The CFB DFS season kicks off this Saturday at 7pm ET with two games featured in DraftKings’ evening slate.
- Florida (-7.5) vs. Miami (FL), Over/Under: 47.5 — 7:00 pm ET
- Arizona (-11) at Hawai’i, Over/Under: 74 — 10:30 pm 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.
Arizona at Hawai’i
Arizona boasts the highest implied point total (42.5) of the slate in the weekend’s highest game total (74). The Wildcats match up well against Hawaii’s poor defensive unit, which ranked in the bottom 25th percentile in each advanced metric last season. The Rainbow Warriors conceded 35.1 average points to opposing offenses — and most of their games were against weak MWC opponents. Granted, they rank ninth in the country in returning defensive production, but that doesn’t mean much if your defense was poor to begin with.
Nonetheless, Hawaii’s offense is so elite that it may make up for some of its defensive deficiencies. The Rainbow Warriors’ offense reports an excellent combination of Success Rate, IsoPPP+, and offensive returning production. Given Arizona’s program volatility and inconsistency last season, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats start slow. And, if they do, Hawaii should be able to apply ample offensive pressure against the Wildcats’ mediocre defense.
This matchup is going to be an epic Week 0 shootout, and DFS lineups in both cash and GPPs will be stacking this game heavily. Florida-Miami projects as a defensive slugfest, which should further amplify ownership percentages for all Arizona and Hawaii players. This game offers too much offensive potential for you to fade it altogether, which means roster differentiation will be supremely important in all formats.
Florida vs. Miami (FL)
As I alluded to in the previous section, this neutral-site matchup projects as a low-scoring defensive battle in the trenches. Both squads boast elite defenses: Florida may have the best cornerbacks in the country, and Miami likely has the best linebacking corps. Moreover, both teams suffered tremendous losses in offensive line play via the draft this offseason. Florida must replace four starting linemen, including first-round pick Jawaan Taylor. Miami struggled with offensive line continuity during their entire 2018 campaign and also must replace four offensive linemen that combined for 80 starts in their careers.
The combination of offensive line discontinuity and defensive prowess for each team makes it difficult to find compelling DFS value in this game. Nonetheless, in a short two-game slate, you’ll probably still need to hit on one to two players in this matchup in order to compete in GPPs.
Khalil Tate, Arizona ($9,000)
Khalil Tate is a polarizing figure in college football — and frankly, I’m surprised DraftKings chose to price him as the top QB in the slate. If you choose to roster him, you have to be willing to embrace a wide range of outcomes. If he plays up to his potential, he’s a GPP-winner. If he doesn’t, your roster is likely dead in the water.
Tate rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore in 2017. But, that production came under head coach Rich Rodriguez. Kevin Sumlin took the helm last season, and Tate’s rushing production fell to just 224 yards and two TDs.
To be fair, Tate’s poor rushing volume isn’t all Sumlin’s fault. Tate suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 against Houston that hampered him the entire season. He closed 2018 strong, averaging 337.3 total yards and four TDs across his final three games. However, his rushing production never quite returned to 2017 levels.
He has a strong chance to rebound strongly against Hawai’i, which fields one of the weakest defensive units in college football. If we assume that his 2017 rushing production was not a fluke, then 75-plus rushing yards would be well within Tate’s range of outcomes.
Tate likely offers a similar median rushing projection to Feleipe Franks ($7,200), but he has superior passing upside and does not have to contend with Miami’s elite defense. Franks’ price-point may look appealing on paper, but Tate is worth paying up for — especially in a short slate.
Cole McDonald, Hawai’i ($8,800)
Cole McDonald came out red-hot to start the 2018 season, throwing for a combined 846 yards and nine TDs in his first two collegiate starts. Altogether, he posted seven 300-plus yard games last season and amassed 40 total TDs.
Then, after the season, McDonald revealed that he sprained his MCL in Week 1 against Colorado State. On top of that, during the Week 6 game at San Jose State, he suffered internal bleeding that required hospitalization. Due to complications from that injury, his scrotum filled with blood (TMI, I know), and he struggled to walk for a full week.
And yet — despite a sprained MCL and complications from internal bleeding — he still started 13 games and averaged around 325 total yards and three total TDs per contest. Even though he struggled to walk following his Week 6 injury, he still averaged 10.2 rush attempts per game from Week 7 onwards.
Now, he’s fully healthy and ready to make quick work of Arizona’s lackluster defense. With electric WRs like Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward at his disposal, he likely boasts the highest floor and upside projections of any player in the entire slate.
J.J. Taylor, Arizona ($7,700)
Unlike in a typical CFB DFS week, I expect most contestants to try to save money at RB and instead roster as many high-upside WRs as possible. Among the slate’s RB options, the only player worth paying up for is J.J. Taylor ($7,700) from Arizona. Taylor amassed 1,434 rushing yards and six TDs last season and is a strong contender for 20-plus touches against Hawai’i.
Admittedly, he’s also pretty streaky. 68.7% of his rushing production and five of his six TDs came in five games last season. His production isn’t as consistent as we’d ideally like at his price, but you’re really buying him for his upside — not his median.
Lamical Perine ($6,200) is appealing on paper, given the exodus of Jordan Scarlett. But, there’s plenty of red flags for him. First, he may not inherit Scarlett’s full load. Second, his quarterback (Franks) will also eat into his rushing volume. And third, Miami’s defense is brutal against the run.
