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College Football DFS: Week 3 – Night Slate

Below are positional rankings for the 14-game night slate of DraftKings contests on Saturday with some commentary along the way. Keep in mind that salary has a huge impact on a player’s ranking. 

Quarterback

  1. Matt Davis – $7,800 – SMU
  2. Luke Falk – $9,900 – Washington State
  3. Trevone Boykin – $9,900 – TCU
  4. Kevin Hogan – $6,100 – Stanford
  5. Patrick Mahomes – $8,900 – Texas Tech
  6. Jared Goff – $8,700 – California

Normally I wouldn’t rank this many quarterbacks, but I feel the need to provide more options for this slate. Value is really, really hard to come by in this slate, so you may have to go with Matt Davis and a QB2 like Jared Goff or Patrick Mahomes instead of pairing Davis with a stud like Trevone Boykin or Luke Falk. Hell, you might have to go with Davis and Kevin Hogan to make a lineup work on this slate.

Let’s start with those studs. TCU and Washington State have the highest team totals in Vegas of teams playing in this slate, and both of their quarterbacks could have monster days. If you can fit one in, by all means, do it. I think I prefer Falk to Boykin, but it’s incredibly close. Washington State is a 24.5-point favorite whereas TCU is favored by 37.5, so perhaps the game will remain in doubt longer for the Cougars allowing Falk to rack up some serious volume. He has thrown at least 40 passes in each of his two games, and he threw 66 times in a close one against Rutgers last week, so that volume feels safer to me. If you prefer Boykin, I won’t argue too much. But again, good luck rostering either one of them.

As for Davis, he should obviously see plenty of chances to chuck it playing from behind against TCU. But it’s what he does on the ground that has real value. He has carried it 41 times in two games this season, so combined with his passes he has been in on 88 plays in two games. Volume is good. It’s better when it comes in a better matchup as TCU ranked 13th in total defense last year according to the S&P+ ratings. But as mentioned, value is hard to come by, and Davis provides a lot of volume at this price point.

As for Hogan, he struggled badly Week 1 against Northwestern, but he bounced back with 341 yards and three touchdowns last week against UCF. UCF was a top 35 overall defense last year, so they weren’t a cupcake matchup, though they were better against the run than the pass. As for the matchup this week, USC’s defense ranked one spot behind UCF last year in overall defensive S&P+ ratings. Plus, USC should score plenty, which should keep game flow in Hogan’s favor. I don’t love it, but he’s cheap on a slate where cheap is hard to find.

Mahomes and Goff are here in case you have enough money to avoid Hogan as your QB2 but don’t have the cash for Boykin or Falk. Both guys have matchups on the road against teams that rated top 10 in overall defense last year, so the matchups clearly aren’t ideal. Goff will face Texas who had the third highest rated pass defense last year while Mahomes will face Arkansas who rated 26th against the pass. For that reason, I guess I’d prefer Mahomes to Goff.

Running Back

  1. Kareem Hunt – $6,800 – Toledo
  2. Brian Hill – $5,800 – Wyoming
  3. Qadree Ollison – $5,500 – Pittsburgh
  4. Daniel Lasco – $6,300 – California
  5. Gerard Wicks – $4,400 – Washington State
  6. Trevorris Johnson – $3,900 – TCU
  7. Alex Collins – $8,900 – Arkansas

There is some serious running back talent in this slate. Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Paul Perkins, Alex Collins. I just don’t have any idea how you manage to roster any of them with price tags of at least $8,800 all the way up to Chubb at $9,900. But at least none of those guys play for teams that are bigger than a 16.5-point favorite, so concerns about a blowout and them being limited in the second half are minimal. Henry has a tough matchup against Ole Miss, and Perkins’ matchup with BYU isn’t a great one either. But Chubb will face South Carolina who rated 109th in run defense last year, and Collins gets Texas Tech who rated 116th. If you can find a way to get one of them in your lineup, that’d be sweet. Collins is probably preferable being $1,000 cheaper than Chubb.

As for the guys you can afford, Kareem Hunt is a no-brainer here. The kid ran for 1,631 yards last year, averaging eight yards per carry, with 16 touchdowns to boot. He’s been suspended the first two games of this season for violating team rules, but he’s scheduled to be back in action Saturday. And he’s coming back for the choicest of choice matchups against Iowa State who rated 126th (out of 128) in run defense last year. With the suspension depressing his price this week, he should easily be the most highly owned player of the slate. Outside of being contrarian, there is absolutely no reason not to roster him.

