In this college football DFS preview, I’ll break down the DraftKings Saturday main slate into three categories: players to build around, value plays, and players to avoid.
Players to build around carry more expensive salaries, but they are worth prioritizing in your lineup due to their high ceiling. Value plays are lower-salaried options that come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you afford the expensive stars. Players to avoid are fantasy-relevant options you might normally consider but have a tough matchup this week and are unlikely to meet their usual expectations.
All references to fantasy points per game are based on the DraftKings scoring system. All references to spreads and totals are from BetMGM.
Team Seconds per Play Overall Pass Rate 2nd Half Pass Rate W/ Lead 2nd Half Pass Rate Trailing Nebraska 23.6 44.4% 35.9% 68.4% Oklahoma 26.4 57.1% 46.9% -- Coastal Carolina 27.3 40.7% 35.1% -- Buffalo 24.6 45.3% 17.9% 72.3% Michigan State 22.8 43.1% 38.7% -- Miami FL 21.8 59.7% 47.6% 62.7% Virginia Tech 29.5 46.6% 47.3% -- West Virginia 24.8 52.6% 37.3% 100.0% Cincinnati 26.8 50.4% 49.1% -- Indiana 29.2 41.6% 26.5% 48.3% Minnesota 31.0 35.5% 24.3% 42.9% Colorado 28.0 36.2% 35.6% 80.0% Purdue 27.1 53.8% 47.5% -- Notre Dame 25.0 55.5% 43.8% 55.9% Georgia Tech 23.8 43.8% 41.2% 39.4% Clemson 24.3 60.6% 55.9% 65.7% Alabama 28.3 52.4% 42.2% -- Florida 24.4 43.7% 40.5% -- USC 26.5 57.8% 57.1% 66.7% Washington State 27.7 60.8% 60.8% 75.0% Florida State 23.4 49.3% 47.2% 41.3% Wake Forest 22.6 49.6% 45.2% -- Tulsa 26.1 49.6% 42.9% 47.8% Ohio State 23.3 61.5% 27.3% 67.8%
Color Code: Blue: Top 20th Percentile | Green: 60-79th | Yellow: 40-59th | Orange: 20-39th | Red: 0-19th
CFB DFS PLAYERS TO BUILD AROUND
QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
In 13 career starts, Spencer Rattler has topped 30 fantasy points six times. With that type of consistent production, he’s always an option for our rosters.
Oklahoma carries the highest implied total on the slate at 42.5 points.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama at Florida
Considering how Bryce Young carved up the Miami defense in Week 1, we can probably trust him against a Florida defense that was mediocre throughout the 2020 season.
The Gators defense has held opposing quarterbacks to single-digit fantasy points in each of their first two games, but Florida Atlantic and South Florida can’t give us an accurate assessment of how much the defense has or hasn’t improved.
Alabama leans heavily on 11 personnel (69% of their offensive plays) and that formation gave Florida issues last season. According to Sports Info Solutions, Florida allowed 8.2 yards per attempt versus 11 personnel, ranked 10th in the SEC.
QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati at Indiana
Indiana’s defense potentially poses a challenge to the Cincinnati offense, but Desmond Ridder is worth targeting in tournaments due to his elite upside. He’s already reached 35 fantasy points once this year (versus Miami OH), a threshold he hit five times in 2020.
His ceiling gets an added boost because Cincinnati has every incentive to run up the score, if given the opportunity, to pad its playoff resume against a good Power 5 opponent.
Indiana was somewhat vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks last year, giving up 78 rushing yards to Ohio State’s Justin Fields and 119 to Penn State’s Sean Clifford. Ridder has run for at least 50 yards six times since the start of 2020.
QB Jack Coan, Notre Dame vs. Purdue
It looks like Jack Coan will have to carry the Notre Dame offense this year. Through two games against mediocre defenses, running back Kyren Williams ($7,200) is averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has been forced to pick up 95% of his yardage after contact, according to Sports Info Solutions.
With the offensive line unable to block for Williams, Coan has attempted 68 passes through two games, and another high volume is likely against Purdue.
Over the last two seasons, fantasy production against Purdue has also been shaded towards the passing game. In eight games since the start of 2020, the high score against Purdue has been a quarterback or receiver six times.
RB Jerome Ford, Cincinnati at Indiana
Cincinnati runs the ball in 11 personnel 74% of the time, which bodes well for Jerome Ford in this matchup. Since the start of 2020, Indiana has allowed 5.1 yards per carry when opponents run the ball from 11 personnel formations, per Sports Info Solutions.
