11/21 CFB DFS: It’s Safe to Ride With These Cowboys
Welcome to Saturday’s Late Slate edition of the Daily Fantasy Rundown with “RealestChrisKay” and “TheNumbersGuy.” Each week we break down the largest college football slates to give you the best top, value, and cheap plays based on the Daily Fantasy Industry’s pricing for salary cap games. The goal of our analysis is to help you improve consistency and become a better player long-term.
If there’s something you’d like to see added or have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Rankings are out of a possible 128 schools
**Advanced statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders (updated as of 10/31/15)
***Target statistics courtesy of NCAA Savant
As usual, there’s a crowded field of top plays this Saturday night. Of the top four plays at the position, Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma vs. TCU) provides the best combination of safety and upside. While all top four plays at the position have relatively the same expected value come Saturday, we feel the safest with Mayfield. Mayfield is incredibly accurate (70.2 percent completion percentage), explosive (averaging 10 yards per attempt) and productive (averaging 308 passing yards, 30 rushing yards and 3.7 touchdowns per game). Couple his skill set with friendly volumes in the passing (averaging 31 passing attempts) and rushing (averaging 11 carries) departments, and you get remarkable DFS production (averaging 32 Fantasy points per game). After posting a clunker (17 Fantasy points) in a great matchup vs. Texas Tech (he wasn’t needed much since his running backs destroyed an awful rushing defense), Mayfield has generated more than 35 Fantasy points in each of his last three starts. We expect more of the same against TCU’s defense (ranked 77th in overall S&P+), and his price point isn’t restrictive on any site. His value against a below average defense in a high paced environment (TCU is ranked second in adjusted pace; Oklahoma is ranked 22nd) should be at its very peak. Use him in all formats.
Luke Falk (Washington State vs. Colorado) is the only remaining top option at the position that we view comparably to Baker Mayfield in terms of safety and upside. Falk’s worst DFS performance this season has been 20 Fantasy points. However, he’s posted 39 Fantasy points or more in five contests this season. Falk’s expected value this Saturday is closer to 40 Fantasy points than 20. If you read the Daily Fantasy Rundown last season, Falk was routinely a top quarterback option for us every Saturday. We even wrote a free piece on this unique Cougars’ offense in the offseason. Falk isn’t very explosive (averaging 7.3 yards per attempt), but he’s ridiculously accurate (70.3 percent completion percentage) and the passing volume he sees every week absurd relative to his peers at the quarterback position. Falk is averaging 56 passing attempts this season. You guessed it, that’s the highest average of passing attempts per game of any quarterback at the collegiate level. Not only is his volume the best; his production is awesome (averaging 406.7 passing yards and 3.8 touchdowns per game). Colorado’s passing defense (ranked 70th in S&P+) is slightly below average, and their offense goes very fast (ranked 16th in adjusted pace). A high pace environment will only help Falk’s value, and Vegas believes that Washington State (38.5 point team total) will have their way against Colorado. If you’re playing on DraftKings or DraftDay, your cash game roster should begin with Mayfield or Falk.
Keenan Reynolds (Navy at Tulsa) has a higher ceiling than Mayfield and Falk, but his floor is difficult to stomach in cash games. Reynolds barely throws the football (averaging seven passing attempts per game), but his rushing prowess gives him the most profit potential of any quarterback on this slate. Reynolds is averaging 20 rushing attempts, and he’s generated 5.1 yards per carry and 17 rushing touchdowns. Reynolds’ matchup against Tulsa will likely help him cement his fourth 40 Fantasy point performance of the season. Tulsa’s rushing defense is allowing 4.9 yards per carry and 2.7 rushing touchdowns per game this season. Reynolds is coming off a 47 Fantasy point performance against a similarly terrible SMU rushing defense (ranked 122nd in S&P+; Tulsa is ranked 118th in S&P+). Navy’s triple option offense introduces risk for Reynolds, but on a site like FanDuel where Luke Falk isn’t available, only Reynolds challenges Mayfield as far as expected value is concerned. For those who are risk averse, Reynolds’ ceiling is worth pursuing in all formats.
