Before we get going with my first DFS column of the year, I wanted to remind you that Rotoworld now has a college football podcast dedicated to betting against the spread. Every week, my co-host Mark Lindquist and I pick our five favorite sides of the week. The Week 4 episode with 10 ATS predictions dropped Wednesday afternoon. Check us out on iTunes here!
Saturday Lineup (12:00 PM EST)
The format: DraftKings -- $50,000; 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex, 1 Super-flex
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa ($9,900) vs. Texas A&M -- 3:30 PM EST
Full disclosure: I tried like heck to work Will Grier onto this roster, but I ended up going with Tua because the $600 banked dollars came in handy in purchasing the three bargain targets I wanted below. Tua is a tremendous fallback option, and somebody I prefer over, say, Dwayne Haskins, who could be in for a short afternoon against Tulane with a game against Penn State on deck and the Buckeyes needing to let Tate Martell onto the field to try to head off potential transfer talk. Tua, on the other hand, seems like a good bet to play the whole game (or dang near all of it) against the Aggies. Texas A&M has proven to be a quality team in the early going. As long as they can keep this game within three scores, Tua will be out there. And despite getting pulled early in Alabama’s three blowout wins and not attempting even 20 passes in any individual game, Tua has scored 20 or more fantasy points in all three games with an average of 24.4. I’ve got a lot of volatile boom-or-bust guys lower in the lineup. All I want from Tua and my running backs is a guaranteed strong game with the possibility of a supernova showing. Dropping five touchdowns on the Aggies would sure like nice on his Heisman resume.
Boston College RB AJ Dillon ($9,000) at Purdue -- 12:00 PM EST
I’m not trying to play this early slate without Dillon, the most devastating offensive player on the card. The consistency is ridiculous. He’s posted at least 20 fantasy points in all three games, and has gone over 27 in his last two with an average of 28.0 on the year. Dillon has extra rest coming into this one after Boston College played Wake Forest last Thursday. Purdue’s defense lost a ton over the offseason and is now quite bad. It ranks No. 113 in total defense and No. 71 in rushing yards allowed per game. Since Purdue’s offense is improved, the game plan for Boston College in this one is to tempo the Boilermakers' poor defense to extreme fatigue while battering them with Dillon over and over and over again. Dillon had 33 carries last week against Wake Forest. Similar usage here is the expectation. The Boilermakers will be generous, as guys like Jeremy Larkin and Drew Lock have already found out.
Kansas RB Pooka Williams ($5,700) at Baylor -- 3:30 PM EST
At this price, Pooka is one of this slate’s only must-have players. DraftKings has still not adequately re-adjusted his price. Pooka missed the opener with an undisclosed eligibility issue. In Week 2 and 3, Kansas built its offensive gameplan around the top-200 overall recruit and he delivered in a big way. On 34 touches those two games, the young speedster posted an average of 27.8 points, rushing for at least 125 yards each time on 8.8 ypc, including an 18-158-1 rushing line against Rutgers last week. Take this from a Kansas alum who watches every KU game: This team cannot pass. For the offense to move, it has to do so on the ground, and Pooka is clearly the team’s best player. The plan of attack against Baylor?: Feed Pooka until he can eat no more. Pooka could absolutely be in line for another monster game. Baylor’s shoddy run defense has allowed at least one individual 80-yard rusher in all three games, including 141 yards to Abilene Christian’s Billy McCrary on six carries. Now it gets Pooka, a player Pro Football Focus grades as the nation’s best running back through three weeks.
Purdue WR Rondale Moore ($6,900) vs. Boston College -- 12:00 PM EST
In this DraftKings time slot, there are three must-start players and three must-start players only: Dillon, Pooka and Rondale Moore. Do what you will with your other spots, but make sure those three guys are locked in before you do. As with Pooka, DraftKings is a bit behind on Rondale’s price point. And as with Pooka, Moore stepped foot on campus and was immediately his team’s best offensive player. Moore went off for 44.8 fantasy points in the opener against Northwestern and dropped 33.7 last week against Missouri. (In between was an 8.5-point showing against EMU in a bizarre game that we’ve all wiped from our memories). Assuming Purdue’s passing game is working at all -- it hung 572 yards on Mizzou last week, so it should be -- he’s going to get all the targets he can handle. Boston College has a top-40 pass defense, so the matchup isn’t the best in the world, but Moore’s price coupled with his target share and ability to take it to the house any time he touches the ball makes him an obvious play.
