This article is part of our DraftKings College Football series.
Each week this season, I'll take an in-depth look at DraftKings' early Saturday games, and hopefully provide a few names for the later slate as they become available, and who knows, maybe even sprinkle in a few Thursday night thoughts, as well. The goal is to provide some lower-priced options to pair with higher-priced options for the ideal matchups to win.
With Week 1, the early contest includes 19 games, nine of which feature matchups against non-FBS schools, and only five of which feature two Power 5 schools. This forces some tough lineup decisions. Do you bank on high-priced stars who may only play a half? Do you look at less than ideal matchups where starters have an increased likelihood of playing four quarters? What about cheap backup options who could see extended playing time?
I wish I had that crystal ball and could answer all of those questions with absolute certainty. What I do feel confident in is that there will be some big games from less than familiar names, and if you guess right, you can be on your way to a nice little payday.
Jaquez Johnson, Florida Atlantic (at Tulsa) - $6,200
Johnson turned in four games last season with at least 30 points, one of which came against Tulsa. The over/under is 66.5, the highest total on this slate, so expect plenty of points from both sides, giving Johnson's dual threat ability a lot of upside. Johnson's home/away splits from a year ago are a little concerning (52.5 completion percentage, seven total touchdowns, four interceptions on the road versus 64.5/17/1 at home), but Tulsa's defense remains ripe for the picking.
Matt Johns, Virginia (at UCLA) - $4,900
Johns checks in as the cheapest clear-cut starter on the board. Using Johns simply gives you the chance to save some serious money with the hope of serviceable scoring, and make up for the lack of points elsewhere. Johns only had three double-digit point games last year; against Duke, Kent State and UCLA. The optimist will say that's because he shared time and missed action with injury. If you can get two touchdowns and 200 or so yards out of Johns, you'll have ample room to spend at other positions.
Others to consider:Darius Wade, Boston College ($5,400), Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ($5,600), Kevin Hogan, Stanford ($5,900)
After seeing the rushing values available, it becomes difficult to justify being stingy at quarterback. I thought about Arkansas' Alex Collins ($9,200) and Indiana's Jordan Howard ($7,500) for my roster, but it just didn't make any fiscal sense to do so. And these are the reasons:
I'll lump these three together as they represent tremendous values. In Newby and McCaffrey, you have two players who will likely play the entire game, while Temple may keep it respectable against the Nittany Lions, giving Lynch a shot at 20 touches. All three are priced in order of my preference, with McCaffrey's potential use in the passing and return game giving him a slight boost. Newby concerns me most due to the potential for shared carries, but Nebraska's matchup with BYU should feature its share of points, giving Newby a chance at scoring while posting a sound yardage total.
Chris James, Pittsburgh (vs. Youngstown State) - $3,500
With so much value, it's fair to question the rationale of selecting a backup. James finished his freshman season with 437 yards and four touchdowns on 87 carries. While he exploded for 122 yards late in the year against Syracuse, his other standout performance came Week 1 against Delaware when he rushed for 77 yards and two scores. The Panthers seem committed to reducing James Conner's workload some, and while they boast ample depth to spread that work around against Youngstown State in Darrin Hall and Quadree Ollison, this feels like a numbers kind of game for James.
Others to consider:Roc Thomas, Auburn ($4,300), Algernon Brown, BYU ($4,300), Rawleigh Williams, Arkansas ($4,200)
Charone Peake, Clemson (vs. Wofford) - $3,900
It's definitely put-up or shut-up time for Peake, who consistently opens eyes during the offseason with his size and speed combo before falling victim to injury. Clemson has too many quality options at receiver, so this is certainly taking a leap of faith, but Peake may find himself on the field a bit longer than Artavis Scott and Mike Williams. Freshman Ray-Ray McCloud ($3,500) also has some appeal as his illusiveness should create big plays once the game is at hand.
Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska (vs. BYU) - $3,900
Westerkamp is expected to fill the role of top receiver while De'Mornay Pierson-El recovers from a foot injury, giving him a chance to build on last season's 44 catches, 747 yards and five touchdowns. He's not an ideal top receiver, but his price doesn't appear to have caught up with the opportunity that's in front of him. Points likely won't be scarce Saturday against BYU.
Devin Lauderdale, Texas Tech (vs. Sam Houston State) - $5,200
With Reginald Davis suspended for the first half, it's questionable whether he even plays in a game against Sam Houston State that figures to be out of reach early. Lauderdale seems to represent the right blend of upside and price when compared to teammates Jakeem Grant ($7,900), and Ian Sadler ($4,700).
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (vs. Tennessee-Martin) - $5,900
Duke Williams, Auburn (vs. Louisville) - $5,800
These two get lumped together and highlighted solely because they aren't likely to stay this cheap. Treadwell (leg) and Williams (personal) could appear on a lot of teams because of name recognition, but there's good reason for that.
Others to consider: Washington State stack - River Cracraft ($7,800), Gabe Marks ($6,200) and Dom Williams ($4,800); Jenson Stoshak, FAU ($4,400)
MY TEAM THIS WEEK
QB - Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska ($7,000)
QB - Jaquez Johnson, Florida Atlantic ($6,200)
RB - Akeel Lynch, Penn State ($4,600)
RB - Terrell Newby, Nebraska ($4,400)
WR - River Cracraft, Washington State ($7,800)
WR - Gabe Marks, Washington State ($6,200)
WR - Devin Lauderdale, Texas Tech ($5,200)
Flex - Christian McCaffrey, Stanford ($4,800)
Flex - Chris James, Pittsburgh ($3,500)
Essentially I highlighted all the players I used ... so here's hoping I've nailed it. I've changed this roster at least five times since its initial inception, with quarterback being the hardest slot to fill. I really wanted to fit BYU's Mitch Mathews ($6,700) onto my team, but doing so left me only $5,800 for a quarterback, and I didn't feel great about gambling on guys in that price range. Not in love with two Nebraska players, but that game should see its share of points, and I had to put my money where my mouth was with regard to James. Auburn's Jeremy Johnson is the same price as Armstrong, and that switch could be made prior to kickoff.