DraftKings Week 8 USFL DFS Tournament Plays

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DraftKings Week 8 USFL DFS Tournament Plays

A lack of NFL football, or football in general, is a terrible thing. But 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

Houston Gamblers (23.0) @ Pittsburgh Maulers (20.0)

Philadelphia Stars (19.5) @ Birmingham Stallions (26.0)

Memphis Showboats (19.75) @ New Jersey Generals (21.75)

Michigan Panthers (19.75) @ New Orleans Breakers (23.25)

TL;DR

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: Alex McGough, Cole Kelley, Tory Williams, Case Cookus, Josh Love, McLeod Bethel-Thompson

RB: Wes Hills, Matt Colburn, CJ Marable, Kerrith Whyte, Reggie Corbin, Mark Thompson, Darius Victor, Garrett Groshek

WR/TE: Johnnie Dixon, Isiah Hennie, Justin Hall, Corey Coleman, Trey Quinn, Bailey Gaither, Joe Walker, Devin Gray, Braedon Bowman, Derrick Dillon, Alonzo Moore, Sage Surratt, Vinny Papale, Eli Stove, Josh Pederson, Cam Echols-Luper

QB

Alex McGough ($12,300): McGough is easily the safest QB in spring football, scoring at least 17.2 DraftKings points in every start this season while averaging 22.7 DraftKings FPG (47% better than the next-closest QB). His safety has been largely a function of his rushing (57.0 rushing YPG since Week 4), and Birmingham’s willingness to throw the ball in the red zone (53%, 2nd). Simply put, McGough’s TD equity is by far the best among USFL QBs.

And at least from a rushing perspective, the matchup is near-perfect. Philadelphia allows the 2nd-most yards per scramble (8.7) and the most rushing YPG (132.9). McGough should run all over this defense, and the Stallions should have no problem converting that offense into points, given their league-leading implied team total (26.0). He’s the top overall QB play of the slate.

Case Cookus ($9,300): Cookus is far too risky for small fields or cash games, but he’s an intriguing low-owned option in the largest tournaments of the slate. The Stars’ implied team total (19.5) should scare off most tournament DFS players from stacking this offense, especially when you factor in the recent play of the Stars’ offense (zero offensive TDs from Week 4 through 6).

But last week demonstrated the Stars still have some offensive juice (37 points), and we know they will throw the ball as much as possible (70% pass rate). The matchup also provides a boost, as Birmingham is allowing the most passing YPG (209.3) and the 3rd-highest pass rate (61%) since Week 4. Combine that with a near guarantee of negative gamescript, and Cookus appears to be a lock to throw the ball close to 40 times.

If we assume sub-10% ownership, Cookus pops as a compelling tournament option.

RB

Weighted Opportunity through 7 weeks:

Wes Hills ($13,100): Wes Hills is the most expensive player in the history of professional football DFS, and he still may not be priced high enough. Sure, the 13.8 DraftKings FPG he’s averaged since Week 5 will scare some away, but we can’t forget that he’s still averaging 26.3 DraftKings FPG (1st) and 24.5 weighted opportunity points per game (4th-most by any professional RB since 2011).

This kind of usage in a league full of uncertainty is invaluable. And I’d expect Hills’ monster DraftKings scores to return in this matchup, as Michigan has allowed the 2nd-most rushing YPG (116.8) and the 2nd-most YPC (4.4) since Week 4. Don’t let recent production scare you off Hills, as he’s still one of the top bell cows (in any league) of the last decade.

Mark Thompson ($12,800): We can’t mention USFL bell cows without Mark Thompson, who has captured a league-leading 100% backfield-weighted opportunity over the last two weeks. He’s scored at least 19.0 DraftKings points in every game this season, and scored multiple TDs in 80% of his games despite earning minimal usage as a receiver (3.4 targets per game). In many regards, Thompson is the USFL’s version of Derrick Henry – a bruiser of an RB who relies on a massive rushing workload for the vast majority of his fantasy points.

But Thompson is facing the one team who could actually take the wind out of his sails. The Pittsburgh Mailers have been nearly impossible to rush on this season, allowing just 81.1 rushing YPG (toughest) and 2.8 YPC (toughest, and 15% better than the next-toughest run defense).

I think this could be the first week this season that Thompson pushes to be more popular than Wes Hills. But I don’t think that’s correct. Thompson is still very in play, given he’s locked into every backfield touch, but he’s a tier below Wes Hills this week.