Our fourth and last top ranked quarterback is Dak Prescott (Mississippi State at Arkansas). Prescott’s volume (averaging 34 passing attempts and 11 rushing attempts per game) is very friendly for DFS, and he’s skilled (65 percent completion percentage, 7.7 yards per attempt; averaging 3.9 yards per carry). He’s not as productive as Mayfield/Falk (2.5 touchdowns per game), but a matchup against Arkansas’ passing defense (allowing 8.5 yards per attempt) elevates his expected value. It’s likely not enough to supplant the recommendations above, but his volume and strength of matchup gives him a favorable ceiling. Prescott is a good option for tournaments this Saturday.
We have two value plays at the position that have similar expected values, and a third one that we’d rather use in tournaments despite playing in the best offense in college football. Of those three values, we like Matt Davis (SMU vs. Tulane) the most. Davis isn’t very accurate (55 percent completion percentage), but his volume (averaging 29.4 passing attempts and 15.5 rushing attempts) and production (averaging 2.5 touchdowns per games) makes him a valuable commodity in DFS. Tulane’s defense (ranked 81st in overall S&P+) isn’t very good, and Vegas has pegged SMU with a team total of 31.5 points (three point home favorites). Davis can be paired with one of our top quarterback options in all formats.
If you don’t use Davis in cash games, Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State vs. Baylor) is a very strong pivot. Rudolph’s touchdown production (averaging 1.9 touchdowns per game) is a bit lower than Davis’, but he’s more skilled than Davis. Rudolph is more accurate (64.4 percent completion percentage) and explosive (averaging 9.3 yards per attempt) than Davis (55 percent completion percentage and he’s averaging seven yards per attempt). Rudolph’s context is a bit better than Davis’, since he’s playing in a high pace environment (Baylor is ranked 14th in adjusted pace; Oklahoma State is ranked 36th) against a passing defense that’s just average (Baylor’s passing defense is ranked 65th in S&P+). Oklahoma State has a team total of 39 points, and Vegas expects this game to be extremely close (the line for this game is a pick em). Rudolph’s ceiling is a bit lower than Davis’ ceiling, but his context puts his expected value right in line with Davis’ expected value. Rudolph is in play in all formats, but we prefer him in cash games. He’s the only quarterback below seven thousand on FanDuel and DraftKings that has any cash game worth.
We’re torn on Jarrett Stidham (Baylor at Oklahoma State). He’s quarterbacking the best offense in college football (Baylor’s offense is ranked first in overall S&P+), but he struggled against Oklahoma’s stout defense last week (two touchdown, two interceptions and 257 passing yards; 17 Fantasy points). Well, Oklahoma State’s passing defense (ranked 24th in S&P+) represents another difficult matchup for Stidham, and like the Sooners (36 sacks), the Cowboys are able to pressure the quarterback (35 sacks; ranked fifth in the nation). Keep in mind that 1) Devin Chafin scored three touchdowns inside the six yard line (one or two of those touchdowns could’ve easily gone Stidham’s way) and 2) we’re evaluating a one game, which is a very small sample. There’s a reasonable chance that Stidham can be more productive in a difficult matchup this time around, but it’s simply an unnecessary risk to take in cash games. Use Stidham in tournaments, where you can expect his ownership to be a bit lower than usual for a Baylor quarterback. His poor performance last week coupled with another difficult matchup and other favorable values at the positions are the reasons why we expect his ownership to be lower in tournaments on Saturday night.
Additional quarterback notes: Kevin Hogan (Stanford vs. California) and Jared Goff (California at Stanford) are viable next in line options to our value recommendations at the position. Goff is the better value for tournaments, since he generates more passing volume (averaging 38.7 passing attempts per game) than Hogan (averaging 23.8 passing attempts per game). Hogan’s ceiling isn’t significant enough to use him in tournaments, but a matchup against California’s passing defense (ranked 100th in S&P+) makes him a viable cash game option. Trevone Boykin (TCU at Oklahoma) should only be utilized in multi-entry tournaments if he suits up on Saturday. Boykin isn’t at 100 percent, his main receiver (Josh Doctson) is out for the rest of the season and Oklahoma’s defense (ranked 14th in overall S&P+) is one of the best in the nation. Boykin’s context isn’t any good, so we expect his ownership to be low in tournaments. He shouldn’t be used in cash games.
