The CFB DFS season rolls on with 12 games in DraftKings main slate. Typically, I like to open each of my CFB DFS breakdowns with some general comments on roster construction and game theory, then break down my favorite plays at each position. This week, however, I’m going to mix up the formula by taking you step by step through my GPP roster construction process, beginning with a minimum salary play at running back.
|Team||Opponent||Spread||Total||Implied Pts||Kickoff Time|
|Alabama||South Carolina||-25.5||62||43.75||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Oklahoma State||Tulsa||-14||64||39||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Ohio State||Indiana||-18||60||39||12 p.m. ET|
|Maryland||Temple||-7||66.5||36.75||12 p.m. ET|
|Northwestern||UNLV||-18.5||52.5||35.5||3:30 p.m. ET|
|UCF||Stanford||-8.5||62||35.25||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Penn State||Pittsburgh||-17||53||35||12 p.m. ET|
|USC||BYU||-4.5||56.5||30.5||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Temple||Maryland||+7||66.5||29.75||12 p.m. ET|
|Mississippi State||Kansas State||-7.5||52||29.75||12 p.m. ET|
|Michigan State||Arizona State||-14.5||42||28.25||4 p.m. ET|
|Stanford||UCF||+8.5||62||26.75||3:30 p.m. ET|
|BYU||USC||+4.5||56.5||26||3:30 p.m. ET|
|NC State||West Virginia||-6.5||45.5||26||12 p.m. ET|
|Tulsa||Oklahoma State||+14||64||25||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Iowa||Iowa State||-2||43||22.5||4 p.m. ET|
|Kansas State||Mississippi State||+7.5||52||22.25||12 p.m. ET|
|Indiana||Ohio State||+18||60||21||12 p.m. ET|
|Iowa State||Iowa||+2||43||20.5||4 p.m. ET|
|West Virginia||NC State||+6.5||45.5||19.5||12 p.m. ET|
|South Carolina||Alabama||+25.5||62||18.25||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Pittsburgh||Penn State||+17||53||18||12 p.m. ET|
|UNLV||Northwestern||+18.5||52.5||17||3:30 p.m. ET|
|Arizona State||Michigan State||+14.5||42||13.75||4 p.m. ET|
Elijah Collins, Michigan State ($3,000)
Head coach Mark Dantonio named redshirt freshman Elijah Collins the Spartans’ Week 3 starter. Incumbent starter Connor Heyward ($7,200) has underperformed to start the season, and Collins rose to the occasion in Week 2, rushing 17 times for 192 yards against Western Michigan. Collins draws a nice matchup this week against Arizona State, who ranked 105th in rush defense1 in 2018.
Michigan State is favored by 14.5 points at home, which should set up Collins for an advantageous game script in his first start. DraftKings made a mistake in pricing Collins at the minimum salary, so seize the price savings and ride the Spartans’ new potential workhorse.
Atypical WR Pricing: The Domino Effect
DraftKings went off script in its WR pricing model for this slate. Tylan Wallace ($8,600) and Jerry Jeudy ($8,000) are appropriately priced at the top-end, but there’s a huge drop off after those top two. The middle of the WR distribution features remarkably flat pricing, enabling you to find excellent values in the $4.5k to $6k range.
The wide availability of WR value in the middle of the distribution — combined with the price savings from locking in Collins — promotes paying up for one or both of the slate’s top WRs. The question is: Should you do it?
In short, my answer is yes.
Paying Up for the Top Two
Let’s assume that you lock in Collins at $3k, and you grab three WRs from the $4.5k to $6k range. That leaves you with around $7.8k per player for your other four spots. If you then pay up for Jeudy or Wallace at your Flex — and pair him with a top QB in the $9k range — you’d still have about $7.1k left per player at your other two roster spots.
Collins’ minimum salary and DraftKings slate pricing creates a domino effect that sort of breaks the slate. Mid-tier WRs will chew up ownership, but Jeudy or Wallace will find their way onto most GPP rosters this Saturday. In fact, you can realistically jam in both Jeudy and Wallace without much resistance.
Complementary QB-WR Stacks
The Cowboys offense is by far the most expensive stack option available, but it’s also the most consolidated elite offense on the board. Wallace has achieved 100 or more yards or a TD in 13 of his last 15 games, and Dillon Stoner ($4,900) is a reliable veteran No. 2 receiver in the offense. Freshman QB Spencer Sanders ($9,300) has passed for 453 yards and six TDs already this season despite limited action against McNeese State. He has also rushed 25 times for 160 yards and boasts comparable rushing upside to Justin Fields ($9,200).
Sanders is the next installment of Mike Gundy’s parade of elite college QBs, progressing from Mason Rudolph in 2017 to Taylor Cornelius last season. The Cowboys face an underwhelming Tulsa team in the slate’s second-highest Vegas total game. Stacking Oklahoma State may be expensive, but it also may be lucrative.
An Alabama stack is $900 cheaper than rolling with Oklahoma State. Tua Tagovailoa ($9,000) draws an ideal matchup against an average South Carolina defense, and Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley is out for the season with a broken foot. South Carolina was already in for a difficult matchup against the Rolling Tide, but they may struggle even more without their starting QB.
Alabama spreads the ball around a lot, so rostering any one WR is dicey. Jeudy is a safe play as the unquestioned No. 1 receiver and one of the most explosive players in college football. After that, however, you may be best served by hoarding all the Alabama receivers to hedge your bets.
Thankfully, DraftKings has priced them all (Jaylen Waddle’s $6,100 salary notwithstanding) low enough to accommodate that kind of stack. Pair Tagovailoa with Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III ($5,300) and/or Devonta Smith ($4,900) to gain access to an explosive offense that could easily rack up 400 passing yards and four-plus passing TDs.
