October 3 Early Slate CFB DFS Picks: Coug-Air Attack
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
***Target statistics courtesy of NCAA Savant
2015 S&P+ Data
We’ve begun to carefully integrate Football Outsider’s advanced statistics for the 2015 season. Obviously, most teams have only played 4 games this season (max) – a small sample size when compared to a full season worth of game statistics (12-13 games) – which is why we’ll continue to reference 2014 data. However, there will be instances where 2015 data is useful and relevant and that’s when we’ll sprinkle it into our analysis.
Before we dive into the top players, we want to stress how bad the weather is going to be on the east coast. Rainfall will be in measured in inches and winds could reach over 30mph. DailyRoto meteoroligist, Mark Paquette, has listed out these games for us where deteriorating weather conditions will introduce player risk:
- Pitt at Virginia Tech (12:00 PM ET)
- Louisville at NC State (12:30 PM ET)
- Florida State at Wake Forest (3:30 PM ET)
- Boston College at Duke (3:30 PM ET)
From those four games, expect the rain and wind to limit the passing attacks.
While there are great running backs to choose from this weekend, we’re going to be targeting high-end money on quarterbacks and receivers. Many of the stars at those two positions come from great passing attacks in games with high totals on Saturday.
Seth Russell (Baylor vs Texas Tech) pulled off an amazing feat last Saturday at home against Rice. He recorded 37.78 fantasy points on DraftKings on just 18 touches (16 passing, two rushing). In that game, he threw for six touchdowns and 277 yards and has that same potential this weekend against Texas Tech. With the Texas Tech offense being extremely talented, his potential easily tops his game against Rice last week. Texas Tech is coming off a game where they gave up 485 yards and four passing touchdowns to Trevone Boykin, a similar quarterback in talent and offensive style to Russell and the Baylor Bears. The Texas Tech defense has struggled all season long, not just against TCU. Against Arkansas two weeks ago, they gave up 9.3 yards per attempt through the air and 76.2% completion percentage. Russell has elite weapons like Corey Coleman, Jay Lee, and KD Cannon powering him for another shot at 40 points on DraftKings this Saturday.
Greg Ward Jr. (Houston at Tulsa) has been extremely impressive in 2015 with great passing numbers and a high usage on the ground. As we look at those numbers, here’s what we see: Ward Jr. is completing 75% of his passes for 261 yards per game this season to go along with 15 rushes and 96 yards per game on the ground. The Tulsa defense has been very unimpressive in 2015 and gave up the epic Baker Mayfield 58 fantasy point game (DraftKings) just a few weeks ago. In that game, Mayfield completed 84% of his passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns and tacked on 85 yards and two rushing touchdowns for good measure. So far in 2015, Tulsa’s defense ranks 117th in rushing S&P+, 109th in passing S&P+, and 121st in IsoPPP+. The final straw that puts Ward over the top is the pace of play. Houston ranks 4th in pace of play while Tulsa ranks 2nd. Expect fireworks in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Ward Jr. holding the igniter.
Dane Evans (Tulsa vs Houston) shocked many with his performance against Oklahoma a few weeks ago (427 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT). In this tilt against Houston, we see Evans having another outstanding game. He has the benefit of an unreal pace, as we just discussed, and a matchup that is very favorable. The Houston pass defense is ranked 120th in passing S&P+, the result of playing three teams (Tennessee Tech, Louisville, and Texas State) that have thrown for 300+ yards and a 60% completion percentage or better when facing the Cougars. Not only does Evans have serious upside, he’s also the cheapest of the three top quarterback options on Saturday, so he’ll provide some salary relief when compared to Russell and Ward Jr.
Brenden Motley (Virginia Tech vs Pitt) is going to be a part of a bad weather game on Saturday, but he just went through the same thing last weekend. Against East Carolina the rain was terrible, but Motley still managed to have a great game. He threw for 281 yards and ran for 85 more. He only managed two total touchdowns, but his usage on the ground (19 carries) helped him easily hit value across the industry. Pitt has been an above average team on defense in 2015 (41st in defensive S&P+), but hasn’t played a tough schedule (Iowa, Youngstown State, and Akron). If you’re going cheap on DraftKings at the quarterback position, then Motley should be your first target due to his usage and high floor.
Drew Lock (Missouri vs South Carolina) is getting the first college start of his career in a matchup against South Carolina, but that doesn’t scare us. He has snaps in every game this season, even in close games in bouts against Kentucky and UCONN the past few weeks. South Carolina comes into this game as the 75th ranked passing S&P+ team in the country and we expect them to get worse as the season progresses. Lock was a four-star quarterback recruit out of high school with a style similar to Maty Mauk, so the team won’t have to tailor their offense to the freshman’s skill set. At near minimum prices across the industry, it’s hard to ignore Lock and his favorable matchup on Saturday against the Gamecocks.
