This article is part of our Fantasy Elite Football series.
Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion, Tennessee at Georgia, South Florida at Wisconsin, Fresno at New Mexico
This is an interesting blend of games that will force managers to equate themselves with some teams that aren't usually spotlighted in fantasy circles. And thanks to the matchups, there appears to be a plethora of second tier running backs worth choosing, while wide receiving options aren't overly consistent.
QB – Lamar Jordan and/or Clayton Mitchem, New Mexico - $5,000
As of Wednesday, Lobos' starter Cole Gautsche ($15,627) was questionable to play with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss one game completely and leave last week's contest early. Mitchem started in Gautsche absence, but has given way to Jordan in both appearances mostly due to ineffectiveness. Yes, it sounds like a mess, but gambling on a second quarterback here could pay off with other positional strengths. Mitchem seems like the safer choice to start should Gautsche not play, but Jordan may offer more upside. What's really important to remember is that Fresno State allows 218 yards rushing per game, ranking 108th nationally. And the Lobos rank third in rushing, averaging 349.7 yards in three games. Either of these QBs seems destined to rush for a score.
If you're really feeling risky, take a look at Old Dominion "quarterback" David Washington at $5,000. He has 11 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown this season as a receiver.
RB – Corey Clement, Wisconsin - $12,456
For what it's worth, Clement went up over $4,000 in price from last week, and Melvin Gordon up nearly $9,000 after dismantling Bowling Green. A similar fate awaits the South Florida Bulls Saturday. Last week, Clement had to wait his turn, but still provided 111 yards and two touchdowns. The point being even if he sees limited touches through the first half; there is still ample time for him to rev things up.
RB - Crusoe Gongbay, New Mexico - $12,332
Gongbay may be a little bit of a gamble at this price, but he more than doubled the carry amount he had through the first two weeks with a 16 rush, 139, one touchdown game in Week 4 against New Mexico State. Jhurell Pressley will remain in the mix, and is cheaper at $9,149, but Gongbay looks to be on his way back into a lead back role. And as previously noted, the Lobos run and the Bulldogs don't stop it. The questionable quarterback situation only offers more chances for both backs.
RB – Marteze Waller, Fresno State - $10,974
You know who else can't stop the run ... New Mexico. The Lobos rank last in the nation, allowing 309 yards per game. Waller has earned at least 15 carries in three of the team's four games, topping 97 yards twice while scoring three times, and should have plenty of room to roam in this contest.
RB – Jalen Hurd, Tennessee - $9,232
Hurd has been as advertised through three games of his career, and is the Vols workhorse back. He's only averaging about 70 yards through three games, and has just one touchdown. But with conference play opening up, Hurds scoring chances figure to increase as well. And if they don't, you know you'll have steady if not spectacular production for a price lower than your average allotment.
RB - Sony Michel, Georgia - $8,652
Without going overboard on Michel's 10 carry, 155 yard, three touchdown performance last weekend, there's reason for optimism here. It's unlikely that starter Todd Gurley runs 30 times this weekend, and Michel appears to be the clear second back for the Bulldogs with Nick Chubb sidelined, and Keith Marshall essentially being phased out. If he can flirt with 10 touches again this weekend, he'll provide ample value.
WR – Zach Pascal ($13,185) and Antonio Vaughan ($12,439), Old Dominion
With so much value at running back, and the potential to save a little at quarterback as well, I'm advocating taking the top two receivers in this slate who play for the top quarterback. ODU's Taylor Heinicke is one of the most productive signal callers in the country, and has 10 touchdown passes to date. Seven of those have gone to Pascal and Vaughan. In the likely scenario where you can't afford Heinicke, why not take the next best thing and benefit from his production?
WR – Pig Howard, Tennessee - $5,000
Truthfully, there aren't many bargains at the receiver position. Howard hasn't topped 40 yards receiving in the any of the Vols first three games, but he's caught at least three passes in each. He's unlikely to be shut out against Georgia, and the few extra points he provides could come in handy.
