Please take note: The DraftKings main slate was not released until later Wednesday night. Unfortunately, that left me with very little time to collect the extensive data prior to writing up these recommendations. As per usual, we have no idea when FanDuel will release their main slate and they’ll likely include additional matchups than what DK has released on its 12-game slate. I’ll update each player with the FD salaries after they’re released. In addition, I will make myself available on Discord starting Friday morning for as many hours as possible until the games begin on Saturday.
Without further delay, let’s jump into the action.
Jordan Travis, Florida State at Louisville (DK: $6,700 | O/U: 62.0)
We didn’t want to pivot from the high-priced QB options in Week 7. The opposite can be said for this week. Mac Jones and Spencer Rattler are definitely appealing, but I feel we need to save our Single Entry/Cash game (SE/C) dollars for our RBs and at least one top WR. This strategy begins with strong consideration for Jordan Travis. You might’ve noticed that the Seminoles stunned North Carolina last week. A great deal of that credit goes to Travis. He’s topped 100-yards rushing with a score against UNC and Notre Dame in back-to-back games.
The Bottom Line: I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Travis’ arm. He’ll be without his stud WR Tamorrion Terry but will need to air it out to keep the Cardinals’ D honest. Louisville is tied for allowing the 18th-most rushing TDs and 13th-highest yards/completion in the nation this season (77 teams). And Louisville has only intercepted a single pass all season. As somewhat surprising five-point road dogs, I think Travis ends this with a career game.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville vs. Florida State (DK: $7,500 | O/U: 62.0)
Facing off with FSU and Travis, Malik Cunningham and crew will be motivated to halt a four-game skid, three straight on the road. It’s been a tough pill to swallow after defeating Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl to finish with an 8-5 record last season. They gave the plus defenses of Miami and Pittsburgh hell in two of those defeats, and narrowly lost to Notre Dame last week. The one that hurt the most was a 46-27 defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech. The Seminoles defense should be exactly what the doctor ordered as they’ve been average at best in 2020.
The Bottom Line: As you’ll soon learn, I am expecting value games from each of ULs Big 3. With five-or-more rushing attempts in each and multiple passing TDs in three-of-five, Cunningham should come close to the production while facing the Yellow Jackets in Week 6 (37.7 FPs).
Will Howard, Kansas State vs. Kansas (DK: $6,600 | O/U: 48.5)
With Skylar Thompson out for the season, Will Howard is in line to lead the Wildcats the rest of the way. In his first taste of action against TCU in Week 6, Howard took on a 35 percent carry share en route to 95 yards and a TD. His passing acumen is a work in progress, but I’ve read reports that Thompson has been working closely with Howard to get him up to speed. With Deuce Vaughn joining him in the backfield, Howard should have no issues taking advantage of a sieve-like Kansas defense.
The Bottom Line: My Pittsburgh source passed along that Kenny Pickett will miss the Notre Dame game this week. I was very impressed with Joey Yellen last week against Miami, but his disaster of an O-line will face a defense on another level in the Fighting Irish. All of that to say that our discounted QB options are slim to none after Travis and Howard -- might also include Spencer Sanders if it’s reported that he’ll exclusively run the show vs. Iowa State. Read further down in the Vaughn analysis to learn why I think this Kansas State duo are set up for big performances.
Mac Jones Alabama at Tennessee (DK: $8,300 | O/U: 66.0)
Spencer Rattler Oklahoma at TCU (DK: $8,500 | O/U: 60.0)
Cheap super-flex option (basement floor, be warned):
Joey Yellen Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame (DK: $5,900 | O/U: 43.5)
Option if healthy:
Spencer Sanders Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State (DK: $6,400 | O/U: 52.0)
Javonte Williams, North Carolina vs. NC State (DK: $7,800 | O/U: 60.0)
The Tar Heels have the luxury of a pair of future NFL RBs in Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. While Carter is clearly the preferred passing down option, Williams has drawn 13 combined targets over the last three games. With 328 rushing yards over his last two games to go with seven TDs, that passing volume makes him the must start of the slate.
