CFB Week 1 DFS Picks – Thursday Edition
FanDuel prices first. DraftKings prices second.
Marquise Williams $10,100/$9,700 – If you’re familiar with UNC, you know about their potent up-tempo offense. Luckily we don’t have to worry about their atrocious defense. This game opened around -6 for South Carolina on 5dimes and Vegas released it at SC -3.5. The line is now down to South Carolina -2. I get that South Carolina had an off year last season and lose seven offensive starters, but there’s still a common perception from public bettors that SEC teams always win these games. Public money did not sway this spread to SC -2 on a neutral field. SC’s defense was mediocre at best last season and UNC returns 10 starters on offense. Williams is a superb dual threat QB who has plenty of weapons around him. But the biggest key is that he was also the leading rusher for UNC last season with 1,051 yards and an outstanding 13 TDs. I don’t expect that to change this season. South Carolina was awful against tempo last year (remember the 52-28 beatdown Texas A&M gave them in Columbia the opening Thursday night last year?), and while I understand that this SC defense should improve some with more experience, I don’t see it being nearly enough to slow down this UNC attack that is now healthy. With UNC projected for 31 points, Williams has outstanding upside putting up yards and TDs both passing and rushing.
Brandon Doughty $10,100/$9,000 – If you’re new to CFB DFS, welcome to one of the most popular DFS QBs. Western Kentucky runs a very fast-paced shotgun-spread offense under Jeff Brohm who unleashed Brandon Doughty’s cannon on opponents last season. Not only does WKU play fast, they were also fifth in yards per play last season. They return seven starters on offense, including their top two WRs in Jared Dangerfield and Taywan Taylor. Doughty is also a sixth-year senior (got an additional year with a previous injury earlier in this career) and has terrific experience. When the Vegas lines opened back in early July, Vanderbilt opened a 17.5 favorite in this game. Western Kentucky is now a 2-point favorite, and there are no significant injuries to speak of (this isn’t a joke). Vegas has them scoring 34 points, which is one of the highest of Thursday night, and Doughty should torch a weak Vanderbilt defense.
Thomas Sirk $5,100/$6,000 – This has amazing potential to be the steal of the night. Anthony Boone has graduated, so Sirk takes over at QB for Duke. Sirk is a bigger, yet dual-threat QB who came in at times last season to run special packages on the goal line (think Tim Tebow freshman year at Florida). Sirk was 10-of-14 passing for 67 yards and three TDs last season, but he ran 47 times for 238 yards and 8 TDs (led team in rushing TDs). In David Cutcliffe’s up-tempo pro-style offense, Sirk will be tested more as a passer in full-game situations and doesn’t have Jamison Crowder to throw to, but Duke’s recruiting has boomed significantly the last couple seasons and will have some solid weapons to throw to against Tulane. Duke is projected to put up 28 points, and Sirk’s goal line duties alone are enough of a reason to consider playing him at this very cheap price.
Leon Allen $9,000/$9,200 – If you’re looking for maximum upside at RB, this is your guy. Allen is the primary RB at WKU, who put up insane numbers in some of the Hilltoppers’ competitive games last season. Plus, Anthony Wales, Allen’s backup, is out with a knee injury. There were four games where Allen got over 30 carries (averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season) with two of them going for 345 yards rushing (no OTs) and 237 yards (one OT). On top of that, Allen is a complete back with his 6’0″ 235-pound frame that has outstanding PPR talent as he caught 51 passes (third best on team) for 476 yards and three TDs last year. Again, WKU is -2 at Vanderbilt, so we should see a huge dose of Allen.
A.J. Ouellette $8,900/$6,400 – Wow what a price difference. Insane value on DraftKings. Even though Ouellette only rushed for 785 yards last season, he missed three games and wasn’t the primary back early in the year. He took over as the main back mid season and averaged 4.9 yards per carry to go with seven TDs. Ohio opens at Idaho as an 8.5-point favorite with an offense that returns 10 starters on offense including the entire solid offensive line. Idaho was 120th in rush defense last season, returns six starters and Paul Petrino, the head coach of Idaho, seems to be in the news for the wrong reasons. With the Bobcats projected to score 32.5 points and Ouellette as the main and goal line back, he’s a safe pick with great upside to boot.