Arkansas at Texas A&M, Florida State at North Carolina State, Minnesota at Michigan, Stanford at Washington
This slate offers a challenging decision for your two quarterback slots. Starters for both Michigan and Minnesota are unknown, Arkansas doesn't pass, and all the other QBs are about $20,000. Managers must ask themselves whether they gamble under center, or solidify it by spending over 40% of their budget on two players and gamble elsewhere.
QB – Shane Morris, Michigan - $5,000
This seems to be the best option to gamble with. I think Minnesota's Chris Streveler ($11,063) seems like a "safer" choice if I absolutely needed to guess on a starter, but with Mitch Leindner ($15,008) questionable, it's hard to spend 11k on a hunch. Morris may start in place of Devin Gardner ($20,256), and while he hasn't been great in his limited playing time, the bottomed out price here makes it worth the risk. If I'm pairing two more expensive quarterbacks, I'd likely suggest Washington's Cyler Miles ($19,272) and Stanford's Kevin Hogan ($20,121) just to save a few dollars. No interest in Gardner or N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett ($21,292).
RB – Alex Collins, Arkansas - $10,560
Until someone stops him, there's little reason to not use Collins. And until his price skyrockets, there is again no reason to not use Collins. We've noted the drastic rise in price the two Wisconsin backs saw this week, and it's puzzling it hasn't happened with the Hawgs' duo as well. But there's no reason to question it, and every reason to enjoy it. Arkansas will run as often as they can to keep the A&M offense on the sideline. Collins is averaging 7.5 yards per carry and has five scores. Ride him.
RB – Jonathan Williams, Arkansas - $8,752
See above. Williams has seven touchdowns and is averaging 8.1 yards per carry. The Razorbacks have run 182 times this season compared to 80 passes. I'd start my draft by selecting this pair, and I wouldn't expect the Arkansas game plan to change much even if they fall down by two or three scores early.
RB – Shadrach Thornton, North Carolina State - $9,558
Thornton doesn't have an ideal matchup, but the FSU defense will be without end Mario Edwards, and has surprisingly allowed 170.7 yards per game rushing thus far. Thornton is underpriced based on talent, but fairly priced for the opponent. Truthfully, all of the running backs look like decent buys outside of Minnesota's David Cobb.
RB – Dalvin Cook, Florida State - $5,000
Cook likely won't exit many, but he is being thrust into a true backup role this week with Mario Pender sidelined by a concussion. Five-to-eight carries is a possibility, which won't leave your team with a goose egg.
WR – Bo Hines, North Carolina State - $5,000
Hines is the Wolfpack's leading receiver, despite not catching a pass last week against Presbyterian. The concern here is that N.C. State has played one of the easier schedules in the country, and it's anyone's guess who they'll respond to a major uptick in competition. But there's little risk involved here given Hines' price tag.
WRs Josh Reynolds ($9,711) and Ricky Seals-Jones ($8,939), Texas A&M
Malcome Kennedy ($13,956) isn't overpriced, but if you want to reap the continued rewards of the Aggies offense, Reynolds and Seals-Jones can help. They're the team's top two scoring receivers, having caught seven of the team's 16 touchdowns. Speedy Noil's status remains uncertain, and with a conference game on tap, I wouldn't expect the Aggies to go as deep into their receiving rotation as usual.
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Nevada at San Jose State, Illinois at Nebraska, Oregon State at USC
The removal of a fourth game makes this pairing that much more challenging. Four of the six starting quarterbacks will be used, so bargain hunting under center needs to be done early or you'll be forced to break the bank on the remaining options. And the receiving choices appear to be a dime a dozen
QB – Joe Gray, San Jose State - $10,015
Gray has played sparingly in the team's first three games, but has been anointed the started over Blake Jurich ($8,153). Do I fully trust Gray? Absolutely not. But I do know that Nevada has allowed 297 yards weekly through the air suggesting Gray has a shot at success. Ignoring the Spartans' quarterbacks is the better scenario, but the price is right, and the lack of other options suggests rolling the dice.
Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong ($15,070) looks like a nice choice as well, as his price is down a bit due to last week's showing against Miami, where he simply wasn't needed to throw.