The Bottom Line: NC State has been a surprisingly tough matchup this season. I actually think the Wolfpack will be more efficient with Bailey Hockman instead of Devin Leary. However, they’ve been most vulnerable against the run, allowing 150-plus rushing YPG and nine TDs. If I had to rank the top-five fantasy RBs to date: they’d be Breece Hall, Najee Harris, Sincere McCormick, Travis Etienne, and Williams.
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State vs. Kansas (DK: $7,000 | O/U: 48.5)
Let’s take a look at the Kansas defense. Against West Virginia in Week 7, they allowed Leddie Brown to average 10.5 YPC while posting 200 rushing yards. In their previous game, Week 5 vs. Oklahoma State in Lawrence, Chuba Hubbard averaged 7.3 YPC to lead a backfield that racked up 317 yards, 158 after contact. In Week 4, they permitted Tristan Ebner to total 124 yards and four TDs (two on kick returns). In their 38-23 Week 2 loss to Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers totaled 187 rushing yards, 131 after contact and a pair of TDs.
The Bottom Line: As you can see, the individual carrying the rock against Kansas has been an insignificant factor. With the ground game talents of Howard and Vaughn on tap, you can begin to understand why the Wildcats are 19.5-point home favorites implied to score 34 points in spite of the loss of Thompson. Make every attempt to roster at least one of the young studs this weekend.
Javian Hawkins, Louisville vs. Florida State (DK: $6,600 | O/U: 60.0)
I purposely left out describing the plus ground game matchup in Malik Cunningham’s Week 8 analysis. The reason being that I think it’s important to highlight just how appealing Javian Hawkins will be on Saturday. Florida State has allowed the seventh-most TDs (12) and the 19th-most rushing YPG (192.2) in the country. In five games this season, Hawkins has collected 507 rushing yards and three TDs. Keep in mind, two of those games were against the top-five run defenses of Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Passing game involvement was entirely absent from his repertoire until he caught eight-of-eight targets for 61 yards combined over the last two games.
The Bottom Line: If his passing involvement continues, Hawkins will be nearly impossible to sit. But, with 33.5 points implicated for the Cardinals, Hawkins is a chalk play sans a single target. With Najee Harris ($9,700) and Breece Hall ($9,000) priced through the roof, Hawkins makes for a great value without that much of a dropoff in upside.
T.J. Pledger, Oklahoma at TCU (DK: $6,400 | O/U: 60.0)
Teammate Seth McGowan missed the Sooners’ last game due to landing in the concussion protocol. If McGowan is cleared this week, T.J. Pledger’s upside will take a hit. His salary will become a difficult sell since we definitely want to avoid paying down at receiver. Without McGowan, Pledger collected 129 rushing yards and a pair of scores against the Longhorns. In two games prior with McGowan, he failed to top 100-yards in both games combined.
The Bottom Line: The Texas run defense is no pushover. I think Pledger is the most talented back with Kennedy Brooks deciding to opt out and no update on the availability on the suspension of Rhamondre Stevenson. I still think Pledger will produce better numbers with McGowan than in the previous two, just not sold that he’ll do enough to cover 19.2 FPs his salary implies.
Travis Etienne Clemson vs. Syracuse (DK: $8,200 | O/U: 61.5)
Kenneth Walker III Wake Forest vs. Kansas (DK: $7,200 | O/U: 68.5)
Jerrion Ealy Ole Miss vs. Auburn (DK: $6,800 | O/U: 70.5)
Tank Bigsby Auburn at Ole Miss (DK: $6,500 | O/U: 70.5)
Christian Beal-Smith Wake Forest vs. Virginia Tech (DK: $4,200 | O/U: 68.5)
Elijah Moore (WR), Ole Miss vs. Auburn (DK: $8,100 | O/U: 70.5)
How can we possibly fade Elijah Moore in this spot? He’s blown up to the tune of 43 receptions, 597 yards, and a pair of TDs in only four games. And we know Matt Corral will bend over backwards to put the ball into his hands. That said, I am avoiding Corral like the plague this week. After throwing a shocking SIX INTs against Arkansas, his hold on that role is tenuous, at best. However, it’s pretty obvious that Lane Kiffin is doing everything he can to prevent the offense from being forced to take a run-heavy approach with John Rhys-Plumlee in the lead.