CJ Marable ($7,700): The Stallions had employed a committee backfield seemingly regardless of personnel, but that changed in Week 7 with no Zaquandre White. CJ Marable dominated backfield usage, earning 100% of backfield weighted opportunity (1st), 21.3 weighted opportunity points (2nd), and 19.8 DraftKings points (3rd).

So, Marable clearly ranks as a top-4 USFL RB by every usage metric if we assume White misses Week 8 (be sure to check his status ahead of lock). Gamescript should be in Marable’s favor, with Birmingham listed as a 6.5-point favorite, and the matchup is too, as the Stars are allowing a league-high 132.9 rushing YPG and 4.7 YPC. Load up on Marable if White is ruled out.

Matt Colburn ($7,300): Colburn was held back early in the season due to a committee with Dexter Williams and the Stars’ offensive incompetence. But last week suggested the Stars may have finally regained their offensive mojo (349 yards, 37 points), and Colburn seems to have solidified himself as the Philadelphia bell cow after he earned a season-high 96% of backfield-weighted opportunity.

Remember, Colburn worked as the Stars’ bell cow to close out last season, averaging 23.0 DraftKings FPG across his final five games. Colburn will crush as a fantasy contributor if his offense can put points on the board.

And the best part is his pricing. Colburn is more than $5,000 cheaper than the league’s similar bell cows. Sure, his floor doesn’t quite match Wes Hills or Mark Thompson, but you could certainly argue his ceiling does once price adjusted. He should be popular, but I’ll still heavily target Colburn in GPPs this week.

WR

Devin Gray ($8,700): Gray is a nice way to leverage ownership within the Stars’ passing game, as the field will primarily target Corey Coleman. Remember, Gray ranks 3rd among all players in targets since Week 4 (26, ahead of Coleman), granted he’s exceeded 12.0 DraftKings points just once over that stretch. Gray is a bet on volume, and it’s easy to see massive volume in this contest.

Birmingham is allowing the most passing YPG (209.3) and the 3rd-highest pass rate (61%) since Week 4. Factor in negative gamescript, and Gray could easily lead the position in targets. He’s an ideal GPP target for those looking to stack this game, and he will be much lower owned than teammate Corey Coleman (who is also a great play).

Isiah Hennie ($8,400): Hennie is the clear safe option among expensive WRs, having earned at least 6 targets and double-digit fantasy points across his last four games. Pittsburgh has embraced a pass-first approach as of late, leading to a 67% pass rate (1st) since Week 4. So, there is no reason to assume volume would be an issue for Hennie, especially in a matchup with the league’s 2nd-worst pass defense by YPG (220.0) as a 3.0-point underdog.

My assumption is that Hennie will be the most popular WR of the slate. I’m more than fine eating that ownership, but those looking for a more unique angle to this Pittsburgh passing attack can target Bailey Gaither (who ranks 8th in deep targets this season).

Vinny Papale ($6,600): Papale is the clear pivot for those concerned about Derrick Dillon’s floor and ownership. Papale has earned more targets (33), more receiving yards (271), and more red zone targets (3) than Dillon, and it could be argued Papale is the team’s top receiving option. That’s accounted for in his price, but it surely won’t be accounted for in Papale’s ownership relative to Dillon’s.

Papale can be argued against based on upside (zero games over 13.0 DraftKings points) and matchup (New Jersey allows the fewest YPA), but I love him as leverage on the Derrick Dillon chalk. I won’t be going overboard, but Papale is one of my favorite tournament plays this week.

Johnnie Dixon ($5,400): Dixon is the most mispriced player of the slate for the 3rd week in a row. He leads all players in targets over the last two weeks (17), resulting in 14.5 DraftKings FPG (1st over the full season). So, Dixon is arguably the most valuable fantasy WR in the USFL, despite carrying a WR17 price tag.

Dixon is a clear top-3 value among WRs, making him a cash game lock and near must-play in smaller field tournaments.

Derrick Dillon ($4,500): Dillon has finally hit his stride, averaging 15.7 DraftKings FPG over his last two games, granted that’s come on concerningly-low volume (4.5 targets per game). I would expect Dillon to be steamed as one of the most popular WRs of Week 8, but I have serious doubts, given the matchup. The Generals allow the 3rd-fewest passing YPG (190.3) and the fewest YPA (6.0). That’s bad news for a player like Dillon, who relies much more on efficiency (14.5 yards per reception) than volume.

If we assume Dillon is popular, I’d gladly take my chances on some of these other cheap WRs (or teammate Vinny Papale). I’m willing to fully fade him this week.

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.