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Championship Week DFS Bargains

by Mark Lindquist

In this column, going position-by-position, we’ll offer up one building-block DFS sleeper priced at $6,000 or cheaper ($6,500 and cheaper at QB) and three deeper bargains priced at $5,000 or cheaper (two QBs at $6,000 or cheaper). We’re plucking our dark horses from DraftKings. Player pool this week will be drawn from the Friday and Saturday slates.

 

Quarterback

 

Affordable building block ($6,500 or less)

 

Washington QB Jake Browning ($6,500) vs. Utah (Friday Slate) -- Admittedly, Browning has limited appeal, having thrown multiple touchdown passes in just three of his games this season. That said, dealing with a limited player pool for championship week, the number of cheaper quarterbacks with any sort of upside are pretty limited. We like Browning to find some level of success against Utah’s soft spot, in coverage. While the Utes rank up there with S&P+’s No. 11 rushing defense, their pass defense is slightly more doughy at No. 45. One other factor that gives us sunny vibes on Browning -- he’s got Hunter Bryant back from injury, now. Bryant nearly broke out for a long touchdown grab through the snow in Pullman during the Apple Cup.

 

And two from the bargain bin ($6,000 or less):

 

Georgia QB Jake Fromm ($5,100) vs. Alabama (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- The Crimson Tide picked Fromm off twice in last year’s National Championship Game. They may well be able to harry him once more this weekend, but we’re banking on a solid game from Fromm. Not only has he already taken his lumps against Nick Saban’s boys -- no intimidation factor here -- the sophomore signal-caller has shown notable improvement over the last year. He has upped his completion percentage from 62.2 to 69.1, his YPA from 9.0 to 9.6 and has already matched his 24 touchdown passes from a year ago (in three fewer games). He has thrown for multiple touchdown passes in seven games this season, with five of those contests seeing him hit on at least three scoring tosses. No guarantees against Alabama, of course, but we expect a sturdy performance.

 

Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson ($4,900) vs. Ohio State (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- Slightly harder to sell Thorson than Fromm. The former has just one game of multiple touchdown passes since October 13, and that one game saw him throw for 110 yards and two scores against Illinois this past weekend. Not particularly shiny, we know, but consider his two-game stretch against Michigan State and Nebraska earlier this year for a picture of what he could do if everything falls into place. In those games, Thorson threw for 373 and 455 yards, respectively, while notching a trio of touchdown passes in each. If OSU builds out a nice early lead, Thorson will be in Throw Mode for the second half and could potentially put up respectable marks. Between Fromm and Thorson, though, we’d far prefer Fromm, who plays for a better team and has had a far more consistent. We are just talking about a $200 difference between the two players.

Running back

 

Affordable building block ($6,000 or less)

 

Northwestern RB Isaiah Bowser ($5,800) vs. Ohio State (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- We touched on Northwestern’s quarterback above, but it’s his teammate Bowser who we really love in this game. Indeed, Bowser has graced this space on several occasions since he emerged onto the scene in October. And for good reason. The Wildcats freshman has gone over 100 yards rushing in four of his last six games, with a pair of those contests seeing him home over 165 yards rushing. He enters this game running hot enough to melt the ice of the lake, and receives a fantastic matchup against a “oh goodness no” Ohio State run defense this weekend. The Buckeyes rank just 57th versus the run on S&P+. They are also one of the worst teams in the country -- bar none -- when it comes to preventing explosive rushing plays, ranking No. 124 in that metric by S&P+ standards.

 

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

 

Pitt RB Qadree Ollison ($4,900) vs. Clemson (Saturday 7:45 PM EST Slate) -- Granted, Ollison is going to have to figure out how to run through a wall in this one, because Clemson’s sick in their run defense, arguably offering up the best run defense in the entire country behind a front seven loaded with NFL talent. And we’ve seen Ollison shut down by worse foes, with four of his last seven games going for fewer than 55 yards rushing. Yet in that seven-game space, we’ve also seen Ollison rip it up with games of 235, 149 and 192 yards against Virginia Tech, Duke and Syracuse, respectively. It’s impossible to feel great about the matchup, but because Pitt can do almost nothing else on offense other than run the ball, Ollison figures to receive plenty of carries just on attrition. Attrition gambles can pay off.

 

Georgia RB Elijah Holyfield ($4,900) vs. Alabama (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- Holyfield was viewed as a clear secondary option to D’Andre Swift coming into the season, but has more than emerged with a strong campaign in his own right, rushing for 896 yards (6.7 YPC) with seven touchdowns across 12 games played. It’s the touchdown mark which particularly interests us, here. Even in our eternal optimism, we find it difficult to foresee Holyfield reaching any sort of accumulation in his rushing totals barring a few long runs factored in. He has scored touchdowns in five of his last seven games, including three of his last four.

Oklahoma RB Trey Sermon ($4,700) vs. Texas (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- This one is a tricky one, as Sermon has been dealing with nagging injury -- plus the emergence of Kennedy Brooks -- this month and has received just six combined carries over his last two games. That is dispiriting, but do not be too dispirited! In the two games prior to those sleepy contests, he put up 206 and 124 yards with five combined touchdowns against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Our take -- the Sooners have played Sermon cautiously of late, but will open things up for him in this pivotal, potentially Playoff-berth-deciding Big 12 title game. For under $5,000, Sermon is a player who we locked into our lineup almost immediately.

 

Wide receiver

 

Affordable building block ($6,000 or less)

 

Buffalo WR K.J. Osborn ($5,800) vs. Northern Illinois (Friday Slate) -- Osborn has been quite the quiet cat over his last three games, failing to put up more than even 35 yards receiving in any of those three contests. We refuse to relinquish faith in the talented wideout, though, and would point you toward his six-catch, 116-yard performance against Akron or his seven-catch, 188-yard, three-touchdown immolation of EMU as positive reference points for the campaign. In what could end up a low-scoring contest, we like Osborn to make a few big plays on Friday.

 

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

 

Ohio State WR Johnnie Dixon ($5,000) vs. Northwestern (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- Dixon might not be much to look at in terms of his receiving yardage -- he has managed more than 75 yards receiving in just three games -- but playing in a high-powered offense, he has been a valuable target for DFS players looking for cheap, touchdown-upside options. Dixon has scored six touchdowns on the season, with four of those coming over the course of his last six games. Zooming in even further, he has caught touchdown passes in three of the last four games.

 

Stanford WR (TE) Kaden Smith ($4,700) at Cal (Saturday 12 PM EST Slate) -- Our only concern with Smith is whether he will be able to play in this one. He sat out against UCLA this past Saturday due to a foot injury and has been waylaid by injury concerns at various earlier points to boot. Check to make sure that he will be playing against the Golden Bears before setting Smith into your lineup in concrete, but if he is cleared for this one, his production is all kinds of appealing. When he has managed to see the field, Smith has topped 100 yards in three of nine games, all of those coming since the start of October. Again, our only real concern, here, would be whether Smith manages to take the field at all.

 

Washington WR Aaron Fuller ($4,600) vs. Utah (Friday Slate) -- While Fuller has fallen off and then some down the stretch -- he has not hit for more than 65 yards receiving in any of his last six games -- we will gladly scoop him up for couch change against the Utes. Fuller logged four 100-yard performances in his first six games. The production might have dried up, but he remains the most appealing target in Washington’s offense. As mentioned with Jake Browning to start this column, we like the Huskies to be able to find some success through the air on Friday.

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.