DraftKings UFL Championship Showdown DFS Plays

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DraftKings UFL Championship Showdown DFS Plays

After 11 incredible weeks of football, the UFL season is coming to an end. Thankfully, we still have one DFS slate left before we can no longer gamble on this glorious spring league. And with $10K to first place in the big DraftKings GPP, we still have plenty of reasons to grind out edges in UFL DFS. This article will highlight those edges for the championship game.

When making showdown teams, maximize the correlations between the players in your lineups while also trying to target players who should be on the lower end of ownership. Basically, get creative! And don’t worry—I’ll highlight the best ways to get contrarian below.

There won’t be a TL;DR this week, so if you need players listed in order of value, check out our projections.

The recommendations in this article are specific to the main ($20) UFL GPP. With that in mind, let’s get into the UFL plays.

Quarterbacks

Nearly every slate this UFL season begins with Adrian Martinez ($11,000), and it’s easy to see why: the 2024 UFL MVP averaged 28.9 DraftKings FPG in his seven regular season starts – easily the most in modern spring football history and not far behind 2019 Lamar Jackson (29.4 DraftKings FPG) for the greatest fantasy season in professional history.

Martinez has performed well as a runner (he is the league leader in rushing yards despite playing seven full games) and as a passer (he has two games of 300-plus passing yards) throughout the season, but he has shown plenty of weakness over the last few games.

Since Week 9, Martinez has averaged only 14.0 DraftKings FPG – and all three of those contests came against playoff defenses – including Week 9 against San Antonio (17.0 DraftKings points). The best defenses in the UFL have prioritized keeping Martinez in the pocket, and it’s taken his fantasy scores from ‘the greatest fantasy QB ever’ to close to replacement level.

To make matters worse, Martinez was benched last week with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter after three turnovers. HC Skip Holtz has said over and over again that both he and the team have tremendous faith in backup QB Matt Corral ($10,600) – so a short leash for Martinez should be expected in the championship game. Thankfully, we at least know that Martinez will start…

This is a tricky spot. Martinez has massively struggled as of late – to the point that he was benched in a playoff game. But he also has the best upside of any QB in modern spring football history. I fully expect him to be the highest-owned captain and flex play of the slate, but I also wouldn’t consider him a must-play – like he would have been on any Birmingham showdown slate a month ago. And the matchup is brutal — San Antonio has allowed the 2nd-lowest YPA (6.0) since Week 6 and has allowed the 2nd-fewest YPG (268.0) over the full season.

And while Holtz has confirmed Martinez will start, he did note in his mid-week media availability that “after the 3rd or 4th drive, who knows” when asked about Corral playing in the championship game. The leash really could not be shorter here.

And that makes Matt Corral ($10,600) compelling flex play on lineups that anticipate Martinez gets benched. That said, Corral is the 2nd-most expensive player of the slate, so if the benching doesn’t happen in the first half, it’s nearly impossible to see him getting you there. I’ll be making around 50 teams for the main GPP, and I’ll end up with around 10% Corral. I would also note that Corral has a stronger correlation with the Brahmas DST ($3,800), because a Martinez benching would mean he committed some brutal turnovers.

Chase Garbers ($10,200) has played in only four full games, but he’s been a solid fantasy QB in those outings, averaging 18.1 DraftKings FPG.

I’m not particularly excited about Garbers as a captain for this game, as I would rather just pay the extra $800 for the upside of Martinez or save some salary and grab a high-upside skill player. But I do think you can make an interesting case for Garbers based on the matchup.

Birmingham switched defensive coordinators before Week 8, and the defense has taken a step back since the change. In the first seven weeks of the season, Birmingham was the league’s single-toughest defense by YPG allowed (251.0), giving up 5.9 YPA (2nd-toughest) and 2.8 YPC (2nd-toughest). Since the coordinator change, Birmingham is allowing 322.5 YPG (+28% worse), 7.0 YPA (+19% worse), and 3.9 YPC (+39% worse). This is no longer a defense to shy away from when making lineups.

I’ll be targeting Garbers as primarily a flex play, but it’s also worth noting that he has outsized injury risk in this game. Garbers was placed on IR after a Week 3 contest in which he broke his non-throwing wrist, returned in Week 9, and then reinjured the wrist in Week 10 and was unable to return. Of course, he completed a full game against St. Louis last week, but it’s clear his wrist injury hasn’t fully healed. Similar to Martinez, his downside risk is pretty massive here if he is pulled from the game (due to reinjury). One could argue for Quinten Dormady ($9,200) on the off-chance Garbers reinjures his wrist, but that’s far too thin for me to entertain.