I haven’t yet discussed the Trojans in this article, but they bear mentioning here due to the extreme roster flexibility afforded by stacking USC players against BYU. True freshman Kedon Slovis ($6,600) took over QB duties last week following a season-ending injury to JT Daniels. Slovis performed far above expectation, throwing for 377 yards and three TDs against Stanford.
New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has brought his air raid offense over from Texas Tech, and Slovis commanded that scheme to perfection against an above-average foe. That air raid system elevates an already-talented WR corps of Tyler Vaughns ($5,700), Michael Pittman Jr. ($5,200), and Amon-Ra St. Brown ($5,000). Each of those three Trojan receivers caught at least five passes for 80-plus yards last week and combined for 68.5 DraftKings points.
Slovis and the USC offense face their first road test of the season this Saturday at BYU, but the Cougars’ defense has struggled so far this season. Their primary deficiency has been rush defense, but Harrell’s air raid system could nonetheless expose a weak tackling team. Harrell’s scheme — inherited from Mike Leach’s extensive coaching tree — focuses on short-yardage passing and spacing. Schematically, the passing game functions like an extension of the running game and could overwhelm BYU in similar fashion to Utah’s and Tennessee’s rushing performances already this season.
Stacking USC players is a cheap contrarian option on a slate where most players will load up on Alabama or Oklahoma State players. Moreover, if you run a USC stack, you likely still have cap space to afford Jeudy or Wallace anyway.
Most players should be on Collins this week, whose projected ownership could approach 40-50% in GPPs. I expect most DFS players to ride with Collins, grab a top WR, pair him with a top QB, and target mid-tier WR values. After the dust settles, most rosters will have around $14k to spend, and the most logical, safest RB value on the board is Kylin Hill ($7,500) of Mississippi State.
The roster dynamics I’ve highlighted in this article naturally funnel players towards Hill, because he’s underpriced relative to his ability and his matchup. But, that’s precisely why we want to pivot away from him in GPPs. Don’t get me wrong: If you roster Hill, that’s a fine play with plenty of upside. But if you’re after roster diversity, you’re better served looking elsewhere.
Consider Paying Up for Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard ($8,300) of Oklahoma State had an impressive freshman campaign while splitting time with Justice Hill. He’s now the Cowboys’ RB1, and he has been just as impressive to start 2019. Hubbard rushed 26 times for 221 yards and three TDs against Oregon State, then added 44 yards and a TD in limited action against McNeese State.
He hasn’t yet recorded any receptions this season, but he was an excellent receiving back as a freshman. Hubbard hauled in 19 receptions for 162 yards and a TD in his final seven games to close 2019. That history hints at untapped receiving upside to complement his high rushing floor.
But the main reason to target Hubbard is that he may not draw the ownership he deserves on this slate. With a minimum salary play at RB and ample WR value on the board, paying up at RB will not be most players’ top priority. That opens up a window for us to capitalize on potentially depressed ownership.
Fitting Hubbard into your team build is not easy — especially if you stack Oklahoma State players to begin with. However, the contrarian USC stack I highlighted in the previous section enables you to easily pay up for Hubbard while also rostering either Jeudy or Wallace. That’s perhaps my favorite roster construction to create a unique but profitable roster.
Other Lower-Owned RBs to Consider
Other RBs I would consider include Vavae Malepeai ($6,000) of USC and Shamari Brooks ($4,800) of Tulsa. If you dislike the USC QB-WR stack, pivot to Malepeai; if you want to bet on a Tulsa-Oklahoma State shootout, ride with Brooks.
A Sneaky Wildcard Play
There’s one more risky option left in our hand this weekend. Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. ($6,300) has been downgraded to a game-time decision against Ohio State due to an undisclosed injury. That could elevate two-year starter Peyton Ramsey ($4,700) into the starting role. If Penix is ruled out before Saturday’s noon kickoff, Ramsey could be a nice pivot.
He’s not a particularly prolific passer, but he proved last season that he could provide around 20 DraftKings points on an above-average day. Ramsey passed for 322 yards and three TDs against Ohio State last season, which was his top statistical performance of 2018. He also averaged 9.3 rush attempts for 29.5 yards (plus five total rush TDs) for the season, so that rushing ability could help stabilize his floor.
Most important of all, Ramsey’s low salary enables you to build a roster that incorporates every element from this breakdown:
- You can roster Slovis with Vaughns and St. Brown to form a solid contrarian USC stack.
- If you accept the discount with Collins, you can still pay up for Hubbard.
- And, best of all, you can jam in both Wallace and Jeudy to round off your roster.
It’s a fragile team build, to be sure, but it’s also likely to be a very unique construction in an otherwise predictable slate. If you’re only entering one GPP roster this week, then this build is out of the question. But if you’re a multi-lineup player, this is precisely the kind of creative, non-optimal roster I’d build.
Safer High-Upside Plays to Consider
- Josh Jackson ($6,600), Maryland
- Anthony Russo ($6,200), Temple
- Nate Stanley ($6,000), Iowa
- J.K. Dobbins ($7,500), Ohio State
- Cameron Scarlett ($5,900), Stanford
- Ty’Son Williams ($4,700) BYU
- Gabriel Davis ($5,800), UCF
- KJ Hamler ($5,800), Penn State
- K.J. Hill ($5,700), Ohio State
- Branden Mack ($5,200), Temple
- Tabari Hines ($4,300), North Carolina State
Image Credit: David Dennis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Tua Tagovaolia.
- Per Football Outsiders’ S&P metrics. (back)