RB – Jarrod Lawson, San Jose State - $9,316
Frankly, I'd advocate trying your best to afford both Nebraska's Ammer Abdullah ($21,725) and USC's Javorius Allen ($16,401) as they are rock solid, sure fire bets for production. Further, I can't believe I'm recommending consecutive Spartans; a team that has scored 20 points total in the last two weeks. Lawson could even be overpriced give that he's played in one game this season. Wow ... talk about terrific selling points. But Lawson earner 18 carries in his lone appearance since returning from suspension, and with a new quarterback, the team could lean on him early.
There is a real lack of options here, and the more I examine this group of games, the best bet may be to load up on as many sure bets as you have, and find as many $5,000 backups who may get two-to-five carries(Nebraska's Imani Cross and/or Terrell Newby, Nevada's James Butlernev), or a few receptions and hope for the best. The question becomes whether mixing Illinois and Oregon State running backs and filling four slots is better than securing Abdullah and nothing else across the same four slots.
WR – JuJu Smith, USC - $7,780
Smith gets the nod here over similar priced options like Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp ($7,480) who has seen his production drop in each of the season's four weeks, and Oregon State's Victor Bolden ($7,480) who has one good game in three tries. Smith struggled in his first Pac 12 game against Stanford, but has 10 catches for 172 yards in his other two contests. Bolden looks like a decent boom-or-bust pick if you're feeling lucky.
TE – Jon Davis, Illinois - $5,000
Now I'm really reaching. Davis has seen his reception totals go down each week, from three to two to one to zero. Oddly, he's seen his rushing attempts do the exact opposite, going from zero to one, to two and up to three last week. It may not be many points, but Davis won't leave you empty.
Washington State at Utah, Baylor at Iowa State, Notre Dame at Syracuse, Texas State at Tulsa
Saturday's late option is another tricky mix of games. Lots of top tier quarterback options that you'll pay handsomely for, and very little else at skill positions. It's conceivable you could go with two of Wazzu's Connor Holiday ($32,249), Baylor's Bryce Petty ($31,340) and Notre Dame's Everett Golson ($26,457) and bargain hunt enough to win with an unbalanced roster.
QB - Travis Wilson, Utah - $16,099
This is a near no-brainer. Unless you're planning to use Iowa State's Sam Richardson ($13,604) Wilson is the next cheapest option, and offers almost as much upside as the top priced selections. His numbers to date are a little deceiving, as he simply hasn't been needed to star. After throwing 16 interceptions last season, Wilson has been mistake free. He's yet to attempt more than 20 passes in a game, a number that will change this week in a game that should be high scoring. I'd likely pair Wilson with Tulsa's Dane Evans ($17,054) and start spending elsewhere ... if there is spending to be done elsewhere.
RB – James Flanders, Tulsa - $6,119
I don't have a lot of faith in Flanders, as he's carried between eight and 13 times in the Golden Hurricane's three games. But he's the team's top back, and is facing a defense that ranks 115th against the run nationally. Taking him and Baylor's Shock Linwood ($13,906) averages out to a lower total than your overall average per player.
RB – Greg Bryant, Notre Dame - $5,000
Bryant is a lot like Flanders. There's not a lot of appeal, as the Irish have split their carries amongst Bryant, Tarean Folston ($6,968) and Cam McDaniel ($5,459) nearly evenly (22, 30, 25 respectively) but Bryant has slim nine yard lead as the team's top rusher. Maybe he sticks one in from a few yards out and gives you six points.
WR – River Cracraft, Washington State - $8,386
Truth be told, none of the Washington State wide receivers are overpriced, and if you pass on the top quarterbacks, you can likely load up on Cougar receivers and enjoy Holliday's 50-plus attempts. Cracraft appears to be the best mix of price and production. He's fourth on the team in receiving, but missed one contest, and has caught at least seven passes for 83 yards in every game, while also scoring in each outing.
WR – Jafus Gaines, Texas State - $5,421
Why not? Gaines has three touchdowns in three games, and leads the team with 201 yards receiving. Tulsa ranks 114th against the pass, allowing 307.3 yards weekly, making Gaines a worthy gamble.
WR - Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa - $7,658
Garrett may be a little overpriced to pay for safety. He hasn't scored this season, but has at least 4 catches and 55 yards in all three games.