DraftKings Week 1 USFL DFS Tournament Plays


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DraftKings Week 1 USFL DFS Tournament Plays

A lack of NFL football, or football in general, is a terrible thing. Thankfully, football is still hanging around, thanks to the USFL! And since DraftKings is offering DFS fantasy tournaments, it’s time to discuss the top plays and contrarian options so we can bink some USFL tournaments.

I’ll be going position by position, highlighting my favorite plays for tournaments, with a TL;DR included for those who don’t want to read my reasoning and just want the top-value plays. I’ll also include teams’ implied totals directly below, to help readers get a sense of the offenses Vegas thinks will put the most points on the board.

Team Totals

Philadelphia Stars (20.5) @ Memphis Showboats (18.0)

New Jersey Generals (17.0) @ Birmingham Stallions (22.5)

Michigan Panthers (19.25) @ Houston Gamblers (19.25)

Pittsburgh Maulers (17.0) @ New Orleans Breakers (17.25)


In the TL;DR, I’ll list out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict, it does not factor in ownership, and in some cases, it’s sort of arbitrary. It also doesn’t matter nearly as much as my readers think it does. What does matter is maximizing the correlations within your lineups, and making sure you include at least a few players on each tournament team who should be on the lower end of ownership (I highlight a few in my write-ups). Get creative!

Plays ranked in order, with tier 1 in bold, and assumes notable questionable players suit up…

QB: Case Cookus, Brady White, Kenji Bahar, De’Andre Johnson, J’Mar Smith, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, James Morgan

RB: Darius Victor, Reggie Corbin, Garrett Groshek, Matt Colburn, Anthony Jones, Bo Scarbrough, Alex Collins, Dexter Williams, CJ Marable, Stevie Scott

WR/TE: Derrick Dillon, Isiah Hennie, Bailey Gaither, Marlon Williams, Jonathan Adams, Joe Walker, Devin Gray, Osirus Mitchell, Chris Rowland, Tre Walker, Diondre Overton, Johnnie Dixon, Corey Coleman, Jordan Suell, Alonzo Moore, Teo Redding, Rashard Davis, Sage Surratt


Case Cookus ($10,200): Cookus is the classic definition of a “good” spring football QB. He averaged 167.5 passing YPG (2nd among 2023 USFL QBs), a 22% deep ball rate (1st), and a league-low 2.4% interception rate while throwing for the 2nd-most TDs (12) in just 8 games last season. He has some solid rushing chops, averaging 30.0 rushing YPG in the 2022 regular season (3rd among QBs, 19th among all players). Importantly, Cookus also plays in the league’s most pass-heavy offense, with Philadelphia throwing the ball 66% of the time last year, and 75% of the time in neutral situations. Cookus has the advantage of being locked into a full-time role while playing in an awesome offense – making him the top QB play for those looking to pay up.

De’Andre Johnson ($8,900): Johnson was locked into a two-QB system last season with Luis Perez. Now that Perez is in the XFL, the offense should belong to Johnson, right?

Well, the Generals did claim Kyle Lauletta ($7,300) off waivers, and he could easily slide into the Luis Perez role in this offense. Chances are this is a gross QB split, killing both players' value for fantasy.

But what if it’s not? What if this is De’Andre Johnson’s offense? If that’s the case, he’s easily the most valuable fantasy player in the USFL. He scored 23.4 DraftKings points in his lone start last season, and averaged a league-leading 21.8 DraftKings points per 4 quarters – 31% better than Case Cookus. Johnson’s main weapon is his legs, as he averaged 40.6 rushing YPG and 7.1 rushing FPG despite a ~50% snap share across the entire 2022 season. With a full workload, Johnson would be the USFL’s Lamar Jackson. He’s super high risk (good chance he splits reps with Lauletta), but he’s also super high reward. I’ll have some exposure, but I won’t go overboard here, given the risk Johnson only plays on 40% of the team’s snaps.

