very risky play.
Western Michigan @ Michigan (-17) – OU: 66
Western Michigan should once again bring a dynamic offense into 2021 headlined by QB, Kaleb Eleby ($7,300). Eleby, excelled last season leading the Broncos’ passing offense to 284 yards per game (19th overall) is in play on this slate but lacks true tournament-winning upside. Despite the rising profile, Eleby attempted over 30 passes once last season and only had one game where he hit the 300-yard bonus. The thing with Eleby is that he is extremely efficient, throwing 18 touchdowns on only 152 attempts (11.8% TD rate). His efficiency may be enough to make up for low pass attempts, but this is a team that wants to run the ball. One thing that works in his favor is the game script with Western Michigan a 17-point underdog.
Based on Tim Lester’s far below average 41% neutral script pass rate in 2020, RB, La’darius Jefferson ($5,400) should see plenty of opportunity. Generally, Jefferson is a great play with his locked-in workload but given the underdog status, this could be a game where we see more of RB, Sean Tyler ($5,700). Tyler is more the receiving back in this offense with 11 receptions to Jefferson’s 4 in 2020. Overall, neither are sexy plays on this slate, and Tyler being priced over Jefferson is a true headscratcher.
If you’re stacking Eleby and his targets, start with WR, Skyy More ($5,900), and WR, Jaylen Hall ($5,500). I like Moore and his 22.8% market share that should increase with 2020 leader D’Wayne Eskridge going to the NFL. However, the pricing discrepancy between Moore and Hall makes the second a stronger play. Hall should see a bump from his 19.0% receiving yards share in 2020. If he gets any volume added to his FBS-leading 26.9 yards per reception, an explosion is brewing. Either way, both should be productive and rostership trends could dictate the better play this week.
With an implied team total of over 24 points, not only do I think Western Michigan goes over, but I think they also cover the 17-point spread. Michigan’s defense is good and its secondary is solid but the game script keeps the Eleby+Moore/Hall stack in place.
I have no idea what to make of this team and Jim Harbaugh only makes it worse. Michigan has an implied team total of 41 points which is great but it’s incredibly difficult to project where that production is coming from. QB, Cade McNamara ($8,100) is the incumbent and should have the opportunity to play well against a Western Michigan team that allowed 242 passing yards per game in 2020 and returns a relatively average defense. I’m not rushing to play him though as we’ve seen relatively little to get excited about to this point. He finished the season going 12 for 25 with 96 yards against Penn State. Due to the point total, he’s the 8th-most expensive QB on the slate but there are simply better options.
If anything, RB, Hassan Haskins ($6,200) is a better play than McNamara. Michigan’s likely RB1 has game script in his favor with Wolverines coming in as a 17-point favorite. The problem with pushing the chips totally in on Haskins is RB, Blake Corrum ($3,600) who should see a share of the work. A frustrating backfield share to predict, low upside is in the air for Haskins but Corum, who was involved as a true freshman, is a very sneaky play. He should see up to 40% of the touches out of the backfield and makes for a nice punt option. The third man in the backfield is freshman RB, Donovan Edwards ($5,400) who is entirely mispriced. He’s likely the third man in this committee and there’s not a scenario where I like him this week.
A Michigan WR as one of the most expensive on the slate, I have now seen it all. If you want to punish yourself, WR, Ronnie Bell ($7,000) is in play as the team’s locked-in WR1 but I am avoiding him at this price. The narrative for him to pay off is expecting a competent McNamara and that he maintains his 2020 yardage share of 26.7%. The production must come from somewhere but I’m not looking to stack him even if I do play him.
In the same vein, WR, Cornelius Johnson ($6,700) is a cheaper alternative to get action in an implied team total of 41 points. He’s my favorite play of the two considering he was able to secure a 17% yardage share last season. But the pricing for both guys makes them prohibitive when constructing a lineup. The caveat here is that someone on Michigan truly has to score and it’s not out of the question Bell or Johnson has a big game. I expect both to come in at low rostership so I don’t hate plugging them in to get contrarian, just know it’s still Harbaugh’s Michigan.
Penn State @ Wisconsin (-4.5) – OU: 52.5
I’ll keep this preview short because the 52.5 point total should make everyone want to avoid this game like the plague. For Penn State, the only player you really want to take a shot on is QB, Sean Clifford ($7,500), he has a solid rushing floor but again it’s a stretch for him to hit the 300-yard passing or 100-yard rushing bonuses, especially with an implied team total of 24 points. The Wisconsin defense is obviously no slouch either coming into the year as a top defense. In 2020 they allowed 203 passing yards per game, and Clifford, who had to be pulled in games last year, will likely struggle.
The RB room is again a mess for Penn State and should really be avoided in this game and until we have more clarity. RB, Noah Cain ($5,300) should be the lead back but he’s an avoid for me this week.