Ford has commanded a 28.1% opportunity share in the Cincinnati offense and has run routes on 35.6% of the Bearcats pass plays. Though he has just two receptions, that route rate bodes well for an expanded role in a more competitive game.
RB Leddie Brown, West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
Due to a significant role in the passing game, Leddie Brown looks like one of the safest options on the slate. According to Sports Info Solutions, Brown runs routes on 42% of the Mountaineers’ pass attempts.
Brown currently has a 27% opportunity share in the offense, which is suppressed slightly due to a 66-0 win over Long Island University in Week 2. With West Virginia favored by just 2.5 points, Brown should see a full four-quarter workload.
RB Christian Beal-Smith, Wake Forest vs. Florida State
In two blowouts, Christian Beal-Smith has seen only 21 touches so far, but a larger workload will likely be necessary against Florida State.
We saw the Seminoles shut down the Notre Dame run game in Week 1, but after the Irish also struggled to run the ball against Toledo, it looks like that didn’t say much about the Florida State defense.
Wake Forest runs one of the fastest offenses in the nation (22.6 seconds per play) and Florida State isn’t far behind (23.4). This should be a fast-paced matchup, as both defenses appear to be lacking the tools to slow down the other side.
WR Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina at Buffalo
With an average depth of target (aDOT) at 15.6 yards downfield and a 31.8% target share, Jaivon Heiligh is one of the elite fantasy weapons at wide receiver.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Buffalo has allowed a 54.5% completion rate on throws 10 or more yards downfield, potentially making them vulnerable to Coastal Carolina’s deep passing attack.
WR David Bell, Purdue at Notre Dame
A 41.7-point outburst against UConn will be tough to follow up, but this looks like an ideal spot to roster David Bell.
As 7.5-point underdogs, Purdue will likely be forced to throw at a high rate and it should also pick up the pace on offense. In 2020, Purdue ran a play once every 24.2 seconds, the 32nd fastest rate in the nation.
WR Michael Mayer, Notre Dame vs. Purdue
As mentioned in Jack Coan’s section, Notre Dame may be forced to throw at a high rate against a friendly Purdue defense. If so, tight end/receiver Michael Mayer is the weapon to target as he’s seen a 34.8% target share.
Purdue’s defense hasn’t been tested by Oregon State or UConn, but in 2020, WR1s topped 20 fantasy points in four of six games against the Boilermakers.
WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State vs. Tulsa
This salary is slightly more realistic than his $5,900 last week, but still absurdly cheap for a player seeing a 33.8% target share with 23.9 fantasy points per game.
Ohio State won’t throw the ball 54 times as they did last week, but there will still be enough volume for Garrett Wilson to post a strong game. Dating back to last season, Ohio State’s WR1 has posted at least 25 fantasy points in eight of 10 games, and WR2 has generated at least 20 points in five of 10 games.
That type of consistent production makes Wilson and Chris Olave ($8,100) an option every week, though the salary difference should drive us towards Wilson.
CFB DFS VALUE PLAYS
QB Sam Hartman, Wake Forest vs. Florida State
In 2020, quarterbacks scored above their season average in fantasy points against Florida State in six of eight games and the Seminoles have already allowed over 20 fantasy points to quarterbacks in each of their first two games (versus Notre Dame and Jacksonville State).
Since Wake Forest’s run-pass splits hover around 50-50, Sam Hartman is an inconsistent fantasy performer, but he’s flashed a high ceiling with 44.4 points in a 59-53 loss to North Carolina last season. With two shaky defenses and fast-paced offenses, this game has that type of wild potential, making Hartman worthy of a tournament gamble.
QB Adrian Martinez, Nebraska at Oklahoma
Dating back to last season, Adrian Martinez has reached at least 23 fantasy points in six consecutive games. The talent around Martinez is so unreliable that the entire playbook has basically been reduced to Martinez making things happen on his own.
According to Sports Info Solutions, in two games versus FBS opponents (Illinois and Buffalo), Nebraska has allowed pressure rates of 59% and 46%. The Huskers’ inability to protect Martinez has forced him to scramble at a high rate 一 the only thing the offense has going for it.
55% of Martinez’s fantasy points have come in the run game, so increasing his usage as Nebraska likely plays from behind should give a boost to his ceiling in this matchup.