Roster construction note: It’s a good time to bring up this roster construction strategy article that we wrote during the offseason. While top running backs generally outscore top wide receivers in CFB DFS, the margin isn’t as severe on DraftKings (2.7 point difference) like it is on FanDuel (five point difference). On DraftKings (PPR scoring), it currently makes more sense to target top wide receivers instead of top running backs in cash games due to their difference in price. For example, you could use a top running back like Donnel Pumphrey (averaging 27.7 DraftKings points) for $7,900, or you could invest in Gabe Marks (averaging 26.3 DraftKings points) in cash games. Their DFS averages are basically the same on that site, but Marks comes at a 13 percent discount over Pumphrey. We’re just isolating one example here, but keep in mind that this is largely the case on that site and will continue to be the case as long as top wide receivers are priced more favorably. It’s a great strategy to spend up for workhorse running backs in tournaments on that particular site, but we’re going to continue to prioritize top wide receivers in cash games as long as they’re discounted.
We’re going to focus on the industry wide top plays first before diving into DraftKings specific plays. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma vs. TCU) has the highest expected value at the position, with Alex Collins (Arkansas vs. Mississippi State) not far behind. To keep college football aspirations alive in their biggest game of the season, the Sooners turned to Perine (29 offensive touches). We thought that his backup (Joe Mixon) could turn out to be more productive as a pass catcher in a difficult matchup, but we we’re very wrong. The Perine of old is back, rushing for over six yards per carry in every single one of his last four games. Perine destroyed a good Baylor rushing defense, churning out 28 carries for 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He’s getting an easier matchup this week (TCU’s rushing defense is ranked 66th in S&P+, which is just average), but this game is just as important to the Sooners’ college football playoff hopes as the Baylor game last week. For this reason, we expect a heavy dose of Perine once again. He can be used in all formats, particularly on FanDuel where you’re still able to play two top running backs as well as a top receiver in cash games without sacrificing much elsewhere.
Collins is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 1.4 rushing touchdowns per game. He’s facing a Mississippi State rushing defense (ranked 62nd in S&P+) that just surrendered 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Derrick Henry. Collins has generated at least 20 Fantasy points in 70 percent of his games this season. We’ll invest in his high floor on FanDuel, where you can pair him with Perine in cash games and still have access to a top quarterback as well as a top receiver. Both Perine and Collins are viable across all formats on DraftKings and DraftDay, but as we mentioned earlier, we’re emphasizing discounted top receivers over top running backs on DraftKings.
On DraftKings, Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State at UNLV) and Tyler Ervin (San Jose State at Hawaii) represent the top plays at the position. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford vs. California) isn’t available on FanDuel, but he’s available on DraftKings and DraftDay. While his touchdown production isn’t ideal for a workhorse, high priced running back (averaging just one touchdown per game; Stanford vultures him with Remound Wright and Kevin Hogan in the red zone area), his workload (averaging 26 touches per game) and skills (averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 11 yards per reception) puts him in the conversation as a top play. We like Pumphrey and Ervin at similar price points a bit more since they’re both averaging 1.4 touchdowns per game and their workloads are the same (averaging 25 touches per game). Ervin hasn’t been very good as of late (averaging 3.65 yards per carry in his last two games), but his matchup against Hawaii (allowing 4.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns rushing touchdowns per game) could help him turn it around. Pumphrey has recorded double digit Fantasy performances in every game he’s played this season, and he’s reached 30 Fantasy points or more in 50 percent of those performances. All three of these running backs have similar expected values, but Pumphrey is the safest of the three and his expected value is slightly higher.
