NCAAF

College Football Daily Fantasy Helper: Friday 1/1/21

In this preview, I'll break down the Saturday main slate into three categories based on FanDuel 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 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 Trevor Lawrence, Clemson ($11,000) vs. Ohio State
Trevor Lawrence has been a surprisingly mediocre fantasy weapon relative to his salary this season -- he's topped 30 points only three times. And with Clemson favored by 7.5 points, there's a chance this game isn't close enough for Lawrence to be leaned on heavily late in the game. As a result, he's probably more valuable in tournaments -- based on the the possibility Ohio State exceeds expectations and turns this into a shootout -- than cash games.

QB Justin Fields, Ohio State ($10,600) vs. Clemson
The last time we saw Justin Fields, he was a liability for the Buckeyes offense, completing 32 percent of his passes en route to 6.1 fantasy points against Northwestern. However, Fields had previously topped 28 points in every game -- even in a similarly shaky outing against Indiana -- so he has to be in consideration for our lineups regardless of the matchup. Fields should get a boost from the return of a number of offensive starters, including receiver Chris Olave, who missed the Northwestern game due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which should give us some confidence he can return to his previous reliable fantasy output.

QB Mac Jones, Alabama ($10,400) vs. Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense has been one to avoid this year, but Clemson has twice proven the Irish aren't up to the task of slowing down the game's elite offenses. D.J. Uiagalelei and Trevor Lawrence each topped 30 fantasy points against Notre Dame, and Mac Jones should be expected to put up a similar number. Since his salary is slightly less expensive than Lawrence's, Jones may be the safest pick among quarterbacks on this slate.

RB Najee Harris, Alabama ($11,200) vs. Notre Dame
Najee Harris' salary sits $1,400 above any other running back's on the slate, but his extreme ceiling -- he's topped 50 points twice -- makes him worth the gamble in tournaments. In cash games, you might considering fading him, however. Harris has topped 25 points in 5 of 11 games, but Travis Etienne and Kyren Williams have done it four times in the same number of contests. So the odds of getting a strong cash-game performance is similar and comes at a much cheaper cap hit.

RB Travis Etienne, Clemson ($9,800) vs. Ohio State
Travis Etienne has been a boom-or-bust fantasy weapon this year -- primarily because Clemson plays so many lopsided games and his services often aren't needed deep into the second half. However, when the score is within 14 points, Etienne has a 37 percent usage rate in the Clemson offense. As long as Ohio State keeps this showdown relatively close, Etienne should see a strong workload in a positive game script.

RB Zamir White, Georgia ($8,700) vs. Northwestern
According to Sports Info Solutions, Zamir White runs between the tackles on 55 percent of his carries, which could be bad news for the Northwestern defense. The Wildcats have surrendered 5.8 yards per carry between the tackles, an indication they might be overwhelmed by Georgia's more physical offensive line in this matchup.

WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State ($8,600) vs. Clemson
The Clemson defense is allowing 9.4 yards per target to slot receivers, the seventh worst rate among Power Five defenses. Ohio State's Garrett Wilson has lined up in the slot on 72 percent of his targets, according to Sports Info Solutions, while averaging 12.5 yards per target in that role.

Value Plays

QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati ($8,800) vs. Georgia
A fully loaded Georgia defense would present a challenge for Desmond Ridder, but the Bulldogs will be without a number of key players on defense including star cornerback Eric Stokes. According to Sports Info Solutions, opposing quarterbacks averaged just 4.2 yards per target when throwing at Stokes but average 8.6 yards when targeting the Bulldogs' other three primary cornerbacks (Tyson Campbell, Tyrique Stevenson, and Mark Webb). Ridder has been a reliable fantasy weapon this year, rolling off six straight games of at least 27 fantasy points.

RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State ($8,000) vs. Clemson
After putting up 47 fantasy points against a strong Northwestern defense, it's shocking to see Sermon's salary so low (four other running backs are valued above him). In Sermon's last outing, 48 percent of his carries -- on which he averaged 10.6 yards per attempt -- came while the Buckeyes were aligned in 12 personnel formations. Those offensive sets have given Clemson some issues this year, as the Tigers defense is allowing 5.1 yards per attempt versus 12 personnel, which ranks 40th among Power Five schools, according to Sports Info Solutions.

RB Shaun Shivers, Auburn ($5,700) vs. Northwestern
As of Wednesday, Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris was uncertain on the availability of starting running back Tank Bigsby ($7,400). If Bigsby is unavailable, Shaun Shivers would step into that role and potentially see a substantial workload. The Northwestern run defense is holding running backs 5.8 fantasy points below their average -- even after Trey Sermon's monster game -- so it's a tough matchup, but a starting running back with salary under $6,000 is tough to pass up.

WR Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, Northwestern ($6,800) vs. Auburn
Over the Wildcats' last five games, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman leads Northwestern with a 28.1 percent target share -- and that's despite not seeing a single target against Illinois when Northwestern elected to run the ball 58 times against just 12 pass attempts. Excluding that strange Illinois game, Chiaokhiao-Bowman is averaging 17.5 fantasy points per game in that span. Auburn's defense is reliable but is still allowing 37.4 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, which ranks 56th in the country. On this cheap cap hit, Chiaokhiao-Bowman looks like one of the best values on the slate.

WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati ($5,900) vs. Georgia
Injuries slowed Alec Pierce's start to the season, but over the Bearcats' last two games, he leads the team with 195 yards on 7 receptions. Pierce was their leading returning receiver (17 percent target share in 2019), so it's not surprising to see the ball start to come his way as he's worked back to full health. With a few extra weeks to get healthy before the bowl game, Pierce may be able to close out the season on a high note.

Players to Avoid

QB J.T. Daniels, Georgia ($8,300) vs. Cincinnati
It's tough to make a case for rostering Daniels other than as simply a contrarian play. Cincinnati is holding opposing quarterbacks 10.6 fantasy points below their average, easily the best rate in the nation. UCF's Dillon Gabriel is the only quarterback to score more than 13 points against the Bearcats. Obviously, Georgia will be the best team Cincinnati has faced, but the Bearcats will also be the best defense Daniels has faced in his brief career with the Bulldogs.


Ryan McCrystal is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Ryan McCrystal also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username cfbfilmroom. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.