Hey guys, since this is a small (five-game) slate for DraftKings' Week 18 Saturday games, it'll be the same deal as last week. Rather than a specific lineup, it'll be value-based positional rankings of basically all the players I'm considering.
As before, please click here if you've used and appreciate our lineups from this year, as it helps DraftKings keep track of who reads this article. And of course, feel free to ask questions in the comment section or try to reach me at the RotoWire NFL Draft account on Twitter (@NFLDraft_RW).
Thanks for reading!
Also, a quick disclaimer: Weather.com is pretty sure it's going to be raining in Shreveport on Saturday. If it sounds bad enough at the time, I might call an audible with the South Carolina/Miami (FL) passing games.
First off, I hate this quarterback slate. A lot. I don't see much upside with any of the options, really, but there's plenty of downside with basically every option.
Cody Kessler is the highest-priced option at $7,800 and figures to be widely owned, but Nebraska's pass defense was strong this year and USC will have reason to run more than usual given the Cornhuskers' garbage run defense. Miami's Brad Kaaya has the best matchup against South Carolina ($5,600), but Duke Johnson might run so wild that it's easy to imagine Miami playing a ball-control game. ASU's Taylor Kelly ($7,600) hasn't played well in ages, and Duke's weak run defense could lead Arizona State to lean on D.J. Foster and Demario Richard instead of throwing much. Gunner Kiel ($6,100) and Anthony Boone ($6,000) are at risk of losing snaps to backups Munchie Legaux and Thomas Sirk. Gross, all of it.
Anyway, here's my best stab at it.
1. Dylan Thompson – South Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($6,200)
The Hurricanes pass defense is a good one, so the matchup is far from ideal. I still like Thompson the most of this group for a couple reasons, though. The first is his price is cheap for a player who scored 28 touchdowns (24 passing) in 12 games. The second is, while Mike Davis should run well, I think South Carolina's awful defense will force Steve Spurrier to call on the passing game to keep the scoreboard manageable. The third reason is that Spurrier is one of the best offensive coaches college football has ever seen, and the layoff time leading up to the bowl game bodes well for his chances of crafting an especially sound game plan. Still, I'm not exactly psyched about Thompson due to how well Miami has defended the pass this year.
2. Brad Kaaya – Miami (FL) vs South Carolina ($5,600)
If it weren't for the possibility of Duke Johnson scoring every single touchdown for Miami, I'd like Kaaya a lot at this price. He's been very promising as a freshman starter, scoring 26 touchdowns (25 passing) while throwing just 11 interceptions. He had 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the final six weeks, moreover. He averaged 8.6 yards per pass, too, so he won't need a lot of attempts to post a good yardage total against South Carolina's weak defense. With that said, he attempted 30 or more passes just five times this year.
3. Anthony Boone – Duke vs Arizona State ($6,000)
Duke is somehow a team that neither throws nor runs for much yardage, nationally ranking 80th and 46th in the nation in terms of yardage, yet in a garbage quarterback slate like this there might be some upside with Boone. He has dual-threat ability with 346 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he might throw a little more than usual in a game where Arizona State is favored by 7.5 with a slate-leading over/under of 64.5. Still, Boone isn't that good, the Arizona State pass defense is good at forcing turnovers, and backup Thomas Sirk steals red-zone snaps.
4. Michael Brewer – Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati ($4,800)
Brewer is pretty awful, and his implosion factor is probably greater than any quarterback in this slate not named Christian Hackenberg, but he's extremely cheap and is taking on a weak Cincinnati secondary. He also has a trio of strong pass-catching threats in tight end Bucky Hodges and wideouts Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Still, he might lay an egg against a strong Cincinnati pass rush. This guy posted 1.74 fantasy points on 28 pass attempts against Wake Forest, keep in mind.
5. Gunner Kiel – Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech ($6,100)
Kiel has been as frustrating as any college player in fantasy this year, exhibiting elite touchdown potential (30 in 364 passes) while leaving multiple games due to a rib injury and leg cramps. It seems like he's finally healthy, though, and he theoretically is the clear No. 1 quarterback for Cincinnati despite the extended playing time of backup Munchie Legaux. If it weren't for an absolutely ghastly matchup against a Virginia Tech pass defense that averaged 3.83 sacks per game while allowing a completion percentage of just 47.6 and a yards-per-game average of 186.8, I'd love Kiel at this price. Kiel showed the ability to post big fantasy numbers against top-notch pass defenses like Ohio State, Miami (FL) and Houston.
6. Cody Kessler – USC vs Nebraska ($7,800)
I'm definitely fading Kessler. His touchdown rate is amazing, but to me he's pretty much the same play as Kiel, just at a significantly higher price. Nebraska is allowing 5.9 yards per pass on the year, intercepting as many passes (12) as they allowed passing touchdowns. They also allowed a completion percentage of just 47.5. Their Big 10 schedule was garbage, granted, but they held Connor Cook to 11-of-29 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Furthermore, USC has less incentive to pass than Cincinnati does – the Nebraska run defense is awful, so running back Javorius Allen is the most reasonable way for USC to pursue points. I think.
