The Week 5 main slate on FanDuel kicks off at 12:00 ET and features 13 games. For the first time this season, it is an all-day slate with game starting at noon and also including a trio of night games. As always, hit me up on twitter with questions or comments (@hindery).
Overall Strategy for Week 5
The defining feature of this slate is the deep group of elite quarterback options priced over $10,000. Aside from rostering Trevor Lawrence ($9,000), it is hard to make strong lineups without trying to fit two of these expensive passers with realistic 40-point upside in. Thus, we quickly find ourselves in a salary crunch.
It doesn’t help matters that there aren’t many bargain options at running back on the slate. Most of the running backs under strong consideration are priced at $9,000 or more. There are a few solid RB2 options priced slightly below that, but we are still going to be paying quite a bit at the position.
Due to the lack of bargain options at quarterback and running back, we are forced to find our savings at wide receiver. Thus, the reason many of the top plays listed are low-ceiling, bargain options. There are certainly some very strong expensive options on the slate at wide receiver and it is possible to fit in one of the top receivers without too much pain, but most lineup builds are going to have to save money at WR2 and WR3.
McKenzie Milton, Central Florida ($10,400) Milton has averaged 3.0 passing touchdowns per game and just under 300 passing yards through three games this season. In addition to his prowess as a passer, Milton has added fantasy upside due to his running ability. In is last 16 games, Milton has 760 rushing yards and 11 rushing scores. He put up a 13-81-3 rushing line against Florida Atlantic just last week. While Pittsburgh’s defense is nothing to be scared of, it still represents a major step up from the cupcakes UCF has faced this season. Central Florida has scored 56 points in both of its previous matchups against FBS teams this season. The 39-point team total this week for the Knights is solid but we are still looking at a lower-scoring game than typical for UCF. Milton looks like one of the top overall plays on the slate. He should put up solid numbers through the air and his upside is nearly unmatched due to his ability to add a rushing touchdown or two.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson ($9,000) Lawrence is a true freshman and has yet to make his first start but already looks like a heavy favorite to be the #1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The talent is impossible to miss. At 6’6, Lawrence has a huge arm and is surprisingly athletic as well. Lawrence was seeing action in a backup role behind senior starter Kelly Bryant but Bryant saw the writing on the wall this week and decided to take advantage of the new redshirt rule to transfer after the fourth game. In his part-time role, Lawrence averaged 9.8 yards per attempt and threw 9 touchdowns. In what will now be a full-time role, Lawrence could put up huge numbers. Syracuse is a much-improved defense, but Clemson’s team total of 45 points shows that Vegas expects the Tigers to roll anyway.
On a slate where the top quarterbacks are all priced over $10,000 and most of the second and third-tier quarterbacks are also priced up higher than normal, Lawrence’s salary of $9,000 makes him the top bargain option on the slate at the position. The only concern is Clemson going run-heavy either to ease Lawrence in or because the score gets out of hand early.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma ($10,500) Last week, Army dominated time of possession with excruciatingly long, clock-bleeding drives. The Oklahoma offense only saw the field for 40 snaps and Murray attempted just 15 passes. He still put up over 30 fantasy points. Murray is so efficient as a passer and so deadly as a runner (career 7.0 YPC), he has proven capable of putting up huge fantasy numbers in almost any game script. He has a fantastic ceiling and high floor every single week.
The matchup against Baylor sets up well for Murray. Oklahoma’s defense has been shaky this season and the Bears have given the Sooners fits in the past. Last season, Baylor put up 463 passing yards and 41 points in this matchup. With Baylor’s offensive explosiveness, it would be surprising to see Oklahoma take their foot off the gas and thus the 23.5-point spread is less concerning.
Also Worth Consideration
West Virginia and Texas Tech face off in a likely shootout with a massive Vegas game total of 75 points. Both Will Grier ($10.600) and Alan Bowman ($10,200) are fantastic options. While there may be a slight preference in this price range for Murray and Milton due to their rushing upside, Grier and Bowman should put up huge numbers through the air and are equally attractive options.
While we expect to see massive game totals in the Big 12, it is a bit of a shocker to see the 71-point total in a matchup between B1G blue bloods, Ohio State and Penn State. In another likely shootout, both Dwayne Haskins ($10,300) and Trace McSorley ($10,000) are great GPP plays.
Trey Sermon, Oklahoma ($9,000) Sermon is flying a bit under the radar due to Kyler Murray, Marquise Brown, and the Sooners dynamic passing attack. However, this is a spot where Sermon could breakout for a career day. Sermon played every single offensive snap for Oklahoma last week and is clearly the top guy in the backfield. Oklahoma should look to try to dominate on the ground against a Baylor defense allowing over 5.3 yards per carry in an attempt to keep the Baylor offense on the sidelines. Last season, Oklahoma ran for a season-high 342 yards against Baylor last season and it was a breakout game for Sermon. He rushed for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter.
