NCAAF

College Football Daily Fantasy Helper: Friday 9/27/19

Week 5 brings about a strange slate of games, at least from a fantasy perspective. The most compelling matchup of the night, between the 15th-ranked California Golden Bears and Arizona State Sun Devils, features an over/under of just 42 points -- the lowest number of the entire weekend -- making it tough to use any of the players from that matchup in your lineups.

Further complicating this slate of games is the fact the Air Force offense boasts the highest implied total at 37.5 points. Typically that's a total which should produce multiple fantasy-relevant players, but the triple-option offense is not fantasy-friendly.

So to figure out this slate of games, you may have to take some risks and get creative with your lineups. But we'll still take a stab at predicting which players you should be targeting on Friday night.

If you're new to college football DFS, here's a rundown of the rules from FanDuel. 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.

In this preview, I'll break down the Friday slate into three categories: players to build around, value plays, and players to avoid.

Players to build around are more expensive, but their ceiling is high enough that you should consider prioritizing them in your lineup. Value plays are cheaper options who usually come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you afford the expensive stars. Players to avoid are guys you might normally consider at their price tag, but who have a tough matchup this week and are unlikely to live up to their usual expectations.

All references to betting totals and spreads are from the FanDuel Sportsbook.

Players to Build Around

QB Quentin Harris, Duke ($9,300) vs. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech's defense has allowed over 20 fantasy points to both FBS quarterbacks it's faced (Boston College's Anthony Brown and Old Dominion's Stone Smartt). Quentin Harris is likely the most talented quarterback the Hokies have faced this year, and he should be able to post a similar stat line. After, understandably, struggling against Alabama in Week 1, Harris bounced back with 44.1 points against North Carolina A&T, followed by 36.2 points against Middle Tennessee.

QB Donald Hammond, Air Force ($9,000) vs. San Jose State

Donald Hammond suffered an ankle injury in his last game, so be sure to check on his status before kickoff. If he's good to go, he looks like one of the players to build around and a surprisingly good value, too, as only the fourth-highest priced quarterback. Air Force is favored by 18.5 points and has the highest implied total of the night. That should create plenty of opportunities for Hammond, who enters this game with five rushing and three passing touchdowns on the season. Hammond also leads the Falcons with five rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line, four of which have led to scores.

RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State ($9,100) vs. California

With a true freshman (Jayden Daniels) at quarterback, expect Arizona State to ride Eno Benjamin in this matchup with one of the nation's best defenses. 42 percent of the Sun Devils' red zone plays have involved Benjamin, and he’s scored on four of those opportunities. Cal's defense is a tough matchup, but a running back with Benjamin’s expected workload should still put up points. Since the start of 2018, two running backs topped over 25 fantasy points against the Golden Bears (UCLA’s Joshua Kelly and TCU’s Sewo Olonilua) -- both finished with over 30 touches.

RB Kadin Remsberg, Air Force ($8,700) vs. San Jose State

Air Force's primary ball carrier, Kadin Remsberg, was on my list of players to avoid last week against Boise State and, predictably, the Broncos' defense limited him to just 5.9 fantasy points. He's usually overpriced because Air Force's triple-option is not an explosive offense, and he isn't their go-to ball carrier near the goal line -- he has just two of the team's 13 rushing attempts inside the 10. That said, on a slate of ugly and unpredictable games, Air Force's rushing attack looks like one of the only sure things against a struggling San Jose State defense. The Spartans rank 80th in the country in rushing defense and have already allowed 17 runs for 10 or more yards, through just three games. Additionally, San Jose State struggled to contain Army's option offense last season, allowing 341 rushing yards in a 52-3 loss.

WR Tre Turner, Virginia Tech ($8,100) vs. Duke

Tre Turner leads the Hokies with a 24.2 percent target share and draws a favorable matchup against an inconsistent Duke secondary. Turner is likely to be matched up with Duke cornerback Leonard Johnson for a least a portion of the game. Johnson, who made the transition from safety to cornerback this offseason, has allowed 175 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 targets in coverage, according to Sports Info Solutions. Hokies receiver Tayvion Robinson ($7,700) could also benefit from this matchup.

