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Should You Bet on a Nebraska Turnaround?: DraftKings Week 2 CFB DFS GPP Breakdown

The CFB DFS season rolls on with 11 games in DraftKings’ main slate.

Slate Overview

HomeAwayVegas TotalSpreadKickoff Time
MissouriWest Virginia62.5MIZZ -13.512 p.m. ET
PurdueVanderbilt56PUR -712 p.m. ET
MarylandSyracuse58MD -212 p.m. ET
MichiganArmy47.5MICH -22.512 p.m. ET
IowaRutgers49.5IOWA -2012 p.m. ET
Ohio StateCincinnati54OSU -1612 p.m. ET
Georgia TechSouth Florida62GT -6.52 p.m. ET
ClemsonTexas A&M64.5CLEM -17.53:30 p.m. ET
ColoradoNebraska64.5NEB -43:30 p.m. ET
ConnecticutIllinois59ILL -213:30 p.m. ET
UCLASan Diego State45.5UCLA -7.54:15 p.m. ET

Roster Construction

This week’s main slate offers enormous wide receiver upside, some nice running back values, and a lot of quarterback parity. After testing out a ludicrous number of roster permutations, a roster construction paradigm has emerged:

  • In order to pay up at WR, we need to fade the top QBs. Instead, focus on the middle of the distribution (from $6,200 to $7,700).
  • RB offers some nice values above $7,000, but it’s not the priority this week; WR is where I want to spend my salary cap. Meanwhile, there are some juicy RB values below $5,000, which promotes punting the position.
  • As I’ve emphasized twice already, WR is worth paying up for. The top two highly-priced WRs are worth every penny — and I’ll explain why in the WR section.
  • At Flex and Superflex, you basically have two options: Accept mid-tier value at both spots, or punt one of them in order to jam in Justin Fields ($8,900) or Travis Etienne ($9,400) — neither of whom fit into standard roster constructs without a punt play.

Game Theory

You’ll likely have to eat the chalk at WR even in GPP formats. Clemson’s spread offense distributes targets too widely to justify paying up for Justyn Ross ($7,400) or Tee Higgins ($7,300), even though one or both of them will likely have a great day against Texas A&M. Similarly, the Aggies WRs are also overpriced relative to their median expected volume. So, I advise staying away from that game entirely and allowing casuals to eat up CLEM-TA&M ownership.

However, very few teams offer outstanding WR value below $7,000. Of course, there are a few exceptions, which I’ll highlight later. But, since RB is not a smash spot this week, and since we can afford some price savings at QB, it behooves us to accept top value at WR — and likely to build game stacks around those elite WRs.

Nonetheless, I believe this approach will be taken by many sharp players in GPPs, which means roster diversification and exposure management will both play huge roles this week. Wherever possible — and especially at QB — consider eschewing some value in order to roster a lesser-owned player.

Another way to creatively differentiate your roster this week is to bet against Vegas projections in one of the games on the slate. For example, Vanderbilt may be underrated after getting stomped 30-6 by Georgia to open the season. The Commodores installed new QB Riley Neal, who transferred from Ball State this offseason, and he predictably performed poorly. But, come on: His matchup against the Bulldogs has got to be one of the worst imaginable Week 1 games for a MAC transfer.

So, you could bet on Vanderbilt to improve against an average Purdue defense in Week 2. If the Commodores put it together on offense — and if Neal is at least an average SEC QB — it would provide a huge boon to Kalija Lipscomb’s ($5,800) value.

Now, let’s dive into my favorite GPP plays of the weekend.

Quarterback

Adrian Martinez, Nebraska ($7,000)

Martinez has the highest expected value relative to salary among all players on the slate. He averaged 26.1 DraftKings points per game as a true freshman and scored over 30 points in seven of his 11 games. He is not yet a polished passer, but his 256 projected passing yards for Week 2 still eclipses other options in his price range.

More importantly, he is a fantastic rusher. If you take away his most difficult opponent (Michigan) and weakest opponent (Bethune-Cookman) from last season, Martinez averaged 72 rushing yards per game. For perspective, Kyler Murray averaged 71.5 rushing yards last year.

Martinez eclipsed 100 yards rushing in two of his 11 games as a freshman, including his Week 1 matchup against Colorado.1 I like his odds to rush for substantial yardage against the Buffaloes again in Week 2.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Nebraska’s poor showing against South Alabama last week. And I’ll concede: The Cornhuskers’ mediocre performance is difficult to justify or defend. Yet, I’m still advocating to fire up Martinez in a bounce-back and revenge spot2 against Colorado.

