The CFB DFS season continues with 10 games in DraftKings’ main slate.
- Toledo at Kentucky (-12), Over/Under: 62 — 12 p.m. ET
- Mississippi State (-20) vs. Louisiana, Over/Under: 60 — 12 p.m. ET
- Ole Miss at Memphis (-5), Over/Under: 66 — 12 p.m. ET
- East Carolina at North Carolina State (-17), Over/Under: 53.5 — 12 p.m. ET
- Indiana (-17.5) vs. Ball State, Over/Under: 60 — 12 p.m. ET
- Florida Atlantic at Ohio State (-27.5), Over/Under: 64 — 12 p.m. ET
- Alabama (-33.5) vs. Duke, Over/Under: 57 — 3:30 p.m. ET
- South Carolina (-11) vs. North Carolina, Over/Under: 63 — 3:30 p.m. ET
- Northwestern at Stanford (-6.5), Over/Under: 47.5 — 4 p.m. ET
- Virginia Tech (-4.5) at Boston College, Over/Under: 58.5 — 4 p.m. ET
Matchups at a Glance
Here’s a quick layman’s guide for each of these advanced metrics (reported metrics are based on team rank among 130 FBS teams). Note that each of these metrics may be used to describe a team’s offensive efficiency or a team’s ability to defend against opposing offenses in the given category.
Success Rt+ — Measures a team’s yardage efficiency by down and distance. We can use this as a proxy measure for a team’s ability to maintain drives.
IsoPPP+ — Measures a team’s per-play explosiveness. Whereas Success Rate reports a team’s offensive consistency, IsoPPP+ reports a team’s offensive upside.
Rushing S&P+ — Rushing efficiency and production index.
Passing S%P+ — Passing efficiency and production index.
Returning Production — Measures a team’s year-over-year roster attrition due to graduation and/or draft declarations.
Offense vs. Opposing Defense
The below chart reports the rank-order difference between a team’s offensive rank and the opposing defense’s rank for each given metric at the end of the 2018-19 season. The lone exception is Returning Production, which reflects current 2019-20 rankings based on each team’s roster attrition.
As a general rule of thumb, if a team boasts a strong positive differential in Success Rate, it indicates that the offense should be able to sustain drives efficiently. Similarly, if a team boasts a strong positive differential in IsoPPP+, it indicates that the offense has a higher probability of breaking open big plays.
In GPPs, both of these metrics can be used to identify possible value spots. If we’re targeting high-volume pass-catchers, Success Rate is a great indicator for success. Alternatively, if we want to target cheaply-priced dart-throw options, IsoPPP+ is our friend.
And, perhaps most importantly, returning production factors in heavily in early-season action. Teams with high roster turnover tend to underperform early in the season — especially if they face experienced opponents. This bodes negatively for Ole Miss, for example, whose offense reports a -118 returning production differential versus Memphis. Conversely, Virginia Tech and North Carolina may both offer underrated offensive production due to their strong core of experienced players.
The Week 1 main slate is overpriced across the board — even by DraftKings’ standards. As a result, the position group that suffers from the highest opportunity cost is quarterback.
As a general rule, I love to roster a QB at my Superflex spot, but I can’t do it this week. Frankly, the slate’s salary distribution is so inflated that I can’t even find a way to squeeze in high-upside QBs like Tua Tagovailoa ($9,200) or Justin Fields ($9,000). The fact that Ryan Willis of Virginia Tech is $8,000 should tell you everything you need to know about the pricing for Week 1.
So, we’ve got to go dumpster diving a bit and take a risk to save some money. Among the available QBs, two stand out as high-upside plays: Michael Penix Jr. and Mitch Guadagni.
Michael Penix Jr., Indiana ($6,500)
Penix is the ultimate upside play on the slate, and he also serves as an arbitrage option to Fields or Tommy Stevens ($7,600). Like Fields and Stevens, Penix is a newly-installed starter with a strong arm, ample rushing upside, and an advantageous matchup against an overmatched defense.
Penix beat out incumbent starter Peyton Ramsey in a QB battle this summer, which took most people by surprise. Ramsey posted a 2,875-19-13 passing line last season and added 354 rushing yards and five TDs on the ground. Those numbers are respectable — perhaps even good — especially at a program like Indiana. Nonetheless, Penix won the job due to his strong arm and mobility.
He saw limited action as a true freshman last season before tearing his ACL in Week 3 against Penn State. But, he’s now fully recovered — as evidenced by his depth chart ascension — and ready to feast on a weak Ball State defense. The Cardinals ranked 120th out of 130 teams in Defensive S&P+ last season, 117th in pass defense, and 126th in DB Havoc. This is a cushy spot for Penix to show the college football world what he can do.