Picking between Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison for the second spot was very tough. Hill’s Wyoming team is a 24-point underdog against Washington State, so game flow might not necessarily be in his favor. But Wyoming lost by 19 last week and it didn’t stop him from having a monster game. On just 21 carries, Hill ran for 242 yards and two touchdowns. To be fair, it was against an Eastern Michigan team that was one of just two teams that was worse against the run than Iowa State was last year, but 242 yards is 242 yards, regardless of opponent. Hill took over as the starter last year in the last five games of the season and ran for 746 yards with another 204 receiving yards. That’s 950 yards from scrimmage, 190 yards per game and 6.88 yards per touch.

Ollison, on the other hand, has been a mixed bag since taking over for DFS-stud James Conner who was injured on his eighth carry of the season. After replacing Conner in Week 1, Ollison carried the ball 16 times for 207 yards and a touchdown. But that was against Youngstown State, a non-FBS team. Last week against Akron, he carried the ball 21 times for just 81 yards and a touchdown. Akron was rated 66th against the run last year, so it certainly wasn’t a tough matchup. This week he’ll have a slightly tougher matchup against Iowa who was rated 45th against the run last year. The price is still good for a lead back, but he’s not totally reliable.

Alright, let’s talk cheap running backs. First, Gerard Wicks is a starting running back for an FBS team and has 27 touches through two weeks of the season. Considering that he’s only $4,400, that would seem like somewhat of a bargain. The problem is that he plays for pass-happy Washington State and is definitely not the focal point of the offense. That said, he’s probably a safe bet for 12-15 touches with upside for more if Washington State leads comfortably for most of the game. This is not a great play or anything, but as I keep saying, you’re going to have to find cheap guys somewhere.

Other bargain plays could come from backup running backs on heavily favored teams. As an example, TCU has the highest team total of the slate according to Vegas, and they’re a 37.5-point favorite against SMU. After Aaron Green and Trevone Boykin, Trevorris Johnson is third on the team with 12 carries. He has been productive with limited work averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Again, it’s not ideal, but it may be necessary.

Wide Receiver

  1. Courtland Sutton – $5,000 – SMU
  2. Kolby Listenbee – $5,600 – TCU
  3. Ian Sadler – $4,200 – Texas Tech
  4. Kenny Lawler – $5,900 – California
  5. Dom Williams – $6,000 – Washington State
  6. Juju Smith-Schuster – $7,100 USC
  7. Chris Godwin – $3,900 – Penn State

We’re pretty much loaded up with stack options here since I had to rank so many quarterbacks above. But even if you’re not using a receiver’s quarterback, the receivers from TCU, Texas Tech, Cal and Washington State will get you exposure to those top quarterbacks without having to pay the high price of the QB. Teams like TCU and Washington State have more expensive receivers than those ranked here, but paying for the expensive receivers defeats the purpose of trying to find value.

So instead of TCU’s Josh Doctson consider Kolby Listenbee for $1,600 less. Doctson is a bit more reliable with 12 catches to Listenbee’s seven, but Doctson only has four more yards. Listenbee is a deep threat that could certainly deliver value at his price point. And instead of Washington State’s River Cracaft and Gabe Marks, consider Dom Williams for $1,400 to $1,500 less. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Williams has become a reliable red zone target with nine touchdowns last year and one so far this season. He’s also been consistent so far this year with five catches in each of his two games and at least 70 yards receiving.

Something similar could be said about Texas Tech’s Ian Sadler. Sadler plays third fiddle to Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale, but there is plenty to go around there as Sadler has 122 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Cal’s Kenny Lawler actually has a little more market share in his offense as he leads the team in receptions with eight and three touchdowns. But eight catches in two games obviously isn’t a lot, and Goff has really spread it around early in the year.

I guess we should probably discuss the top ranked receiver, Courtland Sutton. I mentioned up top that SMU’s QB does a lot of damage with his legs, which means he has only attempted 47 passes in two games. But Sutton has caught more of those passes than any other receiver with eight and three touchdown catches. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Sutton is clearly a big red zone target who should continue to get looks in and around the end zone.

Rounding out the rankings are Juju Smith-Schuster and Chris Godwin. I love Juju, and he has been great the first two games of the season. But I’ve mentioned the lack of value here many times now, so I don’t know how you’re going to be able to pay for that kind of receiver, especially when his quarterback isn’t a consideration of mine. As for Godwin, he’s a pure salary relief option. He has five catches in each of his first two games this year with 81 yards receiving and 75 yards in the other. He hasn’t scored, but even if he just gives you another 5-80 performance, that’ll be more than worth it at his price point.

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