Nebraska-Colorado boasts the slate’s highest Vegas total, and the Cornhuskers are favored. Their matchup screams “shootout potential,” given Nebraska’s obvious deficiencies and Colorado’s pedestrian pass defense. Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers have every reason to perform well in their first major test of the season, and Martinez is the spark plug that makes that offense go.

Martinez is not without risk, but he also offers the highest ceiling projection of any QB on the slate due to his ability to hit the three-point DraftKings bonus either passing or rushing. His freshman season proved that a 300-yard passing and 100-yard rushing performance is squarely within the upper range of his possible outcomes.

Tobias Oliver, Georgia Tech ($4,300)

Oliver is the premier punt play on the slate due to his staggeringly low salary. First, I’ll explain why his salary may be this low, and then I’ll explain why it’s still not justifiable.

Cause for Concern?

The most obvious explanation for Oliver’s salary is his injury status: He’s currently listed as questionable after suffering a right hand injury against Clemson in Week 1. A throwing hand injury is obviously particularly concerning for a QB. It should go without saying, but it’s imperative that you monitor his injury status leading up to game time.

On top of that, Oliver is firmly entrenched in a QB committee with James Graham and Lucas Johnson as the Georgia Tech coaching staff transitions away from their hallmark triple-option offense. But, it’s important to emphasize that the offense is in transition mode. It is never easy to install a brand new offensive scheme. But, it is even more difficult to install a modern pro-style offense for a team comprised of players that have were recruited specifically for a triple-option offense.

Accordingly, the Yellow Jackets opted to rush 45 times last week versus just 18 pass attempts. Georgia Tech’s coaching staff discussed that game plan this week, expressing their intention to protect the offensive line as it is still learning brand new pass-blocking assignments. So, it could take the entire season to get the offense fully up to speed.

Why You Should Play Oliver Anyway

In the meantime, however, it’s a strong bet that Georgia Tech will continue to go run-heavy — especially with an elite athlete like Oliver to scramble out of poorly-formed passing pockets. As a freshman last year, Oliver split time at QB with senior Taquon Marshall. So, there were several games in which he saw very limited action. Nonetheless, despite that QB committee, Oliver still delivered some very impressive rushing outings. In his five best games, he averaged 20.2 rush attempts for 130 yards and 2.4 rush TDs (31.4 DraftKings points).

The team called upon him for 20 rush attempts against Clemson in Week 1, and he only managed 56 yards. But, much like Riley Neal facing Georgia, asking Oliver to run a brand new offense against the number one team in the country is a very tough ask for a young QB. Thankfully, South Florida is a different opponent entirely. The Bulls ranked 90th in rush defense3 last season and allowed Wisconsin to rush 43 times for 234 yards and four scores to kick off their 2019 campaign.

The Yellow Jackets are actually favored at home against South Florida this week and boast a healthy 32.75 implied point total. That team total suggests that Georgia Tech is going to score — and it likely won’t be through the air. If Oliver is healthy, he should perform at least to the caliber of an above-average running back, and he also has the potential for a multi-TD game.

Perhaps most importantly, he’s insanely cheap, and that’s the real advantage to drafting Oliver. Whether you play him as your sole QB or roster him at the Superflex position, locking in his low salary enables you to pay up for another risky player like Fields, Etienne, Michael Warren II, Ross, or Higgins. Those players simply don’t fit into most competitive roster constructs unless you punt with Oliver — and he’s the only low-priced QB worth punting with.

My Other Exposures:

  • Kelly Bryant, Missouri ($7,700)
  • Elijah Sindelar, Purdue ($7,500)
  • Steven Montez, Colorado ($7,300)
  • Josh Jackson, Maryland ($6,500)
  • Blake Barnett, South Florida ($6,200)

Running Back

Jordan Cronkrite, South Florida ($5,600)

The main reason to roster Cronkrite is head coach Charlie Strong’s decision to repurpose RB Johnny Ford ($5,800) as a WR this season. Though DraftKings lists him as a RB, Ford is officially the Bulls’ starting slot receiver, taking over Tyree McCants’ previous role.

This is huge news, because Ford was a consistent thorn in Cronkrite’s side last season (at least from a fantasy perspective). Cronkrite jumped out of the gates early in 2018 with stellar production through the first six weeks. From Week 2 to Week 6, he posted five straight 100-yard rushing games, including a monster 23-302-3 performance (51.2 DraftKings points) against Massachusetts.

