It’s entirely unclear how deep into 2021 the college football year will extend with several conferences (i.e., Big Ten & Pac-12) delaying the start of their seasons. Is that really such a bad thing? Not for avid fans who get their kicks out of matching college football DFS wits for life-changing prizes. This weekly series will follow the format of highlighting the DraftKings and FanDuel main slates with a thorough breakdown of each matchup. Individual play recommendations will abound to help you maximize your profits.
I’ll conclude each breakdown with a list of individual players from the slate that possess the most significant Developmental (Devy) potential, a fantasy format fastly-growing in popularity. For those unfamiliar, Devy leagues draft players as “futures” while they’re still in college with the purpose of eventually being transferred to their NFL fantasy rosters upon entering the NFL. This is a format that requires an appropriate level of research toward selecting the top athletes that will be coveted by NFL franchises. Without further delay, let’s jump right into the matchups.
Louisiana @ Iowa State
Gametime: 12:00 PM ET
Location: Ames, Iowa
Betting line: Iowa State -11.5
The Cyclones come into the matchup as 11.5 point favorites with an implied total of 34 points. On the strength of a solid secondary, Iowa State will employ zone-heavy coverages (Cover 2, Cover 4, and Cover 6) and look to shut down Louisiana’s inside and outside zone ground concepts with a decent run defense. On the other side, Louisiana will defend the pass with surprisingly-efficient Cover 3 and Cover 6 zones of their own in defense of future NFL talent Brock Purdy (DK: $7,300 / FD: $10,000).
If a weakness can be pinpointed within the Iowa State defense, it centers on a middling pass rush that, in combination with Levi Lewis’ (DK: $6,100 / FD: $7,900) success when facing the expected ISU coverages, will provide the ULL passing attack with opportunities through the air. Jalen Williams (DK: $4,700 / FD: $6,700) has found previous success attacking these zone coverages as the spread formation, “H” receiver out of the slot. As mentioned, the Iowa State run defense was effective last year, but they didn’t have the same type of success against offenses utilizing similar run techniques. Forgive me for taking a cautious approach. I still do not feel comfortable deploying either Elijah Mitchell (DK: $5,900 / FD: $7,900) or Trey Ragas (DK: $5,200 / FD: $6,500).
When it comes to Breece Hall (DK: $7,000 / FD: $9,200), however, I am all in. The Louisiana run defense proved a weakness last season, struggling against inside zone-heavy, and same-side pull lead rushing attacks. After being handed the reins to the rushing attack in Week 7, Hall proved to be elusive, solid in the passing game, and future NFL Starter. While Louisiana's pass defense was a strength, Purdy will be targeting one of the top receiving TEs in all of college football, Charlie Kolar (DK: $4,500 / FD: $8,000). Not only did Kolar succeed when facing these zone shells, but he also popped off the screen. I will have decent exposure to Kolar on DraftKings.
Iowa State will be replacing over half of their receiving snaps from last season. We know someone will emerge at receiver for the Cyclones. However, the pricing of Tarique Milton (DK: $6,400 / FD: $8,200), Xavier Hutchinson (DK: $4,900 / FD: $6,500), and Sean Shaw Jr. (DK: $5,400 / FD: $7,200) does not come without risk. I am more comfortable fading them this week to see who emerges with the danger that ISU could pull away in this home matchup.
Chalk: Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, Charlie Kolar, Jalen Williams
On the fence: Levi Lewis, Elijah Mitchell, Trey Ragas, Cyclone receivers
Fade: Other Ragin’ Cajun receivers
Eastern Kentucky @ West Virginia
Gametime: 12:00 PM ET
Location: Morgantown, West Virginia
Betting line: West Virginia -40.5
If you missed the beatdown of EKU at the hands of Marshall last week, allow me to educate. The Colonels only gained seven first downs and 166 total yards in the 59-0 obliteration. Marshall racked up 627 yards of offense, led by QB Grant Wells who eclipsed 300 yards passing while finding four different receivers for scoring strikes. It should come as no shock that the Mountaineers come in as 40.5 point favorites with an implied total of 48 points.
