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Daily Fantasy Decisions

DFS Bargains: Week 4

by Mark Lindquist
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

In this column, going position-by-position, we’ll offer up one DFS sleeper priced at $6,000 or cheaper and three deeper bargains priced at $5,000 or cheaper. We’re plucking our darkhorses from DraftKings. Player pools ranging from Thursday-late Saturday, so do take note of when the games are being played.


Cheap Building Block

Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond ($6,000) at Alabama -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Full disclosure, we recommended that fantasy owners consider holding out Mond in our Monday column. Daily fantasy is a different beast, though, and we’ll happily roll the dice on the Aggies quarterback given the discount we’re receiving, here. That discount comes courtesy of him playing Alabama’s defensive bear trap. It gives us a slight comfort to know that Mond played like a man possessed against Brent Venables’ elite Clemson defense just two weeks ago, when he threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. It’s sacrilege, sure, but we felt some Deshaun Watson-type waves of awe in the performance. Mond very much fits the dual-threat mode of quarterbacks -- including Mr. Watson, of course -- who have caused Nick Saban headaches.

And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or cheaper):

Tulane QB Jonathan Banks ($5,000) at Ohio State --  Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Just how good is Ohio State’s defense, actually? They surrendered 392 total yards of offense to Oregon State in their opener, and 511 total yards to TCU in Week 3. Only a bludgeoning of Rutgers stands out in the positive to this juncture, and that’s Rutgers for you. Banks is playing behind a questionable offensive line which just surrendered six sacks to UAB, but OSU is without Nick Bosa this week due to a groin injury, which makes their job at least a little easier. In what’s almost certainly going to devolve into a blowout, Banks could put up numbers just on volume. If he can get it going on the ground, all the better. He put up at least 50 yards rushing in six games last fall, a mark he’s yet to crack through three games this time around.

Louisiana Tech QB J’Mar Smith ($4,800) at LSU -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 7:00 PM EST

The Rotoworld CFB electronic water cooler is all about Smith, who shook off three interceptions in the opener against South Alabama to throw for 380 yards versus Southern prior to the bye. He’s thrown a pair of touchdowns in each of Tech’s games this season. LSU will be the best opponent he’s faced by a significant margin, but he’s had the two weeks to prepare and LSU has almost certainly used up significant emotional fuel just to reach this point, having knocked off Miami and Auburn. If you want more on this prime spot for the Bulldogs, check out the Rotoworld College Football Podcast. Colleague Thor Nystrom dives straight in.

Illinois QB AJ Bush ($4,500)/M.J. Rivers ($4,600) at Penn State -- Friday, Sept. 21, 9:00 PM EST

If you want to play an Illini quarterback at bargain this weekend, check just before kickoff to make sure that your target is actually playing. Bush was injured against South Florida on Saturday. He would start if healthy, but otherwise, we’ll be seeing Rivers. After Bush left injured, Rivers went on to complete 20-of-28 passes for 168 yards. The Nittany Lions might light up the scoreboard on Friday, but look no further than Appy State’s Zac Thomas (270 yards passing and two touchdowns versus the Nits in the opener) to see what can happen when Penn State takes an opponent a touch too loosely. One glance ahead on the schedule shows that Penn State hosts Ohio State in Week 5.

Running back

Cheap Building Block

Kansas RB Pooka Williams ($5,700) at Baylor -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Strike while you still can on Pooka! Kansas’ surprise 2-1 start has apparently not translated into a high price tag on Williams, yet, but that might start to shift this weekend against the Bears. Baylor has given up at least 80 yards rushing to an individual runner in every game this season, and that includes the 141 yards that Abilene Christian’s Billy McCrary put up -- on just six carries. Pooka could well end up with a yardage total in the similar neighborhood when he takes the field in Waco on Saturday. Williams has rushed for at least 125 yards in each of the last two games, putting in a magisterial 158 yards against the crushed aluminum can that is Rutgers in Week 3.

And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or cheaper):

Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams ($4,800) at Alabama -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Like a small child plucking petals off a flower, we continue to play the “loves me, loves me not game” with Williams. And maybe in this spot it’s less “love” and more “you’re not going to find more upside for under $5,000 so we like you OK.” Unfortunately, once again, you’re forced to play chess against Alabama if you roll with Williams, never a particularly cheerful proposition. We’re working on something of a curve, here, as we would bench Williams against the Tide in traditional fantasy. But in DFS play, at a certain point, the price point tips the scale despite the matchup. Even with our shading of doubt on Williams as a season-long entity, he’s so cheap that he makes for an easy gamble.