Then Ford started getting involved. Beginning in Week 7 against Houston, Ford consistently earned double-digit carries as part of a 50-50 RB committee, and Cronkrite’s production fell off a cliff. In his final five games, Cronkrite averaged just 10.8 rush attempts for 37.6 yards and 0.4 TDs (6.2 DraftKings points). So, removing Ford from the backfield could have enormous implications for Cronkrite this season.

Over his nine-year head coaching career, Charlie Strong’s teams have averaged 40.6 rush attempts per game and a 56.9% run-rate. For context, that run-rate average is similar to LSU or Alabama and would have ranked 91st out of 130 FBS teams in 2018. So, it’s safe to say that Strong believes in running the football, which means he intends to feature Cronkrite prominently.

However, he didn’t follow through on that in Week 1 against Wisconsin. Cronkrite only managed six rushes for nine yards against the stout Badgers defense. But, in fairness, South Florida was severely overmatched in the trenches. It became clear early-on that Strong was protecting his players by avoiding the run game in his Week 1 game plan.

The Bulls’ Week 2 opponent, Georgia Tech, is hardly the same caliber as Wisconsin. Cronkrite draws an above-average matchup against the Yellow Jackets, controls a dominant share of the team’s rushing offense, has a coach who loves to run the football, and should finally be unleashed this week. There are few RBs above $5,000 that I’m willing to pay up for, but Cronkrite stands out in GPPs due to his 2018 early-season explosion.

Kevin Mensah, Connecticut ($4,900)

Mensah was one of the few bright spots on the 2018 Huskies squad, averaging 18.8 rush attempts and 90.4 total yards per game as a sophomore. Importantly, Mensah achieved those strong rushing numbers despite sharing a backfield with talented QB David Pindell, who has since graduated from the program. Pindell stole 212 carries last season, along with 1,139 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs.

New QB Mike Beaudry is not nearly the same athlete as Pindell was, and Mensah predictably saw a huge increase in his rushing volume in Week 1. He toted the rock a career-high 36 times for 144 yards and a TD. Toledo transfer RB Art Thompkins ($4,800) also added a 17-91-1 rushing line, but he projects as the change-of-pace back in the offense and his 2019 usage is questionable. Mensah owns this backfield until further notice.

In this price range, volume is at a premium, and Mensah checks that box. But, he also draws an excellent matchup against Illinois. The Fighting Illini defense ranked 125th in rush defense and 124th in rush yards allowed per game (261.6) in 2018. Even if Thompkins factors into the backfield more than expected, Mensah is still going to wreck shop.

He perhaps best projects as a cash-game play, but I also like Connecticut’s chances to outscore its 21-point implied team total. As a result, Mensah could deliver a 100-yard rushing today and a pair of scores, which is precisely the kind of upside we want in GPPs.

Reggie Corbin, Illinois ($4,400)

Corbin’s value skyrocketed following news that RB Mike Epstein will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Obviously, this news is disheartening for Illinois faithful, but it’s fantastic for Corbin’s fantasy status. Illinois ranked 12th in the country in rushing yards per game (244.0) last season and stayed true to that team identity with 46 rush attempts and 207 yards against Akron in Week 1.

But, Corbin is not just the beneficiary of depth chart ascension; he’s also an incredibly explosive athlete. He averaged 8.5 yards per carry last season and made a name for himself by cracking off big play after big play. Corbin put up a monster 213-yard, two-TD performance against Minnesota last season on just 13 carries. The point is, he doesn’t need volume to be productive, but he may nonetheless inherit greater volume to add to his upside.

Epstein and Corbin had operated in close to a 50-50 split previously, so Epstein’s injury opens the doors for Corbin to assume a heftier share of the team’s rush attempts. However, Illinois also has a pair of talented rushers to take Epstein’s role. Ra’Von Bonner ($4,000) and Dre Brown ($3,600) may both factor into Illinois’ game plan against Connecticut, which may turn the backfield into a three-headed committee led by Corbin. In games with 10 or more carries during their careers, Bonner has averaged 61.3 rushing yards and 10.9 DraftKings points while Brown has averaged 69.0 yards and 7.8 points.

But, even though Illinois may deploy a committee backfield, it may not make a big difference to Corbin’s fantasy projection. Connecticut conceded the highest average rushing yards (347.5) to opponents last season, and there’s little reason to believe the Huskies defense will substantially improve in 2019. This is the ultimate rushing mismatch: The 12th-ranked rush offense (Illinois) facing the 130th-ranked rush defense (Connecticut).