Birmingham Running Backs

The Birmingham RB room is pretty straightforward. Ricky Person ($7,400) is your power back and the player we expect to handle the plurality of high-value backfield rushing work. In Person’s last three games with CJ Marable ($7,800), he’s claimed 54% of backfield weighted opportunity (7.5 WO/G), 56% of backfield carries (7.3 carries per game), and 43% of backfield targets (1.0 targets per game).

If those numbers don’t sound compelling, it’s because they aren’t. As Birmingham’s offense has struggled mightily to end the season, so has their backfield to produce compelling fantasy scores. This went from the UFL’s most valuable fantasy backfield in Weeks 1 through 6 (25.5 WO/G), to a meager 16.6 WO/G from Week 7 on – a mark that would rank 3rd-worst over the full season, ahead of only Memphis (16.5 WO/G) and DC (14.2 WO/G).

63% of Person’s fantasy scoring has come on the ground this year, and he’s been less involved as a receiver (34% route share, 6.6% target share) than Marable (43% route share, 8.3% target share). He’s scored more than 15.0 DraftKings points three times this season, and all of those games were victories of at least 13 points by Birmingham.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Person is going to have a brutal time against an above-average run defense (3.5 YPC allowed since Week 5, 2nd-toughest among all teams) unless Birmingham can dominate this game. The Stallions are only favored by 3.0 points, so a strong positive gamescript is far from a guarantee. I’ll be primarily playing Person in the flex on teams that anticipate a Birmingham win, generally with the Birmingham DST (+0.31 correlation).

Marable has a profile that’s a bit more suited to neutral or negative gamescript (see receiving stats noted above), but I do worry a bit about his touchdown equity. Since Week 5, Person has handled 63% of backfield carries inside the 10. Person is clearly the more powerful back, and the usage close to the goal line has skewed in favor of Person as the season has gone on.

Because of these clear usage trends, I do prefer Marable in lineups that anticipate Birmingham playing from behind.

Marable does have a few other reasons for optimism. Person (-0.05) has a negative correlation with Adrian Martinez, while Marable (+0.07) has shown to be more correlated with the Stallions’ QB.

And, after last week’s win, HC Skip Holtz said, “I thought CJ Marable had a great game. And Ricky Person started.” It’s worth noting that Marable was the listed starter for the first month of the season before being overtaken by Person. While the title of ‘starter’ doesn’t mean much in this backfield, there’s a chance the team leans back into Marable after a string of games where he has looked better on film.

I’m not excited to play either Birmingham RB as a captain (that is still viable, though), but I will be primarily entertaining them in the flex. Marable is a slight preference as a flex play overall, but deciding which RB to use is more of a game of ‘what story is my lineup telling’ rather than just clicking the better value.

San Antonio Running Backs

Anthony McFarland ($9,000) is my single favorite play on this slate in every regard. He’s looked unstoppable since he returned from IR in Week 8…

During the regular season, the league’s most efficient RB (excluding McFarland) who played in at least five games was Jacob Saylors (+1.7 PAR). Over the last three weeks, McFarland has been over 500% more efficient than Saylors was in the 2024 regular season.

An efficiency regression for McFarland is inevitable. However, hyper-efficiency is a proven precursor to improved volume. And volume is almost all that matters for the RB position.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that McFarland went from a 51% snap share in his first game back from IR (Week 8) to a 68% snap share in Week 9 after a hyper-efficient outing. A reinjury of his shoulder at the end of the Brahmas Week 9 contest likely kept McFarland’s workload in check for last Sunday’s game (9.2 WO, 45% snap share).

This showed up on film, too. McFarland fielded 11 carries last week, but his first carry wasn’t until the 11:30 mark of the 2nd quarter. The team wanted to see him run some routes and take a few hits before they felt comfortable giving him a handoff.

The only bad thing I can say about McFarland is that he has a higher-than-average injury risk. The shoulder injury I’ve been mentioning throughout this blurb was a stinger so severe he had to go on IR after Week 3, and he re-injured that same shoulder in Week 9.

But the team has no incentive to take it easy on McFarland. He’s the most talented skill-position player on the field in this game, and feeding him the ball will only help San Antonio’s chances. He also draws a pretty great on-paper matchup; the Stallions have allowed 120.0 rushing YPG since switching defense coordinators in Week 8 – the most in the UFL over that time span.

John Lovett ($5,800) is also in a great position to take advantage of the Stallions' recent inability to defend the run. His pass-catching upside with McFarland back is effectively nonexistent – Lovett has managed just 1.2 targets per game in his five games with McFarland this year. And, for similar reasons, he’s an exceptionally bad correlated pairing with Chase Garbers in a vacuum (-0.97 correlation in four games. Yes, I triple-checked that number).

