College Football Main Slate, Week 1 - Footballguys

A full position-by-position breakdown of the first full college football main slate of the season.

Week 1 of the college football season is officially here, and with it comes the first full Saturday of college football DFS on DraftKings. College teams don’t have any organized preseason tune-ups, unlike NFL teams. Subsequently, entering Week 1, there are loads of question marks surrounding incoming players, incoming coaches, and depth charts. The uncertainties surrounding personnel means projecting outcomes is most difficult and riskiest in Week 1.

College football lineups on DraftKings are built entirely different from NFL lineups. The same $50,000 is allotted to build a lineup, but in college football, the lineup is comprised of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 super-flex, and 1 flex position. The super-flex position can be filled by a player from any position, including quarterback. It is also worth noting that tight ends are included in the wide receiver player pool.

SLATE SNAPSHOT (16 GAMES, ALL TIMES EST)

  • Ole Miss @ Texas Tech [neutral site, game played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas] 12:00 PM
  • Coastal Carolina @ South Carolina 12:00 PM
  • Oregon State @ Ohio State 12:00 PM
  • Florida Atlantic @ Oklahoma 12:00 PM
  • Southern University @ TCU 12:00 PM
  • Texas @ Maryland 12:00 PM
  • Furman @ Clemson 12:20 PM
  • Washington @ Auburn [neutral site, game played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia] 3:30 PM
  • Austin Peay @ Georgia 3:30 PM
  • West Virginia @ Tennessee [neutral site, game played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina] 3:30 PM
  • Washington State @ Wyoming 3:30 PM
  • Northern Illinois @ Iowa 3:30 PM
  • Appalachian State @ Penn State 3:30 PM
  • UT-Martin @ Missouri 4:00 PM
  • North Carolina @ California 4:00 PM
  • UNLV @ USC 4:00 PM

QUARTERBACK

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State, $10,900

Dwayne Haskins and the Ohio State Buckeyes host the Oregon State Beavers to open the season, and they are favored by a whopping 37 points. The sophomore will be making his first start as a Buckeye on Saturday afternoon and it would be tough to hand-pick a better opponent for a young quarterback. Last year, Oregon State ranked bottom-five in the entire FBS in adjusted yards per pass allowed. The Beavers allowed 2.4 passing touchdowns per game in 2017, and even with the new regime in Corvallis, expect more of the same this year.

Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss, $9,900

Jordan Ta’amu took over at the quarterback position following an injury to starter Shea Patterson in Week 7 of last season, and Ta’amu did not look back. This season, Patterson has transferred to Michigan to play for a bowl-eligible team, but Ta’amu is back under center for the Rebels. The young Hawaiian can both run and throw the ball all over the field, over his 5 starts for Ole Miss, Ta’amu accounted for multiple touchdowns in every game he played and surpassed 350 yards on 3 occasions. To open the 2018 season, Ole Miss squares off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in a neutral site game in Houston, Texas: about eight or nine hours from each campus, respectively. Texas Tech is known for its up-tempo, high-volume aerial attack that lights up scoreboards. Fortunately for Ta’amu, this focus on the offensive side of the ball typically leaves the Texas Tech defense exposed and vulnerable. This game is projected to finish at about 68 total points, a 35-33 victory for Texas Tech, and if it plays out as the betting markets expect there will be plenty of offensive production to go around. When paying up for a quarterback on this slate, it will be tough to find a better option than the Ole Miss signal caller.

Shawn Robinson, TCU, $9,300

Shawn Robinson was one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks coming out of high school last year. Coming out of high school he was a participant in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp, where players are coached and ranked by some of the top football minds in the business, but unfortunately, he pulled a hamstring and was hindered throughout the entirety of the camp. Robinson may not have been able to fully showcase his abilities then, but Saturday afternoon will be an entirely different story. After sitting for a season behind Kenny Hill, Robinson won the starting quarterback job throughout the offseason and TCU will go as he goes this year. Robinson is a true dual-threat at quarterback: in his lone start of the season in 2017, a 27-3 victory over Texas Tech, Robinson ran the ball 10 times for 84 yards. There is no betting line available for the Horned Frogs’ opener against Southern University, but it is poised to be a bit of a blowout. Even if this game does blow out, Robinson offers a great floor both through the air and on the ground. Robinson, like many young quarterbacks, will need as many reps as possible against a live defense in order to gear up for the more difficult part of the schedule ahead (Ohio State in Week 3, Texas in Week 4).