The Bottom Line: Auburn’s man-heavy secondary is the strength of the defense. Things could go south for Corral if he doesn’t tighten up on those reads. Although, Moore has averaged nearly 11 receptions per game. That is DFS gold on DK. As 3.5-point dogs in Oxford, Vegas is still implying Ole Miss will score 33.5 points. We do run the risk of an immediate offensive scheme shift were Corral to begin the game with multiple picks. However, Moore’s upside is far too significant to pass up.
Jaylen Waddle (WR), Alabama at Tennessee (DK: $7,700 | O/U: 66.0)
If we were to rank the WRs for the 2021 draft, Jaylen Waddle would show up at No. 1. What’s truly insane is that DeVonta Smith would likely fall in at No. 2. The $700 discount for Waddle is enough to push Smith down to my fifth-ranked WR on the slate. The Tennessee defense has kept the team afloat in the midst of, as entirely expected, Jarrett Guarantano handicapping the offense. With 557 receiving yards and four TDs in four games, Waddle has balled-out no matter what numbers are listed on the scoreboard.
The Bottom Line: I love the way Nick Saban is using his elite playmakers. He is keeping them on the field to showcase their talents much longer than I remember his teams of the past. With the likelihood that every single starting skill position player, sans John Metchie III and the TEs, declares for the ‘21 draft, can we really blame him? Metchie isn’t receiving the same volume as Waddle or Smith, but he should not be forgotten at a fraction of the price ($5,500).
Tutu Atwell (WR), Louisville vs. Florida State (DK: $6,300 | O/U: 62.0)
Whether you roll with Malik Cunningham or not, Tutu Atwell is essentially scheduled to go off in this spot. Atwell has been one of, if not, the most consistent WRs in the nation since Week 1 of 2019. The fact that he’s only averaged 4.7 receptions, 43 yards, and 0.7 TDs the last three weeks gives me complete confidence that a breakout is nigh. And that belief persists with the knowledge that the Florida State secondary has been the most consistent unit on the defense.
The Bottom Line: Atwell was an absolute superstar as a dual-threat QB while attending Northwestern HS in Miami. He generated NCAA Lamar Jackson-like numbers. He has the speed and lateral quickness to take it to the house on every play. Make sure you give him every consideration after a three-week drought.
Seth Williams (WR), Auburn at Ole Miss (DK: $4,900 | O/U: 70.5)
The Ole Miss defense is currently the joke of the FBS. If not for a decent pass rush, I would rank the Rebels’ defense below many of the FCS teams I’ve seen this season. With that in mind, you can see why Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove are all hugely valuable in Week 8. What I really cannot understand is how Bo Nix’s salary increased by $800 this week while Williams’ decreased by $900?!? Nix was abysmal last week. He’s played himself out of any serious consideration of an NFL future.
The Bottom Line: At this embarrassingly low salary, Williams is a no-brainer, plug-and-play this week. If you do pass on Williams, make sure you roster either Schwartz or Stove. Implied to score 37.5 points, exposure to this game is a must. RB Tank Bigsby is another option. For me, the elite talent of Williams is a must play against the most vanilla-of-vanilla defenses in the country.
DeVonta Smith WR Alabama at Tennessee (DK: $8,400 | O/U: 66.0)
Joshua Moore WR Texas vs. Baylor (DK: $7,000 | O/U: 61.0)
John Metchie III WR Alabama at Tennessee (DK: $5,500 | O/U: 66.0)
Eli Stove WR Auburn at Ole Miss (DK: $5,500 | O/U: 70.5)
Anthony Schwartz WR Auburn at Ole Miss (DK: $5,300 | O/U: 70.5)
Tyquan Thornton WR Baylor at Texas (DK: $4,500 | O/U: 61.0)
Dirt cheap options:
Briley Moore TE Kansas State vs. Kansas (DK: $3,900 | O/U: 48.5)
Michael Mayer TE Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (DK: $3,300 | O/U: 43.5)
Option if healthy:
Jake Smith WR Texas vs. Baylor (DK: $5,800 | O/U: 61.0)