The cap on this week's early DraftKings college football slate is a bit strange; the cap is softer than it's been in perhaps more than a month, yet a huge wave of inflation has hit the highest-ranking running backs. So while it's easier to construct a balanced lineup this week, you're going to see the lowest share percentages on the likes of Melvin Gordon ($10,200), James Conner ($9,900) and Devon Johnson ($9,300) that you've seen all year.
Perhaps the inflation on those three RBs is the direct result of a relatively shallow WR slate. Of the 20 highest-ranking wideouts in terms of yards per game, just four were available for the early slate this week, and one of them (Sterling Shepard, $7,500) might not even play due to a groin injury. Just as it's easier to put together a squad with well-rounded qualities, this might be the week where it's been most difficult to roster a home-run hitter.
I've in any case put something together that I like a lot for this week. I've also included a few late slate picks as well, so make sure to click here to check out the many slate and game-type variations offered on DraftKings this week!
Joshua Dobbs - Tennessee vs Kentucky ($7,400)
Dobbs has 493 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions through the air and 241 yards and three touchdowns on the ground after playing against Alabama and South Carolina. This guy looks like a star, and Tennessee has to keep unleashing him if the program is going to take the next step. Kentucky gave up five passing touchdowns on 23 attempts to Georgia's weak passing game last week, so Dobbs should feast.
Blake Sims - Alabama vs Mississippi State ($6,200)
Alabama will want to play aggressively in a visible, high-stakes game like this one, and Sims has shown the ability to carry the offense when given the chance. He's completing 61.6 percent of his passes and averaging 9.2 yards per attempt, with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions on just 245 pass attempts, and he's going against a Mississippi State defense allowing 300 yards per game through the air. Plus, the fact that workhorse back T.J. Yeldon has two straight weeks with a fumble ought to give Lane Kiffin extra reason to let Sims sling it. I love the Sims-Cooper stack this week.
QB Alternatives: Marquise Williams - North Carolina vs Pittsburgh ($8,400), Deshaun Watson - Clemson at Georgia Tech ($8,100), Anu Solomon - Arizona vs Washington ($7,300)
Jalen Hurd - Tennessee vs Kentucky ($4,700)
Marlin Lane (ankle) is expected to play this week after injuring himself against South Carolina two weeks ago, but his presence shouldn't matter much to Hurd's workload. The five-star true freshman is looking like the star Tennessee hoped he would be, as he bowled over South Carolina in their own house to the tune of 125 yards on 21 carries while adding seven catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. This week he gets a Kentucky defense allowing 237 yards and two touchdowns on the ground per game against SEC squads, including a combined 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns against South Carolina, LSU, Mississippi State and Georgia.
Tevin Coleman - Indiana at Rutgers ($6,800)
Anyone who's been within earshot of me knows I'm a Coleman fanboy, so there's no way I can pass on him against Rutgers at $6,800. Indiana's passing game is downright foul - they're down to their fourth QB, Zander Diamont, and the they have a ghastly total of just 103 yards through the air in their last three games. That means Coleman is all on his own in this one, with 11 defenders gunning for him from the snap every play. The thing is, it's been that way for at least a month, yet Coleman has 530 yards and three touchdowns against a brutal four-game slate of Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. He's a veritable beast, and he's going against a Rutgers run defense allowing 214.75 yards and 2.875 touchdowns per game on the ground in the last eight games.
Of course, Ameer Abdullah ($7,700) is the most interesting running back on the slate. He's an auto-play at that price if he's healthy, but who knows where his MCL injury will be at just two weeks after suffering it? He's wearing a knee brace in practice, and there's a possibility he won't be himself. Unless multiple beat writers say he looks close to full strength, I'm afraid of a limited workload here.
RB Alternatives: Matt Jones - Florida vs South Carolina ($4,200), Ezekiel Elliott - Ohio State at Minnesota ($5,600), Mark Weisman - Iowa at Illinois ($5,500), Nick Wilson - Arizona vs Washington ($5,000)
Amari Cooper - Alabama vs Mississippi State ($7,600)
This is too cheap for Cooper. He'll be on the vast majority of teams, so keep that in mind if you want to make a gutsy fade, but I can't advise it. Cooper is averaging 31.1 fantasy points per game on DraftKings, and he's going against a Mississippi State pass defense allowing 300 yards per game through the air, 310 yards and two touchdowns through the air per game against SEC squads. If Alabama throws for 300 yards, there's a good chance it means 200 for Cooper.
William Fuller - Notre Dame vs Northwestern ($5,500)
Fuller faces a Northwestern pass defense that's done well for itself, but faced a weak group of quarterbacks. The only good passing game they've faced all year is California, who they gave up 300 yards and three touchdowns to at home. Notre Dame needs to pour it on this week after their embarrassing loss to Arizona State, and Fuller is the team's best means of putting up points (10 touchdowns on 52 catches). Particularly after No. 2 wideout Corey Robinson dropped a pass that turned into an interception last week, I see no reason why Fuller shouldn't get fed.
Mike Dudek - Illinois vs Iowa ($4,100)
He hasn't gotten much hype for it, but Dudek has been brilliant in his true freshman season, leading Illinois with 45 catches for 707 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. His matchup against Iowa might look intimidating, but the Hawkeyes are highly untested. The best passing offenses they've faced were probably Iowa State and Northern Iowa, and the Hawkeyes gave up 635 yards and four touchdowns to them in two games. Dudek gets back starting quarterback Wes Lunt from a leg injury this week, and Dudek already showed he can make a PPR impact against high-level pass defenses. He has 18 catches for 258 yards against Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota, with the first three instances occurring on the road, and all of them without Lunt.
WR Alternatives: Tyler Boyd - Pittsburgh at North Carolina ($7,300), Leonte Carroo - Rutgers vs Indiana ($6,200), Josh Doctson - TCU at Kansas ($5,400), Cayleb Jones - Arizona vs Washington ($4,600), Artavis Scott - Clemson at Georgia Tech ($5,600), DaeSean Hamilton - Penn State vs Temple ($4,300)
Jimmay Mundine - Kansas vs TCU ($3,700)
This is a tough slate for tight ends, as all of Mundine, Maxx Williams ($3,900), and Bucky Hodges ($3,400) project to play on low-scoring offenses, but I like Mundine's chances of making a PPR impact. TCU runs a fast-paced, high-scoring offense, and the Horned Frogs are very tough against the run, so the Jayhawks should have reason to abandon the run early on. Once they do, Mundine should see a good target count, especially since TCU's intimidating secondary should lock down the wideouts on the outside.
TE Alternatives: Bucky Hodges - Virginia Tech at Duke ($3,400), Deon-Tay McManus - Marshall vs Rice ($2,800), Alan Cross - Memphis at Tulane ($2,600), Jesse James - Penn State vs Temple ($2,500)
Kelvin Taylor - Florida vs South Carolina ($3,900)
I'm slightly concerned by the fact that Taylor is behind Matt Jones on the depth chart, but I think Florida's game plan (158 run attempts in the last three games) dictates that he get fed this week either way. Taylor has 308 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in his last three games, and he's going against a South Carolina defense that's been garbage against the run, allowing 5.9 yards per carry and over three rushing touchdowns per game against SEC teams.
QB: Christian Stewart + Taylor Kelly
RB: Leonard Fournette + DeMario Richard + Jeremy Langford + Cameron Artis-Payne + Donnel Pumphrey + Marlon Mack
WR: Devante Davis + Andre Davis + Josh Reynolds + Phillip Dorsett + Ezell Ruffin
TE: Clive Walford + Jeb Blazevich