Both WR, Jahan Dotson ($7,500) and WR, Parker Washington ($5,000) are very solid players, I just don’t see a path to a blowup game for either guy. Your best bet is a long touchdown from Dotson but it’s an uphill battle for him to hit the bonus and at his price, he’s a massive fade. Washington is in the same situational boat except slightly cheaper but there are better dart throws.
Peyton Manning, err- QB, Graham Mertz ($6,500) (sorry, Felix) leads a Wisconsin offense that will struggle to put up more than 200 passing yards in this contest. Even at his cheap price, he just isn’t in play (notice a theme, here?)
The only part of this matchup worth investing in is the Wisconsin running game (or at least I thought). RB, Jalen Berger ($6,100) is the higher-priced one and I guess one could like him but that’s strictly a volume play. After the depth chart release, his volume is in question. I thought he was the clear-cut RB1 but RB, Chez Mellusi ($5,000) is listed as the starter this week. It seems like a split and against this Penn State defense, I’ll pass on the entire running game. It’s a shame we can’t invest in this RB room because since 2016 the Badgers have a neutral game script rush rate of 58.6%, among the highest in the country.
Keep an eye out for WR, Jake Ferguson ($5,200). Ferguson returns to the Badgers with a 24.1% receiving market share from 2020 and should continue to be a key cog in the offense. Even as the 29th most expensive WR/TE on the slate, it’s hard to justify playing him at his price point given the other options and low upside. Wisconsin’s implied team total is 28.5 points but in this matchup against a top-10 Penn State defense, I expect the entire game to go under the 52.5 total.
Fresno State @ Oregon (-20.5) – OU: 62.5
After obliterating UCONN last week, Fresno State heads into Oregon as one of the few teams with game action already this season. Led by quarterback, Jake Haener ($7,600), Fresno will try to keep pace with Oregon relying on their offense and extremely efficient passing game. We saw a tremendous week from Haener last week but at Oregon is a far tougher challenge. Given Fresno State’s implied team total of 20.5 (22nd on the slate), Haener isn’t the most attractive option as his price point. Game-script should favor him but even then, there are better options for a Bulldogs team facing a top-25 Oregon defense.
Keeping with last week’s dominance, RB, Ronnie Rivers ($6,700) is once again one of the more expensive options on the slate. Rivers is game-script independent as most of his value comes from the receiving game, but in this matchup he likely doesn’t have a path to a 100-yard bonus in any capacity. As the eighth-most expensive RB, you can find better and cheaper options than Rivers. Last week we saw RB, Jordan Mims ($4,700) get some run in the blowout, that will not be the case this week and he’s not someone I will have in any lineup.
The receiving options are what to look for this week for Fresno State. WR, Jalen Cropper ($6,100) comes in at a much cheaper price-point than last week but still is hard to pull off given the low implied team total. I’ve played down the Bulldog’s offense in this game as the match up is difficult. However, one receiving option we love (for another week) is WR, Josh Kelly ($3,300). Fresno State still has a good passing game that averaged 356.3 yards last season and even though they should struggle some against the Ducks, I want exposure. Going back to the well with Kelly is the way to do it at a steep discount. Both WR, Keric Wheatfall ($4,000) and WR, Zane Pope ($4,900) are good secondary options, but Kelly at his price is still the preferred target.
A 20.5-point favorite with the slate’s 3rd highest implied team total, the Ducks should produce for DFS pruposes. Ranked as a top-20 offense by ESPN SP+ heading into the year, QB, Anthony Brown ($8,300) will need to take the next step if that’s to come to fruition. Brown, the seventh-most expensive QB on the slate, gets a Bulldog’s defense ranked 107th in ESPN SP+. They allowed 30 points per game last season despite facing a Mountain West strength of schedule. With that said, Brown is virtually unplayable this week. Given his pricing and Oregon being a heavy favorite, Brown is fool’s gold. In a career 30 games, has hit the 300-yard passing bonus once. Low upside at an absurd price.
The running game is murky but should be headlined by returning RB, CJ Verdell ($6,000). A positive game script and a putrid Fresno State defense sets Verdell up to have a solid game this week despite a lackluster 2020 season. The risk with Verdell though is a looming timeshare. RB, Travis Dye ($5,500) sees 40-50% of the touches and both cap each other’s upside. Dye was more efficient with the same number of touches as Verdell a year ago. This puts both in play but again, limits smash upside of each player and you can do better elsewhere.
Despite Anthony Brown’s low passing volume history, WR, Devon Williams ($4,600) is grossly mispriced on this slate if we assume that he is a starter. An All-Pac 12 preseason WR, Williams figures to operate as the alpha in this offense with a returning 16.8% receiving share last season despite playing in only 5 of 7 games. . The caveat however is that incoming freshman WR, Troy Franklin ($3,000) is listed as a co-starter with Williams which makes Franklin somewhat interesting and dampens the Williams hype.