But – at least on the ground – Lovett remains a tremendous threat. In his five games with McFarland, he’s still managed 10.8 rush attempts per game and 86% of backfield inside-the-five touches. And he’s been efficient on top of it, ranking 4th of 16 regular-season qualifiers in YPC (4.1).

Lovett’s price is reasonable enough, and his rushing TD equity high enough, that he can still be played in the captain position – but only on teams that anticipate either a Brahmas win or a significant amount of positive gamescript for San Antonio. Similarly, I’ll target Lovett in my San Antonio onslaught lineups, and on teams that have the Brahmas DST (0.00 correlation).

Morgan Ellison ($3,600) rounds out the active RBs for San Antonio, but he’s not in play unless you anticipate an injury for either Lovett or McFarland. Last week (with both McFarland and Lovett active), Ellison managed just two carries, a 7% snap share, and zero routes.

Birmingham Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Deon Cain ($7,200) is no stranger to massive fantasy scores in a spring football championship game. Last year’s USFL championship MVP went for 29.0 DraftKings points and 3 TDs in the title game. While the film (and most underlying receiving stats) suggest Cain is (at worst) a top-2 pass catcher on this team, there is a pretty clear problem.

In their playoff game last week, Birmingham went back to platoon-style WR substitutions. The result? All six active Birmingham WRs earned a route share between 43% and 54%.

This makes even general analysis here difficult, but I still think it’s safe to call Cain the team’s top option at WR. Cain (22% target share) has earned 25 more targets than the next-closest Stallions’ WR – but he also accomplished that as a full-time player (74% route share from Week 2 through 10). If he’s capped at a ~60% route share in the championship game, he’s more of a mediocre play as the slate’s 9th-most expensive option. He’s still a viable captain, but not one I’ll be eager to jam in.

Marlon Williams ($6,400) faces similar playing time concerns as Cain, but it’s at least encouraging that Williams (8.9 receiving FPG) led the team in receiving fantasy production this season, albeit just barely. Williams will split the Stallions’ slot role with Amari Rodgers ($5,000), and it’s easy to make an argument for either player as a flex play (Birmingham’s slot role has been worth 15.0 receiving FPG since Week 5, which would rank 1st over the full season if treated as one player).

But if Williams (54% route share last week) and Rodgers (43% route share) are splitting the routes, it feels nearly impossible to have a clear lean here. I’ll be sprinkling both players in my lineups as flex options, and I could be convinced to have some small exposure to either player as a captain.

I am more interested in the cheaper Birmingham WRs: Kevin Austin ($3,200), Gary Jennings ($2,400), and Binjimen Victor ($1,600).

Austin didn’t have a target last week on a 54% route share. Still, he did emerge as the Stallions’ WR3 during the regular season, notching a 10% target share in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Austin has some upside with his overall playing time (three games with a route share over 65% in the final month of the regular season), and he’s a big play threat – 8% of his targets this season have gone for TDs of 40 yards or more.

Jennings is eerily similar to Austin in terms of raw skills but without any of the target volume (20 yards on 9 targets this season). He’s easily my least favorite of the low-priced trio, but his 51% route share last week (highest mark since Week 2) keeps him in play as a flex-only flier.

Victor is one of the best raw values on the Birmingham side of this game. But that’s more of a function of his rock-bottom price than his actual usage. Victor hasn’t eclipsed a double-digit target share since Week 4, but he does carry acceptable TD equity, ranking 5th on the team in red zone targets (3) this season. Really, he’s just a pure punt – but still a solid option if you need the savings.

While analysis on a group of WRs who are all expected to run a similar number of routes is pretty difficult, these Birmingham TEs are as straightforward as can be.

Jace Sternberger ($6,800) has the most secure route share on the team. Last week, Sternberger posted a 97% route share – the highest mark by any Birmingham player this season.

Raw volume could still be argued as a concern here. Sternberger’s 13% target share over his last five games would only rank 24th-best among all UFL pass catchers over the full season. Still, the recent upward trend in both his playing time and volume is a great sign for a potential championship game breakout performance…

And, as I noted last week, HC Skip Holtz did say that going into the playoffs, the team should focus on getting Sternberger the ball more. At the very least, Sternberger runs so many more routes than the next-closest Stallion that an increase in volume seems trivial at this point. He’s a viable captain, one of the top Birmingham flex options, and a strong pairing with Adrian Martinez.

Jordan Thomas ($3,000) is over-priced relative to his 14% route share last week, but he is a major scoring threat. Thomas has 8 targets on conversion attempts this season – by far the most in the UFL (the next-closest player has 5) – and another 2 targets from scrimmage inside the 10. At 6’6”, Thomas is frequently awarded jump-ball opportunities in (or near) the end zone. Given his relative pricing, I still think he’s pretty thin, but he can be considered in play.

