I'm certainly limping to the finish this season, as injuries (and some bad choices) have kept me out of the money for three straight weeks. It's time to end that streak with a double-dose of winning this holiday weekend. And in keeping with the theme of Thanksgiving, this column will be a little overstuffed in Week 13 with a look at DraftKings Friday and Saturday afternoon games.
Friday features an 11-game player pool, three of which are currently off of the board in Las Vegas due to injured quarterback uncertainty. Those games figure to have high totals, with maybe the exception of Washington State-Washington, leaving at least seven of the games with totals of 60 or higher, and only one under 55 points. There should be plenty of scoring to go around.
My entry for Friday looks like this.
Chris Johnson, Baylor (at TCU) - $7,000
How can you not take a Baylor quarterback at this price? Johnson put in three touchdowns in a half at Oklahoma State and while the offense figures to miss a little bit given that they're on their third quarterback and could be without their top running back as well, the upside here is too great to pass up.
Chase Litton, Marshall (at Western Kentucky) - $6,400
Litton has averaged 332.7 yards over his last three games, including a disappointing 169-yard outing last week. He's thrown eight touchdowns in that span and will need to be busy if the Herd want to keep up with Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers have been surprisingly decent against the pass, not allowing a 300-yard outing since Week 3 against Indiana, but they've given up at least three scores in five games. I like Litton to fair well, and add to his totals with some garbage-time production.
Also considered: Nate Peterman, Pittsburgh (vs. Miami) - $5,000
Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh (vs Miami) - $5,300
Ollison seems significantly underpriced given his last two outings. The Panthers have realized he's their bread and butter, and when he receives a heavy volume, they win. Ollison has 54 carries in his last two games after seeing just 22 in the preceding two. He's only scored once in each contest thanks to Peterman's red-zone efficiency, but there's no reason to think he doesn't churn out 100 yards and a score on a Miami defense I continually doubt.
Devin Chafin, Baylor (at TCU) - $4,400
Shock Linwood is doubtful to play, leaving Chafin and Johnny Jefferson ($3,800) to share carries. Chafin had 16 totes last week and 23 the previous two games with a healthy Linwood. He's scored four times in two weeks and that goal line work makes him the preferred choice. Who would have expected a Baylor backfield stack for $11,400 at the beginning of the season?
Also considered: Alex Collins, Arkansas (vs. Missouri) - $6,100
Darren Carrington ($5,700), Bralon Addison ($5,200), Oregon (vs. Oregon State)
Vernon Adams ($8,100) is finally healthy and the Ducks' offense is rolling as a result. Adams has at least four touchdown passes in three of his last four games, and is averaging that many during this hot stretch. He's the most expensive quarterback Friday, so it makes sense to stack his top two targets. Allison has caught five scores in four games while topping 75 yards three times. Carrington has cooled off a bit after posting three consecutive 100-yard games, but he's scored in each of his last two outings. Facing a 90th-ranked Beavers defense that has given up 10 touchdowns through the air in their last two games seemingly sets the Ducks up for more fireworks.
Gabe Marks, Washington State (at Washington) - $6,600
The quarterback situation is a little concerning, as Luke Falk ($7,500) is uncertain to play due to a concussion. But Peyton Bender ($6,700) was solid in relief last week, and could look Marks' way even more frequently as his safety blanket. Marks has 23 catches and three scores in his last two games and though the Huskies have been stout against the pass, they've allowed at least 270 yards and two scores to the top passing offenses they've faced (California, Oregon and Stanford), and it's not like Mike Leach will suddenly start running the ball if he's forced to use Bender for four quarters.
Also considered: Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State (at San Jose State) - $6,500 (who knew San Jose State had the nation's top pass defense?) No doubt I'm going back and forth between Marks and Sperbeck.
RB Zack Langer, Tulsa (at Tulane) - $5,000
Returned to a full workload last week and scored twice. Langer is a touchdown machine who is also capable of decent yardage totals.
WR Davonte Allen, Marshall (at Western Kentucky) - $4,400
A mini stack of Marshall players emerged for me thanks to their lower prices. Allen has averaged 138.3 yards in his last three games, including a 12-catch, 232-yard outing two weeks ago. While that was against lowly Charlotte, Allen is the team's top option in a surging passing game, and offers solid upside for his price.