1. Mike Davis – South Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($5,900)
Davis is a durability risk, but it's just not easy to pass on him at this price in his final collegiate game. Davis is a dynamic athletic talent with the ability to regularly make plays in the passing game, and he's going against a Hurricanes defense that allowed 226.25 yards and two touchdowns per game on the ground against ranked teams. South Carolina isn't ranked, but that's just because of the defense.
2. Javorius Allen – USC vs Nebraska ($7,000)
Remember when everyone thought Allen was a top-five fantasy back in PPR? I understand why people have soured on Allen after he scored just two touchdowns in the second half of the year, but that has to be an aberration. He scored eight touchdowns in the first half of the year, and he scored 13 times in the second half of 2013. Despite the decrease in production in this season's second half, Allen's workload remained extremely steady, averaging 19.2 carries and 2.83 catches over the span. Against a Nebraska defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry but just 5.9 yards per pass, what good reason is there for Allen not to feast?
3. D.J. Foster – Arizona State vs Duke ($6,900)
Foster will probably lose some touches to promising backup and preferred Arizona State power runner Demario Richard, but Foster should have a big game. He's repeatedly shown the ability to post dominant fantasy performances against weak run defenses, especially in PPR (59 catches in 12 games), and he's going against a Duke defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry on the year.
4. Duke Johnson – Miami (FL) vs South Carolina ($8,400)
We should all know Duke by now. He's going against a South Carolina defense allowing 5.4 yards per carry and 28 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. Let's not overthink this.
5. Mike Boone – Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech ($4,600)
6. J.C. Coleman – Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati ($4,500)
7. Demario Richard – Arizona State vs Duke ($4,300)
8. Ameer Abdullah – Nebraska vs USC ($8,300)
USC has shown some vulnerability against the run this year, allowing 13 touchdowns in seven games to teams with winning records, but the Nebraska passing game isn't good enough to keep USC from stacking against the run, and I'm basically not convinced that Abdullah is good enough to make them pay for it. I can't sign off on him at this price.
1. Phillip Dorsett – Miami (FL) vs South Carolina ($4,600)
Dorsett's total of just 31 catches illustrates how hit-or-miss he is, but his hits tend to correlate to good matchups, which this one certainly is. Particularly with the loss of star tight end Clive Walford (knee), the Hurricanes will be dependent on Dorsett for big plays in the passing game.
2. Jaelen Strong – Arizona State vs Duke ($6,800)
Duke's pass defense has good numbers at a glance, but I'm chalking that up mostly to the weak schedule the Blue Devils have faced. With either 100 yards or a touchdown in every game this year, I think Strong is too good to get stopped by Duke.
3. Jamison Crowder – Duke vs Arizona State ($7,100)
Don't go expecting a touchdown or even all that much yardage from Crowder – he averages just 12.1 yards per catch and has only six touchdowns on 78 catches – but DraftKings' PPR scoring gives him a nice floor in a game where Duke will almost definitely need to throw the ball to keep up with Arizona State.
4. Pharoh Cooper – South Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($7,800)
As one of the nation's most elusive players and an emerging star for South Carolina, Cooper is one of the finer wideout plays in this slate due to his high usage rate in a South Carolina offense that calls his number both in the receiving and running game. With fellow wideout Shaq Roland no longer with the team, South Carolina will be especially dependent on Cooper this week.
5. Nelson Agholor – USC vs Nebraska ($8,400)
I can imagine taking Agholor on my team if I went with a cheap running back lineup built primarily on Mike Davis and Mike Boone, but he's generally too expensive to end up on my lineups.
6. Issac Blakeney – Duke vs Arizona State ($4,700)
7. Shaq Washington – Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech ($3,700)
8. Isaiah Ford – Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati ($3,600)
9. Juju Smith – USC vs Nebraska ($4,300)
10. Mekale McKay – Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech ($3,900)
11. Cam Phillips – Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati ($3,200)
12. Stacy Coley – Miami (FL) vs South Carolina ($3,200)
1. Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati ($3,400
Hodges just might be the best tight end in the country. He has 42 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns in his redshirt freshman season despite playing in a pitiful passing offense, but hopefully the weakness of the Virginia Tech passing game will be offset by the matchup with a Cincinnati defense that has allowed passing games to thrive for most of the year.
2. Standish Dobard – Miami (FL) vs South Carolina ($3,100)
Dobard is unproven, but he's stepping into the role previously held by star tight end Clive Walford, who will miss this game due to a knee injury. Walford (44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns) had a role so prominent that it seems safe to assume Dobard will immediately step into a main role, too. Dobard was one of the top tight end recruits from the 2013 class.
3. Jerell Adams – South Carolina vs Miami (FL) ($2,500)
Adams is a player who's long been identified as a potential breakout talent for South Carolina, but the team's inconsistent us of the tight end position and the presence of Rory Anderson have prevented him from truly arriving as a standout tight end. Anderson (triceps) is out for this game, though, and even more targets should be up for grabs with wideout Shaq Roland leaving the team.