Against the Spread Picks
Georgia (-7.0) vs. Cincinnati
Auburn (+3.5) vs. Northwestern
Notre Dame (+20) vs. Alabama
Ohio State (+7.5) vs. Clemson
Georgia vs. Cincinnati (Over 50.5)
Auburn vs. Northwestern (Under 43.5)
Notre Dame vs. Alabama (Under 65.5)
Ohio State vs. Clemson (Under 66.5)
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $8.8K | FD: $11.0K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)
The very best part about the DraftKings pricing is that, with all four optimal QBs priced at $8.0K-or-more, using a RB at flex is entirely in play. For example, if you add Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones, your next thought will focus on how to stack them. With Jones, the only serious double-stack is with DeVonta Smith. With those three in tow, adding the WR1-or-2 from Clemson will force you to pinch at RB. Not a good idea. We do have some value RBs to consider, but we do not want to even consider punting the position. Half of our games are playing for a championship. We can certainly count on some downfield splash plays, but these games will ultimately be won on the ground.
As for Lawrence, I have not seen an NCAA QB leave everything on the field each and every game the way “Sunshine” has in a good many years. In the only defeat of his college career, Clemson faced off with a QB having what is in my opinion the greatest CFB season in the history of the game. In spite of Joe Burrow shredding the South Carolina version of the Tigers with 463 passing yards and five TDs, Lawrence kept his team within a TD until around 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Rewind 2019 back a week, during the second quarter against Ohio State, Lawrence took as big of ahit from a sub-200 pound player as you’ll see in the college game via Shaun Wade. A penalty flag for targeting landed next to Lawrence crumpled on the ground. No more than 45 seconds later, Lawrence was jogging to the sidelines, and ready for the next play. His toughness should never be questioned. Another factor truly setting him apart: Lawrence’s pocket awareness is second-to-none. Combine that with outstanding quickness, agility, a 6-foot-6, 220-lb. frame, and you have our QB1 from the slate.
The Bottom Line: Over the last two seasons, Lawrence has averaged 31 FPG during a pair of ACC Championships and playoff games. You know what to do.
Mac Jones, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $8.7K | FD: $10.4K | O/U: 65.6 | Implied: 42.75)
As much as I want exposure to Mac Jones after he shredded the Florida secondary for 37.9 FPs in the SEC Championship, you’ll either need to pivot off Lawrence, or shop for your RBs at Big Lots. Since Jones doesn’t have Lawrence’s rushing ability, exposure to Jones goes hand-in-hand with DeVonta Smith. If you do roll with Jones over Lawrence, a triple stack with Smith and John Metchie III makes a lot of sense.
Even though Jones has averaged 31.2 FPG during the last two SEC Championships (Auburn & Florida) and last year’s bowl game (Michigan), the Tide may ease off the gas if Notre Dame is unable to keep pace. Last year’s 35-16 victory over the Wolverines in the Citrus Bowl is a great example. UM actually led Bama 16-14 at the half. After “The Joker” hit Smith with this42-yard TD strike on their first possession of the second half, Michigan’s offense hit the proverbial wall. Four Michigan punts and a pair of Shea Patterson INTs later, Alabama closed out the win. Jones played very well, tossing for a TD on 19 percent of attempts, but he wasn’t needed while they killed the clock.
The Bottom Line: Jones is the QB2 on the slate. We need 26 FPs to hit value. Count on it. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Justin Fields, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $8.0K | FD: $10.6K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 29.5)
When a QB throws for 41 TDs compared to only four INTs, expectations rise exponentially. Forcing that same 21-year-old QB to sit and watch his two most significant competitors, Clemson and Alabama, play for nearly two months and a month, respectively, is likely to result in some hiccups. That’s precisely how the course of the 2020 season has played out for Justin Fields. Despite completing 70 percent of attempts, tossing five INTs compared to 15 TDs is simply unacceptable. Even when all five of those INTs being thrown against a pair of teams, Indiana and Northwestern, with more future NFL draft picks than some might think … still not good enough.