Other receiving options include WR, Mycah Pittman ($4,100) who the team hopes can take a step forward after posting a 7.2% receiving share in 2020, and WR, Jaylon Redd ($6,500) who led the team in receiving market share last season. Johnny Johnson III ($6,200) is the second highest-priced Oregon receiver but like Jaylon Redd, he’s totally off my board. Redd is one of the worst values on the entire slate. Not one of these three are a target.
Alabama (-18.5) Neutral Site Miami– OU: 62
This is a new look Crimson Tide team in 2021 with a staggering number of first round picks vacating production. The starter will be second-year QB, Bryce Young ($8,900) against a Miami team looking to climb their way up the ACC ranks. Alabama is the king of college football but more importantly, they’re the king of season openers. Saban has gone 9-0 in openers over the last decade, winning by about an average of 40-13. Young is a special talent and was the top QB recruit in his class with legit dual-threat abilities but this week is his first start and it comes against a top-10 Miami defense. Given he’s the third-most-expensive QB on the slate, I’d rather look elsewhere.
As for the running game, RB, Brian Robinson Jr. ($6,500) should get the first crack against UM who lost key starters and allowed 174.5 rushing yards per game in 2020. If we know Robinson was the workhorse, his price would be great but given the roles that Roydell Williams ($3,700), Jase McClellan ($5,800), and Trey Sanders ($3,000) could all play, it’s hard to project a huge market share for Robinson.
It feels weird fading the team with the third-highest point total but given the uncertainty with how it will shake it out, it could be an edge on the rest of the field. Although Steve Sarkisian is the new Texas head coach, Alabama did bring in Bill O’Brien who should have the Tide offense looking good for this year again. For the Tide, the key returning piece is WR, John Metchie III ($8,100). By far the most expensive WR on the slate, Metchie is a tough sell given the uncertainty in the offense and his inability to separate himself last season. Alongside DeVonta Smith, Metchie garnered a 19.7% target share which is good in a vacuum but poor given the circumstances. Considering he’s the highest-priced WR, he’s a fade for me.
The secondary receiving options are more interesting starting with WR, Jameson Williams ($5,200), the Ohio State transfer. Known for his speed, Williams should have a role in week 1 and could serve as the big-play threat for a depleted Alabama receiving corps. He’s a nice value hedge to get action on the Tide. Behind Williams is a mix of receiving talent including WR, Slade Bolden ($3,6000), and WR, Jahleel Billingsley ($4,300). Bolden is one of the better value plays on the slate given his low price, high team total and that he’ll be the starting slot WR. He’s someone I might find myself using to fill out my lineup even though he’s listed as a co-starter. Billingsley on the other hand is too risky this week. Recently in the Saban’s doghouse, Billingsley should cede snaps to WR, Cameron Latu ($3,000) at tight end as Latu is listed as the starter. Neither should be options this week.
I would be remiss if we didn’t touch on the incoming freshman for the Crimson Tide. Starting with spring game phenom WR, Agiye Hall ($5,200), speedy athlete WR, Jojo Earle ($4,000), and all-around producer WR, Ja’Corey Brooks ($4,000). All are priced as if they will see snaps in this game. I don’t think we’ll see much if any of them this week but Earle is listed alongside Bolden as a co-starter. However, his price makes him a riskier play.
Miami’s chances this week likely ride entirely on the knee of QB, D’Eriq King ($7,400). A late-season ACL-tear, King is allegedly 100% heading into the week and needs to be if Miami wants to upset Alabama. King, who is fairly priced as the 16th most expensive QB, is someone I’m staying away from this week. Uncertainty about what his rushing ability will look like and going up against a top-3 defense gives me pause. Generally, I like King as he can hit a 300-yard or 100-yard bonus any given week but against top competition, we haven’t seen elite production.
Outside of King, the rushing attack features a three-headed monster of RBs, Cam’Ron Harris ($5,000), Don Chaney Jr. ($4,300), and Jaylan Knighton ($5,500). Harris tops the depth chart despite being priced $500 below Knighton who is the RB2/3. Regardless of the pricing, I’m not squeezing any of these guys into my lineup against this Alabama defense and poor game script. All three are low-ceiling and low-floor plays this week.
As for Miami’s receiving options, the group is headlined by returning WR, Mike Harley ($6,600). With a 26.2% receiving yard share last season, Harley should operate as the clear alpha in a passing offense that averaged 277 yards per game last season. With Miami as a 17-point underdog, Harley could see increased usage in this matchup and makes him an option at his price point.