Kenji Bahar ($8,600): Bahar is expected to start for the Gamblers this weekend, meaning he falls into the slim group of QBs we think will play on 100% of snaps. I’m still not sure if he’s any good for fantasy, given he averaged 9.4 DraftKings FPG in his three starts last season – throwing for just 1 TD in those games, but averaging an encouraging 43.0 rushing FPG in Weeks 8 and 9. Realistically, he’s probably not very good. But I’ll still take shots on him, given he’s shown some rushing upside, and we can have relative faith he won’t get benched. Not sexy, but certainly reasonable given his mid-tier price.

Brady White ($6,800): White was a three-year starter at Memphis who consistently posted above-average PFF grades alongside a 102.8 passer rating over his college career. He didn’t provide any value as a rusher, but his passing stats offer enough hope to suggest he could be a decent fantasy QB at the next level.


Brady White will serve as the @USFLShowboats starting quarterback in week one against the @USFLStars, per HC Todd Haley.

Due to White's familiarity with Haley's system, White gets the nod. With that in mind, Willis & Kelley will likely see playing time as well. #USFL pic.twitter.com/B77UqxbPNO

— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) April 11, 2023

There is a serious benching risk here, but White is worth consideration, given his respectable college pedigree and rock-bottom price. He’s far from my favorite QB play, but it makes sense to have some exposure here if you are making multiple teams.


Darius Victor ($9,300) and Trey Williams ($8,100): These two were the league’s most productive backfield duo in 2022, largely because of New Jersey’s absurdly run-heavy offense (47% pass rate). Victor was the primary goal-line back and early-down bruiser, earning 14 more red zone carries (37 total) than the next-closest RB (Reggie Corbin) – so he carries the vast majority of the backfield’s TD equity. Williams served as the lightning to Victor’s thunder, earning the 4th-most targets of any RB (26) and leading the position in target share (11%). It could be argued Williams is the slightly better option this week as he should be lower-owned in a contest that will likely put New Jersey in negative gamescript as 5.5-point underdogs. But I think both RBs are excellent plays this week, granted the risk they get vultured by their QB is very real.

Update: Trey Williams has been ruled out. That makes Darius Victor the top RB play of the slate.

Reggie Corbin ($8,500): Corbin was clearly the most talented rusher in the 2022 iteration of the USFL. He led all RBs (min. 40 carries) in YPC (5.4), while ranking 2nd in red zone carries (23) – showcasing both elite efficiency and great TD upside. He’s expected to cede some work to Stevie Scott ($5,300), but Corbin’s role is one of the most secure at the position thanks to his raw talent. He’s a great play in a contest that could easily result in positive gamescript for Michigan – something I expect to be a rarity this season.

Alex Collins ($7,800): Collins is expected to lead the RB group for Memphis, and he’s certainly an RB to be optimistic about. Collins has five NFL seasons under his belt, and earned a very encouraging 86.9 PFF rushing grade on the back of 212 carries (4.6 YPC) in 2017. That said, his efficiency declined with age, as we most recently saw Collins earn just 3.8 YPC on 108 carries with Seattle in 2021. He isn’t a speedster (4.59 forty), but he has the size (5’10”, 208) to secure goal-line duties, and the shiftiness (85 missed tackles forced across his NFL career) to justify a three-down role. He’s a tougher click than some of his peers, but that should keep his ownership pretty reasonable. NFL talent is hard to come by in spring leagues, and I’ll want shares of Collins in tournaments as a result.

Dexter Williams ($6,400): Williams finished the 2022 season as the Stars’ lead RB, earning 102 yards and 14.2 DraftKings points on 12 opportunities in the USFL championship. But, I think assuming that Williams is the current RB1 for Philadelphia is a risky bet, given Matt Colburn ($9,000) dominated the backfield before suffering a knee injury in Week 11 – averaging 23.0 DraftKings FPG in his prior five games. If the field assumes Williams leads this backfield, that could create an outstanding leverage opportunity for those willing to pay up for Colburn. Unless we get word Williams is the locked-in starter, I’d rather find the extra salary for Colburn.