Pitt WR Taysir Mack ($4,500) at UNC -- 12:20 PM EST
Mack is a super-sneaky bargain pick this week. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder transferred to Pitt from Indiana in the offseason. He was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA on August 17, exactly 15 days before the season opener. Mack was immediately considered the Panthers’ best receiver. Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who worked with Mack at Indiana in 2016, compared Mack to Devante Parker, whom Watson coached at Louisville. With so little time to ingratiate with his new teammates, Mack didn’t do much in the first two games, posting a combined four catches for 53 yards. But he showed flashes of his WR1 ability last week, grabbing four balls for 95 yards in the close win over Georgia Tech. Against this shoddy UNC defense, he could crack the 100-yard threshold. He’s a bit boom-or-bust because of the inconsistencies of his quarterback Kenny Pickett, but at this price, Mack’s floor and ceiling can’t be beat.
Texas A&M WR Kendrick Rogers ($3,700) at Alabama -- 3:30 PM EST
Rogers is an even bigger boom-or-bust proposition than Mack, but again, our insistence on rostering Dillon, Pooka and Rondale Moore and teaming them with a big-ticket quarterback requires sacrifice. So we're trying to shoot for the moon on a penny stock here. Rogers is the highest-variance DFS asset you will find this week. Here’s the good news: Two weeks ago, Rogers ripped up Clemson for a 7-120-2 line. He looked like a surefire future NFL receiver against the only other defense outside of Alabama’s in the country that inspires fear in grown men. So we know he can produce, and furthermore, we know he can produce despite a brutal matchup, which he has again this weekend. Here’s the bad: In the rest of Rogers’ career combined, the sophomore has produced a mere 13-132-0 line. Rogers sat out last week’s game against UL-Monroe with a minor injury and is slated to return against the Tide. The 6-foot-4 outside target is big, strong in contested situations, and comes with strong hands. The Aggies will be clawing for every yard they can get on Saturday. It’s no stretch to envision Kellen Mood leaning on Rogers as a chain-mover against this elite defense. Heck, we saw it two weeks ago. Rogers could also do nothing again. But if he does anything close to what he did against Clemson and the other players in the lineup perform to expectations, you've got yourself a scary, scary DFS lineup.
Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams ($4,800) at Alabama -- 3:30 PM EST
I showed this lineup to a CFB writer buddy of mine on Thursday. His only critique was that, with three players in the Alabama-Texas A&M game, I was heavily invested in a contest he didn’t love for DFS purposes. That’s a fair criticism, absolutely. But while Tua was a pricing compromise, the A&M duo of Williams and Rogers is a calculated value play. I’ve explained Rogers’ side of it above. My thing with Williams is simply that I needed to own him at a sub-$5,000 price point. I don’t care if the gamble goes south on me. This is about principle (a similar conviction will likely have me holding an A&M +24.5 ticket on Saturday). I’ll take the plunge on a healthy top-20 fantasy running back (maybe even top-15) at this price regardless of opponent 10 times out of 10. The sticker price is obviously deflated because of Alabama’s defense, which has allowed less than 10 points per game and hasn’t surrendered a rushing touchdown this year. And fair enough. Williams did struggle a few weeks ago against Clemson, though he did scratch his way to a non-disastrous 10.1 fantasy points (Williams is priced $1,800 cheaper here than he was in that game). Here’s my thing: A&M is averaging nearly 600 yards of total offense per game despite the fact that one-third of its sample size has come against Clemson, and Williams was a volcanic playmaker the offense was built around in the other two games (184 rushing yards and two TD per game). The touches will be there and the talent is there. After that, at this price, you pull the trigger and hope for the best.
Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson ($5,500) at West Virginia -- 3:30 PM EST
Some of the decisions above were made to carve out enough money to land Thompson in this spot. Thompson and the Kansas State offense had a wonky opener against an FCS team, and they were shut down the next week against Mississippi State. But team and quarterback got back on track last week against UTSA, with Thompson putting up 28.12 fantasy points. He hit 72.2% of his passes with a blistering 11.8 ypa while posting a 14-66-1 rushing line. West Virginia has only played Tennessee and an FCS team so far (so two FCS teams— I kid, I kid Vols fans!), so throw out what they’ve done. This defense is going to stink again. It finished No. 107 in yards per game allowed with 444.5 last year, as well as No. 90 with 31.5 points per game allowed. The Mountaineers’ high-octane offense should start dropping points on KSU immediately, which will force Bill Snyder to try to return fire as quickly as possible. For better or worse, Thompson is his biggest gun. I expect a strong statistical game for the Wildcat dual-threat.