Behind Harley as the likely WR2 is Oklahoma transfer WR, Charleston Rambo ($4,300). Rambo’s role in the offense is somewhat of a mystery heading into the season so he’s not exactly at the top of my list of plays. After Rambo it’s murky with WR, Dee Wiggins ($3,300) and TE, Will Mallory ($3,600) jockeying for targets. Mallory is set to explode this year with the departure of Brevin Jordan to the NFL. Last season he had 4 games over 51 yards despite limited snaps. At his price, Mallory is my favorite way to get exposure to this Miami offense.
Marshall (-3) @ Navy – OU: 45
Marshall’s 2020 season was a tale of two teams, starting strong but collapsing on offense down the stretch. Former Alabama RB Coach Charles Huff takes over as head coach and he should emphasize the pounding the rock. However, QB, Grant Wells ($6,800) is the most accomplished offensive player returning. Marshall needs him to continue improving in order to take a step forward. The Navy defense is projected as the 91st unit in ESPN’s SP+ so we’ll look for Wells to have a solid performance. The main issue is Wells doesn’t have the rushing production to blow up for fantasy, even in what should be a good matchup.
Although the passing game may not live up to expectations, where Marshall should thrive is on the ground. Expected starter RB, Sheldon Evans ($4,300) is my favorite cost-saving RB play of the week. An offense that is historically strong running the ball returns three starters from a line that allowed the 4th fewest tackles for loss last season. Evans is the returning leading rusher who should start as the workhorse for Marshall.
Another player to keep an eye on is RB, Rasheen Ali ($3,300) who is listed as a co-starter this week. After a redshirt freshman season, he has drawn the praise of the coaching staff in camp. A young player with an unknown role, Ali can be considered as a true punt play as I expect the Marshall RBs to feast. The Navy defense gave up 37 points per game and 445.3 yards per game through the first 7 games.
As for the receiving options, WR, Corey Gammage ($5,100) should lead the way after posting a 19.2% receiving yardage share in 2020. However, given the lack of upside in this entire receiving room, Gammage is cost-prohibitive on this slate. Behind Gammage are WRs, Willie Johnson ($4,700), and TE, Xavier Gaines ($4,300). Gaines is the more interesting of the two. As the teams’ second-leading receiver in 2020, he returns as one of the country’s better tight-ends and should be heavily featured. Given his price, he’s my favorite option among Marshall receivers. His massive 19.0% receiving share as a tight-end tells us he’s one of Wells’ favorite returning targets.
With an implied team total of 21 points, Navy isn’t the lowest on the slate but they’re an undesirable offense regardless. Averaging only 177.6 yards per game as a triple-option team, Navy’s offense sunk to new lows last year. QB, Xavier Arline ($6,300) OR Tai Lavatai ($5900) look to improve the quarterback position in Annapolis. Both QBs are listed atop the depth chart and there is limited information as to who will play the most. We may see a rare timeshare at quarterback. Neither player is sniffing any of my lineups.
Although RB, Isaac Rouss ($4,300) is the second option in the triple-option attack, he just doesn’t have any upside this week. The same goes for the wide receivers who are part of the triple-option attack.
Miami (OH) @ Cincinnati (-19.5) – OU: 50
The Redhawks head to Cincinnati to face off against a Bearcats team with playoff hopes in 2021. Led by QB, Brett Gabbert ($6,200), Miami has an implied team total of only 15.3 points, the second-lowest on the slate. And for good reason – the Cincinnati defense was dominant last season giving up only 16.8 points per game and rank as a top-10 unit heading into 2021. Gabbert, who flashed some last season is largely unplayable this week given the team total and a tough, domineering defensive opponent.
Like Gabbert, RB, Jaylon Bester ($5,200) is hard to justify this week against the Bearcats defense who only allowed 114.4 rushing yards per game last season. Bester should see most of the work but given the price-point, he can’t be in your lineups.
I don’t want to call the WR, Jack Sorenson’s ($7,300) price absurd but… it’s absurd. I love Jack Sorenson, what he did last year in three games was awesome. His 49.5% receiving yardage share paints him squarely as the team’s WR1 but in this matchup, he is one of the worst-priced players on the slate. As the fourth-most expensive wide receiver, we’ll have to save our Sorenson love for another week.
The biggest question in this game is what to do with the Bearcats key offensive players. Let’s start with the second-most expensive QB on the slate, Desmond Ridder ($9,200). Ridder, who averaged 30.1 points per game in Draft Kings scoring last year gets a good matchup against a Miami defense that comes in as 98th according to ESPN SP+ ranking. Ridder won’t wow in the passing game but his elite rushing utilization is the reason we’re playing him anyway. He has probably the safest floor of any QB on the slate with the potential to go over 30 points this week. The only risk with Ridder is if they take a big lead and want to get Evan Prater work. Like Rattler, Ridder should be the reason for the lead so it’s not a huge concern. He’s not my top play at QB but he’s in the mix.