Hey, for DFS purposes, opinions within the analytical community mean squanch. We don’t need him to be perfect, we just need him to score points. That said, I don’t think this will be the game for Fields exposure. The media has come down very hard on Fields heading into the playoffs. While I think “JustnFields” is perfectly capable of playing above the scrutiny, the Buckeyes found something in the B1G Championship that may provide an edge against Clemson. Outside of passing along that a certain RB will come into play, I’ll save the exact details until later. Fields’ preparation is no doubt specifically focused on identifying zone coverages, and protecting the football.
The Bottom Line: Over the last two B1G Championship games and their 29-23 loss to the Tigers in the CFP Semifinals, Fields has only averaged 15.4 FPG. Granted those games were against Clemson, Northwestern, and Wisconsin, but they also featured the OSU ground game. It goes without saying that predicting another loss being added onto Trevor Lawrence’s stellar record is tantamount to wishful thinking. However, as shown in the above graphic, ESPNs FPI does not share in the recency bias against the Buckeyes in this spot. While I do think Clemson will win, I think it will be by less than the 7.5-point spread.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati vs. Georgia (DK: $8.3K | FD: $8.8K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 21.75)
No matter what happens tomorrow, HC Luke Fickell has molded Cincinnati into an AAC powerhouse. They’ve won 31 games over the last three seasons, and provided plenty of credibility to a matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs. Remarkable. Looking at the defensive metrics for the eight teams on this slate offers next to nothing toward predictability. Auburn does present Northwestern with a few opportunities, the Ohio State passing defense has been tested at times, and Northwestern’s run defense took a massive hit in the B1G Championship. The remainder of the data is filled in bright red. As in … elite defensive stuff.
For the Bearcats, their defense is ranked no lower than 23rd out of the 127 active FBS teams in every single statistic tracked in my database. But we all know perfection is more likely to be halted than it is to continue.
The Georgia ground game is going to present Cincinnati with an overwhelming challenge. Should the Bulldogs pull ahead by more than a TD, forcing Desmond Ridder into a pass-first mode could be UCs undoing. For as long as the Bearcats are able to keep pace with Georgia, Ridder will have the opportunity to use those golden DFS legs to elevate his floor. During his two most important games to date -- last year’s bowl game destruction of Boston College and the 2020 AAC Championship victory over Tulsa, Ridder averaged 32.2 FPG.
The Bottom Line: I’m torn between Fields and Ridder as the QB3. The QB options after those two fall off Mount Everest. I much prefer remaining on the Lawrence-Jones side of exposure. Some of my colleagues are anticipating Ian Book will be owned in around 20 percent of lineups. Yikes!
Overpriced for optimal build
JT Daniels, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $7.3K | FD: $8.3K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Tier 3 values
Bo Nix, Auburn vs. Northwestern (DK: $6.0K | FD: $7.6K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 20.0)
Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern vs. Auburn (DK: $5.4K | FD: $6.5K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 23.5)
Hail-Mary’s (Tread carefully)
Ian Book, Notre Dame vs. Alabama (DK: $6.7K | FD: $8.5K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 22.75)
Trey Sermon, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $6.6K | FD: $8.0K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 29.5)
Here’s the deal: the Alabama offense is likely to decide the fate of the DFS slate. DeVonta Smith will be the highest-owned WR and Najee Harris the highest- or second-highest RB on the slate. Should either have a game comparable to their output in this year’s SEC Championship, fading could send you south of the cash line. However, unless you punt QB or the remainder of your roster slots, rostering both will be impossible. In my view, Smith is simply a necessary exposure evil. He’ll face some solid Fighting Irish CBs, but they are simply several states’ distance behind Smith from a talent-level perspective.
As for Harris, he’ll face a Notre Dame D-line that is both battle tested, and stacked with high-round NFL talent. The Irish front seven have already shut down Travis Etienne (twice), Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, and Javian Hawkins. Am I predicting they’ll shut down Harris? Absolutely not. Harris averaged 26.4 FPG in last year’s SEC title game and bowl victory. Then he proceeded to drop 62.5 FPs on the pathetic Gators’ run defense in this year’s SEC Championship. You would not be alone if you feel Harris is simply too much of a lock to fade. For me, I think we’ll see him go for somewhere between 26-and-30 FPs. Enough to cover value, but also exerting significant pressure on the rest of your lineup to keep pace with the field.