J.T. Daniels, USC, $8,700

J.T. Daniels hit the ground running the day he set foot on USC’s campus and he has not looked back. Daniels won a heated training camp battle to be the Trojans’ starting quarterback, and this is the first time since Matt Barkley that a true freshman will start the season under center for the team. Facing off against UNLV in The Coliseum is a great way to start a collegiate career, as USC comes in as a 25 point favorite. Daniels was ranked the third best quarterback coming out of high school this season, so there is no doubt that the talent is there on his end. Surrounding him, again there is no doubt regarding the talent: USC brought in one of the best wide receiver recruits in the country, Amon-Ra St. Brown, to join an already talented receiving corps. As a 25-point favorite, at home, in one of the most talented offenses in the country, J.T. Daniels for just $8,700 against UNLV is a bargain.

Nathan Elliott, North Carolina, $7,600

North Carolina will be without 13 players for this matchup with the California Golden Bears for one of the more bizarre NCAA violations in recent memory. Quarterback Nathan Elliott will be one of the beneficiaries of these suspensions, since his competitor for the starting job, Chazz Surratt, is one of the players suspended. Elliott and the Tar Heels will travel across the country to face off with a California team known for its Air Raid style of offense. The Golden Bears love to play the same fast, spread out style of football that they did, even under head coach Justin Wilcox. The North Carolina offense will see more action in their opener than they typically did last season. California’s style of play involves running a lot of plays and also allowing their opponents to do the same, meaning Elliott and company should see plenty of action on the ball. Nathan Elliott, checking in at $7,600, is poised to surpass last year’s typical production in the opener, which is nothing to sneeze at.

RUNNING BACK

D’Andre Swift, Georgia, $9,300

D’Andre Swift will be taking over the Georgia backfield after Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both departed for the NFL this past April. Swift registered a whopping 7.5 yards per carry last season, leaving little doubt that the Georgia backfield has been left in good hands. Georgia is such a heavy favorite in their opener that Pinnacle has not yet posted a line on the game, however, the line will likely fall in the 40-point range if/when it is posted by sportsbooks. In recent games as similarly heavy favorites, Georgia has taken a very run-heavy approach to the games. Last season in their opener against Appalachian State, Jake Fromm only threw the ball 15 times. Meanwhile, both Sony Michel and Nick Chubb saw 15 or more carries in that game. Give Swift comparable usage to Michel or Chubb this year, and he will be one of the safest options at running back this week.

Miles Sanders, Penn State, $8,300

Miles Sanders may not produce the SportsCenter Top-10 plays that Saquon Barkley seemed to do with regularity, but Sanders is more than capable of being Penn State’s bell-cow running back in the 2018 season. Penn State kicks off against Appalachian State in Happy Valley this Saturday, giving Sanders his first opportunity to prove his worth to Nittany Lions fans. Heavily favored teams are typically cautious with the workload given to their top running backs in the first game of a long season, however, Penn State has not adhered to that trend under James Franklin. Saquon Barkley, in two years as a starter, saw 23 and 17 touches, respectively, in opening week games decided by 20 or more points. The volume seen by Barkley in these early-season blowouts is not normal for a bell-cow starting running back but, in a game projected to be decided by about 23 points, Miles Sanders is poised to see a similar amount of action. Lastly, the game flow for Penn State, as 23-point favorites, heavily favors a productive rushing attack. In games decided by this many points, the winners typically run the ball at a substantially higher rate than they throw the ball, which is where Sanders will derive most of his value.

Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss, $5,100

The impending neutral-site shootout between Ole Miss and Texas Tech is loaded with great fantasy options. Scottie Phillips is the one player who sticks out in this game on the ground. Neither team is built to stop a potent rushing attack, and Phillips is poised to get the lion’s share of carries for Ole Miss. Phillips is transferring in from a junior college, so he is a relative unknown. Fortunately, Ole Miss beat writers have been all over the Rebels’ running back battle and Phillips has been impressive enough to come out alone atop the depth chart. A season ago, Texas Tech’s rushing defense ranked 91st out of 128 FBS teams in Adjusted Line Yards allowed. Texas Tech’s defense has been the main downfall of the program for years now: they have allowed over 28 points per game every year since 2008. Unfortunately for Red Raiders fans, there is little data available to suggest a turn-around this season.

Jordon Brown, North Carolina, $5,000

Jordon Brown entered this season in a tightly contested battle for the starting running back position on the North Carolina roster. That decision was simplified for coach Larry Fedora when Michael Carter, Brown’s competition, went down for 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist. California is another offensively-minded program where the defense lags behind. In the post-Sonny Dykes era, California expected an improved defense under former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but it has not happened yet. Jordon Brown is also a capable pass catcher and should see about five targets this week, raising his floor substantially above other options at comparable prices. For just $5,000, Brown will be one of the best options for value at running back.

WIDE RECEIVER

Gary Jennings, Jr., West Virginia, $7,600

Gary Jennings, Jr. may not get the same recognition as his teammate, David Sills V, but he is the most reliable receiver on the West Virginia roster. Sills V scored on nearly 30 percent of his receptions last season, while Jennings, Jr. scored on 1 percent of his receptions. Both of these numbers are absurd outliers: Sills V is due for serious negative regression and Jennings, Jr. is due for a healthy dose of positive regression, himself. West Virginia will be taking on Tennessee in a neutral-site game to open the season, and Tennessee will be playing in its first game under head coach Jeremy Pruitt. He has been brought in due to defensive woes and, over time, he has a better chance than most to make that happen. Those results, however, will not be immediate, as he is working with the players left behind by Butch Jones. Jennings, Jr. and the rest of the West Virginia offense will be a tough first task for Jeremy Pruitt to deal with, as points are expected to be scored in bunches.

D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss, $6,200

D.K. Metcalf is a physical freak playing wide receiver in a pass-happy offense: truly a match made in football heaven. Last year, as a redshirt freshman, Metcalf was targeted 74 times, good for the 2nd highest total on the team. Headed into his second year of action for the Rebels, he is widely acknowledged to be one of the highest upside prospects in all of college football. Opening the season against the weak Texas Tech defense is a perfect position for Metcalf to reach his production ceiling and show football fans everywhere that he is one of the nation’s most underrated receivers.

Vic Wharton III, California, $5,800

Simply put, there is no justifying this price for Vic Wharton III. Wharton III was one of the highest-volume receivers in the entire country last season, registering a whopping 111 targets. Wharton III is the ideal slot-receiver for this California system and with Wharton III replacing current Oakland Raiders' receiver Griff Whalen, the California offense has not skipped a beat. Going up against North Carolina in the opener, the matchup bodes well for the Golden Bears’ passing attack. North Carolina’s passing defense finished last season ranked 84th (out of 128 teams) in S&P+ and it may be some time before there is substantial improvement on that side of the ball for the Tar Heels.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC, $4,800

Amon-Ra St. Brown’s older brother, Equanimeous St. Brown, has spent the past month fighting for a spot on the Green Bay Packers’ regular season roster. Amon-Ra St. Brown spent his time torching the USC secondary in intrasquad scrimmages. St. Brown came into USC as one of the highest-rated receivers in this year’s freshman class. He has exceeded all expectations had for him during his time on campus and has taken a stranglehold on the final starting spot at receiver for the Trojans. It is always tough to project a true freshman's role at a position like wide receiver but, if USC’s final scrimmage before their 2018 season opener is any indication, St. Brown’s price will not be this low for very long.