College Football Daily Fantasy Helper: Saturday 9/12/20 Main Slate
The second week of college football action feels more like a re-do of Week 1 with so many teams taking the field for the first time. The majority of Saturday's action features season openers for the ACC and Big 12, although there are a few Group-of-Five schools in action teams who we've already seen play this year.
In this preview, I'll break down the Saturday main slate into three categories based on FanDuel's salaries: players to build around, value plays, and players to avoid.
Players to build around carry expensive salaries, but their ceiling is high enough to consider prioritizing them in your lineup. Value plays are lower-salaried options who usually come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you pay for the expensive stars. Players to avoid are fantasy-relevant options you might normally consider but who have a tough matchup this week and are unlikely to live up to their usual expectations.
All references to betting totals and spreads are from the FanDuel Sportsbook.
Players to Build Around
QB Ian Book, Notre Dame ($10,500) vs. Duke
In last year's meeting, Duke was able to keep Ian Book in check as a passer, holding him to just 5.7 yards per attempt. However, the Blue Devils' defense could not contain Book as a runner, allowing him to rack up 148 yards on 10 carries, excluding sacks. Struggling to stop mobile quarterbacks was an issue for Duke all season, as it also gave up 160 yards to Wake Forest's Jamie Newman, 95 yards to Middle Tennessee's Asher O'Hara and 73 yards to Virginia's Bryce Perkins. Book scored at least 25 fantasy points in five of his last six games in 2019 and should pick up where he left off in his 2020 opener.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson ($10,200) vs. Wake Forest
Clemson steamrolled Wake Forest 52-3 last year and is a 33.5-point favorite on Saturday. Although there's some risk in taking a quarterback in game that's not expected to be close, Lawrence had no issue versus Wake a season ago, putting up 26.5 fantasy points prior to being pulled from the game. There may also be added incentive for Clemson to keep Lawrence in the game, as the Tigers are breaking in a number of fairly inexperienced wide receivers. Stacking Lawrence with one or two of his young receivers (more on them later) could be a strategy that pays off.
QB Jarret Doege, West Virginia ($9,800) vs. Eastern Kentucky
The Eastern Kentucky defense was eviscerated by Marshall last week, as freshman quarterback Grant Wells put up 31.3 fantasy points. In three starts last year, Jarret Doege averaged 16.3 fantasy points for West Virginia, but he'll have a significantly higher ceiling against a weak FCS defense. West Virginia has an implied total of 45.5 points, the third-highest on this slate.
RB Travis Etienne, Clemson ($9,700) vs. Wake Forest
During the regular season, Travis Etienne never topped 20 touches in a game last year, but he still managed to post at least 20 fantasy points in seven contests (including 23.3 points against Wake Forest). With limited touches at his disposal, Etienne needs to reach the end zone to justify his cap hit on your roster -- but Wake Forest allowed 24 rushing scores last season, so there's a good chance Etienne meets expectations in this game.
RB Breece Hall, Iowa State ($9,200) vs. Louisiana Lafayette
After taking over as the starting running back in Iowa State's fifth game last year, Breece Hall rushed for 813 yards -- second in the Big 12 to Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard. Hall's salary has jumped $2,200 from where it ended last season, so he's no longer an undervalued steal, but he should still be a fantasy target this year. Louisiana Lafayette allowed at least 17 fantasy points to eight running backs last year, including two who topped 25 points. With Iowa State favored by 11.5 points, the game script could also work in Hall's favor, as he should see a solid workload with the Cyclones holding a second-half lead.
RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame ($8,500) vs. Duke
We don't know much about Kyren Williams, who played sparingly in four games during his redshirt-freshman season. But Irish head coach Brian Kelly has named him the starter, and he draws an ideal matchup against Duke for his season debut. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Duke defense allowed a missed/broken tackle rate of 18 percent in 2019, the worst rate in the ACC. In his recruiting scouting report, Allen Trieu of 247Sports praised Williams for his ability to make defenders miss, so it sounds like this has a chance to be Williams' breakout game.
WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina ($9,000) vs. Syracuse
Dazz Newsome and teammate Dyami Brown ($9,300) are both options against a weak Syracuse defense, but a slight edge goes to Newsome. Although Brown led North Carolina receivers with 16.9 fantasy points per game last season, that number was heavily influenced by a 41.2-point outburst against Virginia. Brown topped 18 fantasy points in only one other game, while Newsome posted 18 or more points six times, including four games with at least 20 fantasy points. With Newsome's salary slightly cheaper and his production more steady, he's the better option of the two Tar Heels receivers.
WR Joseph Ngata, Clemson ($8,300) vs. Wake Forest
With Tee Higgins in the NFL and Justyn Ross injured, Joseph Ngata will likely emerge as one of Clemson's primary big-play threats this season. According to Sports Info Solutions, 35 percent of Ngata's targets came on explosive routes last season (routes on which FBS receivers average at least 20 yards per reception). At 6'3", Ngata is also the tallest receiver on Clemson's depth chart, and Dabo Swinney's staff has a strong track record turning tall receivers into playmakers, such as Ross, Higgins and Mike Williams.