It's worth mentioning, however, that Turner's role in the offense could depend on the health of Damon Hazelton . Due to a hamstring injury, Hazelton has yet to suit up this season, but he could make his season debut against Duke. If Hazelton plays, all of the Hokie receivers become risky fantasy options because we don't know how targets will be divvied up once everyone is on the field.

Value Plays

QB Josh Jackson, Maryland ($8,000) vs. Penn State

If you're looking to save money at quarterback, Maryland's Josh Jackson looks like the best bet. Temple limited Jackson to just 8.3 fantasy points in Week 3, but he previously put up over 20 points in each of Maryland's first two games.

The game script should work in Jackson's favor in this matchup with Penn State, as the Nittany Lions are favored by 6.5 points. Jackson has attempted 38 passes in each of Maryland's two games against FBS opponents (Temple and Syracuse), and a similar high-volume passing attack is likely on Friday.

WR Jalon Calhoun, Duke ($7,600) vs. Virginia Tech

Slot receiver Jalon Calhoun leads Duke with a 20.9 percent target share this season and also leads the team with four red zone targets. Calhoun is a true freshman who has clearly already won over the coaching staff and is likely to only see his role in the offense increase as he gains experience.

TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State ($7,400) vs. Maryland

Despite a modest target share (15.9 percent), tight end Pat Freiermuth has been one of Penn State's most productive playmakers due to a high rate of big plays. Six of Freiermuth’s 14 targets have resulted in gains of 15 or more yards.

Maryland’s defense, which primarily uses zone coverage, may also be a favorable matchup for Freiermuth. According to Sports Info Solutions, 10 of Freiermuth’s 14 targets have come when the defense is playing zone.

RB Taven Birdow, Air Force ($6,600) vs. San Jose State

Through three games, Taven Birdow is averaging just 6.5 fantasy points per game. That limited production is not representative of the role he plays in Air Force's offense, however. Birdow leads the team with nine red zone opportunities (carries and targets), a 27.3 percent market share. Birdow has yet to reach the red zone, but in this likely lopsided game, there's a good chance the scoring drought ends.

WR Scott Bracey, Duke ($6,000) vs. Virginia Tech

Scott Bracey is ranks fourth on Duke's offense in target share (14.3 percent) making him strictly a tournament dart throw. However, his big-play ability gives him intriguing upside at this price. Bracey is averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

Players to Avoid

QB Sean Clifford, Penn State ($10,000) vs. Maryland

In just his fourth career start, Sean Clifford is a risky fantasy play, especially as the highest priced player on the slate. In his first two games -- against two struggling defenses in Buffalo and Idaho -- Clifford racked up 57.2 combined fantasy points. In Week 3 against Pittsburgh, however, he was limited to a disappointing 9.4 points. Pittsburgh's pass rush was the primary issue for Clifford, as he completed just 2-of-9 passes under pressure and was sacked three times, according to Sports Info Solutions.

It's reasonable to slip Clifford into a tournament lineup or two, based on the fact this game could potentially turn into a shootout. But he's too expensive and unproven to be a building block on this slate of games.

RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland ($9,400) vs. Penn State

Anthony McFarland is the highest priced running back on the slate, despite Maryland's running game getting off to a rocky start. 21.6 percent of Maryland's rush attempts (excluding sacks) have been stopped for zero or negative yards, the 12th-worst rate among Power 5 schools. Meanwhile, Penn State's defense has stuffed opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage on 29 percent of their rushing attempts, the eighth-best rate among Power 5 teams.

McFarland is likely to see a significant workload, but the production just hasn't been there -- 23 of his 46 carries have resulted in three or fewer yards. And in a game where Maryland could be playing from behind -- Penn State is favored by 6.5 points -- he may not even see his typical number of touches. If you're filling out multiple lineups, it's reasonable to stick McFarland into some, but due the combination of the matchup and his price tag, he isn't someone to build around on this slate.

Everyone on Cal's Roster

Cal boasts one of the nation's best defenses, but the offense is a mess. Making matters worse from a fantasy perspective is the fact no one has a large enough usage rate to warrant consideration. Wide receivers Kekoa Crawford ($6,800) and Nikko Remigio ($7,200) are tied for the team lead with a target share of 16.2 percent -- a lower rate than 13 other players on this small slate games. Cal has an implied total of just 23.3 points in this game, so despite the cheap prices, it's best to stay away from the Golden Bears on this slate.