Marcus Baugh ($1,000) would not be in play in nearly any scenario after he posted a 2% route share in the conference championships. He can be safely ignored.

San Antonio Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The San Antonio passing attack revolves around Jontre Kirklin ($10,000) – who led the UFL in target share (27%) and raw targets (83), while ranking 3rd in receiving FPG (13.5) and 2nd in yards per team pass attempt (1.90).

Kirklin has great upside (28.7 DraftKings points in Week 10) and is remarkably consistent – hitting double-digit fantasy points in 82% of his games this season. He represents both a great captain and flex play this week and can be played in builds ranging from one Brahmas player and five Stallions to full-blown San Antonio onslaughts.

After Kirklin, things open up a bit. Justin Smith ($5,200) has gone for over 15.0 DraftKings points in 30% of his games but has otherwise flopped (3.7 DraftKings FPG in his other seven games). That said, Smith has hit at least a 94% route share in every game this season, and he’s been utilized all over the field (4th among Championship game players in deep targets, 3rd in intermediate targets, and 5th in short targets). He profiles as fairly boom or bust, making a slightly more compelling captain than flex, but he’s more viable in both spots.

Marquez Stevenson ($6,600) looks to have fully recovered from the unreported lower-body injury that seemed to slow him down on film for the 2nd-half of the regular season. Speedy dropped 17.3 DraftKings points in last week’s playoff game, leading to his best PFF receiving grade (76.3) of the season and his first grade over 65.0 since Week 2. If Stevenson is fully healthy (which all statistical and film evidence supports), he would pop as one of the most explosive players in the championship game. The only issue is volume. Stevenson hasn’t earned more than 5 targets since Week 4 and hasn’t beaten the cheaper Justin Smith in single-game target share since Week 5.

While that doesn’t paint an incredible case for Stevenson, it does serve to lower his overall ownership. He’s a player who really pops on film and was hampered by injury for ~50% of the season, so I’m willing to be overweight here in pretty much every regard – as he’s right there as the fastest player on the field when healthy.

Now that we know Landen Akers is out, Calvin Turner ($1,000) is one of the slate's best salary-relief options. Akers and Turner had been splitting the WR4 role in the slot (which is fairly valuable in an offense that runs a ton of 10 personnel), and that collectively amounted to a 70% route share in the conference championships. The big problem here is that while the team will scheme throws to the other players mentioned above, they won’t go out of their way to get the ball to their WR4 (Akers and Turner both zeroed last week).

TE Alize Mack ($1,200) is the only remaining TE left on the roster, and San Antonio’s incredible rushing success last week led to Mack earning his highest route share of the season (44%). Mack only has 13 targets on the season, but it’s certainly encouraging that 4 of those have come inside the 10-yard line (most on the team). Combine that with a clear shift toward more 11 personnel, and I do see a bit of an upside case here – granted it mostly revolves around falling into the end zone.

In the battle of salary-saving Brahmas, I generally prefer Turner. Despite being a non-factor last week, Turner and Akers did combine for a 26% target share in Week 10, and Mack just doesn’t have that kind of target upside, even with a recent uptick in routes. But it’s clear San Antonio likes getting Mack his targets where it matters most (inside the 10), and that absolutely keeps him in play as a salary-relief option in the flex.

Kickers and Defenses

Unfortunately, I don’t have much analysis here that goes beyond our projections.

Chris Blewitt ($4,000) and Ryan Santoso ($4,400) are both too expensive to be considered anything more than mediocre values. But I do prefer Blewitt because he’s slightly cheaper, and Birmingham’s field goal rate (3.1%) is notably higher than San Antonio’s (2.1%).

The Brahmas DST ($3,800) is my favorite overall option among the non-skill players. They’ve scored at least 9.0 DraftKings points in four of their last five games and rank as the league’s toughest pass defense (by YPA allowed) over that stretch.

The Birmingham DST ($4,800) has largely declined since the team changed defensive coordinators prior to Week 8. As I noted earlier, in the first seven weeks of the season, Birmingham was the league’s single-toughest defense by YPG allowed (251.0), giving up 5.9 YPA (2nd-toughest) and 2.8 YPC (2nd-toughest). Since the coordinator change, Birmingham is allowing 322.5 YPG (+28% worse), 7.0 YPA (+19% worse), and 3.9 YPC (+39% worse). The Stallions' defense is still very in play this week, but they are no longer the elite defense they used to be.

I’ll leverage both defenses as pieces in lineups that anticipate specific outcomes (e.g. Birmingham shuts down the San Antonio offense in a low-scoring, slow game).

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.