Oklahoma surrendered 30.2 fantasy points to Tulane’s Michael Pratt in the season opener, so we probably shouldn’t be worried about the Sooners’ defense shutting Martinez down.
QB McKenzie Milton, Florida State at Wake Forest
The former UCF standout McKenzie Milton will make his first start since a near career-ending injury in 2018. Milton played the majority of last week’s game against Jacksonville State, generating just 9.9 fantasy points on 31 pass attempts, so he’s already demonstrated a low floor against poor competition.
However, in a potentially fast-paced game (see Christian Beal-Smith’s section for more on this game’s pace), Milton is worth a tournament dart throw on this low salary.
Though we haven’t seen Wake Forest play a formidable opponent this year, in 2020, the Demon Deacons ranked 105th in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks (25.7).
QB Brendon Lewis, Colorado vs. Minnesota
Rostering Brendon Lewis will take a leap of faith, as he’s posted fantasy scores of 12.5 and 10.2 through two games. However, strong rushing production (60 yards per game) and a bad Minnesota defense puts him on our radar as a tournament dart throw.
Minnesota has allowed over 20 fantasy points to quarterbacks in both games this year, including 23.9 combined points to Miami OH quarterbacks Brett Gabbert and AJ Mayer last week.
RB Jarek Broussard, Colorado vs. Minnesota
Against Texas A&M last week, Jarek Broussard exited early but returned to practice on Tuesday and is expected to be at full strength.
Though he hasn’t built off his breakout 2020 performance yet, the Minnesota defense should help. According to Sports Info Solutions, Minnesota has stuffed opponents for zero or negative rushing yards on 12.5% of attempts, ranked 116th in the country.
In 2020, Broussard was second in the nation with a 38.1% opportunity share, so a strong workload in a competitive game against Minnesota should be expected.
RB Deneric Prince, Tulsa at Ohio State
It sounds crazy to consider a Tulsa running back against Ohio State, but that’s how bad the Buckeyes defense has been.
According to Sports Info Solutions, on designed rush attempts, Ohio State has stuffed an opponent for zero or negative yards on just 9.9% of their attempts 一 that’s worse than any single-game rate they posted from 2016 through 2020 and currently ranks 124th in the nation.
In Week 2 against Oklahoma State, Deneric Prince took over as the starter after Shemari Brooks ($3,900) started the opener. Prince has an opportunity share of 28.9% compared to 17.2% for Brooks, and looks like the preferred option in the backfield.
Prince saw five targets against the Cowboys last week, so his production has the potential to be strong even in a big loss.
RB Will Shipley, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
True freshman Will Shipley might be ready to take over in an unimpressive Clemson backfield. He’s listed as a co-starter along with Kobe Pace ($4,800) and leads the backfield with a 9.6% opportunity share.
His opportunity share is extremely low, but that’s likely due to Clemson abandoning the run against Georgia in the season opener and then rotating through the depth chart in a blowout against South Carolina State last week.
Georgia Tech has allowed 30.6 fantasy points to running backs against Northern Illinois and 39.5 against Kennesaw State, so we should assume the Clemson run game gets back on track.
Both Pace and Shipley should be on our radar with affordable salaries, but the edge goes to the five-star freshman Shipley because he’s destined to take over the backfield eventually, and this could be his opportunity.
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State vs. Tulsa
After seeing only two targets in Week 1, Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a breakout performance against Oregon with seven receptions on 11 targets and 36.5 fantasy points.
The uneven usage lowers his floor significantly, but the ceiling is obviously elite for a player on a modest salary. We should also be encouraged by his 13.2 aDOT.
WR Kevin Austin, Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Michael Mayer has overshadowed Kevin Austin in the Irish offense so far, but Austin’s 21.7% target share and 17.2 aDOT are exciting on this modest salary.
Notre Dame carries an implied total of 33 points, so there should be room for both Mayer and Austin to shine in this matchup.
WR Tahj Washington, USC at Washington State
Follow USC’s injury news closely on Saturday, because Tahj Washington could be in line for a big role in the passing game. The Trojan’s top receiver Drake London ($7,900) “tweaked his back” last week and there hasn’t been definitive news on his status for Saturday.
London dominates the workload (34.7% target share) but Washington has seen a nice 20% share with an 11.1 aDOT. Even if London takes the field, having some exposure to Washington makes sense in the event London is on a snap count or has his day cut short.
WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest vs. Florida State
With an aDOT of 18.0 yards downfield, A.T. Perry has big-play potential against a shaky Florida State defense.