QB Tyrrell Pigrome, Western Kentucky ($6,700) vs. Louisville
None of the quarterbacks with low salaries look particularly exciting on this slate, but if you need to save money at the position, Western Kentucky's Tyrrell Pigrome may have the most upside. Pigrome, a transfer from Maryland, has never been a full-time starter but did have some memorable moments as a starter with the Terrapins -- most notably a Week 1 upset of Texas in 2017. Pigrome is a dual-threat quarterback -- he picked up 6.1 yards per attempt, excluding sacks, during his career at Maryland -- which gives him a both a high ceiling and an acceptable floor against Louisville.
RB Harry Trotter, Kansas State ($7,000) vs. Arkansas State
Harry Trotter takes over as the starting running back at Kansas State and draws a favorable matchup against an Arkansas State defense that allowed 230 rushing yards to Memphis in its season opener. In a reserve role last year, Trotter saw significant action in only one game (against Kansas), but he put up a solid 16 fantasy points on 20 carries in that one. Trotter has only three career receptions, so he may not factor into the passing game, which limits his ceiling. However, his salary cap hit is easily the lowest of any running back projected for a substantial role on this slate.
WR T.J. Simmons, West Virginia ($7,500) vs. Eastern Kentucky
Sam James ($9,100) has the highest salary of West Virginia's receivers -- likely based on his team-high 113 targets last year -- but T.J. Simmons is the explosive weapon in the offense, averaging 8.6 yards per target last season, compared to 5.5 for James. As a result, Simmons was able to match James as each scored 15 or more fantasy points in three games apiece. Based on the significant salary difference and similar ceilings, Simmons is the one to target if you're looking to stack a receiver with Doege.
WR Jahcour Pearson, Western Kentucky ($7,300) vs. Louisville
Jahcour Pearson saw 111 targets (8.5 per game) and could potentially be in line for an even bigger role this season due to the departure of Lucky Jackson (132 targets). Western Kentucky is a 12.5-point underdog in this matchup versus Louisville, but the Cardinals; defense probably isn't capable of shutting down Pearson. In 2019, nine different receivers posted at least 15 fantasy points against Louisville. With the Hilltoppers likely to be playing from behind, expect a high volume from Pearson in this game.
WR Frank Ladson, Clemson ($7,000) vs. Wake Forest
Although he's listed behind Ngata on the depth chart, Frank Ladson will likely see some action in this game, as Clemson is favored by 33.5 points. The 6'3" Ladson should play a similar role to Ngata and see a number of valuable downfield targets. Ladson logged just 22 targets last season but 11 came on explosive routes, two of which produced touchdowns. Clearly Clemson sees a future role for him as a deep threat, and he could turn in a few big plays against a weak Wake Forest defense.
WR Avery Davis, Notre Dame ($6,900) vs. Duke
Avery Davis is listed as the starting slot receiver for Notre Dame, stepping into the role occupied by Chris Finke last year. Excluding garbage time, Finke saw a solid 15.1 percent target share despite sharing the field with NFL draft picks Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet. With less high-end competition on the field, Davis could potentially carve out a more significant role in the Irish offense. Since Notre Dame is breaking in new starters at each receiver position, it's tough to know how the targets will shake out, but Davis' cap hit is low enough to justify taking a shot on him.
WR Jordan Whittington, Texas ($5,600) vs. UTEP
Jake Smith was originally listed as Texas' starting slot receiver, but he'll miss the game due to a hamstring injury. That opens the door for converted running back Jordan Whittington to step into that role. Tom Herman has praised both Smith and Whittington this offseason, so we should probably expect the game plan to remain the same despite the lineup change. According to Sports Info Solutions, Sam Ehlinger threw to the slot on 45 percent of his attempts last season, so there's a significant ceiling for Whittington in the role occupied Devin Duvernay last year.
Players to Avoid
RB Javian Hawkins, Louisville ($9,000) vs. Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky allowed only one opposing running back to reach 20 fantasy points last season (Arkansas' Rakeem Boyd) and returns nine starters on defense. These two teams met last year, with the Hilltoppers holding Javian Hawkins to 93 yards and 15.3 FanDuel points on 19 attempts. Due to Hawkins' expected workload, you can probably justify using him in cash games, but his suppressed ceiling in this matchup makes him tough to stomach in tournaments.
WR Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama ($9,900) vs. Tulane
Jalen Tolbert put up 31.9 fantasy points last week against Southern Mississippi, but 13.8 of those points came on one 73-yard touchdown reception. Tolbert is a returning starter for South Alabama and averaged just 2.3 catches per game last season, so his Week 1 explosion was extremely unexpected. Additionally, South Alabama's leading receiver from last season, Kawaan Baker, is also back this year. Given all these factors, Tolbert's breakout performance looks like an outlier. He's the highest-salaried receiver on this slate without the body of work to justify it.