11/28 CFB DFS Early Slate: Get Off My Paws
Welcome to the Saturday Early 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 11/21/15)
***Target statistics courtesy of NCAA Savant
Deshaun Watson (Clemson at South Carolina) has emerged as a threat through the air and on the ground over his last four games, becoming an elite quarterback option each week. During that stretch, he has thrown for 11 touchdowns, while adding three touchdowns on the ground. His matchup against South Carolina is amongst the best in this slate (USCe ranks 114th in rushing S&P+, 100th in passing S&P+), but it’s the reliance on Watson in this offense that makes him the top play. His 71.4% market share of touchdowns is what you’re looking for in a high priced quarterback. Watson is averaging 42 touches per game, but over his last four, he has seen that number rise to 52.3. It is very realistic to pay up for Watson this weekend considering the lack of high-priced receiver talent in this slate.
Next In Line:
Marquise Williams: (UNC at NC State) is priced similarly to Watson, so we’ll likely pass on Williams this weekend if we have to choose just one, but he makes for a great pivot option. He’s coming off an “off game” this past weekend against Virginia Tech, yet he still generated 22.6 Fantasy points. If you can find a way to fit both Watson and Williams into the same lineup then we’d recommend it. NC State’s defense has been terrible against the pass (95th in passing S&P+) and has struggled against running quarterbacks this season (Deshaun Watson, Brendan Motley, and Lamar Jackson have put up great numbers against them). Williams has been quite good on the ground (66.7 rushing yards per game, 10 rushing touchdowns) this season, giving him a high floor each and every week.
Joel Lanning (Iowa State at West Virginia) has really burst onto the scene over the last five weeks. He has seen three games of between 17 and 20 Fantasy points to go along with games of 29 and 37 Fantasy points on DraftKings. His floor his high due to his very effective rushing ability (57.4 rushing yards per start, three rushing touchdowns). Lanning isn’t all that talented through the air (56.6% completion, 6.56 yards per attempt), but does enough overall to give him great value.
Austin Appleby (Purdue vs Indiana) is the man who will replace David Blough under center this weekend against Indiana, making him an elite cash game option considering his price across the industry. Appleby couldn’t have a better matchup in his first start since week three (Indiana ranks 105th in overall S&P+, 95th in passing S&P+) and his volume is above average. Even though he didn’t play the entire game last weekend against Iowa, he still managed 44 total touches (40 passing attempts). His price is most ideal on two quarterback sites like Fantasy Aces and DraftKings, where salary relief makes sense when picking your QB2.
Cash Game Options:
Mitch Leidner (Minnesota vs Wisconsin) has such a low price across the industry that it doesn’t make sense not to use him on two quarterback sites. His usage isn’t that high through the air (30.1 attempts per game), but it’s his rushing ability that helps negate the lack of touchdowns (8.6 attempts per game, 17 total touchdowns in 11 games). The Wisconsin defense is very tough (top 20 in all S&P+ metrics), but he has performed well against great defenses before (Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan in three of the last four weeks).
Jacoby Brissett (NC State vs UNC) has some upside in this matchup against UNC (64th in passing S&P+, 14th in adjusted pace), but we’re more comfortable using him strictly in cash games. He’s averaging 17.2 DraftKings Fantasy points per game, but has seen that number move to 20 over his last five games (Boston College, Clemson, FSU among those games). Brissett has an impressive 17:3 TD to INT ratio in 2015.
JT Barrett (Ohio State at Michigan) has disappointed us since his return from suspension a few weeks back. While last week’s debacle could have been due to play calling and bad weather, Barrett still didn’t impress us overall. With that being said, there is still potential to be had with Barrett. This Michigan defense has always been weak when facing running Ohio State quarterbacks (Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor, etc), especially lately. JT Barrett ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns against them last season, while Braxton Miller ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. Barrett has plenty of tournament appeal due to likely low ownership on FanDuel and DraftDay. His price is so low on Fantasy Aces ($4,900) that he’s viable in all formats.
Matt Davis (SMU at Memphis) is priced pretty high for a guy who averages just 28.9 passing attempts per game, but what you’re paying for is his rushing ability (15.5 attempts, 67.1 yards, and .9 touchdowns per game). Davis’s Mustangs only have a team total of 26, but the matchup is great (86th in overall S&P+, 91st in passing S&P+).