As alluded to above, Ohio State discovered something untapped in the B1G Championship. Something truly special. Master Teague III claimed the lion’s share of the backfield over their first four games. Trey Sermon emerged against Michigan State to more than triple Teagues’ YPC average, ending the game with 112 yards, and 20.7 FPs on only 10 carries. Teague still entered the Northwestern game with the starting nod, but took a big hit following an early 27-yard gain. When Sermon took the field in his stead, he put the weight of the entire offense on his shoulders toward 331 rushing yards, a pair of TDs, and 51.5 FPs. The Wildcats entered the game ranking 21st in rushing yards allowed. They left ranked 53rd.
Looking back to the Buckeyes’ 2015 CFP Title performance, Cardale Jones certainly played a central role, but the expressive freedom provided to the offense from the groundwork of Ezekiel Elliott was the true catalyst. If OSU is going to beat Clemson, they’ll need Sermon to carry that weight, once again. I think we’ll see HC Ryan Day feature Sermon with a massive workload.
The Bottom Line: Compelling cases can be made in favor of Harris blowing up tomorrow. I think the same case can be made for Sermon … at 72 percent of the price.
Travis Etienne, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $6.9K | FD: $9.8K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)
In order to roster Lawrence, Smith, and a pair of RBs around the $6K range, exposure to either Amari Rodgers, or Cornell Powell will be very difficult. Should we just run Lawrence naked? While that’s not entirely out of the question, Travis Etienne offers us a RB within our price range with a history of relevant receiving success. When these teams last met, Ohio State bottled “Swaggy-T1” up on the ground, but he refocused that attention toward the passing game. He ended up generating 72.1 percent of his FPs on receiving volume alone. Since the Buckeyes have indulged less than 100 rushing YPG this season, we may see a repeat of that strategy.
The Bottom Line: You can have Trey Sermon and nearly half of Etienne for the price of Harris. More importantly, you can actually populate the rest of your roster with players who will actually see the field. Even more importantly, Etienne is expected to be the highest-owned RB on the slate.
Cam Porter, Northwestern vs. Auburn (DK: $4.9K | FD: $6.9K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 23.5)
Should we decide to use a four-RB strategy, or to go with a Lawrence-Jones QB combo, Cam Porter’s low salary will be helpful. The true freshman phenom took over as the Wildcats’ lead back the week prior to the B1G Championship. He shredded Illinois for 142 rushing yards, two TDs, and 30.5 FPs. Porter proved that outing was no fluke by providing the Northwestern offense with the spark that pushed them to an early 10-point lead. He collected 61 rushing yards, one TD, and 16.6 FPs against a stout Ohio State run defense.
The Bottom Line: Porter will face an Auburn defense allowing 163.1 YPG on the ground and 24.7 FPG to opposing RBs -- both the highest on the slate. I mean, we do need to save some of that cap for our other WRs.
Just under the optimal cutline
Tank Bigsby, Auburn vs. Northwestern (DK: $5.6K | FD: $7.4K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 20.0)
Primary flex-backs (Salary-savers)
Kenny McIntosh, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $3.9K | FD: $5.9K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Daijun Edwards, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $3.5K | FD: $5.6K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Jase McClellan, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $3.2K | FD: $4.3K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 42.75)
Overpriced for optimal build
Najee Harris, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $9.2K | FD: $11.2K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 42.75)
Zamir White, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $5.9K | FD: $8.7K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Tier 3 value
Master Teague III, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $4.1K | FD: $7.2K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 29.5)
Gerrid Doaks, Cincinnati vs. Georgia (DK: $4.4K | FD: $6.2K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 21.75)
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati vs. Georgia (DK: $4.6K | FD: $6.0K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 21.75)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $9.0K | FD: $11.5K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 42.75)
You know who he is. You know what he’s done. You don’t need me reasoning with you to empty your pockets.
The Bottom Line: As good as Najee Harris is/has been, Alabama rosters a couple of other RBs who could replicate a reasonable amount of his production. DeVonta Smith is going to be the first WR selected in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason. No other (healthy) Crimson Tide WR is ready to fill his shoes.