Mitch Guadagni, Toledo ($5,600)
Guadagni started off the 2018 on fire, rushing for an average of 72.8 yards and 0.5 TD in his first six full games before a shoulder injury derailed his budding season. He’s not the best passer (1,044 passing yards in six games in 2018), but he did average over two passing TDs per game despite his relatively low passing volume.
His most impressive performance came against Nevada (admittedly a weak defense) when he threw for 211 yards and four TDs and rushed for 131 yards and two scores. That stat line translated to 52.54 DraftKings points.
Okay, so his ceiling is excellent. But Kentucky and Nevada are not remotely the same caliber of opponent. So, let’s look at his stat-line against Miami (FL) last season: 222-2-1 passing and 15-47-0 rushing for 20.58 DraftKings points. If he delivers a similar 20-plus fantasy point total against Kentucky, he would easily exceed his salary-implied total.
Granted, Kentucky’s defense was one of the best in the country last year. The Wildcats ranked 15th in Defensive S&P+, 19th in pass defense, and ninth in Havoc. But, they lost All-American Josh Allen to the draft and rank 127th out of 130 teams in returning defensive production. On top of that, they’ve already suffered injuries in their secondary, which is totally decimated compared to last season. So, there’s reason to believe the 2019 Wildcats defense will be much more average than last season.
I like Guadagni’s upside against that inexperienced defense, and the holes in Kentucky’s secondary may elevate his passing floor. He’s not without risk, but his matchup is nonetheless tempting. At $5,600, he’s the best bargain option on the slate.
Speaking in sweeping broad strokes, DraftKings’ scoring system promotes RBs in cash, and it rewards QB/WR risk in GPPs. However, this particular slate is inundated by elite RBs, most of which are fairly priced compared to their WR alternatives. This, combined with the poor QB options on the slate, has led me to roster RB at the Flex and Superflex in most of my GPP lineups — something I rarely do. Here are the three players to which I have the most exposure this weekend:
Keilan Robinson, Alabama ($3,000)
Everyone should already be on Robinson. But, if you’re not, allow me to break the news for you. Alabama WR Devonta Smith, RB Brian Robinson Jr., and RB Najee Harris have each been suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Duke for missing a team function. RB Jerome Ford is questionable with a knee injury, and RB Trey Sanders is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Those developments have elevated Robinson from obscurity into starting status for Week 1. So, it’s a no-brainer to lock in Robinson at the salary minimum given his projected usage.
In fairness, Harris and Robinson Jr. could each return to the game in the second-half or sooner. After all, Saban is simply trying to send a message here. Nonetheless, it’s also reasonable to assume that the Crimson Tide will jump out to an early lead against Duke and put the game away before halftime arrives. In that scenario, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Saban invest more touches in Robinson to evaluate his potential and stir up competition in the RB room. Either way, $3,000 is well worth the expense for an Alabama RB who’s likely to vulture a first-half TD.
Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis ($8,500)
Listen, I know $8,500 is pricey, but Taylor is worth every penny — especially if you lock in Robinson at $3,000. Taylor operated in a near 50-50 split with Darrell Henderson last season, racking up 1,122 rushing yards and 16 TDs on 208 carries. He also added 17 receptions for 197 yards and two scores. That’s an excellent season line for a starting RB on any team. But Taylor achieved it as Memphis’ RB2.
Now, Henderson and Tony Pollard are both gone to the NFL, and Taylor is the unquestioned workhorse in Memphis’ rush-heavy offense. The Tigers ranked 15th in the country in rush attempts per game (43.7) and fourth in rushing yards per game (276.5) last season. That’s the kind of rushing volume that Taylor now commands. It would be perfectly reasonable to see Taylor draw 30 total touches against Ole Miss, which elevates his fantasy upside to ludicrous levels.
Not only that, but the Rebels defense is also worse than most of Memphis’ typical AAC opponents. In 2018, Ole Miss ranked 90th in defensive S&P+, 100th in Success Rate, 87th in IsoPPP+, and 110th in rush defense.
Taylor is going to run all over them. Whatever his rushing prop is for the game, take the over.
Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss ($6,700)
I don’t get it. I just don’t understand how Phillips still isn’t commanding a $7,000-plus salary each weak. The JUCO star took over as Ole Miss’ lead back last season and promptly put up a 204-yard, two-TD game against Texas Tech in Week 1. He earned over 70 yards in seven of his 9 full games and added multi-touchdown performances in four of them.
I mean, for God’s sake, his only sub-par performances came against Alabama (12-44-0) and Auburn (17-59-0), each of whom boasted top-10 defenses last season! He even put up 96 yards and a touchdown against LSU, who ranked fifth in defensive S&P+ in 2018.
Memphis? That’s a cake-walk for ol’ Scottie. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tigers. But their defense only ranked 87th in defensive S&P+ and 91st in IsoPPP+ last season. I know they’re returning a ton of talent on defense, but they still aren’t even in the same league as most of Ole Miss’ regular opponents.