The run game should see a lot of action as well even outside of Ridder with RB, Jerome Ford ($7,000). Ford should assume the lead role with the departure of Gerrid Doaks to the NFL. He enters the season with a good matchup and as a 19.5-point favorite. Ford costs some to pay up for but he should see a good enough workload to justify his price. Ford isn’t my favorite play in that price range but does have a nice floor, a theme with this whole game. The Miami defense did rank 18th in rushing yards allowed last season, but Cincinnati is a tougher foe than their typical MAC opponent.
As for the receiving options – the returning leader is WR, Alec Pierce ($7,200). Pierce, who posted 17-315-3 in 6 games last season should slot in as the team’s WR1 this year but is massively overpriced for the game environment. Ridder, who has four 300-yard games in 36 career games, won’t have enough volume for Pierce to have a massive day as the slate’s fifth-most expensive WR. With Pierce out of the question, TE, Josh Whyle ($4,600) is a cheaper way to get action in this offense. The returning receiving leader for the Bearcats, the senior tight end should maintain his role as a key cog in the offense. Additionally, WR, Michael Young ($4,300) should have a role as well but given he’s only $300 cheaper than Whyle, I prefer to target the TE instead.
Indiana @ Iowa (-4.5) – OU: 46
Like most teams in the country, Indiana largely lives and dies by their quarterback and in this case, it’s none other than QB, Michael Penix Jr. ($7,000). Penix should have a solid season after returning from injury but this might not be the game to target him despite the price. With an implied team total of only 22.3 points, Indiana goes up against the country’s top-ranked defense in Iowa who stifled both passing and rushing games last season. Given we’re still hoping he comes back 100% and has no wear from the injury, this is a good week to wait and see on the returning QB.
The rushing game outside of Penix also leaves some to be desired. The starter will be RB, Stephen Carr ($6,400). The Hoosiers could split their backfield with Carr and RB, Tim Baldwin ($4000) as the team tries to fill the role left by Stevie Scott III. Carr’s price makes him nearly impossible to play against the nation’s top defense, even as the starter.
Again, Indiana is a team not worth targeting extensively and that especially goes for WR, Ty Fryfogle ($6,800). In 2021, Fryfogle hopes to continue with his 36.1% receiving share and should have a massive season. However, this may not be the week it starts. If you haven’t got the memo, this Iowa defense is GOOD. WR, Miles Marshall ($4,500) likely moves into the WR2 role with Philyor gone but this isn’t a passing game to target given the low total.
Iowa comes in as a 4-point favorite with an implied team total of 26.25 points against an Indiana defense that shocked some people last season. I don’t think they’re quite as good as people may think though. Indiana is a team on the rise in the Big Ten but also benefited from turnover luck last season. In fact, 20.2% of their opponent’s drives ended in a turnover, 4th highest in the country. Generally, high-turnover luck is simple variance but it’s something to keep an eye on. Even so, QB, Spencer Petras ($6,000) is still outside of true playable range even as the 47th-most expensive QB on the slate. Petras averaged 13.54 DraftKings points last season and doesn’t have the upside we’re looking for. Where the Hoosiers are vulnerable is the secondary, but Petras consistently fails to push the ball downfield.
The key decision in this game is whether to play RB, Tyler Goodson ($6,800). Indiana overperformed in turnovers last season, but their DFEI (per-possession scoring advantage) was 0.87 (fifth in the country). Goodson should feature heavily in both the rushing game and as a receiver for the Hawkeyes. At his price he’s a fine play in this range. Last season, Goodson hit the 100-yard bonus 4 times in 8 games including an efficient 11-106-1 game against Wisconsin to end the year. We’ve seen him perform well in tough matchups before but there are players I prefer in this price ragne such as Eric Gray and Deuce Vaughn.
In the receiving game, the offense is capped by Petras and the playcalling. His career-high in passing yards is 265 but last season he was under 220 yards in all but one game. Given the secondary is an Indiana weakness, there could be some value in the form of TE, Sam LaPorta ($4,000). Priced affordably, LaPorta returns to the Hawkeyes with a 17.1% receiving market share which ranks first among all returning options. While his share of the production is good, this is a small pie for Iowa. Last season he averaged only 33 yards per game and scored one touchdown. I don’t think you have to play LaPorta at all, but he is my favorite receiving option in this game.
West Virginia (-3) @ Maryland – OU: 55
RB, Leddie Brown ($8,000) SZN is back folks, and this week he gets a putrid Maryland rush defense. Although Brown comes in as the second-most expensive RB on the slate, he’s still $1,000 cheaper than perennial stud Breece Hall and a good pivot play. Brown could see elevated rostership as sharp players will recognize this but fading him outright could very well be a mistake. Last season Brown hit the 100-yard bonus in 5 of 10 games with 9 touchdowns and most notably, 31 receptions. He is a lock for 20+ touches and averaged 23.3 Draft Kings points per game. Even at his elevated price point, I love Leddie Brown this week.