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $6.4K | FD: $8.6K | O/U: 66.6 | Implied: 29.5)
Some individuals on the DK pricing committee must have a thing for Garrett Wilson. You’ll never read anything from me downplaying Wilson’s NFL-level talents. However, the fact that Wilson continues to be significantly priced above Chris Olave is absurd. Whereas Wilson is a future talent, Olave is set to be the second-or-third WR selected in the draft. His game is significantly ahead of Wilson’s at this stage in their careers. I only pass this along to get it off my chest, certainly not a complaint. If we are able to free up enough cheddar for a $6K-plus WR, I slightly prefer Olave to Amari Rodgers. Let’s not forget that a route miscommunication by Olave cost Ohio State a chance at the 2019 CFP Title.
The Bottom Line: As will become entirely clear when you begin construction of your lineups, tossing cap dollars at WRs not named DeVonta will be difficult. If you pivot away from Smith, you can count on Olave doing everything within his abilities toward maximizing the potential of every target. I’m not expecting a monster game, but the same can be said for every other WR sans Smith.
Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $6.5K | FD: $8.1K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)
Why am I having a difficult time paying up for Amari Rodgers? Yes, he went for 29.1 FPs in the ACC Championship against Notre Dame. But he also averaged 3.8 FPG during Clemson’s two playoff games last season. You could make an argument that Notre Dame’s secondary is better than that of the Buckeyes. Couldn’t really prove it, but it could still be made.
The Bottom Line: Rodgers is an NFL talent, no doubt about it. He’ll have the top QB in the nation slinging rockets at him tomorrow with the highest percentage of passing plays on the slate (58 percent). Again, couldn’t argue against any of it. What it really boils down to is that I’ll only have both Smith and either Rodgers, Olave, or Cornell Powell in the same lineup in GPPs.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame vs. Alabama (DK: $3.5K | FD: $5.8K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 22.75)
If we’re going to pull off this build, we’ll obviously need to make some concessions. Compromises in salary, not in talent. Michael Mayer is already establishing himself as one of the most talented TEs in CFB … as a true freshman! One in every six third-down conversions for Notre Dame have been gained with the hands of Mayer.
The Bottom Line: I’ve learned my lesson this season promoting super cheap true freshmen with low ceilings to our Cash/SE-heavy population. Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve touted a player priced under $4K in at least a month. We know Alabama will build a lead. Vegas is currently giving Notre Dame 20 points! The most vulnerable portion of the Tide’s secondary is over the middle of the field. Guess where Mayer has done his work this season?
Just under the optimal cutline
Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $5.8K | FD: 7.1K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)
Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, WR, Northwestern vs. Auburn (DK: $4.8K | FD: $6.8K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 23.5)
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati vs. Georgia (DK: $5.5K | FD: $5.9K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 21.75)
John Metchie III, WR, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $5.1K | FD: $7.0K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 42.75)
Primary flex-ends (Salary savers)
Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati vs. Georgia (DK: $4.0K | FD: $5.5K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 21.75)
E.J. Williams, WR, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $4.3K | FD: $5.8K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $3.0K | FD: $4.5K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 29.5)
Overpriced for optimal build
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State vs. Clemson (DK: $7.2K | FD: $8.7K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 29.5)
George Pickens, WR, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $6.1K | FD: $7.2K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Tier 3 value
Seth Williams, WR, Auburn vs. Northwestern (DK: $5.0K | FD: $6.2K | O/U: 43.5 | Implied: 20.0)
Javon McKinley, WR, Notre Dame vs. Alabama (DK: $4.9K | FD: $6.5K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 22.75)
Jermaine Burton, WR, Georgia vs. Cincinnati (DK: $5.2K | FD: $5.5K | O/U: 50.5 | Implied: 28.75)
Tier 4 value
Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame vs. Alabama (DK: $4.4K | FD: $5.9K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 22.75)
Jahleel Billingsley, TE, Alabama vs. Notre Dame (DK: $4.2K | FD: $5.2K | O/U: 65.5 | Implied: 42.75)
Braden Galloway, TE, Clemson vs. Ohio State (DK: $3.6K | FD: $5.1K | O/U: 66.5 | Implied: 37.0)