Blake Kemp (East Carolina vs Cincinnati) has many positives working for him (50 and 48 pass attempts in last two starts, team total of 34, and faces 101st ranked overall S&P+ defense), but his status headed into every game is uncertain. The way ECU uses their quarterbacks, we never know for sure who is starting each week. If he is announced the starter, he becomes viable in all formats on DraftDay.
Jake Rudock (Michigan vs Ohio State) is another mid-range quarterback to look at, but he comes with plenty of risk. Michigan has really let him loose over the last two games, resulting in 42 passing attempts, four touchdowns, and one interception per game. While those numbers are inflated by a monster game against Indiana that went into overtime, he still produced very well before overtime began. His matchup against Ohio State is very tough (3rd ranked passing S&P+), but the tempo should be better than ever (both teams rank in top 25 of adjusted pace).
Derrick Henry (Alabama at Auburn) has put up staggering numbers this season, rushing for 1,526 yards and 21 touchdowns. His consistent production (touchdown in every game, multiple touchdowns in five straight games), makes him the safest running back on the board each and every week. Henry’s matchup against Auburn is just average (Auburn ranks 50th in rushing S&P+), and he’s had success against similar defenses this season. In fact, he has performed at his best in the toughest of matchups (Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Ole Miss), averaging 35.3 DraftKings Fantasy points. While he comes with a hefty price tag on DraftKings, the lack of high-end receiver options allows for us to pay up for him there. It makes more sense to spend more conservatively at this position on FanDuel and Fantasy Aces where there are many underpriced options.
Next In Line:
Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State at Michigan) has a tough matchup against Michigan (9th ranked rushing S&P+), but we should see a return to his typical usage (12 carries last game, 21.1 carries per game this season) this week. Putting the offensive coordinator on blast isn’t typically the best idea, but Urban Meyer defended the comments saying that they need to get Elliot the ball more than 12 times a game. Elliot has his lowest price of the season on DraftKings ($7,700), so we love him in all formats on that site. Otherwise, he’s a tournament option because of that tough matchup and his price being so similar to Henry.
Sony Michel (UGA at Georgia Tech) has everything you’re looking for in a value play this weekend. His matchup is great (97th ranked rushing S*P+) and his usage is even better (25.7 touches per game). In five of his last six games, he has rushed 22 times or more. Michel lacks upside due to Georgia’s sputtering offense, but is a core cash game player on FanDuel, Fantasy Aces, and DraftDay.
Devine Redding (Indiana at Purdue) has been a solid part of this Indiana offense as the number two back (15.4 carries per game), but sees himself become the starter with Jordan Howard likely out. He isn’t all that talented (3.8 yards per carry), but will generate enough touches to hit value against Purdue (84th ranked rushing S&P+). Redding ran 24 times for 130 yards last weekend against Maryland, and we’re expecting more of the same this weekend. There will be plenty of offense in this contest with a game total of 67.5, and Redding’s low cost is a great way of getting exposure to the game.
Joe Williams (Utah vs Colorado) stepped into the starter role quite nicely with Devonate Booker out, carrying 26 times for 121 yards. While he’s not necessarily the most talented of running backs, it looks like Utah wants to keep their offensive game plan the same with or without Booker. The pace of this game will be slow, but Colorado’s run defense is bad (99th rushing S&P+) and Vegas expects Utah to score plenty (team total of 32.5). Utah’s quarterback, Travis Wilson, has a market share of 53% of offensive touchdowns this season. This is a low number that bodes very well for Williams with a high total. We want to pay up at the running back position on DraftKings, but he’s viable in all formats elsewhere.
Cash Game Options:
Elijah Hood (UNC at NC State) has really started to see consistent usage over the last five weeks (17 carries or more in five straight games). He has touchdowns in four of those games (eight touchdowns overall), turning him into a great play when UNC is expected to score plenty. Luckily for Hood, UNC’s team total is 35 and NC State’s run defense ranks 116th in rushing S&P+ (third worst run defense on display Saturday).
Wendell Smallwood (West Virginia vs Iowa State) has turned himself into a legit running back, rushing for 100-plus yards in seven of his last eight games. He has limited upside due to his teammate Rushel Shell (West Virginia vs Iowa State), but both have been able to coexist. Smallwood is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 123.4 yards per game in 2015. Shell is averaging 13.5 attempts and 59.8 yards per game, but has seen an uptick in production recently (13.3 attempts and 90.7 yards per game over the last three games). They face an Iowa State defense that is average (63rd in rushing S&P+), but West Virginia has a team total of 37.5. The Mountaineers are riding a three-game win streak, and have done it throwing just 22.7 times. Meanwhile, they’ve run the football 54.3 times during that stretch. Shell’s price is significantly cheaper than Smallwood’s, making him a better per dollar player except on DraftKings.