Secondary Top Plays:
There are three running back options that are better for tournaments since their contexts make their production a bit more difficult to project, but their expected value is the closest to our primary recommendations at the position. Aaron Green (TCU at Oklahoma) is the best option of the secondary top plays because his workload is easier to project with Josh Doctson out for the rest of the season. The other secondary top plays are Shock Linwood (Baylor at Oklahoma State) and Sony Michel (Georgia vs. Georgia Southern). Green is the better play of those three because his usage will be on the rise, even in a difficult matchup. Josh Doctson has basically missed the last two games, and Green has seen a 47 percent increase in his workload in those two games. TCU was trailing against Oklahoma State for almost the whole game, yet Green saw 24 carries and three receptions. It looks like Green will be featured no matter what the score is, but the matchup (Oklahoma’s rushing defense is ranked sixth in S&P+) and a price point that’s similar to some of our primary top plays makes him a better target for tournaments. Linwood is great from a skill standpoint (averaging 7.4 yards per carry), but the introduction of Devin Chafin as a goal line back coupled with a difficult matchup leaves him as a tournament only option on Saturday. Michel might still be playing through an injury, as he wasn’t able to capitalize against a below average Auburn rushing defense (26 carries, 77 rushing yards and no touchdowns) last week. The Bulldogs are double-digit home favorites this week against an inferior Georgia Southern team, but we’re not sure if Michel will be need much in this one. Because of this uncertainty, Michel should be used in tournaments instead of cash games. For those who can take on this risk, Michel can be used in cash games on DraftDay since his price point is below the average cost of a roster spot, as well as on FanDuel (his price is slightly above the average cost of a roster spot on that particular site).
Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M) – Webb isn’t very skilled (averaging four yards per carry), but he’s averaging 25 touches and 0.7 touchdowns per game this season. He’s priced below the average cost of a roster spot on every site, and on DraftKings, he’s only $4,400. He’s recorded a double-digit Fantasy performance in 90 percent of his games this season, and against Texas A&M, we expect more of the same. The Aggies have been very good against the pass, but they’re allowing five yards per carry. This rushing defense just allowed Western Carolina’s number one running back (Detrez Newsome) to go off for over 100 rushing yards, and they surrendered monster games to Brandon Wilds (South Carolina) and Jovon Robinson (Auburn) in previous weeks. We realize that Webb doesn’t have a favorable game script (the Commodores are seven point home underdogs), but the awesome matchup coupled with his elite volume makes him a can’t miss value on DraftKings ($4,400) and DraftDay ($10,250).
Chris Swain (Navy at Tulsa) – The only reason that Swain isn’t our top value play is mostly because of the offense system he plays for (triple-option offense). Nonetheless, he’s a next in line option to Ralph Webb, and he has similar potential on Saturday. While the triple-option offense introduces risk for most running backs or running quarterbacks, Swain is averaging 17 carries per game and he’s recorded double-digit carries in every single game this season while posting around a touchdown per game. Navy doesn’t throw the football much, and they won’t need to against Tulsa. Tulsa’s rushing defense is surrendering 4.9 yards per carry, and they’ve allowed 30 rushing touchdowns this season (three per game). Expect big games from Keenan Reynolds and Swain in this matchup. While Swain is a little more risky than Webb, his team is projected to have way more success (Navy has a team total of 40 points). Swain can be used in all formats.
DraftKings Value Plays:
Chase Price (San Diego State at UNLV) and Dontrell Hilliard (Tulane at SMU) are very cheap on DraftKings. At their current prices, it won’t take much for Price and Hilliard to hit two times their salary. We like Price more than Hilliard since Price’s workload (averaging 13 carries per game) is a bit friendlier than Hilliard’s workload (averaging 10 touches per game). Their skills are basically the same (around 5.5 yards per carry), but Price has been consistently more productive as of late. Price has recorded double-digit Fantasy performances in each of his last four games (scored at least one touchdown in those games), and he’s coming off his best performance of the season (17 carries, 152 yards and two rushing touchdowns). San Diego State doesn’t throw the ball much, so this offense runs through Donnel Pumphrey and Price. UNLV is an inferior team (Aztecs are favored by 13.5 points despite being on the road), and their rushing defense is beyond awful (have surrendered 5.5 yards per carry and 2.5 rushing touchdowns per game). Pumphrey and Price are in line for big days against this rushing defense. Price is only $4,300 on DraftKings, which makes him just as strong of a point per dollar option as Ralph Webb (our top industry wide value). Hilliard has the best matchup of any running back on this slate (SMU is surrendering 5.9 yards per carry and almost four rushing touchdowns per game), so he’s cash game viable despite a less than stellar workload. Using these cheap running backs in cash games on DraftKings makes the most sense, as it allows you to spend on two elite receivers and a top ranked quarterback.