However — big disclaimer coming here — Corbin is dealing with a hip pointer injury that sidelined him late in his Week 1 game against Akron. That particular injury is somewhat finicky — if it’s a mild hip pointer, then he should be fine. But if it’s more severe, it could take weeks to fully heal. All signs currently point to Corbin being available against Connecticut, but you should still vigilantly monitor his status leading up to game time.

Luckily, Illinois draws the 3:30 p.m. ET time slot, so you won’t have to lock in Corbin (or Mensah, for that matter) before noon. If Corbin fails to participate in pregame warm-ups, consider stacking up Bonner and Brown instead.

My Other Exposures:

  • Travis Etienne, Clemson ($9,400)
  • Michael Warren II, Cincinnati ($7,900)
  • Larry Rountree III, Missouri ($7,200)
  • Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt ($6,100)
  • Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech ($4,500)

Wide Receiver

In this section, I’m going to focus on the slate’s lower-priced receiving options. But, the real prizes of the WR position — and of the slate in general — are Rondale Moore and Laviska Shenault Jr. I’ll discuss each player briefly, but experienced CFB DFS players should already know about each player’s elite upside.

Rondale Moore, Purdue ($8,100)

Moore is college football’s premier dual-threat athlete on a team that loves to take risks in the passing game. As a true freshman, Moore amassed a ridiculous 114-1,258-12 receiving line and added 213 yards and two TDs on the ground. He achieved at least 100 receiving yards and/or a TD in eight of his 13 games and scored at least 33 DraftKings points in six of those.

He also proved that he can produce at an elite level regardless of his opponent. Against Ohio State in Week 7, Moore achieved his highest fantasy score of the season (46.4 points) on 12 catches, 194 scrimmage yards and two TDs. The guy is matchup-proof.

Oh yeah, he also logged an 11-124-1 receiving line against Nevada to start off his 2019 campaign. And honestly, his Week 1 performance is closer to his median than his ceiling. He will put up crazy numbers against Vanderbilt. The only question is whether he’ll go for 20 DraftKings points or 50.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado ($8,000)

Shenault Jr. is basically the Mountain time zone version of Moore. Shenault Jr. is also a dynamic dual-threat athlete, and the Buffaloes frequently utilized him as a rusher in the red zone last season to the tune of five rushing TDs.

Of course, he’s also an elite college receiver. Shenault Jr. averaged a staggering 9.6 receptions and 112.3 receiving yards last season. He scored at least 25 DraftKings points in six of his nine games and eclipsed 40 points in four of those. He commands one of the highest team target shares in the country, and he contributes in all facets of the Buffaloes offense.

In Week 2 against Nebraska last season, Shenault Jr. casually put up 10 receptions, 182 scrimmage yards and two TDs on his way to 43.2 DraftKings points. I’d wager he doubles down on last season’s performance and blows the doors open at home this week.

JD Spielman, Nebraska ($4,700)

Now, we move on to some of the mid-tier WR options, beginning with the slate’s greatest overall value in JD Spielman. DraftKings inexplicably underpriced Spielman all season in 2018, and it seems they’re still making the same error. He offers a high floor projection due to his stable receiving volume and ample upside given his TD share and skills as a returner.

Spielman boasted excellent production as a freshman in 2017, earning 55 receptions for 830 yards and two touchdowns. Then, with a new head coach and QB in 2018, he improved on that performance with 66 receptions, 818 yards, and eight TDs. Spielman has averaged 18.21 DraftKings points per game over his career, has scored over 16 points in 12 of his 22 games, and also boasts three games with over 38 points.

Like the rest of the Nebraska offense, Spielman turned in a poor showing in Week 1, recording just two receptions for 36 yards. However, he did add a punt return TD, which saved the week for fantasy owners. He has recorded three return TDs in his career and has two punt return TDs in his last four games.

Most importantly, he is likely the greatest beneficiary from the graduation of Stanley Morgan Jr. Morgan Jr. led the team in receptions (70) and receiving yards (1,004) in 2018, and his graduation leaves a 27.2% reception share up for grabs. Spielman is by far the best WR on the team and should claim the majority of Morgan Jr.’s passing targets from last season. While his Week 1 showing was lackluster, his season-long outlook is still fantastic.

On top of that, he’s playing in the slate’s highest Vegas total game, which should amplify his receiving production and TD probability. $4,700 is embarrassingly low for a player of this magnitude. I have him projected for around 18 fantasy points in Week 2, which is great value at his price point. He’s my easiest chalk play in recent memory.

Randall St. Felix, South Florida ($4,700)

St. Felix is overpriced, and the Bulls may opt for a rush-heavy game plan against Georgia Tech, but he still offers excellent upside in GPPs. To be clear: I’m not rostering St. Felix in any of my cash rosters, but he does find his way onto some of my tournament builds.

St. Felix put up one of the most impressive freshman WR seasons in the country last season, but he remained mostly under-the-radar due to his inconsistency and South Florida’s poor public visibility. He totaled 33 receptions for 679 yards and four TDs in 10 games of action, averaging 13.7 DraftKings points per game in the process. Only seven other freshman WRs matched or exceed his freshman production in all three statistical categories — and every one of them played in at least 12 games:

  • Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  • KJ Hamler, Penn State
  • Rondale Moore, Purdue
  • Jayden Reed, Western Michigan
  • Justyn Ross, Clemson
  • Tamorrion Terry, Florida State
  • Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

But, his freshman summary statistics are a bit deceiving. If you dive into his game logs, it becomes crystal clear that he is the ultimate boom-or-bust option. St. Felix exceeded 100 receiving yards in four of his 10 games, but he completely busted in his six other games.

  • In his four best games, he averaged: 5.3 receptions, 137.8 yards, one TD, and 28.0 DraftKings points.
  • In his six other games, he averaged: 2.0 receptions, 21.3 yards, zero TDs, and 4.1 DraftKings points.

St. Felix’s inconsistency may be chalked up to his inexperience as a redshirt freshman. But, it’s also likely a function of his elite speed and explosiveness. He averaged 20.6 yards per reception (YPR) last year, which is extraordinarily high. In fact, among WRs with at least 30 receptions in 2018, only 10 other players averaged at least 20 YPR.

Georgia Tech ranked 116th out of 130 teams in pass defense in 2018, and the Yellow Jackets rank 97th in 2019 returning defensive production. Georgia Tech is particularly vulnerable in their secondary, and St. Felix is an elite deep threat to challenge that defense.

He is the ultimate high-risk/high-reward play on the slate, who benefits from: An early-career breakout, improved target share probability,4 and an ideal matchup. His price is about $700 too high based on his median expectation, but if you’re in the market for upside, St. Felix is the man.

Kanawai Noa, Nebraska ($3,600)

Allow me to provide a quick look-back before I dive into Noa’s breakdown. In Week 0, I recommended Kadarius Toney as my top dart-throw play, and in Week 1 I recommended Binjimen Victor. Thankfully, both of those recommendations hit. This week, I’m diving even deeper into the bargain bin to recommend Kanawai Noa. Here’s hoping that third time’s the charm.

As I discussed in my breakdown for Spielman, the exodus of Morgan Jr. leaves a 27.2% reception share on the table. Spielman is a near-lock to absorb the majority of those receiving targets, but there must arise another player to assume the WR2 role in the offense. I believe that player will be Noa.

In his stellar junior season at California, he amassed 56 receptions for 788 yards and four TDs in 11 games. Noa earned at least 100 receiving yards in three games, at least six receptions in seven games, and averaged 15.3 DraftKings points per game for the season. However, in 2018 he had to deal with a head coach and QB change, and his production dropped significantly (30 receptions for 369 yards and two TDs in eight games played.) Nonetheless, during his time as a Golden Bear, he proved that he can be a dynamic playmaker and a steady contributor. So, why shouldn’t we expect him to return to his 2017 form as a Cornhusker?

Since transferring this offseason, the Nebraska coaching staff has showered Noa with praise for his technique and scheme understanding. Offseason coach-speak is usually disingenuous, but in Noa’s case, it held up, and he drew a Week 1 starting designation. Though he failed to log an offensive statistic (which, admittedly, is very concerning), earning that starting role says a lot about the coaches’ trust in him. So, I expect him to assume a stronger offensive presence in Week 2 against Colorado.

Noa is a very risky play, because we’ve yet to establish a baseline for his production as a Cornhusker. But, if you’re already in on Martinez and Spielman, then there’s upside to rostering Noa in a full game stack. He also provides a punt alternative to Tobias Oliver in the event that Oliver’s hand injury prevents him from starting this week.

My Other Exposures:

  • Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt ($5,800)
  • Jonathan Nance, Missouri ($5,700)
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri ($5,200)
Image Credit: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: JD Spielman.

  1. This was his first ever college start as a true freshman and he put up an impressive 37.18 DraftKings points.  (back)
  2. Nebraska lost 33-28 against the Colorado at home last season.  (back)
  3. Per Football Outsider’s S&P metric.  (back)
  4. South Florida lost 45.6% of its receptions and 44.6% of its receiving yards from last season, most of which came from Tyree McCants and Darnell Salomon — both of whom graduated from the program.  (back)

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