Josh Ferguson (Illinois vs Northwestern) has a terrible matchup against Northwestern (5th overall S&P+ defense), but has averaged six catches per game since he came back from injury. He’s an explosive runner when he touches the football (5.8 yards per carry), but has limited upside due to matchup and low team total (19).
Wayne Gallman (Clemson at South Carolina) is expected to be the starter this weekend after missing time with an ankle injury. He’s very talented (5.3 yards per carry, just under one touchdown per game) and has Deshaun Watson as the under center superstar in this offense. Watson and the Clemson offense will likely continue to spread the ball around and Gallman has a great matchup (114th in rushing S&P+) on Saturday.
Chris Hairston (ECU vs Cincinnati) has the second best matchup against the run this weekend (Cincinnati ranks 121st in rushing S&P+), which gives him plenty of potential for putting up Fantasy points. His usage (16.7 touches per game) and production (4.7 yards per carry, 67.1 yards per game) are low for his price on DraftKings, but preferred on DraftDay where he’s significantly cheaper than Henry, Elliot, and Gallman.
Joshua Thomas (Iowa State at West Virginia) and Brandon Radcliff (Louisville at Kentucky) are two running backs with a lot of risk in this slate, but allow for different roster construction options in tournaments. We’ll likely be targeting mid-range to high-price running backs across the industry, so it would be no surprise if others did the same. Thomas has a tough matchup, but does have seven touchdowns on the season. Radcliff has a better matchup than Thomas and has six games of double-digit carries this season, including week 11 against UVA (21/146/2). Radcliff’s risk comes from his lack of consistent usage.
There are no high-end receiver options that are worthy of being put in this spot. Bad quarterback situations (Aaron Burbridge/Isaiah Jones), injuries (Juju Smith-Schuster), and overall lack of elite upside (Jordan Payton) has created a situation where we want to find salary relief from the wide receiver position. We have hit on it already, but the best all around options this weekend come at the running back position. Generally speaking, we would target the value plays at this position to create enough salary relief for guys like Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot.
Since We Have To…Next In Line:
Jordan Payton (UCLA at USC) is the safest play at this position Saturday, but more because of negative situations around other receivers than tangible positives for Payton. Payton has an average matchup (64th ranked passing S&P+), but he does garner 10.8 targets per game and he has been great recently (21/257/0 over his last two games). His upside in this offense is limited though (has generated 25-plus Fantasy points just twice this season), so we’re limiting our use of Payton to cash games.
Juju Smith-Schuster (USC vs UCLA) is banged up and we’re really starting to see a decline in production because of it. He has had hand surgery in the last month and came out of last week’s game with minor injuries to his hand and knee. When healthy, Juju is among one of the top performers in the country (averaging about six catches, 110 yards, and one touchdown per game). While we expect him to be healthy against UCLA, there is obviously risk in predicting college football player’s injuries when it comes to how they’ll respond. We’ll leave our usage of him to tournaments only because of this.
Isaiah Jones (ECU vs Cincinnati) came very close to becoming our top play at the position, but we could only do so if we knew Blake Kemp would be starting at quarterback for ECU (we currently do not). Jones has had too many up and down games based off quarterback play to risk his price in all formats (17 targets last game, three targets the week before that). Instead, we’re more than willing to risk him in tournaments. He’s coming off a huge 14/181/2 game against UCF last week and could be in for more against Cincinnati (101st overall S&P+ defense).
It’s going to be extremely hard to keep Simmie Cobbs (Indiana at Purdue) out of all of our lineups on Saturday when we consider the way he has performed in 2015. When he faces a top tier defense, the production can be sporadic, but when he faces a bad defense (like Purdue) he shines. Last weekend against Maryland, he caught nine passes for 192 yards. In week seven, he caught seven passes for 107 yards. In week four, he caught seven passes for 75 yards and one touchdown. Get the point? With Cobbs averaging 7.9 targets per game this season, it’s hard not to love him against the 84th ranked passing S&P+ defense.