Make sure to reference our quick cards for additional wide receiver options. Our focus in the analysis is to identify the options we have the most confidence in but college football slates are large and there are additional viable plays we cover on our quick cards that may only earn a small mention in our content as we attempt to focus your attention on our primary targets.
Corey Coleman (Baylor at Oklahoma State) earns top play honors every time he suits up. However, in a very difficult matchup last week, he recorded the lowest amount of targets (seven) and had the worst game (three receptions, 51 yards) of his season. The Sooners were double covering him and quarterback Jarrett Stidham decided not to go his way much. Baylor has another difficult matchup against a Cowboys team that brings a ton of pressure, and it looks like Jarrett Stidham will be playing at less than 100 percent. Coleman is always playable in cash games, but his expected value isn’t as certain as it has been in the past. He’s a better target for tournaments this Saturday night. We think that Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma vs. TCU) is a safer investment than Coleman in cash games. When it mattered the most, Shepard saw a season high 18 targets against Baylor and turned in a brilliant performance (14 receptions, 177 receiving yards and two touchdowns). Oklahoma will need to beat TCU in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, so we expect Shepard to see double-digit targets again. He’s the better cash game option because his expected value doesn’t carry much uncertainty. The same can be said for Gabe Marks, Dom Williams (Washington State vs. Colorado) and James Washington (Oklahoma State vs. Baylor). Marks and Williams are only available on DraftKings and DraftDay, where they’re elite options in all formats. Luke Falk throws the ball more than 50 times per game, so these two receivers see double-digit targets on a weekly basis. They’re the most productive receivers in this Cougars’ offense, and Colorado’s passing defense (ranked 70th in S&P+) is just average. We’re confident in those two in all formats. James Washington came back down to earth last week (four receptions, 48 yards). However, he was targeted a season high 11 times. Baylor just gave up a ridiculous performance to Sterling Shepard, and Washington (averaging 20.5 yards per reception) is more explosive than Shepard (averaging 16.4 yards per carry). He should get back on track this Saturday night, and he’s the cheapest of our top ranked receivers on FanDuel.
Next in line:
Courtland Sutton (SMU vs. Tulane) rates the closest to our recommendations above at the position, but his expected value is lower. He’s not very consistent (46.6 percent catch rate), which makes him a bit of a volatile option. However, he’s averaging 18.4 yards per reception (nine targets per game) to go along with about a touchdown per game and Tulsa’s passing defense (surrendering 8.1 yards per attempt) isn’t any good. He’s in play in all formats, and we like him a bit more on sites where he offers a meaningful discount over our top plays.
Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State vs. Baylor) and Fred Ross (Mississippi State at Arkansas) have the highest expected value after the recommendations above, and they’re cheap everywhere. Ateman is coming off his best performance of the season (eight receptions, 132 yards and one touchdown), and his size (6-4, 210 lbs.) will keep him entrenched as one of the best red zone options in the Cowboys offense (averaging 1.4 red zone targets per game). Oklahoma State and Baylor like to go very fast on offense, and Vegas thinks that this game will be the closest on this slate (pick em line). If you don’t pay for James Washington in cash games, having cheap exposure to the Cowboys’ offense with Ateman is ideal. Fred Ross is averaging 8.5 targets per game and he’s very consistent (67 percent catch rate). Ross (11.2 yards per reception) isn’t as explosive as Ateman (17.9 yards per reception), but he’s been more consistent. Ross has recorded a double-digit Fantasy performance in 70 percent of his games this season, and Mississippi State has leaned on him more against SEC opponents. Last week against Alabama’s tough defensive unit, Ross generated eight receptions for 114 yards. Two weeks ago against Missouri, Ross went off for 11 catches, 115 yards and one touchdown. Arkansas’ passing defense (allowing 8.1 yards per attempt; ranked 112th in S&P+) is terrible, so expect Ross to have another quality performance. The Bulldogs could be without De’Runnya Wilson (questionable to play after being carted off the field last week), which means that more opportunities could be headed towards Ross’ direction. Ross doesn’t score many touchdowns (two touchdowns this season through 10 games), but a chance for double-digit catches and over 100 receiving yards gives him a decent ceiling. He’s in play across all formats, but we prefer him in cash games.