Unlike most writeups, we started with Leddie Brown but that doesn’t take QB, Jarret Doege ($6,700) totally out of play either. West Virginia ranked 17th in the country in pass rate at 52.8% and top-25 in yards per game at 277.5. Doege can pay off in this matchup at his price. With four 300-yard bonuses in 10 games last year, Doege has a ceiling some quarterbacks on this slate don’t have but the strength of this Maryland team is their secondary. I think Doege is cheap enough to justify in your lineup, but he’s not a priority target given the likely game script.
For the passing game, leading returning receiver Winston Wright Jr. ($5,600) is priced in a range that makes him cost-prohibitive despite securing a 19.9% market share last season. The pivot off of Wright this week is either Bryce Ford-Wheaton ($4,000) or WR, Sam James ($3,700). Of the two, Ford-Wheaton is the preferred target as in 2020 he had a 15.3% receiving share despite missing two full games. The junior should have the WR2 role with the potential to lead the receiving group in yards. Ford-Wheaton is likely just a contrarian play to save money, but he is in play.
A forgettable up-and-down season in 2020, the Terrapins hope to find more consistency in 2021 but this week may not be the place to start. Their opponent comes into 2021 after having a phenomenal defense last season, limiting offenses to only 20.5 points per game and the number one defense by opponent yardage. They should pose quite a challenge for this Maryland team. Maryland’s implied team total is 22.3 which is near the bottom of the slate, but it also feels generous given their inconstancies from last season.
Looking to take the next step, a lot of the hope for Maryland lies in the hands of QB, Taulia Tagovailoa ($7,200). If his last name was anything but Tagovailoa, he would be $500-$1000 cheaper on this slate. His price makes little sense and takes him out of play against one of the country’s best secondarys.
The running game should be headlined by RB, Tayon Fleet-Davis ($5,800) who has patiently waited to see a lead role at Maryland. Unfortunately, he’ll likely have to wait for more to see success on the ground as this game script fails to inspire confidence in the rushing game. Additionally, there are rumors of a backfield split with Penny Boone ($3,800) and Isaiah Jacobs ($3,600). Nothing really lines up for production from this backfield in this matchup despite palatable price points.
Like Tagovailoa, both wide receivers in this matchup are overpriced on this slate. WR, Dontay Demus Jr. ($7,100) is Maryland’s returning leading receiver. He is priced as the sixth-most expensive WR on this slate despite an elite secondary for the Mountaineers and an uninspiring passing game. Demus did post a 28.4% receiving share last year and 18.1 DraftKings points per game but this isn’t the match up to play him. Behind Demus is superstar sophomore WR, Rakim Jarrett ($6,300). Jarrett, an inspiring 2023 NFL prospect, is priced as the 15th-most expensive wide receiver on this slate and is simply $1,000 too much.
Outside of the big two, WR, Jeshaun Jones ($3,900) is likely running as the third option in this passing game. With a 14.1% receiving share in 2020, Jones could see some volume if the anticipated game script plays out. At his price, he is the most attractive Maryland wide receiver, but I’m still not excited to select him. If you’re a Terps fan or just think Maryland exceeds their implied total of 22.3, one of these receivers could be a contrarian play.
Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi State (-24) – OU: 52.5
The Bulldog Bowl! Heading into the week, Louisiana Tech is a 24-point underdog to a Mississippi State team in year 2 of Mike Leach’s tenure. Louisana Tech has the lowest implied team total on the slate at 14.3 points and it’s hard to argue with it. Mississippi State brings a top-30 defense into the year against a bottom-25 ranked LA Tech team. The Bulldogs from Louisiana will be led by Oklahoma by way of West Virginia transfer QB, Austin Kendall ($5,100). He is the least expensive starting quarterback on the slate. They should be forced to play catch-up so maybe Kendall sneaks his way into a two-touchdown game but he’s at best a contrarian punt play for tournaments only.
The more intriguing play for the Louisiana Tech side is RB, Keyon Henry-Brooks ($5,300). The Vanderbilt transfer was productive for the Commodores last season in an all-SEC schedule, accumulating 491 yards and 28 receptions in only 6 games. His game against Mississippi State last season was legendary, where he rushed for 115 yards and secured 11 receptions for 97 yards. That game may be his peak, but it does show us he has a high ceiling. That being said, he’s listed down the depth chart for the opener. A better name to keep filed away for later, I wouldn’t use him this week at $5300.
Given the 24-point spread, some of the receiving options are in play given the pricing. WR, Smoke Harris ($4,900) is the leading returning receiver for 2021 but given the 14.3 implied team total, there are better options. Behind Harris is TE, Griffin Herbert ($4,000) who should see red zone usage, if Louisiana Tech can actually get to the red zone.