First things first, zero value can be found from within the EKU offense. Not surprisingly, if you want to roster West Virginia players, you’ll need to empty your pockets. After transferring over from Bowling Green last season, Jarret Doege (DK: $8,200 / FD: $9,800) proved to be the most capable QB on the roster. He’ll have proven talents in Sam James (DK: $7,400 / FD: $9,100) and T.J. Simmons (DK: $5,100 / FD: $7,500) on his radar to attack the EKU Cover 3 defense.
The only question for the Mountaineers’ offense is the length of time they’ll remain on active duty. The score is expected to get out of hand rather quickly. When that happens, West Virginia will continue to pound the rock using inside and outside zone-heavy run concepts with RB1a Leddie Brown (DK: $7,700 / FD: $9,500) and RB1b Tony Mathis Jr. (DK: $4,400 / FD: $8,000). For my money, I love Mathis in this spot. He’s already assured of seeing a share of starter’s snaps and the WVU coaching staff will likely ride him late into the second half since this will be his first live action with the team.
Chalk: Sam James, Jarret Doege, Leddie Brown, Tony Mathis Jr., T.J. Simmons
On the fence: Bryce Ford Wheaton
Fade: Entire Eastern Kentucky offense
Syracuse @ North Carolina
Gametime: 12:00 PM ET
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Betting line: North Carolina -23
After taking a five-year hiatus from coaching, Mack Brown returned to the role as head football coach of UNC where he coached from 1988-1997. And boy did he make a splash upon his return. The key to his success has been Sam Howell (DK: $8,900 / FD: $10,100). During Howell’s true freshman season, he passed for multiple TD passes in every contest and exceeded 300 passing yards in nearly half of his games. It was somewhat surprising that Howell didn’t do more work on the ground after racking up 2,986 rushing yards and 41 TDs during his junior and senior seasons at Sun Valley High.
With slot receiver Dazz Newsome (DK: $7,900 / FD: $9,000) and Dyami Brown (DK: $6,900 / FD: $9,300) at receiver, Howell simply didn’t need to use his legs. Syracuse will attempt to counter the Tar Heels’ spread offense with a reputable Cover 1/Cover 3 secondary. But UNC is simply dressed to the nines with Toe Groves (DK: $4,100 / FD: $5,000) and true freshman phenom Josh Downs (DK: $3,000 / FD: $5,300) further strengthening the passing attack. Downs has already battled his way to being Newsome’s backup in the slot after averaging a healthy 18.8 FPS during his last two seasons at top-50 ranked North Gwinnett High.
North Carolina is more than a three-TD favorite, expected to generate 44 points of offense. OC Phil Longo has a tendency to aggressively push the ball down the field, extending into the latter stages, providing value, albeit at some risk, to receivers such as Groves, Beau Corrales (DK: $5,000 / FD: $7,300), and Downs. At his minimum price on DKs, I love Downs as a tournament dart. As for the ground game of UNC, rostering either Michael Carter (DK: $6,500 / FD: $8,200) or Javonte Williams (DK: $5,600 / FD: $7,800) makes plenty of sense. One of the two will most likely produce in the RB1 territory but third-string true freshman D.J. Jones (DK: $3,900 / FD: $4,000) could also be a sneaky play.
Chalk: Sam Howell, Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown, Josh Downs
On the fence: Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, D.J. Jones
Fade: Entire Syracuse offense
Arkansas State @ Kansas State
Gametime: 12:00 PM ET
Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Betting line: Kansas State -10.5
The Arkansas State offense will hope for a better showing after failing to get anything going last week at Memphis. I was rather surprised to see the Red Wolves’ staff not only give the starting nod to Logan Bonner (DK: $7,700 / FD: $9,500) but to roll him out in a timeshare with Layne Hatcher (DK: $7,700 / FD: $9,500). The passing offense appeared stale without providing either QB an opportunity to generate a rhythm. Hatcher simply deserves better after throwing for multiple TDs in every 2019 start and exceeding 300 passing yards in 78 percent of his starts.