Marlon Williams ($9,500): Williams is the presumptive lead WR in Birmingham now that 2022 WR1 Victor Bolden is in the XFL, and WR3 Osirus Mitchell is with Memphis. Last season, Williams was 8th among all players in targets (55), 3rd in receiving yards (452), and top-6 in DraftKings FPG (12.7). Given the lack of talent behind him, Williams is arguably one of the safest WRs to pay up for in Week 1, as we’ve seen him succeed in a much more competitive situation in the past.

Jonathan Adams ($7,700): Adams earned at least 4 targets in every game but one last season, and I’d expect similar volume for him in 2023. Importantly, he was heavily utilized in the downfield receiving game (12 deep targets, 11th) and in the red zone (7 red zone targets, 6th). Combine that with an elite college pedigree (Adams earned over 100 yards or multiple TDs in 55% of his college games in 2020) and youth (he’s only 24), and it’s clear Adams is a budding spring football star. If New Orleans QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson doesn’t suck, Adams should be one of the most valuable fantasy WRs in the USFL.

Bailey Gaither ($7,000): Gaither was probably a top-5 talent in the 2022 USFL…

His only problem was getting consistently (or, maybe inconsistently) benched by the league’s worst coach: Kirby Wilson. With Wilson out of the picture, Gaither should smash, given the 8.0 targets per game, 74.0 YPG, and 19.9 DraftKings FPG he averaged prior to Week 7. I plan on playing a ton of Gaither, and if you assume new HC Ray Horton has an IQ above room temperature, you probably should too.

Joe Walker ($6,300): Walker was a bit of a late bloomer in 2022, averaging 5.9 DraftKings FPG and 3.2 targets per game in his first five games, but 10.9 FPG and 6.2 targets per game in his final five games. Former Michigan Panthers WR Lance Lenoir (who lead the 2022 USFL in targets with 85) is now in the XFL, leaving a massive target void in this offense. Walker is one of the favorites to fill that void, and his mid-tier price tag makes him a compelling DFS play. Plus, his uniform aesthetic is unbeatable…

Isiah Hennie ($3,900): Hennie was an immediate contributor for Pittsburgh when he joined the active roster in Week 6, averaging 11.0 DraftKings FPG, 6.2 targets per game, and 39.6 YPG. Not eye-popping numbers, sure, but Hennie is clearly too cheap if we assume he’s a borderline starter in this offense. The only wild card here is that Hennie may end up as the WR3 in Pittsburgh, because both Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker are dripping with talent. Even so, Hennie is worth rostering at a sub-$4k price tag.

Derrick Dillon ($3,400): Dillon was the leading receiver for the Tampa Bay Bandits last season, averaging 9.3 DraftKings FPG while finishing 14th among all players in targets (44), 6th in receiving yards (387), and 13th in deep targets (11). He gets a QB downgrade for 2023 with Jordan Ta’amu now in the XFL, but it’s glaringly obvious Dillon is just too cheap relative to his projected role. He’s the top WR value for Week 1.

Chris Rowland ($3,000) and Diondre Overton ($3,500): The Stars’ absurdly high 75% neutral-situation pass rate means we want to target these WRs for DFS. And thankfully, Rowland and Overton provide us with some salary-saving options to do just that. Overton posted the 3rd-highest route share on the team last year (76%), and fell below a 69% route share just once due to injury – so he’s probably the safest bet for playing time. Rowland had a compelling finish to the season, averaging 5.3 targets per game and 11.7 DraftKings FPG in his final three games. It’s nearly impossible to argue either of these players will be one of Philadelphia’s top options in the passing game, but they should both play enough (in an elite fantasy offense) to avoid the dreaded zero. Work these guys into lineups if you are concerned either Isiah Hennie or Derrick Dillon could go over-owned.

Jake Tribbey is the 2022 FSWA Football Writer of the Year and the leading Spring Football expert in the fantasy industry. He is a lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.