River Cracraft (Washington State vs. Colorado) and David Glidden (Oklahoma State vs. Baylor) are also good values for cash games, but their ceilings aren’t significant. Glidden (averaging 15.9 yards per carry) is more explosive than Cracraft (11.5 yards per reception), but their average DraftKings performance (14 points) is largely the same. We prefer Cracraft since the Cougars throw the ball more than 50 times per game, but Glidden is a usable value given his context (playing in the most competitive game on this slate).
Additional wide receiver notes: Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa vs. Navy) is targeted heavily and he’s explosive, but he’s very inconsistent. Garrett is priced similarly to our top options at the position, so he’s a tournament only option this Saturday. Kenny Lawler, Bryce Treggs and Trevor Davis (California at Stanford) are in play for tournaments. Stanford is perennially one of the top defenses in the nation, but they’ve been just average against the pass (ranked 66th in S&P+) this season. Lawler is the receiver with the most touchdown upside from the California offense, but Davis offers a ton of explosiveness (averaging 20 yards per reception) for a very low price. Spread these receivers out in your tournament lineups (we don’t recommend using all three in the same lineup). Shaun Nixon (TCU at Oklahoma) will likely continue to see plenty of targets, as TCU will be without Josh Doctson. In the last two games, Nixon has accumulated 16 catches, 224 receiving yards and a touchdown. TCU’s offense will likely continue to throw short passes to Nixon, while receivers like KaVontae Turpin and Kolby Listenbee receive most of the Sooners’ attention on defense. Oklahoma’s defense is one of the best in the nation (they just held Corey Coleman, arguably the best receiver in college football, to three receptions and 51 yard), so we’re only going to pick on them with a secondary receiver like Nixon. He’s a usable value in cash games, but his ceiling in this matchup isn’t significant enough to draw tournament consideration. Michael Rector (Stanford vs. California) is another receiver that obtains his value through big plays. He’s not consistent enough to warrant cash game consideration, but he’s another explosive receiver that deserves consideration for tournaments.
Hunter Henry (Arkansas vs. Mississippi State) and Mark Andrews (Oklahoma vs. TCU) represent the top options at the tight end position. While Andrews is in play in all formats, Henry should only be used in tournaments. We love Henry’s opportunities (averaging six targets and one red zone target per game) and production (37 receptions, 490 yards, one touchdown), but his matchup against Mississippi State’s passing defense (ranked 33rd in passing S&P+; have surrendered only six passing touchdowns this season) is a very difficult one. Andrews (averaging 2.2 targets and one red zone target per game) certainly doesn’t generate the same opportunities as Henry, but he’s been more productive from a touchdown perspective (six touchdowns this season) and his matchup is much easier (TCU’s passing defense is slightly below average; ranked 73rd in S&P+). Andrews has recorded at least six Fantasy points in seven games this season. That’s a solid floor for a tight end in cash games.
Gus Walley (Mississippi State at Arkansas) is the best punt play at the position on FanDuel. Walley missed five games due to an injury, but he was back for the Bulldogs last week against Alabama. Walley saw 23 targets in five games this season (4.6 targets per game), and De’Runnya Wilson might not play this weekend (he’s questionable to play). If Wilson is out, Fred Ross and Gus Walley will receive more opportunities. If you don’t want to pay much for a tight end, the best alternative is top punt the position with Walley. He only needs a few catches in order to pay off his cheap price.