In a vacuum, this is already an excellent matchup for Phillips. But when you consider the Rebels’ roster attrition, it gets even juicier. Ole Miss lost QB Jordan Ta’amu, WR A.J. Brown, WR Demarkus Lodge, and WR D.K. Metcalf from last season — and offensive coordinator Phil Longo (now with North Carolina). The Rebels must undergo a scheme shift under new OC Rich Rodriguez, which may benefit Phillips greatly. On top of that, Ole Miss’ inexperience at QB and WR may lead to a conservative game plan against a good opponent, which would further increase Phillips’ touches.
It’s tempting to pay up for guys like A.J. Dillon ($7,500) or J.K. Dobbins ($7,900), but Phillips affords just enough salary savings to enable me to get up to some of the elite WRs on the slate. Taylor may be my favorite play of the week, but Phillips is one of my most valuable.
My Other Exposures:
- J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State ($7,900)
- A.J. Dillon, Boston College ($7,500)
- Asim Rose, Kentucky ($6,100)
- Bryant Koback, Toledo ($5,600)
Even after locking in a cheap QB and Robinson at the salary minimum, it’s still advantageous to save a little cash at WR. Robinson notwithstanding, none of my RB exposures are cheap — and it’s difficult to justify WRs over them. I’d much rather draft Taylor than Jerry Jeudy ($8,300), Dillon over Bryan Edwards, or Dobbins over Damonte Coxie ($7,800). I’m fading the very top tier of the WR position and instead aggressively targeting the second tier of WRs, which arguably has a similar range of outcomes.
Emeka Emezie, N.C. State ($7,100)
Emezie amassed 53 receptions, 616 receiving yards, and five TDs operating as the Wolfpack’s No. 3 WR last season. N.C. State’s top two receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon, combined for 173 receptions and 2,234 yards last season, and both players have now landed on NFL rosters. Emezie proved last season that he can produce in spite of Meyers’ and Harmon’s elite target shares. Now, he gets the chance to fill their shoes as the team’s unquestioned WR1.
However, N.C. State also lost QB Ryan Finley to the NFL, along with his 3,928 passing yards and 25 TDs from 2018. Matt McKay will not replicate Finley’s production, but Emezie may still benefit from a more consolidated target share than Meyers or Harmon had.
Emezie is not a season-long lock by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel confident starting him in Week 1 against a below-average East Carolina defense. The Pirates ranked 101st in defensive S&P+, 121st in IsoPPP+, and 107th in pass defense last season. East Carolina also ranks 91st in defensive returning production, which may result in a couple busted coverage opportunities for Emezie this week.
Damon Hazelton Jr., Virginia Tech ($6,600)
In 11 full games last season, Hazelton averaged 4.6 receptions and 72.9 receiving yards. He also registered a receiving TD in eight of those 11 games. He boasted three games with over 100 receiving yards, including a 12-131-1 performance against Notre Dame.
Hazelton is QB Ryan Willis’ favorite target, a preeminent deep threat, and the most experienced receiver on the Hokies roster. He also draws an advantageous matchup against Boston College, whose defense ranks 128th in returning production. Virginia Tech may not have the highest implied point total on the board this week, but the Hokies may be a bit underrated heading into Chestnut Hill.
In GPPs, we’re looking for WRs that can deliver 100-plus yards (to get that three-point DraftKings bonus) and that have a high probability to score. Hazelton checks both of those boxes at a comfortable price point.
Binjimin Victor, Ohio State ($4,600)
Okay, this one is more of a dart throw. I recommended Kadarius Toney (Florida) last week as my dart throw option, and that worked out pretty well. So let’s see if I can hit two weeks in a row.
On the surface, Victor’s 21-354-4 receiving line last season is a bit underwhelming. However, if we zoom out a bit and examine his career at Ohio State, he’s logged a receiving TD in 11 of his 21 collegiate games. Few players in his price range boast that kind of TD potential. Moreover, Victor has scored in over half of his college games despite only averaging 2.3 receptions over that span. It’s clear that the Buckeyes value him as a red zone threat.
There’s also ample reason to believe his receiving volume could increase this season. Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnie Dixon are all gone, and Austin Mack ($4,800) is questionable for Week 1. As a result, Victor may wind up as the starting X receiver against Florida Atlantic.
If you roster Victor, you basically need him to find the end zone in order to return value. But, thankfully, that’s his specialty.
My Other Exposures:
- Henry Ruggs III, Alabama ($6,900)
- K.J. Hill, Ohio State ($6,700)
- Lynn Bowden, Kentucky ($6,500)
- Elijah Moore, Ole Miss ($6,400)
- Riley Miller, Ball State ($5,600)
- Shi Smith, South Carolina ($5,600)
- Justin Hall, Ball State ($5,500)
- Thayer Thomas, N.C. State ($4,800)