Additional notes: Trevone Boykin (TCU vs Texas) is going to cost you a pretty penny, but should be a great option against Texas. The Longhorns have struggled so far in 2015 (8.3 yards per attempt and an 8:2 TD to INT ratio against Power 5 teams), which is bad news considering how great Boykin is at making plays. In his last two games, Boykin has thrown for 939 yards, nine touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s a great pivot option from Russell and Ward Jr. Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky at Rice) is only available on one site (FanDuel) where he is an elite option. Rice gave up six touchdowns on just 16 passes last week against Seth Russell and the Baylor Bears. This WKU offense is just as dynamic with everyone healthy. Doughty has thrown for 941 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions in his last two games. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma vs West Virginia) has the potential to outscore any quarterback on the board Saturday, but he carries much more risk compared to the others. He’ll be going up against an elite DB group from West Virginia, but this Oklahoma offense revolves around Mayfield. Samaje Perine has taken a backseat to Mayfield this season, but it’s working for the Sooners. The Oklahoma team total is 32.5 going into this game, which is great, but not as elite as the others at the position. Consider Mayfield a pivot option across the industry. Jerrod Heard (Texas at TCU) has an attractive price on DraftDay ($9,000) where we consider him to be a top value play. On other sites, his price differential from Motley and Lock doesn’t warrant him to be a top value play. He has many things going for him like his usage (43 rushes in last two games) and his playmaking ability (4.9 yards per carry and 10 yards per attempt in his last two games). Heard finds himself with a matchup against a TCU defense that has given up 89 points in their last two games. While the TCU defense is getting healthier, we love Heard on DraftDay and as a tournament option elsewhere. Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Nebraska at Illinois) has emerged as a high usage passing quarterback this season, making him a great mid-range option on DFS sites. He has attempted at least 30+ passes in each game this season and 40+ passes in two of those four games. He’s averaging over 300 yards and two touchdowns per game, so he represents a safe option each and every week. In addition, Armstrong has become more active on the ground in recent weeks, rushing 18 times for 112 yards and one touchdown in his last two games. We love the high floor he has and consider him a cash option on every site but DraftDay.
Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State at Indiana) separates himself as the top running back option this week due to his matchup and attractive price tag. The game script also works in a positive way for Elliot, as the Ohio State Buckeyes are three touchdown favorites in this matchup. He has rushed for 100+ yards in every game so far this season with a great 7.8 yards per carry average last week against Western Michigan. That’s positive news for Elliot owners because of Indiana’s 90th ranked rushing S&P+ and 95th ranking in IsoPPP+ this season. With other low dollar values available at the RB position to pursue in cash games, we think that leaving Elliot for tournaments is the proper strategy this week. We love Elliot and believe his price point on DraftKings and DraftDay leaves him with the most room for profit this weekend.
Nick Chubb (UGA vs Alabama) and Derrick Henry (Alabama vs UGA) are interesting options on Saturday as the game could be sloppy (high chance of precipitation) and both defenses have been great in 2015 (Alabama is 3rd ranked rushing S&P+ defense while UGA ranks 31st). The positives in using these two are simple: they’re the best players on their teams and their usage will be very high in a rain-drenched SEC battle. Chubb has 21 touches per SEC game this season while Henry had 28 touches in his one SEC matchup (Ole Miss). On sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, you won’t find these two priced any cheaper throughout the season. Henry’s price points are more palatable than Chubb’s, but both are in our crosshairs when paying up at the running back position.
Dalvin Cook (Florida State at Wake Forest) will be playing in a bad weather game on Saturday and should benefit as a result. Florida State’s passing offense has been rough in 2015 (5.64 yards per attempt in last two games), but Cook has been lethal on the ground. Even with a subpar game against Boston College, he’s averaging 7.4 yards per carry on the season. Having seen him run the football countless times, we know he has the low center of gravity required to handle 25+ carries in miserable weather conditions. Cook owners will carry some risk due to his high price on DraftKings, but his low price in comparison to other running backs on FantasyAces and FanDuel makes him a safe play with high potential.
Kenneth Farrow (Houston at Tulsa) hasn’t put up elite stats in FBS action this season (4.0 yards per carry and zero touchdowns), but this is just the kind of game he needs to get back on track. He’s averaging plenty of touches (22 per FBS game this season) and will be facing a terrible run defense (117 rushing S&P+ ranking). The Houston team total is 43.5 in this game and opposing runners have scored eight times on 5.23 yards per carry against the Golden Hurricane defense. Farrow’s lack of production this season has resulted in a low, attractive price across the industry.