Similarly, DeeJay Dallas ($5,800) seems like another reasonable option now that Travis Homer is in the NFL, but he must contend against Florida’s elite defense. Moreover, Miami’s QB situation is as volatile as they come — and we truly don’t know what to expect from that offense. Last season, the Hurricanes ranked 110th in Success Rate, which doesn’t bode well for their ability to sustain drives against a vaunted Gators defense.
So, when you reevaluate Taylor contextually, his upside really stands out — and helps to justify his price. There’s plenty of great WR value in this slate, so Taylor may be difficult to squeeze in. But, he could pay off in spades in GPPs.
Kadarius Toney, Florida ($3,300)
The only other RB worth highlighting is Kadarius Toney … because, he’s not a running back. He’s a “utility” player, much like Jaylen Samuels when he was at NC State or Otis Anderson of UCF. Toney rushed 21 times last season for a whopping 240 yards, and he caught 25 passes for another 260 yards and a touchdown.
His per-game volume is pretty abysmal, but his per-touch production is phenomenal. He is likely Florida’s most athletic, most dynamic offensive player. At $3,300, he’s mostly a dart-throw option, but given the lack of strong RB options on the slate, he’s a very cheap punt option with legitimate receiving upside.
It’s Difficult to Pivot Away From Hawai’i’s WRs… But, You May Have To
This is likely the position where most lineups will either fail or succeed. Hawai’i’s one-two punch of Byrd ($6,900) and Ward ($6,000) is priced low enough to accommodate an easy stack play, and it’s hard to argue against that roster construction.
The Rainbow Warriors’ air raid offense consolidates most of its offensive production in the hands of its four starting WRs, each of whom boasted excellent targets per game averages last season. Moreover, Hawai’i’s 2018 WR3 and WR4 also report target averages that are better than either Florida’s or Miami’s WR1s last season.
The Hawai’i offense is the easiest to figure out on paper, which means plenty of fantasy players will be targeting it aggressively. In GPPs, try to find creative ways to pivot to the lesser Rainbow Warriors receivers, Jason-Matthew Sharsh ($4,700) and Jared Smart ($3,000) — both of whom are listed as Week 0 starters in Hawai’i’s official Team Depth Chart released Monday evening.
Sharsh is perhaps the most intriguing, because he earned meaningful playing time as a JR transfer last season and inherits Ward’s previous job as the WR3. In that role last season, Ward amassed 51 receptions for 865 yards and nine TDs in 14 games.
Arizona’s WR Situation is the Most Uncertain … But Also the Most Enticing
The Wildcats lost all four of their top receivers from 2018, who combined for 153 receptions, 2307 receiving yards and 23 rec TDs. Redshirt senior Cedric Peterson ($5,900) stands out as the team’s projected WR1, but even he contributed minimal production as the team’s WR5 last year.1
Nonetheless, Shawn Poindexter was in a similar position last season as a double-redshirt senior. Poindexter only managed 19 receptions for 294 yards in 2017, but he emerged to lead the team in 2018 with 759 yards and 11 TDs. Given Peterson’s experience, it’s reasonable to assume that he will likely inherit Poindexter’s WR1 role in the offense.
… But after Peterson, it starts to get hairy. Brian Casteel ($5,500) and Stanley Berryhill III ($4,400) offer reasonable upside, but they’re also overpriced for their projected usage.2 Head coach Kevin Sumlin has, at different times during the offseason, heaped praise on Drew Dixon ($3,200), Tre Adams ($3,000), Jamarye Joiner ($3,100), and Boobie Curry ($4,000) as well.
The only thing that’s certain about this WR unit is that Arizona will use its Week Zero game to rotate and evaluate its long-term depth. So, it’s difficult to trust any one of them in your sole cash game lineup. Moreover, if you pay up for Taylor at RB and roster a QB at your Superflex, it’s also difficult to find salary space for Arizona’s WRs. Nonetheless, given Arizona’s high implied point total and Sumlin’s west coast offensive pedigree, it’s also nearly a guarantee that multiple Wildcats receivers will deliver GPP-winning production.
Among the cheaper options, I like Joiner as the best dart-throw option in GPPs. He’s an elite athlete who made an offseason transition from QB, which gives him a strong edge in understanding Arizona’s offensive scheme. Moreover, he shares co-starter status with Curry at the slot, which was Arizona’s highest volume WR position last season. Shun Brown led the team in receptions (64) and ranked second in yards (655) as the team’s slot receiver in 2018.
Miami Offers Two Dart-Throw Candidates … But, They’re Expensive
Just as Toney is Florida’s offensive spark plug, Jeff Thomas ($5,300) is Miami’s. Thomas’ athleticism pops on film, and he’s a breakaway threat any time he touches the ball. However, the problem is that he simply doesn’t touch it enough. In 11 games last season, he totaled 35 receptions, 563 yards and three TDs. His 16.1 average YPR is encouraging — along with his upside as a return specialist — but his target volume is still fairly low compared to his price-point.
Thomas’ target volume may also take a hit due to the addition of K.J. Osborn ($5,000) who transferred from Buffalo this offseason. Osborn posted an impressive 53-892-7 receiving line for the Bulls in 2018 and — like Thomas — may figure into Miami’s return game.
Neither Thomas nor Osborn is a sure bet, especially considering the Gators’ excellent secondary. However, let us revisit the game theory dynamics at play in this slate. Florida’s receivers are fairly anemic, Arizona’s WR corps is over-crowded with poor experience, and Hawai’i’s WRs will likely command extremely high ownership. So, it may be worthwhile to pivot to one of Miami’s WRs in GPPs — Florida’s All-SEC CBs be damned.