After these two it’s probably WR, Isaiah Graham ($3,700) but his 10.4% receiving share and the state of Louisiana Tech’s offense make him unplayable. The entirety of the Tech passing game is a galaxy brain contrarian play. But if you’re mass entering a GPP and want to get weird, all these players will garner minimum rostership.
From one Bulldogs team to another, the Mike Leach led group get Louisiana Tech in Starkville. Headlined by starting QB, Will Rogers ($8,700), we should see a repeat of the pass-happy team that led the country in passing rate last season, throwing 73.2% of the time. They should get chances to put up stats against a Louisiana Tech defense that ranks as the 109th defense in ESPN’s SP+. Rogers is the starter for the heaviest passing team in the country but only hit the 300 yard bonus twice last year in 9 games. Additionally, he’s a zero in the run game. Rogers acks true tournament-winning upside once you really examine his numbers. I’d rather pay all the way up or target cheaper options.
The bigger question to me is what to do with RB, Jo’Quavious Marks ($6,600) on this slate. Coming in as the ninth-most expensive RB, Marks should see plenty of receiving volume after having 60 catches in 11 games in 2020. The larger concern with Marks is his total usage. In 11 games last season, Marks had double-digit rushing attempts 3 times and never exceeded more than 12 in a single game. He also has a very low floor as his yards per reception number aws only 4.5. The same largely goes for backup RB, Dillon Johnson ($4,800). Neither has the ceiling needed for a GPP and both could have incredibly low floors.
As for the receiving game, it’s headlined by breakout freshman WR, Jaden Walley ($6,900). A Campus2Canton.com favorite, Walley should continue to expand on his 22.0% receiving share from 2020 as the WR1 in a Mike Leach offense. Mississippi State’s implied team total of 38.25 means someone is going to have to score points and Walley is the preferred target in this game. With four 100-yard games last season as a true freshman (all against SEC opponents), Walley is primed for a breakout and as the eight-most expensive receiver on the slate, worth trying to fit into your lineup with his bonus potential.
Behind Walley are the seniors, Malik Heath ($4,000), and Austin Williams ($4,200). Given the country’s number one pass rate, there should be enough volume to support a secondary option. After the other two receivers is WR, Jamire Calvin ($4,800), a transfer from Washington State. Calvin should have a role in this offense but I prefer the two wide receivers given the savings and certainty in role.
UNI @ Iowa State (-31.5) – OU: Not Listed
I’m going to keep this short – I don’t want any UNI players in my lineup this week.
The Cyclones should head into this week on cruise control because they are infinitely more talented than UNI. Starting with QB, Brock Purdy ($7,900) he is the 11th-most expensive quarterback on the slate. The expected game script is one where he wont have to press the issue as Iowa State should have an easy path to victory. While his rushing floor is fine, he’s only hit the 100-yard bonus once in 35 career games. He’s a low ceiling play this week and is more comfortable as a cash game option than in tournaments.
The star of the show and most expensive RB on the slate is none other Cyclone than bellcow Breece Hall ($9,000). In 2020, Hall had a monster season, going over 100 yards in 9 of 12 games and accumulating 23 touchdowns to go along with 23 receptions. Breece Hall is as close to a lock on this slate as it comes. He has potential for a 200 yard/3 touchdown game in the first half before he inevitably gets pulled when Iowa State takes a commanding lead. Maybe the price and blowout potential scare some people off of Hall this week but one of those people will not be me.
As for the weapons in the receiving game, Iowa State returns WR, Xavier Hutchinson ($6,300) who should operate as the clear alpha this week. His 26.6% receiving share in 2020 paced everyone on the team and as the 14th-most expensive receiver on the slate, he is in play against an FCS defense. After Hutchinson, the other option to target is TE, Charlie Kolar ($5,500). Kolar, one of the country’s more productive tight ends, heads into this week priced with the potential to pay off if Iowa State throws early. Kolar scored 13.64 DraftKings points per game as a consistent week-to-week option. This week he’s priced a little high for a tight-end who generally lacks bonus potential (only had >100 yards once last season). Outside of the big two, the target share thins out dramatically with Tarique Milton ($4,100), and Sean Shaw Jr. ($4,000). Neither player was productive last season and given game-script, I don’t expect that to change this week.
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Texas (-8) – OU: 58
The Sarkisian era in Austin is officially underway. Headlined by second-year quarterback QB, Hudson Card ($6,900), the Longhorns look to regain their standing as a premier national program. Texas comes into the year with a strong offense and pieces to build around but a murky QB situation. Card barely squeaked by Casey Thompson in spring and fall camp. He’ll face a Ragin’ Cajun’s defense that allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards per game in the country at only 170.6 yards. Texas does have an implied team total of 30.25-points so that should keep Card in play at his price point but I’m not rushing to throw him in this week.