With Arkansas State receivers facing the Cover 2/Cover 3 secondary shells of Kansas State, look at Jonathan Adams Jr. (DK: $6,000 / FD: $7,200) who has been successful when facing these coverage types. I am split on Dahu Green (DK: $5,500 / FD: $6,400) but can see the merits of playing him. Although, the Red Wolves’ power- and counter-heavy rushing attack did not pass the eye test last week, so I will be fading Marcel Murray (DK: $5,400 / FD: $7,300) who is expected to return from injury.
As for Kansas State, they are led by Skylar Thompson (DK: $6,800 / FD: $9,000) who generated a healthy 10.4 FPS average on the ground, generating a solid floor. Thompson is a solid sidestep from Howell or Doege at his surprisingly-cheap salary on DKs. I do not trust the Wildcats’ pecking order at RB. With unknowns at the top two options, both seniors, I feel this may be out of respect to the upperclassmen more than an indication of the distribution of carries. This is a situation to monitor for future weeks. I do, however, like their starting X, Malik Knowles (DK: $6,100 / FD: $7,300), who loves running underneath routes against the Cover 4/Cover 6 shells Arkansas State will roll out.
Chalk: Skylar Thompson, Malik Knowles, Jonathan Adams Jr.
On the fence: Harry Trotter, Dahu Green
Fade: Arkansas State QBs, Marcel Murray
Louisiana Monroe @ Army
Gametime: 1:30 PM ET
Location: West Point, New York
Betting line: Army -21
Just wow! That being my reaction to seeing the supernova-job the Army 3-4 defense did on fantasy darling Asher O’Hara during their 42-0 obliteration of Middle Tennessee last week. Any cute ideas of starting a single player from the Louisiana Monroe offense, sans Josh Johnson (DK: $7,100 / FD: $8,900), will not see my approval. Johnson has proved his worth against some decent defenses, but still comes in too pricey for my liking. Instead, the Black Knights’ rushing offense is likely to be the sole DFS contributor in this matchup.
ULM hasn't faced a triple-option offense since 2018. The trap-, power-, and pull-heavy rushing attack will largely feature fullback Sandon McCoy (DK: $6,300 / FD: $8,700) as the bruising bowling ball down the middle. The Army offensive line devistates weaker defensive lines using misdirection and cut blocks to sit down unassuming defenders. The lightning to McCoy’s thunder, true frosh Tyrell Robinson (DK: $3,400 / FD: $6,700) burst onto the scene last week with over 100 yards and a TD. If you feel like that performance was no fluke, his DKs salary is very enticing.
Chalk: Sandon McCoy, Tyrell Robinson
On the fence: Josh Johnson
Fade: Everyone else
Duke @ Notre Dame
Gametime: 2:30 PM ET
Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
Betting line: Notre Dame -20
Duke seems to be walking into an ambush. Heading into enemy territory to face a top-five defense with questions at WR and facing an offense with an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions. Ian Book (DK: $8,700 / FD: $10,500) has done well when facing Cover 1 (man) defenses, but whose price does not reflect the matchup-ceilings of Howell or Doege. His backfield mate, redshirt freshman Kyren Williams (DK: $6,600 / FD: $8,500), is another story. Williams rushed for nearly 3,000 yards with 48 TDs and 106 receptions over his final two seasons at St. John Vianney High. While the Blue Devils have a stout run defense, they have not seen the same results when facing man- and same-side pull-heavy rushing attacks.
