College Football Daily Fantasy Helper: 9/1/18 Main Slate
It's officially college football season! But after three years, the opening Saturday of the 2018 season comes with all the fun and intrigue of daily fantasy college football.
College football DFS? Yes, you heard that right. And in case you're unfamiliar with how it works, you can check out the rules and scoring on FanDuel, where you can hit the lobby each week to see the full array of slates and contests being offered.
As for the basics, your roster consists of a quarterback slot, two running back slots, three wide receiver slots (which also includes tight ends) and one super flex slot. In the flex, you can insert one player from any position, including quarterbacks.
Here, our goal is to help you field a roster full of fantasy goodness, and in true numberFire fashion, we'll use our in-house projections as well as betting totals and advanced statistics to do just that all the way from opening weekend to the College Football Playoff. This season we'll tackle both the early and main slates. But to kick things off, we'll start with this week's 13-game main slate, which starts at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Who should we be targeting in this Saturday's games? Let's dive in and get this season started right.
Justin Herbert, Oregon ($10,000): On Betfair, Saturday night's game between the Oregon Ducks and Bowling Green State Falcons carries the highest over/under (72.5 points) of any on the main slate, and does so by a full eight points. And with the Ducks favored by 32 points at Autzen Stadium, they carry an implied total of 52.25 points. What better to get exposure than through quarterback Justin Herbert. In an injury-shortened sophomore season, he threw for 1,983 yards with 15 touchdowns to just 5 picks in 8 games. He averaged 10.0 adjusted yards per attempt and ran for an additional five scores on the ground. It might go without saying, but the Falcons' defense is one to target plain and simple. Per Football Outsiders, they finished the 2017 season ranked 123rd of 130 teams in defensive S&P+ and 114th in passing S&P+. Even if Herbert plays just three quarters, he is a safe cash game play with such a pristine matchup. Nebraska's Adrian Martinez ($10,700) is more of an unknown, but a matchup with Akron makes him an appealing high-priced option as well.
Wilton Speight, UCLA ($8,200): UCLA entered camp with a three-way battle for the starting quarterback position, but former Michigan man Wilton Speight ultimately won out. It will be interesting to see if that sticks going forward, but it appears that head coach Chip Kelly will incorporate more pro-style offense, which bodes well for a big passer like Speight. In his Michigan days, the 6'6" pocket passer totaled -99 yards rushing while passing for 3,192 yards and 22 scores in 21 games. In his last collegiate coaching season at Oregon, Kelly's offense operated at a high pace (11th in plays per game) and ranked fourth in passing S&P+. Working in an efficient offense, Speight should be able to pick apart a Cincinnati defense that ranked 96th in passing S&P+ a year ago.
Damien Harris, Alabama ($10,200): Many will look to pay up for Georgia back D'Andre Swift ($11,500), but he dealt with a groin injury earlier this offseason, and could be held to limited work relative to his sky-high price. That concern is compounded by the giant blowout potential here. Complete blowout potential is one thing, but being a sizable favorite (like Alabama at -24.5) is another. The Tide should get out early and lean on the run a ton, just as they have over the last three years, ranking 25th in rush play percentage (60.82%) over that span and 20th a year ago, per Team Rankings. Senior Damien Harris will undoubtedly lead the charge after running for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on 135 carries a year ago. This Louisville defense is nothing to be scared of either, as they were 94th in rushing S&P+ and return only four starters from last year's defense. Their inexperience will play right into the hands of Harris and a Bama offense that is returning seven starters.
Kennedy McKoy, West Virginia ($7,800): If you're paying up for both a top runner and thrower, West Virginia junior Kennedy McCoy will help to offset those salary-hogs, sitting priced below $8,000. The price-tag is what it is because of McKoy's label as a co-starter, but it's way too low considering he's the team's top returning rusher, having gone for 596 yards and 7 touchdowns a year ago. And after catching 10 balls last season, McKoy -- who's considered a capable pass catcher -- is expected to take on a larger role in the passing game. Passing game volume or not, McKoy's going up against a Tennessee defense that was way worse against the rush (106th in rushing S&P+) than the pass (30th), while allowing 250-plus yards on the ground a year ago.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Tyler Vaughns, USC ($9,100): Usually we don't want to target receivers on a team favorited by 26 points, but the Trojans' Tyler Vaughns is their best returning receiver, and comes at a discount compared to the eight receivers priced above him for Saturday's slate. Last year, with Sam Darnold dealing the rock, the then-freshman took 57 catches (second on the team) for 809 yards, 14.2 yards per catch and 5 touchdowns. He's set to assume the go-to role for a USC offense projected to go big through the air against the UNLV Rebels. UNLV returns seven starters, however, that's not so great after ranking 111th in passing S&P+ and 122nd in secondary havoc rate in 2017. USC's implied total (45.0) might have a pair of Vaughns scores in the mix.
Theo Howard, UCLA ($8,200): Often in daily fantasy football, we want to pair a team's top receiver with whatever quarterback we're playing. So, if we are looking to Speight at a lower price, junior Theo Howard is the guy. His 56 catches were third on the team last year, but they are first among returning players. Howard is costly compared to his two teammates at prices $500 and $800 cheaper, but his experience has him pegged as a team leader heading into the year. And while the Bearcats' defense is poor all around, they were in the bottom 10 in secondary havoc rate (4.3%) in 2017.
Jaylon Redd, Oregon ($5,600): This might be more of a tournament play given Oregon's propensity to distribute the ball to multiple receivers, but it could pay off if Herbert and his sophomore receiver hook up on a long ball or two. Jaylon Redd had just five receptions compared to nine rushes a year ago, but on those 14 touches he scored twice. He obviously has a nose for the end zone and, at 5'8" and 178 pounds, has the speed to kill. Just in case you are worried about his role, though, Redd is a starter and should stick there until Tabari Hines is back up to full speed after a knee injury. And again, with Oregon's upside, anything can happen. Redd doesn't need much to pay off this low cost.
Brett Oswalt is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Brett Oswalt also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username BRO14THEKID. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.