In Week 1, Perry saw seven targets and produced 18.1 fantasy points, so his ceiling is well above his salary. But as part of a deep receiving corps, his floor is also low, so treat him with caution.
WR JoJo Earle, Alabama at Florida
Nick Saban hyped up JoJo Earle last week and Saban isn’t known for heaping undeserved praise on freshmen. Earle has seen a modest 13.6% target share through two games, but a more competitive contest should boost the usage of all the top weapons on the Crimson Tide roster.
Earle appears to be playing a Jaylen Waddle-like role as a speedster in the slot. His 5.6 aDOT would be concerning in most offenses, but we should trust Alabama’s ability to get him the ball in space with room to run.
WR Jalen Nailor, Michigan State at Miami FL
Both offenses have played at a fast pace, giving this game potential to fly past the total of 56.5 points.
Dating back to the start of 2020, only three running backs have posted the high score against Miami’s defense. And with Miami favored by 6.5 points, maybe we should favor Michigan State’s pass catchers over running back Kenneth Walker III ($7,100).
This is an extreme discount for Jalen Nailor who leads the Spartans with a 28.6% target share and led them with a 25.6% share in 2020. The reason for the discount is an elevated salary for Jayden Reed ($6,900) based on his two-touchdown performance last week against Youngstown State, but it came off just four targets.
Reed (24.5% target share) should be productive as well, but the massive salary discrepancy makes Nailor the obvious weapon to favor.
WR Mario Williams, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
Through two games, freshman Mario Williams leads Oklahoma in target share (15.6%) and has seen more targets than presumed number-one receiver Marvin Mims ($7,500) in both games.
The low target share number is due to a Week 2 blowout victory over Western Carolina. In Week 1 against Tulane, Williams saw a team-high 20.5% target share.
Nebraska likely won’t keep this game competitive, but we’ll hopefully see the starters longer than during last week’s scrimmage.
WR Jackson Anthrop, Purdue at Notre Dame
In a non-competitive game against UConn last week, Purdue rotated in the whole depth chart, so Jackson Anthrop’s production dropped off. In Week 1, however, he was on the field for 78% of Purdue’s pass attempts and had seven receptions on nine targets.
As a possession slot receiver, Anthrop is a better option in cash games 一 he’s rarely used to stretch the field 一 but the salary is low enough to consider him in tournaments as well.
CFB DFS PLAYERS TO AVOID
QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State vs. Tulsa
I mentioned C.J. Stroud as a player to avoid last week and was wrong, so maybe he’ll outperform expectations again. However, it took 54 pass attempts with Ohio State trailing the entire game for Stroud to post 33.1 fantasy points 一 so my logic for wanting to avoid Stroud was probably correct, the game script just went in an unexpected direction.
Stroud carries the most expensive salary on the slate, and only three other quarterbacks land at $9,000 or above.
Against a struggling Tulsa squad, it’s unlikely Stroud plays a full game and his lack of rushing production will make it difficult to put up big numbers in only two or three quarters. Through two games, Stroud has exactly one fantasy point from the run game.
Expect Stroud’s usage to fall more in line with his game against Minnesota (22 attempts, 28.1 fantasy points), which isn’t enough to offer value in tournaments on such an elevated salary.
RB Reese White, Coastal Carolina vs. Buffalo
Giving Coastal Carolina’s Reese White the highest salary among running backs on this slate is comical given his usage in the Chanticleers’ backfield.
White and Shermari Jones ($4,400) share the workload, with Brayden Bennett ($3,800) factoring in as their backup as well. Through two games, White has seen a 17.9% opportunity share in the offense, with Jones at 16.2% and Bennett at 12.8%.
White’s fantasy production (24.7 points per game) is due to five touchdowns on 21 carries 一 an obviously unsustainable touchdown rate.
To make matters worse for this backfield, according to Sports Info Solutions, White only ran routes on 18.8% of Coastal’s pass plays in the first two games (10.4% for Jones).
Jones’s salary is priced more fairly, so he’s potentially an option, but even at a lower cost it’s hard to be optimistic given his usage rates.
RB Lyn-J Dixon, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
Clemson’s depth chart lists Lyn-J Dixon as the third-string running back, consistent with his usage so far. Through two games, he’s seen a 4.4% opportunity share.
For unknown reasons, Dixon carries the highest salary among Clemson’s running backs. Be sure you don’t accidentally select him if you’re looking to target the Clemson backfield.