The Fighting Irish offer no less than three viable receiving options. Easily the best of the bunch, Javon McKinley (DK: $7,200 / FD: $7,800) has historically shredded man coverage. Avery Davis (DK: $5,000 / FD: $6,900) and Braden Lenzy (DK: $4,000 / FD: $7,100) are also in play as lower-salary options to take a share of Notre Dame’s 37 implied points. As for Duke, do yourself a favor and avoid their RBs and WRs. None of them are worth the risk. Noah Gray (DK: $4,200 / FD: $5,800) could be the security blanket for new QB, Clemson transfer, Chase Brice (DK: $5,300 / FD: $7,400). I actually don’t hate Brice as a tourney dart throw, I just hate the matchup.
Chalk: Kyren Williams, Javon McKinley, Braden Lenzy, Avery Davis
On the fence: Ian Book, Chase Brice, Noah Gray
Fade: Duke RBs, Duke WRs, Notre Dame TEs
Georgia Tech @ Florida State
Gametime: 3:30 PM ET
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Betting line: Florida State -12.5
When it comes to teams playing games with the release of their two-deeps, I feel it is only the fans and fantasy owners who take the brunt of the punishment. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single college team in recent history utilizing these antics while finishing with a conference championship. Georgia Tech is one team that attempts to keep their opponents “guessing.” To compound the matter, HC Geoff Collins has indicated that he wants to utilize a three-headed backfield to lead his Pro-Style ground scheme, a strategy that could render all involved useless for DFS purposes.
Florida State is favored here by 12.5 with an implication of 32 points. Personally, it’s rather shocking that James Blackman (DK: $6,500 / FD: $8,800) is still only a redshirt junior. The FSU offense leans more on its ground game and Blackman has never been one to push for his own yardage on the ground. He will, however, have one of the top WRs in the country in his crosshairs, Tamorrion Terry (DK: $7,800 / FD: $8,800). The Georgia Tech defense proved to be a liability across the board last season, setting Terry up for an explosive performance in what will likely be his final season at FSU.
The Seminoles run the football straight up the middle with their inside zone assault. I expect both Texas A&M transfer Jashaun Corbin (DK: $6,800 / FD: $8,800) and dirt-cheap backup Lawrence Toafili (DK: $3,000 / FD: $4,600) to devour the Yellow Jackets’ poor run defense. On the other side of the ball, I foresee true frosh Jeff Sims (DK: $4,500 / FD: $7,000) being named the starter. The Elite 11 QB has poise beyond his years coming out of Sandalwood High. As long as he doesn’t allow the setting to overwhelm him, he could prove to be a top contrarian play against a less-than-elite zone secondary with one of my top underpriced plays on the slate in Marquez Ezzard (DK: $3,000 / FD: $6,000) starting at flanker.
Chalk: Tamorrion Terry, Jashaun Corbin, Lawrence Toafili, Marquez Ezzard
On the fence: Jeff Sims, Jordan Mason
Fade: James Blackman
Clemson @ Wake Forest (FanDuel Only)
Gametime: 7:30 PM ET
Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Betting line: Clemson -33
Jumping over to the four games that, from the main Saturday slates, are solely offered on FanDuel. We start with the 33-point favorite of Clemson who will head into Winston-Salem to face off with Wake Forest’s sad, 13.5 implied total. The Demon Deacons exceeded all expectations last year with QB Jamie Newman and superstud WR Sage Surratt. Newman transferred to Georgia, then opted out, while Surratt remained on Wake’s roster to announce his own decision to opt out. Without Surratt, Wake simply doesn’t stand a chance against a Clemson defense with four-to-five star playmakers falling out of their pockets. I have serious doubts they’ll even cover their implicated total.
