Happy New Year, dear reader. May 2020 see you happy, wealthy and wise. Get that trend started with a rockin’ DFS lineup for Wednesday. Our plays and values drawn from DraftKings.
Player pool: Michigan vs. Alabama, Minnesota vs. Auburn, Wisconsin vs. Oregon, Georgia vs. Baylor
Alabama QB Mac Jones ($7,000) vs. Michigan -- We’ll start this one out with the caveat that UM’s pass defense this season has been stellar, ranking fifth in the country with 174 aerial yards allowed per game on average. We have seen that defense cracked before, though. Penn State’s Sean Clifford nicked the Wolverines for three touchdown passes on Oct. 19, while Ohio State’s Justin Fields clipped them for 302 passing yards and four touchdowns to close out the regular season.
We think Jones -- working with one of the best receiver groups in the country -- could post similar passing numbers to the marks which Fields posted against Michigan. When last we saw Jones, he was throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns versus Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He has now had a full month to practice as starter. Don’t underestimate how much that extra practice time could help. Up until the end of October, Jones was holding a clipboard and practicing as a backup.
Alabama RB Najee Harris ($7,200) vs. Michigan -- While Bama’s passing game tended to receive the majority of headlines in 2019, Harris low-key turned in a rocking campaign, rushing for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns, with a 27-304-7 receiving line on top of that. Most exciting for DFS purposes, almost all of those touchdowns came in the second half, as Harris truly began to establish himself as lead back. Six of Harris’ 11 rushing touchdowns came in November. So did three of his seven receiving touchdowns. Harris rushed for at least one touchdown in every one of Alabama’s final six games of the campaign. Michigan closed out the regular season allowing 211 yards rushing and four touchdowns to OSU’s J.K. Dobbins. Harris probably doesn’t batter the Wolverines quite to that degree. But, say, 127 rushing and two touchdowns? That feels in the neighborhood. As you might have gathered from the Mac-Najee duo we have plugged into our first two slots, we are keen on Alabama for a big offensive game, here.
Auburn RB JaTarvious Whitlow ($6,000) vs. Minnesota -- Whitlow started out the season running hot, putting in 100-plus yards rushing in two of his first three games. He would not cross the century mark again until the Iron Bowl, when he rushed for 114 yards at a 7.1 YPC average. In between the strong start and respectable closing, Whitlow underwent knee surgery, which kept him on the shelf into November. He saw 16 carries in that game vs. the Crimson Tide, two fewer than he received in the previous two contests combined.
While in Jones’ case aforementioned, the extra practice time helps in terms of settling him in as starter, in Whitlow’s case, we’re talking an extra month off to rehab a knee which had not yet completely returned to full health. Minnesota has mostly worked as a stout rushing defense this season -- they limited Jonathan Taylor to 76 yards on the ground, for instance -- but both Journey Brown (124 yards, two touchdowns) and Tyler Goodson (94 yards, one touchdown) turned in sturdy performances rushing against the Gophs in November.
Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle ($5,700) vs. Michigan -- Hey, another Crimson Tide player! We swear this is the last one in this lineup. Scout’s honor. Our play with Waddle, here, is dictated in large part due to price. We wanted to stack Jones with one of his wideout targets, but we also wanted a little extra dough to play around with later on. Waddle, then, fits the bill nicely, as he is the cheapest of Alabama’s squadron of future NFL receivers.
Even beyond the price tag, though, Waddle closed the regular season playing the best ball of his sophomore season. He scored six touchdowns over his final three games, including four total (three receiving, one on a kick return) versus Auburn in the Iron Bowl. In each of his final two regular-season games, Waddle topped 95 yards receiving, too. There is no guarantee that Waddle is The Guy on Wednesday, rather than Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith or Henry Ruggs, but that’s a chance you take when you try to hit with an offense this loaded.
Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones ($5,400) vs. Alabama -- Three factors that could play into a strong performance out of DPJ on Wednesday. First, DPJ, himself, will likely be heading into the draft pool after this contest. A nice bowl performance will not suddenly swing his draft stock, but after three fine-but-rarely-more-than-fine years in Ann Arbor, going out on a strong note versus Alabama would at least remind evaluators of why the hype existed in the first place. Second, Michigan, itself, needs to build on some of the more positive offensive developments that they were showing down the stretch. And third, simply given that we expect Alabama will be putting up points a-plenty, UM will need to throw.
While Peoples-Jones did not crack 100 yards during the regular season (like we said, rarely more than fine), he did score touchdowns in each of his final three games. We’ll take 60 yards and two touchdowns. That would be fine.
Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus ($5,300) vs. Oregon -- Cephus closed out the season in fine fashion, posting back-to-back performances over 100 yards receiving against Minnesota and Ohio State. Even in an offense which lacks a high-powered passing game, Cephus has been relatively reliable, especially over the final weeks of the campaign. From Oct. 19 onward, Cephus posted five games over 60 receiving in seven contests, with four showings over 70 yards. He also scored touchdowns in three of his final four regular season games. None of this is earth-shattering, but at that price tag, we don’t need the earth to tremble. Just need it to shake, a little.
FLEX: Oregon RB CJ Verdell ($6,700) vs. Wisconsin -- How to view Verdell as a DFS play? Imagine a tight-roping over a volcano. If you fall, you will be incinerated. If you make it across, there’s a giant pile of gold. That’s Verdell in DFS. While he has just three games over 100 yards rushing on the year, two of those have seen him over 200 yards, all three over 170 yards. Six of his eight rushing touchdowns have come in two games. He won’t always hit for you, but when Verdell does, he tends to go nuclear. Just ask Utah. The Utes entered the Pac-12 Championship Game boasting perhaps the best run defense in the country. Verdell bullied them up for 208 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Verdell could go off on anybody, but it certainly makes feel all the more comfortable that Wisconsin allowed big games on the ground both Dedrick Mills and J.K. Dobbins after the calendar flipped to November.
S-FLEX: Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson ($6,600) vs. Auburn -- Johnson failed to score a touchdown in just three games during the regular season and finished the fall scoring in each of his final six contests. He isn’t just an end zone threat, though. Johnson posted six games of 100 or more yards during the season, including performances in that vain in three of his last four games. We do worry just a little that Auburn might be able to simply smother Minnesota’s offense. But we trust Johnson enough, at what we feel is a reasonable price, to play him, in this spot.