Matt Dayes (NC State vs Louisville) will hit the field in a below average matchup against Louisville (54th rushing S&P+ ranking in 2015), but we love the contextual factors in this game. The heavy rain forecasted to pour down on the State of North Carolina is going to result in plenty of carries and short passes heading Dayes’ way. When given opportunities to tote the rock, Dayes has been lights out, averaging six yards per carry and 3.75 catches per game, with nine touchdowns on the season. Shadrach Thornton might have been an issue coming into this game, but he was just dismissed from the team for off field issues, leaving the wolves-share of carries for Dayes. He’s just the kind of running back needed to fit top quarterback and receiver options into your lineup for this slate.
Additional notes: What Zack Langer (Tulsa vs Houston) lacks in talent, he makes up for in usage. He’s a running back that takes on a large amount of carries per game (29) and uses his size to his advantage in goal line situations. All five of his rushing touchdowns have come from the five-yard line or closer to pay dirt. With a total of 37.5, Langer will have plenty of opportunities to score. D’Andre Ferby (WKU at Rice) is only available on FanDuel, but is a great cash option even if using his quarterback, Brandon Doughty. Ferby has received 21 and 22 carries in his two starts and performed much better in his second start than his first (5.2 yards per carry compared to 2.8). Western Kentucky’s total is 39.5 and the game script (WKU is a seven-point favorite against Rice) play in Ferby’s favor on Saturday. DeAndre Washington (Texas Tech at Baylor) has a high floor due to the team total (36), but the game script doesn’t benefit him. For this reason, we love his potential but see risk in using him. With Patrick Mahomes, the Texas Tech quarterback who’s banged up, we could see an even bigger load on Washington Saturday. In the Red Raiders last game, Mahomes was hurt early on and it resulted in Washington’s highest usage of the season (25 touches). In his three previous games, Washington averaged 14 touches per game.
Josh Doctson (TCU vs Texas) – Here’s what Doctson did when he was the sole receiving option for TCU in week four: 18 receptions, 267 yards and three touchdowns. That’s good for 65 DraftKings points. Doctson was targeted 21 times against Texas Tech last week; he had been targeted 24 times in the previous three games combined.This week, it looks like Doctson is going to receive a bump in opportunities yet again as teammate Kolby Listenbee is questionable to play. We realize that the pace differential between Texas (ranked 127th in adjusted pace) and Texas Tech (ranked 45th in adjusted pace) is substantial, but that’s about the only negative contextual factor working against Doctson. Texas (ranked 62nd in Def. S&P+ in 2015) represents an average matchup for Doctson and the Horned Frogs passing game, and the uptick in opportunities for a receiver with that much talent is enough to crown him as the top play. With pricing a bit more friendly than usual Saturday, we’re trying to fit in at least one of Doctson or Corey Coleman in cash games.
Corey Coleman (Baylor vs Texas Tech) – We discussed for hours internally how to rank Doctson and Coleman this week. This is a very close one for us, but the only difference would be the uptick in usage that Doctson would receive with Listenbee out. If Listenbee plays, Coleman and Doctson are projected so similarly that there’s no expected gap between the two. Like Doctson, Coleman is incredibly explosive (18.2 yards per reception in 25 games at the collegiate level) and he’s the most productive receiver (eight touchdowns) for the best offense in college football (Baylor is ranked first in Off. S&P+ in 2015). The Bears spread it around, but Coleman is still the number one target on this team (20 percent marker share of targets through three games; 28 targets) and we believe that more opportunities are on the horizon (Texas Tech ranked 19th in adjusted pace in 2014, and their adjusted pace in 2015 is skewed by a few games that were out of reach). In a high paced affair against a defense that’s ranked 118th in S&P+, we consider Coleman just as good of an option as Doctson in every format imaginable.
Keyarris Garrett/Keevan Lucas (Tulsa vs Houston) – Are you noticing a trend in our analysis? So far, most of our recommendations for the Saturday early slate consist of the same teams (Baylor, TCU, Tulsa and Houston). Those four teams have implied totals of at least 37 points, and two of those teams (Baylor and TCU) have team totals over 40. From the Tulsa side of things, they’re in a remarkable matchup against a Cougars defense that’s ranked 120th in Def. Passing S&P+. We’re also encouraged that this game will feature two teams that are ranked inside the top five in adjusted pace in 2015. With that sort of pace in a matchup against a terrible pass defense, Garrett (34 percent market share of targets) and Lucas (26 percent market share of targets) should produce at a very high level. Garrett (13.9 yards per reception) and Lucas (13.2 yards per reception) have been explosive in their respective careers, and the only thing that’s separating these two this season is their touchdown production (Lucas has five and Garrett has one). Garrett’s touchdown production will soon receive a boost, as he’s the most targeted receiver in this offense and he’s getting the most opportunities on this team in the red zone area (10). Doctson and Coleman are clearly the top plays, but Garrett and Lucas are the clear values at the position.
