This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
Welcome into our Week 1 breakdown for the DraftKings college football main slate. We've had these contests open for a couple weeks now, giving us plenty of time to study and, if you're like me, overthink our decisions. Below is a breakdown of some of my favorite games to target for the week, along with a sortable cheat sheet full of useful stats. I also have position-by-position picks to help guide your lineup decisions.
Games to Target
Mississippi at Memphis
The game with the highest implied total on the slate also has a fairly narrow spread too, so both teams are good bets to put up some points. Both teams also ran over 74.0 plays per game a season ago, and though both squads are replacing their offensive coordinators, Memphis and Ole Miss are built to keep things up-tempo.
Mississippi was putrid against the run last season, allowing 221 rushing yards per game. This sets up well for the Memphis run game in particular, and both teams should be able to move the ball through the air.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina
This is another game with a high implied total and I like South Carolina's chances at besting its implied score of 37. North Carolina is relatively green on defense, returning just 61 percent of its defensive production from 2018. It wasn't a particularly good defense, either, ranking 75th in S&P+/ South Carolina, particularly its passing game, could have success here.
|Team||Opponent||H/A||O/U||Spread||Implied Points||2018 Defensive S&P+||Opp. Pass Yds Allowed/ GM||Pass TD/G||Opp. Rush Yds/G||Opp. Rush TD Allowed/G||Opp. YPC Allowed|
|North Carolina State||East Carolina||N||54.5||-16.5||35.5||107||270.1||2.583||169.75||1.833||4.29|
|East Carolina||North Carolina State||N||54.5||16.5||19||80||261.1||1.385||131.54||1.385||4.22|
|Ohio State||Florida Atlantic||H||63.5||-27.5||45.5||81||238.4||1.833||186||2.250||4.61|
|Florida Atlantic||Ohio State||A||63.5||27.5||18||62||245.2||1.286||158.21||1.857||4.52|
|South Carolina||North Carolina||N||63.5||-10.5||37||75||228.8||1.545||218.82||2.545||5.05|
|North Carolna||South Carolina||N||63.5||10.5||26.5||34||229||0.923||195.31||2.231||4.46|
|Boston College||Virginia Tech||H||58.5||5.0||26.75||82||228.4||1.385||210.31||2.538||5.46|
|Virginia Tech||Boston College||A||58.5||-5.0||31.75||49||247.9||1.417||154.92||1.583||3.77|
The Elephant In The Room
What do we make of the Bama backfield situation?
With Najee Harris ($7,300) and Brian Robinson Jr. ($5,300) suspended for what looks like at least the first half, Keilan Robinson has gone from relative unknown to everyone's favorite minimum-price play. The question, at least in my mind, is whether Robinson can do enough in that first half of work to make it worth it. Trying to guess when Harris and Brian Robinson will get on the field means trying to get into Nick Saban's head, and that's not where I want to be. Still, the bar is so low for Keilan Robinson to hit value that he'll likely be worth rostering. Just don't think you're separating yourself from the rest of the field by using him.
Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State ($7,600) vs. Louisiana
The Penn State transfer is back with his former offensive coordinator and ready to run this system down in Starkville. Stevens has athleticism to pick up rushing production and he's a more polished passer than Nick Fitzgerald or Keytaon Thompson were, not that those are particularly high bars to clear, but you get the point. In his last two seasons at Penn State, Stevens completed 57.1 percent of his passes with a 7.1 YPA, four touchdowns and one pick while adding 55 rushes for 308 yards and six touchdowns. Going up against ULL's defense, which ranked 116th in S&P+ last year, should lead to a strong debut in Maroon for Stevens.
Michael Penix Jr. , Indiana ($6,500) vs. Ball State
Penix beat the odds this summer, returning from an October ACL tear to beat out incumbent Peyton Ramsey and highly touted transfer Jack Tuttle. In limited non-conference action last season, Penix completed 12 of 15 passes for 125 yards and a score. He'll be facing a Ball State defense that ranked 120th in S&P+ defense a season ago and Vegas projects the Hoosiers to be the fourth-highest scoring offense on this slate. Penix also has talented veteran receivers like Nick Westbrook and Donovan Hale around him. The pieces are in place for Penix to be one of the highest value earners at quarterback this weekend.