Illinois RB Mike Epstein ($4,200) at Penn State -- Friday, Sept. 21, 9:00 PM EST

We already floated a little Illini action at you with their quarterbacks, but we like Epstein even more for this one. Penn State’s rushing defense has done nothing to deserve a fear discount. Even when the Nits completely obliterated Pitt’s passing game in Week 2 -- holding QB Kenny Pickett to 55 yards passing -- Qadree Ollison still gouged them on the ground for 119 yards and a touchdown. They also gave up 88 yards and a score to Jalin Moore in their opener. Epstein has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last two games and is averaging 7.2 YPC for the campaign. This is a laughably cheap number for a respectable back going against a run defense which has proven less than dominant.

Washington State RB Max Borghi ($3,900) at USC -- Friday, Sept. 21, 10:30 EST

While he’s priced juuuuuust over our threshold, we’d be remiss if we did not note that Wazzu lead back James Williams is priced at a very, very affordable $6,300. If you still want some sweet Mike Leach running back action, though, true freshman Borghi is a nice, cheap option. He’s scored in two of three games this season and has caught 11 passes (one for a touchdown), always an added dimension in a Leach offense and part of what makes the aforementioned Williams so desirable. USC has surrendered 100-plus yards on the ground to both Lexington Thomas and Bryce Love this season. Tre Watson of Texas couldn’t quite get there on Saturday, but put up a respectable 72 yards in his own right. When you’re paying under $4,000 for a given player, opportunity is all you can ask for. Borghi should have that against the Trojans.

Wide receiver

Cheap Building Block

Washington State WR Davontavean Martin ($6,000) at USC -- Friday, Sept. 21, 10:30 PM EST

Martin has had a steady open to the campaign, catching at least five passes in all three of Wazzu’s contests to date while logging at least 65 receiving yards in each of those games. He’s come on even hotter than that of late courtesy of the season-best 13-149-1 receiving line he put up against Eastern Washington this past weekend. USC is a fair step up from Eastern Washington, to be sure, but they’re down to just three scholarship safeties at this point due to transfer and injury. This is the most pass-happy attack the Trojans have faced all season. Martin and QB Gardner Minshew are going to make that secondary earn it.

And three from the bargain bin ($5,000 or cheaper):

Ohio State WR Austin Mack ($4,900) vs. Tulane -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Mack has yet to find the end zone this season, but OSU QB Dwayne Haskins has been looking his way on repeat recently. Against TCU over the weekend, he was targeted a team-high eight times, converting those targets to four catches for 84 yards. Tulane, meanwhile, may have a weakness against the pass this year, notably allowing 378 yards passing to Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman in the season opener. Nicholls and UAB have not tested them through the air over the last two weekends, but the Buckeyes certainly will. We’ve been waiting for Mack to develop seemingly forever. He now finally has the quarterback that might allow him to do that.

Tulane WR Darnell Mooney ($4,400) at Ohio State -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Mooney is another player who we’d feel nervous about in traditional fantasy formats, but who becomes far more attractive in DFS due to the fact that he’s coming at a significant discount, which allows for greater financial flexibility elsewhere in the lineup. And as we touched on earlier in the column, we’ve got our questions on Ohio State’s defense. Mooney has been money through three games this season, having topped 100 yards twice (topped 75 in all three games) with three touchdowns scored. All three of those touchdowns have come in the last two games.

Clemson WR Justyn Ross ($3,600) at Georgia Tech -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 3:30 PM EST

If you want to save -- and we mean really save -- while still rolling with an upside target, take a journey with Justyn Ross. The highly-heralded true freshman broke through with the biggest game of his young career when he caught three passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Southern this past Saturday. After the game, Tigers co-OC Jeff Scott said that Ross had “become one of our top playmakers on offense” and praised his willingness to learn. That big performance came just one week after he’d barely seen the field against Texas A&M. Outside of that showdown with the Aggies, he’s caught touchdowns in each of his two other games. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, had the top ripped off by Pitt WR Taysir Mack in Week 3, with Mack averaging 23.8 yards on his four receptions. One week earlier, Tyre McCants of USF caught 10 passes for 104 yards against Paul Johnson’s crew. We like Ross to burst in this game, especially if fellow true freshman QB Trevor Lawrence receives legitimate run.

Mark Lindquist
Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.