Travis Etienne, Clemson ($9,900) Etienne is an extremely explosive back who can take it the distance if he gets even a small crack. He has put up 53.2 fantasy points over the last two weeks and could have another big day against Syracuse. The Tigers have a huge 45-point team total but the game isn’t expected to be a complete blowout, so we should see a full four quarters from Etienne and the starters. The price is tough to fit in but should be worth it for Etienne’s multi-touchdown upside.
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State ($9,600) The Cowboys are 17-point home favorites against Kansas and Mike Gundy has acknowledged this week he needs to get Hill more carries. Hill has average an exceptional 8.4 yards per carry this season but is averaging just 11.5 carries per game. Expect closer to 20 on Saturday. If he gets the touches as expected, we could easily see a breakout game for Hill given his talent and explosiveness.
Also Worth Considering
JarTavious Whitlow ($8,800) has emerged as the top back for Auburn. Whitlow should find the end zone at least once in a very favorable matchup against Southern Miss. The only concern is that Auburn is favored by 27 points and will likely look to rotate in some other backs, thus potentially limiting Whitlow’s workload and upside.
Myles Gaskin ($9,400) is the workhorse for Washington and could have a big game against BYU. BYU was able to limit Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and could do the same to Gaskin but the game script sets up favorably for Gaskin as a big 17-point home favorite.
D’Andre Swift ($8,500) has been dealing with a groin injury and splitting reps in the Georgia backfield fairly evenly with Elijah Holyfield ($8,100). Even if they again split, their prices and the excellent game script (32-point favorites against Tennessee) makes both Swift and Holyfield top salary-saving options on the slate.
John Moten IV ($6,800) With Jeremy Larkin suffering a career-ending back injury, Moten is now the starter for Northwestern. The matchup is awful against Michigan’s nasty defense, though the Wolverines are typically less dominant on the road. It is hard to get too excited about Moten, but he is the only running back on the slate priced less than $7,000 worth considering.
Tee Higgins, Clemson ($8,000) Higgins, a true sophomore, was expected to step in as the next elite outside receiver for a program that has featured DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams in recent years. He is off to a bit of a slow start (9-199-2) overall but has touchdowns in both of Clemson’s games against decent competition. He also seems to have the best rapport with Trevor Lawrence and is priced well below the elite receivers on the slate. The $2,000 in savings compared to someone like David Sills is massive in trying to fit in a pair of top quarterbacks and running backs.
Zach Austin, Texas Tech ($6,600) With TJ Vasher out, Austin should take on a slightly more prominent role for the Red Raiders pass offense. He is still clearly behind both Antoine Wesley and Ja’Dieon High and in competition with Seth Collins and KeSean Carter for targets, but he is tough to ignore at this price considering how many passes Texas Tech is likely to throw. Austin saw 10 targets last week against Oklahoma State.
Landon Wolf, Oklahoma State ($5,700) When Jalen McCleskey made the surprising decision this week to take a redshirt and pursue a transfer, it opened up a starting job at one of the two slot positions in the Cowboys’ 4-WR base offense. According to Friday morning reports, it is Wolf who gets the promotion. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship this season, Wolf is only 5’11 and 174 pounds, but very quick. McCleskey had an average line of 3.8-39-0.5 (just under 9 fantasy points per game), so we cannot expect Wolf to step in and put up huge numbers. But the potential play is all about the price point and what his salary allows you to do with the rest of the lineup.
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas ($6,100) Sims is a productive veteran receiver for Kansas with 174 career catches, 2,175 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He put up over 800 receiving yards in both 2016 and 2017. Sims is the clear top option in the passing game and is averaging 6.3 targets per game. Kansas has been running the ball more early in the season against weaker competition, which is why Sims is priced so low. However, in a game where Kansas is a 17-point underdog, the targets should be there and the price-point is extremely attractive.
Also Worth Considering
Marcus Simms ($8,800), David Sills (10,000, and Gary Jennings ($9,700) of West Virginia are each strong options against a vulnerable Texas Tech pass defense. The problem is we are lacking in strong pay-down options at the other positions, so it is difficult to pay up at wide receiver. If you can, any of the top three West Virginia should be near the top of the list.
K.J. Hill ($8,000) has been Ohio State’s most consistent target in the passing game this season. He put up a 6-95-1 line in the Buckeyes only competitive game to date against TCU and should again be heavily involved in a potential shootout against Penn State.
Chris Platt ($5,800) of Baylor is another bargain option worth considering given the dynamics of pricing on the slate. The Bears threw for well over 400 yards against the Sooners last season and will probably be forced to throw it a bunch on Saturday to keep up.
Henry Ruggs ($6,900) has averaged just 4.0 targets per game for Alabama and projects for a similar number here. However, he is still in play despite the low volume because of his price and touchdown expectation. 9 of his 23 career receptions have gone for touchdowns and Ruggs has scored in 3-of-4 games this season.