The additional games on FanDuel offer us several notable DFS options at QB, beginning with Trevor Lawrence ($10,200). Last season, Lawrence combined an average of 10.4 FPS on the ground with what is likely the top arm in the country. The Clemson passing attack is balanced by the elite skills of Travis Etienne ($9,700) who is perfectly-suited to the Tigers’ inside zone- and counter-heavy run concepts. Lawrence lost the talents of Tee Higgins to the NFL and Justyn Ross to a potential career-ending injury. It’s next man up for Clemson with slot receiver Amari Rodgers ($8,500), son of Tee Martin, and Joseph Ngata ($8,300) both offering considerable DFS potential, at a price.
Chalk: Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Amari Rodgers, Joseph Ngata
On the fence: None
Fade: Wake Forest
Tulane @ South Alabama (FanDuel Only)
Gametime: 7:30 PM ET
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Betting line: Tulane -10
I feel this will prove to be one of the closest matchups on either of the main slates. South Alabama finally discovered a QB able to move the ball down the field in Desmond Trotter ($8,600). If Trotter displays the rushing ability he utilized last week at Southern Miss, he will be in consideration during future weeks. Until then, however, he is gifted with two WRs that are on the verge of becoming CFB DFS household names: Jalen Tolbert ($9,900) and Jalen Wayne ($7,300). Although, I’m fading Tolbert this week and focusing on Wayne. Tolbert has struggled mightily when facing man coverages -- Tulane’s secondary is entirely man-centric (Cover 0/Cover 1) -- whereas Wayne has done his best work when facing the same shells.
Unfortunately, the Jaguars’ carry distribution plays against the value of Carlos Davis ($6,800). The same can be said for Tulane, who seem to rotate their entire roster through the backfield trying to find the hot hand. With Keon Howard ($8,000) under center, the upside of the Green Wave receivers are capped. Howard was below replacement-level when facing Cover 3 and Cover 4 zone types last season. He is also hesitant to tuck-and-run, providing us with little of value.
Chalk: Jalen Wayne
On the fence: Desmond Trotter, Tyjae Spears, Deuce Watts
Fade: Jalen Tolbert, Carlos Davis, Keon Howard, Amare Jones
UTEP @ Texas (FanDuel Only)
Gametime: 8:00 PM ET
Location: Austin, Texas
Betting line: Texas -43
Yet another mismatch of monstrous-proportions, as the Longhorns will host the Miners fresh off their 24-14 victory over Stephen F. Austin. UTEP players are simply not an option as 43-point underdogs and expected to score 7.5 points. As for Texas, they will field one of the top QBs across all fantasy formats in Sam Ehlinger ($10,700). Ehlinger combines excellent accuracy, aggression, deep-ball targets, and an average of 10.8 FPS gained on the ground to construct the perfect DFS QB. He will, however, be without his No. 1 target, true sophomore Jake Smith. The poor, poor Texas offense. In his stead, look out for the return of Jordan Whittingham ($5,600), who missed all but one ‘19 game due to injury.
The Longhorns’ backfield is one of the top-five in the nation. Featuring junior Keaontay Ingram ($8,600), true sophomore Roschon Johnson ($7,700), and true freshman phenom Bijan Robinson ($5,500). The UTEP run defense is simply out of its depths. Texas’ offense will have their way on the ground and through the air without noticeable resistance. They will likely approach 400 yards on the ground as Texas tops 50 points. I expect there to be plenty of time remaining for Robinson to enter the game to make a considerable impact in his debut. Robinson averaged a whopping 41 FPS for top-100 ranked Salpointe Catholic High with over 4,600 rushing yards during his final two seasons.
The expected Texas rushing success does not mean to indicate that Ehlinger will starve his receivers. Whittingham should be very involved and, going out on a bit of a limb, I also think Tarik Black ($8,400) will have a solid game. Black transferred in from Michigan this season to secure the starting split end spot. He didn’t have much success facing the Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover 3 shells UTEP is likely to field, but he wasn’t facing UTEP, either.