Now, on to Saturday, where DraftKings has a normal 15-game slate. The outlier in this slate is the clear lack of top receivers. No receiver is priced higher than $6,600, and frankly, none of the top 10 options inspire enough confidence to blindly purchase. As such, I've chosen to spend freely elsewhere, and hope to guess right on which receivers find the end zone.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson (at South Carolina) - $8,900
Clemson has not been bashful with Watson down the stretch, even drawing the ire of Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson last week for leaving him in the game to pad his stats. Watson has at least 297 yards in four straight games while also taking at least 10 carries. It's led to a 32.27 point per game average, and he now faces a South Carolina defense he lit up last season for four touchdowns while playing with a torn ACL.
Austin Appleby, Purdue (vs. Indiana) - $5,200
After reading the rest of my lineup, the necessity of Appleby will be evident, as funds were limited. Weekly readers of this column know how bad the Hoosiers pass defense is. It still ranks last in the country despite holding Maryland to 170 yards last week. It's allowed the likes of Rutgers, Michigan State and Michigan to all throw for at least 386 yards. This game has the makings of a shootout, as Purdue can't stop many teams either, and Appleby seems likely to start over David Blough ($4,500), who is dealing with a concussion.
Also considered: Jeremy Johnson, Auburn (vs. Alabama) - $5,000
Derrick Henry, Alabama (at Auburn) - $9,100
While I don't like how limited the rest of my roster is due to the heavy spending on Watson and Henry, I really like what those two give me. Henry has at least two touchdowns in four straight games, twice topping 200 yards. It's simply hard to envision a scenario where Alabama doesn't feed the beast 30-plus times against an Auburn defense that gave up three touchdowns on the ground to Idaho last week.
Joe Williams, Utah (vs. Colorado) - $5,300
Williams did his best Devontae Booker impersonation last week, rushing 26 times for 121 yards while adding 31 yards receiving. There's little reason to expect less against a 101st-ranked Buffalo's defense that allows 5.1 yards per carry.
Also considered: Elijah Hood, North Carolina (at North Carolina State) - $6,800; Gerald Holmes, Michigan State (vs. Penn State) - $4,500
Charone Peake, Clemson (at South Carolina) - $4,500
Here's where things get interesting, and these picks will have to hit for me to win. Peake has scored in consecutive games while making a catch of at least 42 yards in three of his last four. He's now the team's second-leading receiver behind possession-threat Artavis Scott and gives me a chance at some double points with Watson in a game I'm expecting little to no fight from the Gamecocks in.
Simmie Cobbs, Indiana (at Purdue) - $4,400
Cobbs somewhat quietly has three 100-yard games in his last five outings. Touchdowns haven't been his forte, as he has only three all year and none in his last three contests, but this game has a total of 69 and a six- or seven-point spread. That works out to something like a 38-31 win for the Hoosiers. And facing a Boilermakers defense that has allowed at least three passing touchdowns in three of its last four games, Cobbs makes sense at this price.
Phil Mayhue, Memphis (vs. SMU) - $4,200
Mayhue is the opposite of Cobbs and Peake, in that he seems safe with a very limited upside. He's caught at least five passes in four straight games, but has not scored all season. It doesn't fit the bill of my high-risk, high-reward roster. But Vegas thinks the Tigers are scoring in the neighborhood of 42 points this weekend, so maybe Mayhue has more scoring potential than I'm giving him credit for.
Also considered: Jamari Staples, Louisville (at Kentucky) - $5,200, Mack Hollins, North Carolina (at North Carolina State) - $4,600; Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State (vs. North Carolina) - $4,400; Jordan Leggett, Clemson (at South Carolina) - $3,200
RB Stanley Williams, Kentucky (vs. Louisville) - $5,000
RB Brandon Radcliff, Louisville (at Kentucky) - $3,400
Kentucky's passing game is bad. Louisville doesn't know who its quarterback will be. Why not choose the two likely starting running backs and hope they engage in a back-and-forth duel? Williams has consecutive 100-yard games, and while he'll share carries some with JoJo Kemp ($3,900) he's still safely the Cats' lead back. The matchup isn't great, as Louisville allows only 3.32 yards per carry and eight touchdowns all year, but did let Pitt run for 244 yards last week.
On the other side, Radcliff's season has been a peculiar one. His last four rushing totals, in order, are minus-2, 117, 146 and minus-1. He's run better when drop back passer Kyle Bolin ($5,000) was the team's starter, and reading the tea leaves, I expect Lamar Jackson ($6,000) to start this Saturday. But with the limited resources I had remaining, Radcliff easily had the most upside, even if it comes with a floor that plunges below zero.