DeAngelo Yancey (Purdue vs Indiana) is very similar to Cobbs in that he is underpriced and has performed very well against bad opponents this season. In fact, he has double-digit points against every below average defense he has faced in 2015. Yancey saw a season high 13 targets last week, most of them coming from Austin Appleby. An upward trend of targets has continued over the last four weeks. Even though Yancey is averaging 8.2 targets per game, he’s averaging 10.8 over his last four games. Seeing his stock continue to rise with this kind of team total (37.5) is very appealing this weekend.
Anthony Miller (Memphis vs SMU) has been banged up lately, but is expected to be at full strength against SMU Saturday. He was ineffective against Temple last weekend, but that matchup is much tougher than what he’ll face this week. SMU ranks 115th in passing S&P+ defense, meaning Paxton Lynch should have no issue finding Miller for big plays. Miller has only six touchdowns this season, but four have come in the last four games. Against Tulsa and Cincinnati, similarly bad defenses, Miller had two of his best games (5/106/1 and 5/156/1). Miller comes with slight risk due to the hamstring injury a few weeks back, but has more upside than Yancey and Cobbs.
Cash Game Options:
Chris Moore (Cincinnati at ECU) and Shaq Washington (Cincinnati at ECU) are two great options from this Bearcats’ passing attack. Moore used to be the tournament only option from this group, but has performed so consistently lately (four straight games with a touchdown and 100-plus yards in three of last four games) that we love him in all formats. Shaq Washington has limited upside due to his lack of play-making ability (11.6 yards per catch), but makes up for it with volume (10.5 targets, 6.6 catches, 77 yards per game).
Amara Darboh (Michigan vs Ohio State) and Jehu Chesson (Michigan vs Ohio State) have been very productive over the last two games and a lot of it is because of the high usage of Jake Rudock. With Rudock averaging 42 passes per game, it’s hard for these two to not garner big target numbers. Of the 84 passes thrown in those two games, Darbah has been targeted 24 times, while Chesson has been targeted 23 times. The matchup is tough, but Rudock has shown trust in these two players. Darboh has a touchdown in each of his last three games, making him a safer option than Chesson, who has 10 of his 17 catches and four of his five touchdowns coming in one game during the last three games.
Deon Cain (Clemson at South Carolina) and Charone Peake (Clemson at South Carolina) continue to be great cash game options week-in and week-out, but will lack upside as long as Deshaun Watson spreads the ball around. Cain has a touchdown catch in four straight games, while Peake has a touchdown in three of the last four. Both have been targeted similarly during that stretch (Cain 26, Peake 28). We would lean on Peake over Cain on all sites except FanDuel, where the $500 savings is valuable.
Allen Lazard (Iowa State at West Virginia) is a physical freak (6’5, 223) that will surely be playing in the NFL soon, but for now, he has one of the toughest matchups he’ll face in 2015. West Virginia has been beaten by the pass this season, but ISU doesn’t have the same passing attack that TCU and Baylor have. He is somewhat touchdown dependent (only averaging 5.1 catches, 73.4 yards per game), so we’ll be targeting him where he’s priced the lowest (FanDuel and Fantasy Aces).
Desmond Cain (Illinois vs Northwestern) is another “Cain” with value come Saturday, but we’re looking at utilizing him more for tournament action. He does have some cash game value on DraftKings because of roster size and near minimum price. Cain is second on the team in targets (seven per game), but has seen an increase in usage over his last three games. He’s averaging 11.3 targets, 7.3 catches, and 72.7 yards per game during that three-game stretch.
Jaylen Samuels (NC State vs UNC) is one of the most unique tight ends in the country. He’s averaging 5.3 catches and 4.5 carries per game this season. Samuels is the safest tight end on the board (double-digit Fantasy points in every game, 20.4 per game overall), but will cost you plenty to use him. It makes more sense to punt with Alan Cross this weekend, but Samuels is cash viable on DraftKings, where his price isn’t that high.
Next In Line:
Jake Butt (Michigan vs Ohio State) is the second best tight end option of the slate and represents some salary relief from Samuels at the position. He’s been very effective through the air, averaging six targets, 3.9 catches, and 51.5 yards per game. Over his last three games, Butt has really gelled with Rudock, seeing those averages move to 6.3 targets, 5.3 catches, and 83.3 yards per game (to go along with two total touchdowns).
Alan Cross (Memphis vs SMU) has the honor of the best matchup of all tight ends in this slate. Memphis’ Paxton Lynch spreads the wealth around to everyone on the team, but Cross should continue to see his 3.6 targets per game. He provides nice salary relief across the industry.