Chalk: Sam Ehlinger, Jordan Whittingham, Tarik Black, Keaontay Ingram, Roschon Johnson, Bijan Robinson
On the fence: None
Western Kentucky @ Louisville (FanDuel Only)
Gametime: 8:00 PM ET
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Betting line: Louisville -11.5
The Hilltoppers came out of nowhere last season to finish 9-4 with a victory over Western Michigan in the Servpro First Responder Bowl. On the heels of a power- and frontside pull-heavy rushing attack and a lockdown secondary, WKU overcame a Week 1 loss to Central Arkansas to upset Arkansas 45-19 later in the season. They’ll be led by “Piggy-T” Pigrome ($6,700), who transferred over from Maryland. Gaej Walker ($7,600) will once again be featured as the bell-cow back.
On the other side, the Louisville offense will be operated by Micale Cunningham ($9,400) with future NFL slot receiver Tutu Atwell ($9,600) seeing a litany of targets. They both hold hefty price tags and are well worth every penny. Cunningham provided an average of 9.9 FPS on the ground last season to go along with remarkable accuracy. His favorite target, Atwell, feasted on the entirety of the Cardinals’ schedule, including Western Kentucky in Week 3 that resulted in a 5/145/3 line.
Louisville is favored by 11.5 points with an implied total of 34.5 points. Eerily similar numbers to the actual score of that Week 3 showdown, 38-21. Before you deploy Walker against the Cards, consider that Louisville did a tremendous job in defense of WKUs preferred run concepts. They limited Gaej to 14/41/0 last season and I expect a similar result. The Cardinals’ backfield, however, will attack Western Kentucky at one of their few weak spots… defending the combination of inside zone and counter handoffs. Look for redshirt sophomore Javian Hawkins ($9,000) to gash the WKU defense for over 100 yards and a TD.
Chalk: Tutu Atwell, Micale Cunningham, Javian Hawkins
On the fence: Marshon Ford, Joshua Simon
Fade: Gaej Walker, Tyrrell Pigrome
Main Slate Devy Stock Report
|Frank Ladson Jr.||WR||6-3/205||So||Clemson|
|Chubba Purdy||QB||6-2/212||Fr||Florida State|
|Jashaun Corbin||RB||6-0/213||R-So||Florida State|
|Lawrance Toafili||RB||6-0/180||Fr||Florida State|
|Camren McDonald||TE||6-4/238||Jr||Florida State|
|Tamorrion Terry||WR||6-4/210||R-Jr||Florida State|
|Isaiah Bolden||WR||6-2/196||Fr||Florida State|
|Marquez Ezzard||WR||6-2/210||R-So||Georgia Tech|
|Brock Purdy||QB||6-1/212||Jr||Iowa State|
|Charlie Kolar||TE||6-6/257||R-Jr||Iowa State|
|Ian Book||QB||6-0/206||Gr||Notre Dame|
|Kyren Williams||RB||5-9/194||So/R-Fr||Notre Dame|
|Chris Tyree||RB||5-9/188||Fr||Notre Dame|
|Tommy Tremble||TE||6-3/242||Jr/R-So||Notre Dame|
|Javon McKinley||WR||6-2/215||Gr||Notre Dame|
|Braden Lenzy||WR||5-11/181||Jr/R-So||Notre Dame|
|Sam Howell||QB||6-1/225||So||North Carolina|
|Javonte Williams||RB||5-10/220||Jr||North Carolina|
|Dazz Newsome||WR||5-11/190||Sr||North Carolina|
|Dyami Brown||WR||6-0/185||Jr||North Carolina|
|Josh Downs||WR||5-10/175||Fr||North Carolina|
|Sage Surratt||WR||6-3/215||R-Jr||Wake Forest|
|Gaej Walker||RB||6-0/195||R-Sr||Western Kentucky|
|Joshua Simon||TE||6-5/235||So||Western Kentucky|
|Sam James||WR||6-0/184||R-So||West Virginia|
|T.J. Simmons||WR||6-2/198||R-Sr||West Virginia|