FanDuel is back with their first main slate since 2015. Devin Knotts and Ryan Zamichieli get you ready for week one.
Will Grier, West Virginia, $11,100
As Will Grier goes, the West Virginia Mountaineers’ offense goes. Last season in the 10 games Grier started, West Virginia averaged 39 points per game, but in the 3 games Grier missed due to injury they only average 20 points per game. Tennessee fired their coach, Butch Jones, after last season’s miserable performances in all phases of the game. The Volunteers are now led by former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, whose main goal will be to turn the defense into one of the top in the SEC. Over time, it obviously remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to accomplish that feat, but few will argue that his impacts will be seen on the field immediately. Will Grier and the West Virginia passing attack will be critical to West Virginia’s success this season as they look to light up the scoreboards.
Nathan Elliott, North Carolina, $7,500
Nathan Elliott, North Carolina’s starter by default gets one of the best matchups on the slate for under $8,000 at the highest scoring position in fantasy football. California is an offensive-minded program, but they’re trying to change that image. After firing Sonny Dykes, one of the most offensive-minded coaches in the nation, they hired former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Wilcox has not yet been able to bring in a full complement of recruits to fit his desired style of play, so the defensive development for the Golden Bears has been slow thus far. Elliott is primed to be one of the main beneficiaries of this match up against one of the fastest playing teams in the nation. California typically allows its opponents to run about 78 offensive plays per game, much higher than North Carolina’s typical pace of play (about 70 plays per game.) At just $7,500, Nathan Elliott is one of the best salary saving options at quarterback on this slate.
Wilton Speight, UCLA, $8,200
The Chip Kelly-era kicks off in Los Angeles Saturday night at 7:00PM EST, and Wilton Speight will be under center for the Bruins. Speight, a transfer in from Michigan, will be at the helm of what is expected to be one of the fastest offenses in the nation. While Chip Kelly’s time in the NFL may have been short-lived and devoid of significant success, his resume at the collegiate level is a stellar one. Kelly consistently coached Oregon to one of the highest scoring offenses in the country, reaching multiple BCS bowls and one national championship. Now, at UCLA, Kelly will be running his signature spread offense with an experienced pocket passer slinging the ball all over the field. Speight will be making his first start under Kelly against a Cincinnati defense that was ranked in the bottom-30 in the nation in opponent Passing S&P+, opponent passing success rate, and adjusted sack rate. UCLA heads into the game favored by 14.5 points in a game with one of the highest game totals on the entire slate, 64.5 points. Expect Speight and this UCLA offense to get going early and often in their first game under their new head coach.
Justin Herbert, Oregon, $10,000
Justin Herbert enters his junior season as a candidate to be the first quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. While that may not mean much for his collegiate production this week, it is a quick snapshot of just how talented he is. At 6’6”, 205 lbs., Herbert has all of the unteachable traits that many great quarterbacks have. Oregon’s implied team total is amongst the highest on the slate at a whopping 52.25 and Herbert has a lot to do with that. The Ducks may be playing under a new head coach (Mario Cristobal), but they’ll be running the same spread offensive attack that they have for over a decade. Herbert may not play the entire game if the game is as lopsided as expected, but he won’t need an entire game to provide a high enough fantasy output to make paying $10,000 worth it.
Other quarterbacks to start:
Adrian Martinez, Hayden Moore, Jake Browning
Patrick Laird, California, $10,100
Patrick Laird will see the lion’s share of reps and touches in the California backfield this year. He took over the role last year and registered 17 or more touches in each of the final 5 games of the year. Laird is also heavily involved in the passing game, hauling in at least 4 passes in 8 games last season. Laird will benefit from a great matchup against last year’s 106th ranked defense in rushing success rate allowed. Additionally, North Carolina will be without two of its starting defensive lineman, further depleting an already weak unit. Laird will be one of the most involved running backs on the slate and, in a great matchup, he should make the most of those opportunities.