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State ($7,800) vs. Louisiana
Like I implied in the Stevens writeup, the Louisiana defense is one to load up against. Hill is the most bankable piece of this Mississippi State offense, particularly now that Aeris Williams is out of the picture. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry over 117 attempts last season. Hill only had four rushing touchdowns, but that can be attributed to some vulturing from Williams and Nick Fitzgerald. Not that Stevens isn't a threat to run for a score himself, but Hill is now the top red zone option in this offense. And to add icing on the cake, Hill is a solid pass catcher, having caught 22 of 29 targets for 176 yards and four touchdowns last season. That kind of passing game upside from a back is gold in full-point PPR scoring.
DeMario McCall, Ohio State ($3,400) vs. FAU
Targeting another team with a high implied total, McCall may not be Ohio State's starter, but he's ticketed for a significant amount of work Saturday. J.K. Dobbins is of course the top dog in that backfield, but McCall's ascension to the No.2 spot on the depth chart is significant as he'll be working ahead of the likes of Master Teague and Marcus Crowley. McCall has shown in the past that he can make the most of his chances, too. He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry for his career and he has turned his 19 total targets into 15 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns. That kind of explosiveness means he doesn't need a ton of volume to make a splash. But the signs are that the Buckeyes will be feeding him more volume than we've seen in the past. Ohio State doesn't need to overload Dobbins in a blowout, so look for McCall to be on the field plenty on Saturday.
Scottie Phillips, Mississippi ($6,700) at Memphis
Ole Miss is going to be starting a redshirt freshman quarterback in Matt Corral on Saturday, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Rebs try to take the pressure off him by getting Phillips going. Phillips fell just shy of the 1,000-yard mark a season ago but was explosive overall, averaging 6.1 yards per carry over 153 attempts. He's also facing a Memphis defense that was shaky against the run a season ago, allowing over 2.3 rushing scores per game. With no clear red zone threat like an AJ Brown or a D.K. Metcalf, Phillips might be the top red zone option for the Rebels on Saturday, and at $6,700, he gives you RB1 upside at a mid-range price.
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama ($6,200) vs. Duke
The aforementioned backfield suspensions could skew Alabama towards the pass to start things out on Saturday, which raises the target projection for the Tide's terrifying receiving corps. Jerry Jeudy will eat of course, but sorting out the rest of the group is necessary. In Waddle, you're getting the third-most expensive Alabama receiver who might be the most explosive of the bunch. Waddle averaged 14.3 YPT on 56 targets in 2018...as a freshman. By comparison, he averaged nearly three more yards per target than the great Henry Ruggs on roughly the same amount of targets (Ruggs had 62 targets). There's also the matter of Devonta Smith facing a partial suspension, so Waddle projects to be, at worst, third on the team in targets. And as we've established, Waddle does significant damage with each target.
Damonte Coxie, Memphis ($7,800) vs. Mississippi
The PPR format here on DraftKings makes Coxie a prime play, not that he's solely reliant on volume to produce. Coxie commanded a 31 percent target share in 2018 (108 total in the regular season and AAC Championship) and averaged a strong 10.2 YPT. He'll be facing a leaky Mississippi secondary that surrendered 261 passing yards per game in 2018. Coxie's stranglehold on the No.1 role in the Memphis offense coupled with the soft matchup make him maybe my favorite high-priced receiver on the board (I did just recommend Waddle instead of Jeudy, after all).
Shi Smith, South Carolina ($5,600) vs. North Carolina
Bryan Edwards is of course an awesome play against North Carolina, but it's not like all of the targets left behind by Deebo Samuels will only go his way. Smith is the top option to fill that No. 2 role in what is sneakily a pass-happy offense that threw the ball 51.7 percent of the time last season – good enough for the second-highest rate in the SEC. He averaged 10.4 yards per target over 64 targets in 2018 and that target count stands to rise this season. Smith can be a chain-moving presence that gives you cheap points with each reception, but you shouldn't sleep on his explosiveness, either. Josh Vann ($4,400) might also be worth a dart throw in tournaments, as South Carolina should be able to throw all over UNC's defense.
Ball State supports a fairly narrow target tree, with Miller and Hall drawing 24 percent of the target share apiece in 2018 (107 targets each). Hall had the higher catch rate (64.4 percent) but he also had zero receiving touchdowns. That catch rate is valuable though as we're chasing reception volume. Miller is the more explosive player at 8.2 YPT compared to Hall's 5.8 YPT and he converted seven of his 61 catches into touchdowns. Now it's entirely possible that Hall enjoys some positive regression in the touchdown category this season, but Miller's efficiency at a similar usage rage gives him the edge if I'm choosing between the two. I expect Ball State to be going to the air plenty Saturday while in catch-up mode, so there should be plentiful targets for both.