Week 0 (that great name that is a nice dig at the NCAA for throwing out some lesser games a week early for TV ratings) gave us a three-game slate to kick off the college football season. Two teams were massive favorites (Fresno State and UCLA), two teams were heavy underdogs (Hawaii and Connecticut) and two teams were expected to play in a competitive game environment (Nebraska and Illinois). Let’s review my lineups from Week 0. The purpose of this article is to take you through my thought process while constructing my lineups.
Right off the bat, I knew I wasn’t going to roster anyone from Connecticut. They canceled their football season in 2020 due to the pandemic. Additionally, the Huskies were woefully bad back in 2019. I concluded that they would have a tough time scoring points after missing an entire season of college football. Let’s get into who I considered at each position and why?
I considered four quarterbacks: UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson ($12,000), Fresno State’s Jake Haener ($11,000), Hawaii’s Chevon Cordeiro ($9,500), and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez ($8,600). Three out of the four quarterbacks are dual-threat quarterbacks. In college football, dual-threat quarterbacks are key due to their abilities to make plays in the passing and running games.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson was my top overall play on the slate. Despite his sky-high salary, I wanted to roster him. UCLA entered Saturday with an eye-popping 43 points implied team total. It became clear while building my lineups that I could field a team that I liked even with eating a salary as high as Thompson-Robinson.
I liked Jake Haener, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to roster him due to blowout concerns. Fresno State was a four-touchdown favorite over Connecticut. This was a spot to zig when other gamers were zagging. I knew Haener would be popular. I had concluded if Fresno State’s running game was responsible for the blowout, then Haener likely wouldn’t pay off his salary. I also concluded that if there was a blowout, then Haener would spend most of the fourth quarter on the bench. I will point out that I did roster Haener on my second team GPP team. I was able to make his salary fit as one of my last few pieces.
Adrian Martinez was my favorite play when considering salary. Like Thompson-Robinson, he is a classic dual-threat quarterback. While Martinez is an inconsistent passer, he’s a dynamic runner. Throw in a matchup with Illinois’ vulnerable defense and Martinez stood out at his salary. The Nebraska signal-caller ended up scoring the most fantasy points at the quarterback position.
Chevan Cordeiro’s game is similar to Thompson-Robinson and Martinez. He’s an inconsistent passer but can make plays in the running game. He was interesting to me because I figured he’d be less popular than the three quarterbacks mentioned above. The Hawaii offense averaged 25.6 points per game last season with Cordeiro starting at quarterback. I was hoping Hawaii would be able to hang with UCLA and the game would turn into a shootout. However, Cordeiro didn’t work out for me this week. Hawaii fell into a 31-3 deficit early into the game. UCLA forced Hawaii to the air which did not play to Cordeiro’s strength.
The running backs that I had in my player pool were the following: Fresno State’s Ronnie Rivers ($10,500), Hawaii’s Calvin Turner, UCLA’s Brittain Brown ($8,600), Illinois’ Chase Brown ($8,000) Nebraska’s Markese Stepp ($7,200), Fresno State’s Jordan Mims ($6,800), UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet ($6,600), and Nebraska’s Gabe Ervin Jr. ($6,500).
I correctly figured that Ronnie Rivers and Brittain Brown would be very popular at running back. Rivers was rostered in 60% of gamers lineups while Brown carried 44.5% ownership. Rivers had an outstanding 2020 season and the matchup with Connecticut was a dream scenario. Brown was also in a phenomenal matchup. Hawaii allowed 211.7 rushing yards per game last season. I played Brown in both of my lineups since he was significantly cheaper than Rivers. Both players were fine plays as Rivers scored 19.4 fantasy points and Brown tallied 16.9 fantasy points.
However, it was Brown’s backfield mate that was key to the slate. Zach Charbonnet ran for 106 yards and found paydirt three times on six carries. He recorded 30.5 points at low ownership (rostered by 12.0% of gamers). I believe most gamers figured that Brown would be the UCLA running back to target in this backfield. This certainly seemed to play out as Brown out-carried Charbonnet 13-to-six. However, this was a potential spot to zig when others zagged. Charbonnet flashed his potential during his time at Michigan so I knew he was talented. As it played out, Charbonnet was the running back to break off several long runs and post a slate-breaking fantasy score.
In regard to Gabe Ervin Jr., I saw a tweet that stated he was going to start at running back. I was delighted to play him because I had figured that Markese Stepp would be the more popular play in the Nebraska backfield. He was the known commodity and ran for nearly 1,000 yards in two seasons at USC. Ervin Jr. out carried Stepp 12-to-three. However, Ervin was outscored by Stepp (10.5 fantasy points to 3.3 fantasy points).
The wide receivers that I had in my player pool were the following: Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper ($9,400), UCLA’s Greg Dulcich ($8,600), UCLA’s Kyle Philips ($8,300), Fresno State’s Keric Wheatfall ($7,900), Hawaii’s Jared Smart ($7,500), Fresno State’s Josh Kelly ($7,100), Nebraska’s Samori Toure ($7,000), Hawaii’s Nick Mardner ($6,500), Nebraska’s Oliver Martin ($6,400), UCLA’s Kam Brown ($6,100), Nebraska’s Omar Manning ($6,000), Fresno State’s Ty Jones ($5,800), and Illinois’ Isaiah Williams ($5,500).
Jalen Cropper was clearly in a tier of his own amongst the Week 0 wide receivers. He ended the 2020 season with four straight 100-yard plus receiving games. I did not play him in either of my two lineups. I knew I needed to zig at wide receiver instead of zag because I played chalk at quarterback and running back. That led me to Cropper’s teammate, John Kelly. Kelly led the Fresno State wide receivers with a 14.3 ADOT (average depth of target last season) in 2020. I decided he was a fine pivot off Cropper. I was clearly hoping that Kelly would be the Fresno State wide receiver to catch a long touchdown pass.
I locked in UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich in both of my lineups. The big-play threat led all Bruins with 517 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions last season. He also had an impressive 15.4 ADOT. I also played UCLA wide receiver, Kyle Philips. UCLA’s passing game was fairly condensed last season; Philips and Dulcich were the top two returning pass catchers this season. If UCLA and Hawaii had turned into a shootout, I figured Philips and Dulcich would have plenty of chances to make plays.
The same can be said about Hawaii and their passing game. Mardner and Smart had combined for 69 targets last season. I had concluded that if Hawaii’s passing game succeeded, these two wide receivers would be a huge reason why Hawaii lit up the scoreboard.
Ty Jones, Kam Brown, Omar Manning, and Isaiah Williams were all similar players in my eyes. All four players had starting assignments and were highly regarded prospects. However, all four were low-floor plays due to their inexperience. Jones and Williams paid off their cheap salaries as both players scored touchdowns. Brown air-balled in the box score while Manning failed to make a difference (two receptions for 26 yards). On a normal Saturday slate, none of these players would have caught my attention.
My first lineup was good for minimum cash with a score of 113.42. The second lineup finished well outside of the money with a score of 52.1. Onto the next week…