Jay Lee (Baylor vs Texas Tech) – Lee, the second most productive (four touchdowns) and targeted (25 targets; 17.5 percent market share of targets) receiver in the Baylor Bears offense, is discounted on every single site. Perfect time for Lee’s price to drop out of nowhere, as Baylor faces a Texas Tech secondary that’s not active (their defensive backs are ranked 96th in Havoc Rate). Lee is also explosive (15.5 yards per reception), and his big frame (6’3, 215 lbs.) should lead to more red zone opportunities as the season progresses. We realize that this slate of games gives you plenty of options at all skill positions, but Lee is one of the strongest values around the industry and a great cash game play given his price and context.
Shelton Gibson (West Virginia at Oklahoma) – While The Mountaineers spread the ball around evenly, Gibson has been by far their most explosive (27.4 yards per reception) and productive (four touchdowns) receiver on this offense. He’s received at least five targets in each game this season while posting a 65 percent catch rate. The matchup isn’t great (Oklahoma is ranked inside the top 20 in Passing Def. S&P+), but Gibson’s explosive skill set makes him a worthwhile investment in cash games where he’s cheap. If you want to target a cheaper option from this offense, teammate Jovon Durante has a great price tag on DraftKings ($3,500) and he’s receiving as many opportunities (14 percent market share of targets) as Gibson in this offense. He’s only cheaper because he hasn’t quite produced like Gibson (two touchdowns), but he’s received a bit more looks in the red zone area (six targets). More production for Durante looms ahead.
Additional wide receiver notes: Joshua Atkinson (Tulsa vs. Houston) is the third receiver on a Tulsa offense that features Keyarris Garrett and Keevan Lucas. The latter two receive by far the most opportunities in this offense, but Atkinson has been able to carve out a decent role (18 percent market share of targets). Most importantly, Atkinson is cheap around the industry, and we love having cheap exposure to one of the highest expected offenses on this slate. Target Atkinson in cash games. The same can be said for Chance Allen and Steven Dunbar (Houston at Tulsa). These Cougars’ secondary receivers have an excellent matchup (Tulsa is ranked 109th in Def. Passing S&P+ in 2015), and the high pace should keep both of these offenses throwing early and often. Allen and Dunbar make a bit more sense in cash games on sites that carry FLEX slots. If you want to spend a bit more for the number one receiving threat on this Cougars offense, Demarcus Ayers (Houston at Tulsa) is who you’re looking for. He’s not as explosive as the top Tulsa receivers, but he receives the most opportunities in this offense (24 percent market share of targets) and his 93 percent catch rate (28 targets/26 receptions) creates a safe floor. He’s a good tournament alternative to our value recommendations. Jakeem Grant (Texas Tech at Baylor) is the number one receiver (both from a production and opportunity standpoints) in a high-octane passing attack that should be playing from behind against Baylor. While Baylor has certainly impressed on offense (as expected), their defense hasn’t been any good (ranked 94th in Def. S&P+). Grant is one of our favorite tournament targets at the position. Taywan Taylor and Jared Dangerfield (Western Kentucky at Rice) are only available on FanDuel, but they’re excellent pivots to the recommendations above across all formats on that site. They’re the top targets in a passing offense that offers plenty of opportunities to its receivers (quarterback Brandon Doughty is averaging close to 40 passing attempts per game). Not only are their opportunities great, but also their matchup against Rice (ranked 127th in Def. Passing S&P+) solidifies their upside. Consider Michigan State’s number one wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State vs. Purdue) as a viable alternative to the recommendations above on sites where he’s significantly cheaper.
Jaylen Samuels (NC State vs Louisville) is our favorite tight end to target due to his high level of usage. He has caught four passes and ran at least two times in every game this season. NC State uses him in a lot of creative ways with shovel passes, screens, and even speed sweeps. The field will be sloppy in this game due to the downpour targeting Raleigh, so short and creative ways to get Samuels in the game won’t be impacted by precipitation or wind. With his usage, low price, and scoring ability, we consider him easily the top tight end option on FanDuel.
Jeb Blazevich (UGA vs Alabama) is surprisingly the second leading target for Georgia with 11 targets. He has averaged over three targets per FBS game this season and we expect that to be a worst case scenario for him going into this game. He has also added a red zone target in each game this season. Blazevich is the cheapest we’ll go around the industry and consider him our favorite near-minimally priced tight end on the early slate Saturday.
Additional notes: Tyler Higbee (WKU at Rice) is a prize option in a passing offense that has thrown it 39 times per game this season. Higbee saw only five targets in WKU’s last game because Jared Dangerfield, the Hilltoppers’ stud receiver, was nearly full strength. We expect his seven target per game average to stick and love that three of those five targets in his last game were from inside the red zone.