Elijhaa Penny $6,500/$3,800 – Another steal on DraftKings. Penny split time with a few backs last season, but after displaying his goal-line ability, pass-catching skills and that the two backs behind Penny have graduated, Penny is in line to be the go-to guy. Despite going 1-10 last season, actually recording more first downs than their opponents last year (seriously, how is that possible at 1-10?) and not being the main guy last year, Penny still posted 12 TDs and 12 catches for 107 yards (PPR value often gets lost in CFB DFS). Along with only 139 carries, those numbers should increase greatly in 2015, which makes Penny fairly underpriced. Idaho is an underdog at home, but it is by single digits and they are at home.
Pharoh Cooper $9,100/$8,100 – I was flip flopping on which Gamecocks WR to put here. Pharoh Cooper is the clear X WR with 1,136 yards and 9 TDs last season (not to mention his 27 rushes for 203 yards and two TDs). On top of that, South Carolina loses its next four guys in terms of receiving yards between WRs Nick Jones, Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd and RB Mike Davis. Cooper is the most expensive and rightfully so for this matchup with what was an atrocious UNC defense last season. But, he’s also the safest with great potential to go off. If you’re set on playing a top tier QB and/or RB, you could play redshirt freshman Deebo Samuel for $6,000 instead of Cooper. This is a bit more risky since this will be his first collegiate start, but he’s been clearly listed as the No. 2 WR and was one of the top WR recruits in his class. South Carolina is projected for 33 points, and I think both WRs are viable, but Cooper is the better and safer play. Meanwhile, Samuel is more of a GPP play with some unknown factors and high upside.
Dezmon Epps $5,900/$3,200 – Epps is one of the best under-the-radar plays of the night. Epps was suspended and didn’t play any of the 2014 season with the Vandals. He has rejoined the team and is expected to be the go-to guy. The Vandals also lose their top three WRs from last season making Epps’ experience in 2013 where he caught 79 passes for 980 yards and 4 TDs particularly valuable. The Vandals are at home and Ohio was 101st in pass defense last season.
Ryan Switzer $5,500/$4,900 – Despite that UNC has several weapons to go to, Switzer is underpriced. As the fastest WR on the team who also led with 61 catches and 757 yards last season, he ran a bit poorly in the TD department with only four scores. I’d look for that to change with Switzer finding the end zone 10 times this season. Switzer is also one of the best punt returners in the ACC, and South Carolina allowed several special teams TDs last season. Again, UNC is projected to put up 31 points, and it should be a shootout against South Carolina.
Jonnu Smith $4,000 – If you’re looking for a safe TE pick and have a little extra cash to burn with how your lineup is turning out, Smith is the guy. Florida International’s offense was anything but spectacular last season as they were 126th in yards per play last season (went 4-8). They’re 14.5-point underdogs to Central Florida and are only projected to score 16 points. However, Smith led FIU by far in receiving with 61 catches for 710 yards and 8 TDs. Their next two guys, who have graduated and transferred respectively, are Glenn Coleman with 23 catches for 468 yards and 3 TDs with T.J. Lowder going for 10 catches, 121 yards and a TD. With the exception of Smith, no one on FIU is returning who went for over 100 yards or 11 receptions. Furthermore, in games where FIU didn’t score very much, Smith still saw plenty of targets and receptions to make his $4,000 a very reasonable price in comparison to the other TEs.
Jake Butt $3,500 – While most of Michigan’s depth chart is a mystery, Jake Butt as the starting TE is clear. Jim Harbaugh usually has his TEs involved fairly well in the passing game, and Michigan loses its one primary weapon on the outside in Devin Funchess. I’ll be shocked if Jake Rudock isn’t the starter against Utah, and he was Webster’s definition of “game-manager” at Iowa. While Butt’s numbers of 21 catches for 211 yards and two TDs last year don’t look particularly appealing, the new faces at Michigan and the lack of returning weapons for the Wolverines make him a sneaky great option.
Ben McCord $2,500 – Central Michigan does have a new head coach in John Bonamego, but they are expected to continue with a pro style offense. Cooper Rush returns at QB but loses stud RB Thomas Rawls, wide receiver Titus Davis and tight end Deon Butler. CMU typically gets the TE involved in their passing game, and McCord caught three of his 10 passes last season for TDs. Instead of only being in the game part time, McCord will see 100 percent of the snaps and the senior should be a favorite red zone target. Furthermore, CMU is a fairly big underdog, so they should be throwing quite often and TEs can often get a lot of garbage points with checkdowns when the defense plays soft later in the game.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz