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Travis Etienne is Still a DFS Cheat Code: Week 5 DraftKings CFB GPP Breakdown

The CFB DFS season rolls on with 11 games in the DraftKings main slate for Week 5.

TeamOpponentSpreadTotalImplied PointsKickoff Time
Alabamavs. Ole Miss-386149.53:30 p.m. ET
Oklahomavs. Texas Tech-2770.548.7512:00 p.m. ET
Clemsonat North Carolina-276043.53:30 p.m. ET
Texas A&M (N)Arkansas (N)-2357.540.2512:00 p.m. ET
Wake Forestat Boston College-6.570.538.53:30 p.m. ET
Washingtonvs. USC-10.56135.753:30 p.m. ET
Wisconsinvs. Northwestern-24.546.535.512:00 p.m. ET
TCUvs. Kansas-164932.512:00 p.m. ET
Boston Collegevs. Wake Forest+6.570.5323:30 p.m. ET
Notre Damevs. Virginia-12.548.530.53:30 p.m. ET
Iowa Stateat Baylor-356.529.753:30 p.m. ET
Templevs. Georgia Tech-8.54928.753:30 p.m. ET
Baylorvs. Iowa State+356.526.753:30 p.m. ET
USCat Washington+10.56125.253:30 p.m. ET
Texas Techat Oklahoma+2770.521.7512:00 p.m. ET
Georgia Techat Temple+8.54920.253:30 p.m. ET
Virginiaat Notre Dame+12.548.5183:30 p.m. ET
Arkansas (N)Texas A&M (N)+2357.517.2512:00 p.m. ET
Kansasat TCU+164916.512:00 p.m. ET
North Carolinavs. Clemson+276016.53:30 p.m. ET
Ole Missat Alabama+386111.53:30 p.m. ET
Northwesternat Wisconsin+24.546.51112:00 p.m. ET

What to Expect in This Breakdown

Guarantee prize pool (GPP) tournaments often reward sub-optimal lineup construction and game theory-based decision-making. It’s difficult — and perhaps even disingenuous — to recommend a handful of players devoid of metagame context. In cash contests, that works great, because identifying value and bolstering a strong floor projection is critical to success. But in GPPs, we need to think differently.

So, for the past several weeks, I’ve tinkered with this article format in order to best convey the complex dynamics that form my recommendations. Within each week’s breakdown, I’ve implicitly and covertly emphasized different elements of CFB GPP strategy. Here’s a quick rundown of our progression through five weeks:

This week, I’ll spare you another 4,000-plus word mega-breakdown and get straight into my favorite plays. If you’ve been tracking with this column since Week 0 action, you should have a fairly strong understanding of my methods and philosophy by now. So, without further ado, here are my favorite Week 5 position players in each price tier.

Quarterback

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma ($9,200)

Jalen Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners finally make their first appearance on the DraftKings main slate against a wounded Texas Tech team. The Red Raiders will play without young superstar QB Alan Bowman after he suffered a shoulder injury against Arizona in Week 3.

Bowman’s absence helps explain Oklahoma’s -27 spread margin, but only in part. The Sooners’ offense is one of the best units in the country, ranking first in total offense (676.7 yards per game) and second in points per game (55.7).

Oklahoma’s early season success is due in large part to Hurts’ stellar play. The talented Alabama-transfer is averaging 417.7 total yards and 4.3 total TDs per game. However, what truly separates him from other elite options like Tua Tagovailoa ($8,800) is his astounding rushing production.

DraftKings’ scoring system rewards rushing production more heavily than it does passing. That disproportionately benefits QBs that are proficient in both facets of the game. This particular skillset is what made Kyler Murray a week-in and week-out stone-cold lock last season. The same can be said for Hurts, who has aptly filled Murray’s shoes as college football’s premier fantasy performer.

He’s a threat to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 more in any given contest — each of which yield an extra three-point DraftKings yardage bonus. Hurts’ aptly demonstrated the compounding effect of DraftKings’ scoring settings in his historic Week 1 performance against Houston. He passed for 332 yards and three TDs and rushed for 176 rushing yards and three more scores.

In a normal CFB DFS week, if your starting QB delivers 30 or more points, that’s a pretty solid day. In Week 1, Hurts scored 66.88.

Sure, he’ll be chalky, but I’m not passing up on his incomparable upside regardless of his ownership percentage.

Jamie Newman, Wake Forest ($7,800)

Nonetheless, if you still insist on fading Hurts — or if you want to pair Hurts with another high-upside QB at your Superflex — then Jamie Newman is the man for the job.

Newman draws one of the softer matchups on the slate against Boston College. The Eagles rank 98th in opponent passing yards (258.8) and 102nd in total yards (438.3) allowed per game. To add insult to injury, Boston College has conceded that high yardage output against an incredibly soft schedule. Their four opponents have been Virginia Tech, FCS Richmond, Kansas, and Rutgers.

Newman has only started eight games for the Demon Deacons, but he has been overwhelmingly impressive despite his inexperience. Over his last five games, he has averaged 371.4 total yards, 3.8 total TDs, and 34.87 DraftKings points per game.

Jett Duffey, Texas Tech ($5,900)

As I remarked in my discussion for Jalen Hurts, Texas Tech starting QB Alan Bowman is out for Week 5. Jett Duffey is the presumed starter in Bowman’s place, although he does face competition for that role from Rice-transfer Jackson Tyner. The team has yet to declare an official starter, but Duffey’s athletic profile, previous performance, and tenure with the team assuredly give him the edge to start.

In limited time as a starter last season, Duffey averaged 219 passing yards and 57.6 rushing yards per game. His passing game logs are fairly abysmal, but he possesses elite value as a runner. Duffey rushed for at least 80 yards and/or a TD in three of his five games.

To be clear, if you roster Duffey, you’re drafting him for his high floor as a rusher. Nonetheless, he did flash all-around potential in one game last year. Against Texas in Week 10, Duffey exploded for 444 passing yards, four TDs, 80 rushing yards, and 43.76 DraftKings points. I’m not suggesting he’ll repeat that performance, but it does exist at the extreme end of his range of outcomes.

Two Other Players Worth Considering

Iowa State QB Brock Purdy ($7,500) could be a reasonable alternative to Newman. Both players report similar rushing statistics and total yardage in their careers. Nonetheless, Newman’s Week 5 matchup is a cake walk, whereas Purdy’s game against Baylor has a much wider range of outcomes. Statistical production aside, Purdy’s greatest value will undoubtedly be his low ownership. Only consider rostering him if you’re firmly committed to a minus-EV contrarian position in this top-heavy slate.

Similarly, Temple QB Anthony Russo ($6,400) could be a reasonable pivot away from Duffey. Russo leads an electric passing offense, and each of his three starting wide receivers easily slot into lineups with very reasonable salaries. You could do worse than building a full-blown Temple passing game stack — especially against a Georgia Tech defense that allowed 632 total yards to Clemson in Week 1 and suffered an embarrassing Week 3 loss to The Citadel.

Two More Players to Fade

You may also be drawn to Ian Book ($7,900) of Notre Dame or Kellen Mond ($7,800) of Texas A&M, both of whom boast respectable statistical averages and are playing as moderate-to-large favorites. However, I would advise caution in rostering either player.

The case against Book is Virginia’s elite defense, which should thoroughly disrupt Notre Dame’s offensive game plan. The Cavaliers rank first in the nation in sacks (20), third in tackles for loss (39), 14th in total defense (263.8 yards per game), and have returned two interceptions for TDs already this season.

For Mond, his greatest obstacle is not his matchup but rather himself. Mond has demonstrated a tendency to play up or down to his competition over the past two seasons. Against elite defenses like Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and LSU, he has averaged 279.4 passing yards and 310.0 total yards. Against all other opponents, he averages 209.3 passing yards and 243.8 total yards.

Running Back

Travis Etienne, Clemson ($7,200)

Travis Etienne is one of the most explosive RBs in the country and has no business being priced this low. I can only assume DraftKings has overcorrected Etienne’s pricing following a relatively slow start to the season. In fairness to them, Etienne has only scored one TD in his last three games and has failed to hit the century mark in yardage in any of those games.

However, we’re talking about a player who has rushed for over 100 yards in nine of his last 19 games. We’re also talking about a player that has rushed for over 150 yards in seven of those! Etienne also boasts a ludicrous 43 TDs in his 32 career games — with 26 of those coming during his 1,658-yard breakout sophomore season in 2018.

Etienne is not a volume rusher, so I wouldn’t be quite as emphatic about his pricing in cash contests. His floor may be slightly low for a RB of his caliber and price, but he also boasts the highest upside of any RB or WR on the slate. He’s simply too much of a bargain at $7,200 for me to pass up.

Jonathan Taylor ($9,000) of Wisconsin and AJ Dillon ($8,300) of Boston College are more conservative options at the top end, and each player could easily match or exceed Etienne’s production this week. However, their salaries do not conveniently fit together with Hurts’ $9k price tag, which throws a bit of a monkey wrench into roster construction. Nonetheless, it’s likely that other DFS players will also opt for Etienne at a bargain, so Taylor or Dillon could provide leverage against the field if Etienne disappoints against North Carolina.

Re’Mahn Davis, Temple ($4,200)

Davis has already achieved co-starter status as a true freshman and has rushed 31 times for 211 yards and a TD through three games. He also added two receptions for 78 yards and a score in Week 1 against Bucknell.

The Owls offense is undoubtedly pass-first, but the Owls would be wise to feed the talented freshman an increased workload against Georgia Tech. Despite defending against a triple-option for years in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets defense apparently has no idea how to stop the run. Georgia Tech ranks 129th out of 130 teams in rush defense, conceding 274.3 yards on average to its opponents this season. Clemson gashed that defense with 411 rushing yards in Week 1, and The Citadel added 320 yards of its own in Week 3.

The Owls rushing attack is not typically a place I look for fantasy value, but this matchup is too juicy for me to ignore. Davis’ low salary helps you pay up at QB without sacrificing much at the other skill positions, and he could realistically pay off 20-plus points in Week 5 to sweeten the deal.

Sean McGrew, Washington ($3,700)

Sean McGrew is my clear-cut favorite RB punt play of the week due to his current backfield situation. Through three weeks, McGrew, Richard Newton ($5,200), and Salvon Ahmed ($6,700) have operated in a strict three-way committee. Each back has totaled over 200 yards this season, and together they have combined for 861 total yards and nine TDs through four games.

Ahmed did not travel with the team last week due to a leg injury suffered in Week 3 and is considered week-to-week. Without Ahmed in against BYU in Week 4, Newton and McGrew each received at least 18 touches, and McGrew out-gained Newton 110-to-80 on the ground. Current beat reports suggest that Ahmed is doubtful to play this week against USC, which would once again elevate Newton and Ahmed into a phenomenal combined workload.

Newton has drawn the most red zone work this season, so he projects as the preferred back to own in Week 5 from a raw statistics standpoint. However, McGrew’s exceedingly low price point makes him very intriguing due to the creative roster maneuvering his salary affords.

Other RBs Deserving Consideration

  • Darius Anderson, TCU ($6,500)
  • Vavae Malepeai, USC ($6,000)
  • Trey Sermon, Oklahoma ($5,400)
  • Cade Carney, Wake Forest ($5,100)
  • Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma ($5,100)

Wide Receiver

Sage Surratt, Wake Forest ($7,500)

Surratt has asserted himself not only as Wake Forest’s premier receiving threat, but moreover as one of the better WRs in the entire ACC. He is averaging 121 receiving yards per game this season and has hauled in five TDs. His 30.1 average DraftKings points per game ranks second only to Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy ($8,100) among WRs on this slate.

And, as I touched on previously, Surratt faces an incredibly soft matchup against a weak Eagles defense. Not only is Boston College challenged defensively, but it is also exceedingly young. The Eagles defense ranks 110th in returning production.

Surratt is my clear favorite WR target above $7,000, but he’s not without competition for that honor. You very rarely go wrong by rostering Alabama WRs Jerry Jeudy ($8,100) and Henry Ruggs III ($7,600). Jeudy leads the team in receptions (30), receiving yards (404), and TDs (6) and is one of the most electric players in college football. Meanwhile Ruggs III boasts 14 receptions, 336 yards and four TDs of his own over his last three outings.

Michael Pittman Jr. ($7,300) of USC is also intriguing in this price range, as he’s in the midst of a bona fide breakout season with new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb ($7,000) is yet another alternative — one that is perhaps a bit overpriced but nonetheless provides phenomenal upside as a complementary pairing with Hurts.

Charleston Rambo, Oklahoma ($5,600)

Lamb was uber-impressive last season while playing with Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown. But new QB Jalen Hurts is not the same caliber passer that Murray was, and DraftKings has not adjusted Lamb’s price accordingly. However, Charleston Rambo’s $5,600 price-point is much more friendly for roster construction this week, and he could easily match or exceed Lamb’s production in Week 5.

The redshirt sophomore was little more than a rotational piece last season, but he flashed potential against Alabama in the Orange Bowl by catching three passes for 74 yards and a TD. He has picked up right where he left off from that game and has found the end zone in all three of Oklahoma’s games this season. His team target share remains low (3.7 receptions per game), but he has been explosive with the ball in his hands. In his most recent game against UCLA in Week 3, he snared five passes for 116 yards and two TDs on his way to a 31.3-points DraftKings fantasy total.

If Rambo’s inexperience isn’t quite your taste, you won’t have a difficult time finding strong alternatives in this range.

Aaron Fuller, Washington ($5,700) is on a tear to begin the 2019 season, boasting five total TDs through four games. Fuller was among my GPP recommendations last week and delivered 29.1 DraftKings points.

Andrew Parchment ($5,800) of Kansas is also rather intriguing. The former Northern Illinois transfer has made an immediate impact as a Jayhawk, hauling in 24 receptions for 367 yards and four TDs. He boasts back-to-back games with over 100 receiving yards against Boston College and West Virginia, which eases some concerns regarding his admittedly difficult matchup against TCU this week.

Tyler Vaughns ($6,300) of USC rounds out my favorite targets in this range. Vaughns’ spotlight has taken a backseat during Michael Pittman Jr.’s ascension, but Vaughns remains the Trojans’ most tenured and most reliable target in a pass-happy offense. Among all USC WRs, he reports the most sustained level of excellence since his sophomore season. Four games into his senior season, he has snared 27 passes for 370 yards and two TDs.

Jadan Blue, Temple ($5,100)

I chose Jadan Blue as my preferred lower-price target, but I could have easily subbed him out for any of Temple’s three core pass-catchers. Isaiah Wright ($5,100) and Branden Mack ($5,100) are priced exactly the same as Blue and report similar median projections. The Owls offense has run through that WR trio, which commands a 72.8% share of the team’s receptions and a 69.4% share of all receiving yards. Temple ranks ninth nationally in passing yards per game (347.3), so there are plenty of fantasy points to go around in this offense.

Among those three players, Blue has been the most efficient and productive so far this season, which is why he gets the nod as my official recommendation. But, Blue is also the most inexperienced. Both Mack and Wright report 600-plus receiving yard totals from previous seasons, which testifies to their longterm consistency and productivity. Wright’s rushing production likely offers the highest floor among the trio, Blue offers the highest upside, and Mack is the most well-rounded. You really can’t go wrong in rostering any of them.

Other WRs Deserving Consideration

  • Scotty Washington, Wake Forest ($6,900)
  • Denzel Mims, Baylor ($6,800)
  • Tee Higgins, Clemson ($6,300)
  • Quartney Davis, Texas A&M ($6,000)
  • Devonta Smith, Alabama ($5,900)
  • Hunter Bryant, Washington ($5,100)
Image Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Travis Etienne.

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