Miles Sanders, Penn State, $8,800
Penn State’s Heisman candidate running back, Saquon Barkley, has departed for the NFL. In his absence, Miles Sanders will fill the starting running back role in Happy Valley. Luckily for Nittany Lions fans, he’s another great talent in the backfield. Last season, in a small sample size, Sanders averaged 6.2 yards per carry, slightly more than Saquon Barkley’s 5.9 yards per carry. That is not to say Sanders is better than Barkley, it is merely a commentary on the fact that he too is a great running back. This week, against Appalachian State, Sanders will see a higher amount of touches than most running backs as heavy favorites. Over the past 2 seasons, in season opening games (both decided by 20 or more points) Saquon Barkley saw at least 17 touches in each game, substantially more than a typical starting running back in a blowout game. Miles Sanders is filling that role this year and, subsequently, he will likely see more touches than other running backs in a similarly advantageous matchup.
Joshua Kelley, UCLA $8,100
Chip Kelly is back in college football, and if there is one thing that we have become accustomed to is tremendous running games. UCLA is in a tremendous matchup going up against Cincinnati this week who were 94th against the run last season. Soso Jamabo is suspended heading into this week which makes the crowded UCLA backfield a little less crowded in this one and Kelley is underpriced in this game.
Editor Note: Projections have Bolu Olorunfunmi as the favorite target in the UCLA backfield. This is due to the expectation that he may stay in the game a bit longer if there is a blowout situation. Both are tremendous plays in this game.
Other Running Backs:
Alexander Mattison, Kennedy McKoy, C.J. Verdell, Ivory Kelly-Martin
Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC, $7,000
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s older brother, Equanimeous, has been fighting for a spot on the Green Bay Packers’ roster for the last few months after entering the NFL draft. Amon-Ra, however, has been fighting for a spot in the USC starting lineup. As a true freshman, Amon-Ra came into USC with an uphill battle ahead of himself, even though he was one of the highest rated receivers coming out of high school this year. He and freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels have impressed throughout camp, and Clay Helton has named both starters for their opening week matchup with UNLV. The two have developed impressive chemistry throughout camp as well, connecting for three touchdowns in their most recent intrasquad scrimmage. Priced at just $7,000, Amon-Ra St. Brown can be a difference maker in all formats, as he will likely be under-rostered due to the lack of available data on him.
J.D. Spielman, Nebraska, $7,600
J.D. Spielman was targeted 97 times last season as a true freshman. This year, under new head coach Scott Frost, Nebraska will run a much faster-paced offense in hopes of lighting up scoreboards across the Big Ten. But, before they unveil the new offense to Big Ten opponents, the Cornhuskers get a tune-up game at home against Akron. Nebraska named true freshman Adrian Martinez their starting quarterback, and he won’t have to be anything special in order to surpass the abilities of last year’s starter, Tanner Lee. Given the projected improvement under center, Spielman can expect improvement this year as well. In Scott Frost’s first game calling the plays for Nebraska his team is a 26-point favorite. All signs point to the Cornhuskers scoring points in bunches Saturday night, and Spielman should be a vital part of their attack.
Marquez Callaway, Tennessee $6,500
Callaway is another guy who is underpriced in this slate. Callaway in his second year showed signs that he was becoming more entrenched in the offense and looks to take on a bigger role as this season progresses in his junior season. He is the definition of a deep threat receiver which makes him a little volatile, but Tennessee is going to need him to keep up with the high paced offense of West Virginia in this game.
David Sills, West Virginia $10,800
If you didn’t pay attention the last few years while college DFS did not exist, you may just remember David Sills as the 7th grader who Lane Kiffin offered a scholarship to USC. He has turned into much more than this after transferring to West Virginia and converting to wide receiver. Simply put, Sills is a touchdown machine as he scored 18 touchdowns last season and both he and quarterback Will Grier turned down the NFL draft to come back for their senior seasons. Vegas has West Virginia projected to score 35 points in this game which ultimately could lead to a two touchdown game for Sills.
Other wide receivers to consider:
Stanley Morgan Jr, Aaron Fuller, Dillon Mitchell