On the ground, super-stud RB, Bijan Robinson ($7,400) takes the field this week as one of college football’s most dynamic players. He posted dominant efficiency numbers as a true freshman and should operate as a feature back in a Sarkisian offense. This means he should have usage in both phases and the heavy involvement as a receiver is what you need for a fantasy ceiling. Louisiana does have a solid defense but if they’re week it’s on the ground where they allowed 184.7 yards per game. Bijan should operate as the focal point for the offense and even though he’s the third-most-expensive RB, he has game-script and usage in his favor. I wouldn’t have any issues plugging him in.
Deciphering the Texas passing game is going to be a challenge all season. It sounds like WR, Joshua Moore ($6,000) will return as the leader of the group after posting 16.9% receiving yardage share last season. As the 18th-most expensive receiver on the slate, Moore could be a value for a Texas team with an implied team total of over 30 points. Outside of Moore, Jordan Whittington ($5,000) and freshman Xavier Worthy ($4,700) are both starters. Whittington has been consistently injured as has yet to live up to his prospect status. He’s probably worth avoiding. Worthy is interesting and has been getting buzz all through camp but his role is still uncertain as an incoming freshman. Nevertheless, he is a big play threat with verified long speed who only needs one play to pay off.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have been a popular pick this week to cover the spread that opened at -3.5 but has been bet down to 8 points. Louisiana is a good G5 school and should pose a legitimate threat to the Longhorns this week. Starting QB, Levi Lewis ($7,100) leads an offense with an implied team total of 24 points. He’s discounted but not discounted enough. Over his last two seasons, Lewis has hit the 300-yard bonus twice in 24 games and with a team passing rate of 42.2%, he isn’t in play to do pop this week.
The formula for Louisiana to pull off the upset this week is on the ground. RB, Chris Smith ($5,700) should take the reigns after the departure of both Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas to the NFL. Smith is thankfully listed atop the depth chart without the dreaded OR designation. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2020 and gets a Texas defense who has a good (not great) front seven. Smith should be totally fine in a scheme that ranked 14th in rushing yards per game last year. As the 19th-most expensive RB on the slate and one with legit pass-catching upside, Smith is in play in what should be a close game.
Behind Smith is likely RB, Emani Bailey ($3,700) who should see touches as well. Last year Mitchell and Ragas split carries 141 to 131 and the year before with Raymond Calias in the mix, the split was 198-117-116. This is going to be a shared backfield which makes Bailey an intriguing option. I think he’s a good way to get different, save money and maximize upside potential.
As for the passing game, this team only averaged 208.5 yards per game last season but may need to play some catch-up against Texas. The top three options for Lewis all saw a fairly similar receiving share in 2021. Starting with WR, Peter LeBlanc ($4,800) led the team in yards per game but failed to hit the 100-yard bonus once. After LeBlanc should be WR, Kyren Lacy ($4,400) who was a true freshman last season. He didn’t hit the 100-yard bonus in any game but could be in line for a bigger role this year.
The third option and priced at the minimum salary is WR, Jalen Williams ($3,000). Although he led the team in receiving yards last year, his price is substantially below the other two options despite a very evenly distributed target share. In his 24-game career at Louisiana, Williams is yet to hit the 100-yard bonus like his other two teammates but has not been in a position where the team needed to throw to win. With a 22-5 record over the last two years, the Ragin’ Cajuns have yet to be an underdog consistently. The volume may not be there but taking a shot on Williams at 3K is an interesting way to find savings, especially compared to Lacy and LeBanc.
TL;DR Round Up
Over $8.5k: Spencer Rattler ($9,700), Desmond Ridder ($9,200)
$8.4k to $7k: D’Eriq King ($7,400), Kaleb Eleby ($7,300)
Under $7k: Jarret Doege ($6,700), Michael Pratt ($6,300)
Over $7k: Breece Hall ($9,000), Leddie Brown ($8,000), Bijan Robinson ($7,400)
$6.9k to $5k: Eric Gray ($6,900), Deuce Vaughn ($6,300), Chris Smith ($5,700), Keyon Henry-Brooks ($5,300)
Under $5k: Sheldon Evans ($4,700), Emani Bailey ($3,900), Blake Corum ($3,600)
Over $7k: Marvin Mims ($7,700)
$6.9k to $5k: Jaden Walley ($6,900), Skyy Moore ($5,900), Jaylen Hall ($5,500), Jameson Willaims ($5,200)
Under $5k: Deuce Watts ($4,800), Austin Stogner ($4,400), Sam LaPorta ($4,000), Will Mallory ($3,600), Josh Kelly ($3,300), Jalen Williams ($3,000)